Day Trip, Barcelona
Take the train (RENFE, blue line) to Blanes, You may buy directly a combined ticket for Lloret.
After your arrival in Blanes, take a bus to Lloret departing from the train station (1,80 Euro a ride). After leaving Blanes, it will pass the access to Santa Cristina Beach. One stop further you have to leave the bus to go to Sa Boadella Beach. Behind the top of the hill you'll see this beauty where you can spend the rest of the evening. The return bus departs about xx.45 and xx.15 on the opposite side of the road, walking some meters upwards to the left.
Take time to meander - losing yourself in the maze of alleys, streets and lanes is one of the Old Town´s principal pleasures. The streets wind and wander with no discerrible order or object. We rewarded ourselves with a cool cup of gelato for our effort! But you won´t do justice to the entire city of Tarragona whenever you won´t visit other parts. So ... do meander, because the cluster of sights around Placa Imperial Tarraco are hearthclutchingly beautiful, and the more secret pleasures of the hushed backstreets are just entrancing.
There are trully more than enough vibrant cultural scenes to see, like the ruins of Theatre Roma and for example the great arena Placa de Braus. Via Forum Local Roma, Placa Corsini, with its beautiful Mercat Central, we ended up at the Rambla Nova, which is probably the most important street of Tarragona. It lead to a great viewing point called Balco de Mediterrani, where we could get great views at the lower parts of the city. All this may seem very though as finding your way in Tarragona might be difficult, but in really distances are short and the signs will help you in getting around. Enjoy!
Most people try to rush Tarragona on a budget so they end up missing some of the highlights in a whirlwind. The key to seeing Tarragona properly is a game plan, you must know what you want to see before setting out. Before we visited Tarragona we saw on a city map that the small town of Tarragona is divided into three areas - the historical old town, the area near Rambla Nova and the residential near Placa Imperial Tarraco. We visited the city several times, every time we hiked our way through one of the areas.
Our first hike was the old town where the city is one huge archaeological site which received the UNESCO World Heritage designation in the year 2000. It was quite strenious sometimes, but definately worth while! We started at Portal del Roser, made our way to the Correr Major (Main Street) and finally hiked way down until it ended at the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. While most tour guides don't recommend getting lost in the alley´s, this part of Tarragona is the place to get hopelessly lost for half a day. We wondered off through mysterious and steep alleyways leading us away from the crowds. We ended up at Voltes Gotiques (old medieval marketplace), Antic Hospital (beautiful Romanesque Gothic building), mazes of hilly backstreets and deserted gardens. The real Tarragona?
Tarragona is a city with more than 2,000 years of history. The ancient city of Tarraco was founded in 218 BC and its golden age began in the year 27 BC. The compact town of Tarragona is easy to get around, and the ideal place to explore on foot. Tarragona is Spain, and yet it is a culture unto itself. It was the capital of the ancient Roman Empire and its legacy of monuments can be admired in the streets to this day. Historical buildings to stroll around include the 12th century cathedral, numerous churches, a circus, forum and the defensive walls of the Passeig Arqueologic reveal delights at every turn. Time to explore it!
We can honestly state that the best way to explore Tarragona is by foot and the second best way is also by foot! Besides giving you the opportunity to roam the narrow streets and the cosy squares, it is the quickest way too. If you really want to, you can cross the city in approximately 25 minutes. Remember that sometimes it might be quicker (and nicer!) to take a few short-cuts into picturesque alleys instead of following the masses of tourists. Maybe this is easy for us to say as we stayed for a longer period of time and not like most of the tourists only for one day. But even when your stay is rather short, do try to get away from the crowds and just have a 'look around'. Tarrogona is simply a perfect place to walk for a few hours and pretending to know where you are.
The Xató is a salad. Someone can find funny that there is a region where people rave for a salad dish, to such extent that they made a gastronomic route about it. But it is not an usual salad, if made properly and with fresh ingredients it's delicious, and a fine example of true Mediterranean cuisine.
Xató has only a secret: its sauce. Made with local products as almonds, hazelnuts, garlic, a special dried red pepper (nyora), some bread to thicken, and of course prime quality olive oil. All this is mixed by hand using a mortar. Like most popular dishes, each house has its own version. Spread this delicious sauce over a mix of lettuce leaves (typically curly sweet endives, even my family likes more roman lettuce), salty and oil-preserved fishes (cod, anchovies, tuna), olives and sometimes other vegetables.
