The capital of the Catalonia region of Spain, Barcelona, is now considered to be one of the most attractive cities to visit in the world. Fortunately, there is one huge thing that a big city like Barcelona has firmly in its favour: Once you have spent a few days exploring all that the city has to offer, it can make an excellent base for exploring further afield.
After all, it’s much easier to leave all of your stuff in one place than pack and move to several different locations. Plus, you’ll return to base to get a great night’s sleep.
Here, we look at the best day trips you can take from Barcelona. These picks should help you pack in so much more than just a city break when you head to this stunning city. Let’s get started:
87 km up the coast from Barcelona lies Girona. Here, you will find one of the best-preserved Jewish quarters anywhere in Spain. By car, the journey will take a little over an hour. However, the two cities are linked by the high-speed AVANT/AVE trains. These can make the journey in just 38 minutes, and the good news is that the train runs approximately every hour.
A medieval city, Girona has an impressive cultural heritage that offers hints of the Roman, Moorish, Catholic and Jewish inhabitants who have lived here over the centuries. If you love architecture, then Girona has some stunning things to look out for. View the Ancient Roman walls and take in the beauty that is the narrow winding cobblestone streets. There is a Romanesque cathedral and a 15th-century synagogue that should not be missed either. No visit to Girona and its incredible architecture is complete without a walk on the path at the top of the ramparts.
Our top tip is to allow plenty of time for this. You’ll want to be able to fully take in the picturesque panoramic views that look out not only over the city itself but the surrounding landscape as well. The Pyrenees in the distance are spectacular from the ramparts. Think stunning blue skies, maybe a few crisp white clouds, old stone buildings and trees – the perfect instagrammable image.
Girona may well seem familiar. If you have ever watched Game of Thrones, then that is where you will probably know it from. The medieval streets and the staircase of the Cathedral of Santa Maria were both used in filming.
Of course, there is more to Girona than just the architecture. Take a walk down one of the main streets just outside the tourist area, and you will find plenty of fashionable boutiques for browsing. Little cafes and bars with plenty of outside seating punctuate the narrow streets, so indulge in some local cuisine and a glass of wine and watch the people go by. With the locals typically not eating their evening meal until at least 7 pm, you will then have plenty of time to continue exploring before heading back to Barcelona.
A trip from Barcelona to Montserrat will undoubtedly take an entire day. However, if there is one trip that should be on your list, this is the one. The journey inland from Barcelona will take you about an hour by car. However, if you are using public transport, it will take a little longer. You’ll need to take the train to Montserrat, and you can combine very cheap train tickets with cable car tickets for better value. The journey itself will take you through some spectacular Spanish countryside. This will give you a completely different view of the country than what most people experience. The train is a great place to relax and take in your surroundings.
A Head For Heights?
If you are a little more adventurous, then combine your train journey with a hike to the top of the mountain and the monastery. This will take around one and a half hours. However, the views and the sense of being at one with nature will more than compensate. As you reach the top, take a look around at the awe-inspiring vistas of the area – it’s worth every step!
Translating as “Saw Mountain” in Catalan, Montserrat is a rocky mountain range, on top of which you will find the Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat. There has been a monastery here since the 9th century, so you will find a mix of architecture. The monastery is home to the Virgin of Montserrat. This is one of a handful of black Madonnas that can be found in Europe. As the most popular religious retreat in Catalonia, there are likely to be plenty of visitors most of the year. However, you should not let this put you off making this genuinely incredible trip.
Remember to charge your phone, camera, or both before you take this trip. That way, you can capture all Montserrat has to offer.
Further up the coast from Barcelona and a little beyond Girona is the Costa Brava, a breathtaking 1,240-mile stretch of spectacular cliff-backed beaches. This is one of the most popular seaside destinations in Europe, and it isn’t difficult to see why. The quickest way to get here from Barcelona is by bus, a journey that takes just under 90 minutes (the same journey by train takes around 2 ½ hours).
Of course, the beaches are a popular destination, with Tossa de Mar and its sheltered coves a particularly beautiful place to visit. However, there are plenty of other things to see. The historic centre of Santa Susanna has a number of watchtowers that were built to protect the town from pirates during the 15th to 18th centuries.
Sun, Sea And Swimming
Calella de Palafrugell has all the ambiance of an old fishing village with its quaint buildings. It is also home to a beautiful Blue Flag beach and offers a sheltered cove and calm glistening blue waters.
For a relaxing day, with perhaps just a little bit of exploring, the Costa Brava offers the perfect backdrop for a day of rest, with plenty of picture-perfect beaches, crystal clear waters and white sand.
The tiny Principality of Andorra may not be on many people’s list of places to visit from Barcelona, but it should be. Andorra is a sovereign landlocked microstate in the eastern Pyrenees on the Iberian Peninsula. There are a number of ways of getting here. By car, it will take just under 2 ½ hours. The easiest way by far to travel from Barcelona to Andorra is by plane, although this will also be the most expensive. Because of the journey times, an early start for this day trip is certainly recommended.
Small, but perfectly formed
Andorra is tiny but incredibly beautiful. However, there is still plenty to see during a day trip. First of all, it is a haven for duty-free shopping, so if you love a good shopping trip, this is undoubtedly the right destination. It is also home to the largest spa complex in Southern Europe, the Centre Termoludic Caldea, which is 30,000 square meters. When it comes to architecture, Andorra has some particularly special buildings that you will want to see, including the Esglesia de Sant Esteve, a 12th-century church with a bell tower and Romanesque apse. This is one of the main attractions in the capital city and looks like something you might imagine in a fairy story.
There are also several Romanesque chapels dotted around Andorra, which are stunning. Due to its size, Andorra has plenty of old-world charm, stone buildings and picturesque views that will have you speechless. Whilst there are plenty of more modern buildings, there is still a sense of peace and calm that you will not find elsewhere.
Known for its winter skiing and winter sports, Andorra is, in fact, a top European destination for the great outdoors. It is also the perfect location for mountain biking, fishing and hiking, with spectacular views around every corner. One place to factor into your visit is Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley. This is a UNESCO-listed site and an awe-inspiring place for mountain hikes and nature walks, with terrain ranging from forests to valleys and meadows to rocky crags.
There is actually only 150km between Barcelona and the French border, and thanks to the high-speed trains that go between the two countries, it is possible to visit France on a day trip with ease. For glorious gothic architecture and intriguing cultural heritage, a trip to Perpignan is a fantastic day trip from Barcelona.
The city of Perpignan is just a 1 hour and 20-minute train ride from Barcelona, using the high-speed service. As a bonus, it will give you some fantastic views of the Spanish and French countryside along the way.
Close to the Spanish border and the Mediterranean coast, Perpignan was the 13th-century capital of the Kingdom of Majorca. The medieval core of the city is filled with Catalan influence. The Palace of the Kings of Majorca towers over the city, and the ramparts offer some particularly spectacular views of the coast. This is a huge and imposing Gothic and Romanesque Palace that is absolutely beautiful to look at both from a distance and from up close.
The Musée d’Art Hyacinthe Rigaud offers something a little different on your visit and offers a fantastic range of art to look at. Whilst the museum is on the small side, it has so much to offer that you may just find yourself spending longer here than you anticipated! Rue Paratilla is also a must on any list; whilst this rather unassuming area may not look like somewhere worth exploring, it has lots of hidden gems and an atmosphere that you will really want to soak up. There are also some smaller eateries here that are a great place to take a break and try some local cuisine.
Wherever you choose to travel from your city base, choosing from the best day trips you can take from Barcelona mentioned here will guarantee a memorable day away from the city.