12 Top-Rated Day Trips from Barcelona
The sunny Mediterranean region surrounding Barcelona beckons visitors with its beautiful beaches, quaint fishing villages, and charming medieval towns. In this area of Catalonia, just a short drive or train ride from Barcelona, tourists can escape to another world - whether the destination is an upscale seaside retreat such as Sitges or the scenic monastery in legendary Montserrat. Most of the destinations combine cultural and nature attractions. In the same day, tourists can sunbathe on the golden beach of El Vendrell and visit an archaeology museum, or enjoy water sports and then tour a medieval castle in Castelldefels. Further inland, the historic towns of Vic and Manresa inspire visitors with majestic churches, and the quaint village of Sant Cugat del Vallès offers country charm and splendid Romanesque architecture.
1 Sitges: An Upscale Beach Resort
Sitges enjoys a beautiful location (42 kilometers from Barcelona) on the Mediterranean Sea with verdant mountains as a backdrop. Stunning beaches are the main draw of this destination, which lures visitors in search of seaside relaxation and leisure activities. One of the beaches has a yacht marina and golf courses are nearby. Swimmers will appreciate the Blue Flag beach rated for water safety.
The historic center of Sitges is also worth visiting. Be sure to see the town's two noteworthy churches, the Iglesia de Sant Bartomeu and the Iglesia de Santa Tecla. Other important buildings include the Casa de la Vila, a 19th-century Neo-Gothic mansion, and Palau Maricel, a palace that blends medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque architectural elements. The Modernist influence of the 19th and 20th centuries can be seen throughout the town; one excellent example is the Cau Ferrat that was the house of famous Spanish author and artist Santiago Rusiñol. In 1891, Rusiñol turned his house/studio into a Bohemian gathering place that attracted artists and intellectuals. Sitges also has tantalizing gastronomy and a wonderful selection of gourmet restaurants. The local cuisine is known for its hearty Catalan dishes such as pa amb tomàquet, toast topped with garlic and olive oil seasoned tomatoes (similar to Italian bruschetta); xató, a salad of endive served in a spicy sauce; and fideuà, a seafood dish made with noodles.
2 Medieval Vic
This charming medieval town is 72 kilometers from Barcelona in a tranquil setting along the banks of the Meder River. Vic has two historic quarters that date back to the Middle Ages: the area around the Castillo de Montcada and another old quarter that surrounds the cathedral. This impressive Neoclassical cathedral dominates the town, although it's a relatively recent addition, built in the late 18th century. Step inside the glorious sanctuary to have a look at the exquisite mural paintings by Josep María Sert. To further explore the town's cultural heritage, visit the Episcopal Museum, which houses a superb collection of religious art. The museum displays masterpieces of painting and sculpture from the Romanesque and Gothic eras as well as precious textiles, glassware, and ceramics. Other important religious monuments include the Convento de Sant Domènec, a Franciscan convent built in 1567, and the Iglesia de La Pietat, a beautiful 17th-century Baroque church. For an atmospheric meal or a place to relax, stroll over to the Plaza Mayor, the town's elegant arcaded main square. Many of the square's stylish cafés and restaurants have outdoor terraces. Visitors seeking overnight accommodations can chose the luxurious Parador Vic-Sau. This hotel was converted from a traditional Catalan country house and is surrounded by beautiful gardens.
3 The Majestic Churches of Manresa
An idyllic country town, Manresa lies in a rural landscape 58 kilometers from Barcelona with the Mountains of the Montserrat Nature Reserve in the distance. A focal point of the town is the Basilica de Santa María de la Seo, around which old houses are clustered. This ancient basilica is mainly Gothic in style but also combines architectural features of the Romanesque (early medieval) and Renaissance eras. Enter the sanctuary to admire the serene interior with its impressive medieval reredos, which is considered one of the finest examples of Gothic Catalan painting. Other noteworthy monuments are the Ayuntamiento de Manresa (City Hall), the Pont Vell (bridge), and the spectacular Iglesia de San Ignacio de Loyola that stands majestically on a hilltop. This 16th-century church was where Saint Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit community that is now found all over the world. Manresa is a historic town that has also entered the modern era, with many interesting Modernist buildings scattered throughout the town. Most of the beautiful Modernist buildings were designed by the local architect Ignasi Oms i Ponsa.
Cardona is a charming medieval town tucked into a valley on the banks of the Cardoner River, about 90 kilometers from Barcelona. The town has an impressive past dating back to the eighth century, and its ancient ramparts were built in the ninth century. Must-see sights include the Collegiate Church of San Vicente, a lovely Romanesque church of the 11th century, and the Calle Mayor, the town's elegant main street.
Typical of towns built during the Middle Ages, Cardona has a castle that stands on a hilltop surrounded by immense walled fortifications. With its austere lines and foreboding high walls, the Castillo de Cardona is an excellent example of Catalan Romanesque architecture. The castle has been renovated and converted to the luxurious Parador de Cardona hotel, offering guests the magical experience of living in the Middle Ages as royalty. The castle grounds are beautifully maintained and they are an enjoyable place to take in panoramas of the town.