At my hometown, Vilanova i la Geltrú, xató is typically eaten at the Thursday of Carnival, with local sausages and ham, cod preserve and an assortment of omelettes (with potato, white beans, spinachs...). Yummy!
You can eat it at many towns in the areas of Garraf and Penedés, easy to reach from Barcelona (see my above tips for transportation to Vilafranca del Penedés, Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, Vilanova i la Geltrú and Sitges). Have it as main or side dish, ideally accompanying other of the excellent products of the area: fresh fish, sausages, etc. And, of course, some local wine to drink. Ideally, a dry white Penedes or brut Cava. Cheers!
How to arrive there:
- If travelling by train: From Barcelona, estació de Sants or Plaça de Catalunya, you should take the C4 line of regional trains (Rodalies/Cercanias Renfe) to Sant Sadurni d'Anoia (about 40 min) and/or Vilafranca del Penedés, a few stops later (50 min).
- If travelling by car:
Take the AP-7 (highway, toll = 3.10 euros) or the A2/N340 (toll free, but it can be confusing)
Vilafranca del Penedés:
Bodegas Torres is the best known winery in Vilafranca del Penedes. Here you have their webpage: www.torres.es. I went there a couple of years ago to do a short wine tasting course, very interesting, that we booked trough its website, but I don't know if they still do these.
You may be interested on visiting the Museum of Wine in Vilafranca too: www.museudelvi.org
Sant Sadurni d'Anoia:
I would highly recommend you to visit the Cava cellars of Codorniu: have a look here: www.codorniu.com. It's worth it; the Art-Noveau cellars are amazing. It's a 30 min walk (or a short taxi ride) from the train station.
The wineries of Freixenet are quite well known as well: www.freixenet.es Probably the most visited as they can't be easier to reach: just in front of the train station!
And there are lots of smaller cellars that can be quite interesting indeed.
45-60 minutes by train north of Barcelona is the historical and lovely little town of Girona - surrounded by walls as old as the Roman times! With a jewish quarter, winding and cobbled streets and old churches and a cathedral - all with a canal with picturesque hanging houses on each side this is a day trip with enough to see to satisfy any history buff with a love for the medieval.
Also a good centre for other nearby destinations such as Besalu, Figures, Blanes - serviced by an airport for Ryanair and Easyjet.
Lovely train ride north along the coast - 3/4 of the trip has sand and water views - takes about an hour from Barcelona to Blanes.
Lovely white beach at Blanes. Numerous eateries along the road that runs along the beach - fish restaurants, pizzerias etc. The highlight for me was the Botanic gardens up on the hill the far end of Blanes beach. Fairly frequent buses leave from Blanes train station which is a bit of a hike outside Blanes, then another bus from where it drops you off in the centre - you will see the beach and know that you are in the centre - a yellow open sided bus with Botanic garden markings all over it leave about half hourly - about 3 euro return - though the walk back down would be nice.
Like many other tourists I visited Girona on a daytrip from Barcelona, but there are much more to see in Girona then you can see in a day. The city is situated 91 km northwest of Barcelona and has got a population of about 90 000. It is a lovely city with the old town spreading out on the hill east of River Onyar. I spent most of my time in Girona wandering around the narrow streets in the charming old town. There are several churches and museums of interest.
Girona is the Roman town Gerunda. It was situated along the highway running from Cadiz to Rome, Via Augusta, and here the Romans built a fortress. Later it came under Muslim control, but was taken by the Franks in AD 797. For some time Girona was the capital of one of the most important Catalonian counties, but in 878 it fell under Barcelona count ship. In the 11th century Girona was declared to be a city.
10 km south of the city is Girona airport. This airport is used by low budget flights like Ryan air for their flights to Barcelona. It takes one hour by bus from the airport to Barcelona, but if you land here don’t forget that Girona is a great city to visit as well!
If you only have a limited time, and can't decide between Vic and Girona, you can easily do them both in a day. Take the Renfe (Suburban) line to Vic, then a bus (about every two hours) to Girona, and return by Renfe (Intercity) to Barcelona. The trip by bus is through rugged mountans and traditional farms, and is a highlight of the day.
btw, both Vic and Girona are major towns (cities) so if you expect traditional towns (as I did), you'll be a bit disappointed. But having said that, the old towns have very interesting buildings and are worth visiting.
After 3 days in the noisy Barcelona, we decided with 2 friends of mine to see something else and joined a Rabbies tour to Vic and the Pyrenees. This was a great idea, far away from the tourist traps and barcelona crowds we really enjoyed the little town of Vic (even the smell which is quite strong). A very big contrast! The pyrenees were just impressive. We walked down to the valley of Nuria (took us 2 hours) . A fantastic day outside the big city!!
All-year round, Vall de Nuria is a very popular day or weekend leisure escape for us Barcelonins. In winter, it is a small-scale ski resort with 10 short runs. When the snow melts down, there are good hiking trails.
From Barcelona you can easily reach Nuria by train: Renfe train to Ribes de Fresser and there a rack-train to Queralbs and Nuria's Monastery. Just the trip is worth it, very scenic.
You can do it as a daytrip, but to make the full of it, overnight stay is advisable (and you’ll need at least a couple of nights if you want to do the longer trails). Once in Nuria, next to the Monastery you'll find an hotel, apartments and if you take a cable car you'll reach the hostel that's pretty nice (amazing views) and very good value. Be advised that it tends to be full booked, especially on weekends. Details of the hostel here: Alberg Pic de l'Aliga
The Monastery is nothing to remember regarding architecture, but it had an important religious and political significance. There are great trails departing from there. The most famous are climbing El Puigmal and/or Pic de Finestrelles (quite difficult) but there are many easier (but beautiful) paths. You can ask for maps and itineraries at the visitors' centre next to the monastery. If you have only one day, or for the last day, a good option is walking down back to Queralbs (not so easy as it looks, most of the way is walking downhill but there at some parts you have to get up again, with lots of stairs. But the scenery is great).
Next to the train station at Ribes de Fresser you'll find a very small bar/restaurant. Really basic, but excellent quality on local dishes and sandwiches, and very cheap.
More info, pics and tips at my Vall de Nuria VT page
El Garraf area is less know than El Penedés, but it has excellent wines and cavas.
- by train:
take the C2 line from Sants or Passeig de Gracia stations to Vilanova I La Geltrú. It takes 45-55 minutes depending on the kind of train. The town of Sitges is the previous stop on the same line.
- by car : you can take the C-32 highway (toll about 5 euros) or the toll-free C-31 (but be aware it's a really twisted road, very scenic but bordering high cliffs over the sea, I love it but it can be scary fo some, or very slow depending on the traffic)
Once in Vilanova i la Geltru you can visit the Jaume Serra winery at El Padruell, the only winery in Spain from where one can enjoy a view of the Mediterranean. More info here:
The town has a other interesting sights apart from wineries, I'm trying to build my Vilanova VT page, but there is still lots to add there, do not hesitate to email me if you like more info.
Visiting both Sitges and Vilanova can make a very interesting daytrip. However, plan carefully, as each one has much to offer and can fill a whole day.
If you like trekking this is a good proposal at 1,30 hours from Barcelona. Sau was a quiet little village surrounded by a wonderful landscape . The catalan authorities decided to build a reservoir in that zone so the people who lived there had to leave. Nowadays when the water level is low (like the day we took the pics) you still can see the tower of the Sau's romanic church. You can go down (650m) from a delicious village called Tavertet (its visit is a must!). The views of the reservoir from Tavertet are just wonderful and if the day is clear you can see the mountains of Montseny and Pedraforca too.
Low difficulty; total time 3,5 hours walk
Catalunya is divided in smaller areas called "comarques" (like counties or districts). The comarques of Alt and Baix Penedes are best know for wine production. Vilafranca del Penedés is the main town regarding wine production and the nearby town of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia is mainly know for their Cavas (sparkling wine made the same way as French Champagne). Indeed, you can find both wine and cava producers in both of them, as well in other nearby comarques i.e. Garraf (main town here Vilanova i la Geltrú)
You can easily reach all these towns by train or car. Once there, you can reach a few of the wineries walking, or take a taxi at the train station if you plan to visit the most distant ones. You can contact the tourist offices to plan your trip in advance:
- Vilafranca del Penedés:
+34 93 818 12 54
- Sant Sadurní d'Anoia:
www.santsadurni.org (could not find an English version)
+34 938 913 188
- Vilanova i la Geltrú:
+34 938 154 517
You may have a look at my following tips for details of possible routes focused on wine culture.
Enjoy your visit... And have a glass of chilled cava for me there! (if possible, brut nature, my fav) :-)