5 Montserrat and its Hilltop Monastery
Famed for its monastery, the magnificent hilltop of Montserrat makes a stunning impression. Montserrat translates to "jagged mountain," which perfectly describes the serrated peaks, while in Catalan, it's called Mont Sagrat, the "sacred mountain." This destination, about 50 kilometers northwest of Barcelona, is one of Spain's major tourist attractions. The great massif extends five kilometers across and 10 kilometers high above the Catalonian plain on the right bank of the Llobregat River. In its isolation, Montserrat is a dramatic sight with steep rock faces on every side and fantastically eroded crags that appear to be crenellations of a medieval fortress. The monastery, including its church and other buildings, is like a small city on its own. To reach the monastery complex, arrive by passing the Plaza de la Cruz. This bustling and touristy town square is lined with many restaurants and souvenir shops.
6 The Archaeology Museum of El Vendrell
Steeped in history dating back to the ancient Roman era, El Vendrell is 67 kilometers from Barcelona on a site where the Augustan Way passed through. Significant Roman remains have been found here and are displayed in the town's Archaeological Museum. El Vendrell continued to be an important urban center throughout the centuries, and its heritage is seen in several impressive monuments. The Iglesia de Sant Salvador is a spectacular church featuring Renaissance and Baroque architectural features. Inside, visitors are awed by the inspiring sanctuary with its opulent Baroque altar. The church also boasts a beautiful organ that is used to play sacred music. Other interesting sights are the old hospital of Santísimo Salvador and the Ermita de Sant Salvador, a lovely Romanesque hermitage. More modern 19th-century buildings are around the Plaza Nueva town square.
For tourists visiting during summer, the beach is a top attraction. El Vendrell lies along the Costa Daurada in an area that has wonderful expansive beaches. El Vendrell's quaint fisherman's neighborhood, Sant Salvador, is also worth visiting to take in the atmospheric seafaring ambience.
7 Sant Cugat del Vallès
The historic village of Sant Cugat del Vallès lies 28 kilometers from Barcelona in a verdant valley. This site has been occupied for millennia; archaeological artifacts from 2000 BC to 1500 BC have been found here. The town boasts interesting remains from the ancient Roman era, most notably the Castrum Octavianum fortress. Later, Sant Cugat became an important religious center with the Benedictine Monasterio de Sant Cugat founded in the 12th century. The monastery has a beautiful church with a splendid facade and a Romanesque cloister. In the delightful countryside surrounding Sant Cugat are many ancient farms and hermitages, including the 14th-century Can Rabella and the Ermita de Sant Adjutori. The medieval fortress of Castell de Canals shows the feudal heritage of this rural area.
8 The Golden Beaches of Santa Susanna
The quaint little village of Santa Susanna is 60 kilometers from Barcelona along the Costa Brava, a sunny coastline prized for its golden beaches. Santa Susanna has a historic town center with ancient watchtowers built from the 15th to 18th centuries to protect against pirates. However, most tourists who visit Santa Susanna head straight to the beaches to sunbathe or stroll along the seaside promenade. The shoreline has three separate parts: The Platja de Llevant is the busiest beach; Platja de les Caletes ("Beach of Coves") is quieter; and the Platja de les Dunes has a yacht club and is ideal for sailing, windsurfing, and scuba diving. All three beaches have moderate waves. Santa Susanna is a great choice for a summer beach getaway. Although visitors flock here during high season, the abundance of high-rise hotels ensures plenty of accommodation choice.
9 Castelldefels by the Sea
Boasting beautiful scenery and perfect weather, the seaside town of Castelldefels is only 10 minutes (25 kilometers) away from Barcelona along the Costa del Garraf. This stunning coastline is sandwiched between the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. Fine beaches extend for more than five kilometers in this area, attracting many sunbathers from Barcelona during summertime. The beaches are also popular with swimmers and water sports enthusiasts. The marina features an Olympic Canal built for the 1992 Olympics that is used for canoeing. For those in search of culture, the ancient Castillo de Fels that gave the town its name is a must-see sight. This ancient castle dominates the town, standing high above the coastline. Another relic of the Middle Ages are the town's towers, including the Can Ballester Tower and Barona Tower that once provided defense against invaders.
10 Arenys de Mar: A Quaint Fishing Village and Beach Resort
Dating back to the 14th-century, this charming fishing village is now a popular summer beach resort. The seaside promenade and sandy shores are the main tourist draws. The yacht marina is also popular for water sports. Arenys de Mar is conveniently located only 47 kilometers from Barcelona, making it an easy day trip. The town was a wealthy fishing port in the 16th century and still has defense towers from that era. At the center of Arenys de Mar is the Rambla where locals gather for the evening paseo (stroll). Along this avenue is the Iglesia de Santa María. This church has an exquisite Baroque facade and a stunning reredos created by local Catalan artists. For an interesting insight into the town's artisan craft heritage, visit the Frederic Marés de la Punta Museum. This excellent museum is dedicated to the art of lacemaking, one of the traditional crafts of the village.
11 The Beautiful Beach Town of Tossa de Mar
Tossa de Mar is a popular resort town 87 kilometers from Barcelona on the spectacular Costa Brava. During summertime, sun-worshippers flock to the gorgeous beaches here. The shoreline around the town extends for several kilometers and is renowned for its pristine natural environment. The main beaches have excellent facilities, and the sheltered coves offer peaceful spots for relaxation.
12 Calella de Palafrugell
Just 56 kilometers from Barcelona, this delightful seaside town offers the inviting ambience of an old fishing village. As a popular summertime destination, Calella de Palafrugell has many hotel options. The sandy beach is nestled in a picturesque sheltered cove with calm waters (rated Blue Flag for safety). In this beautiful setting, the beach is ideal for relaxing and swimming.