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Vall de Nuria - Escaping to nature
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
- Skiing and Boarding
- Hiking and Walking
Wine tours (2- El Penedés)
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.
- Road Trip
- Wine Tasting
Wine tours (1- intro)
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) :-)
- Arts and Culture
- Wine Tasting
Wine tours (3 - El Garraf)
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.
- Road Trip
- Wine Tasting
Gastronomic route: El Xató
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!
- Road Trip
- Food and Dining
Vic - pleasant Medaevil town near Barcelona
Big cities can be tiring and it is often nice to take a trip to somewhere smaller. If you have already seen Girona (future tip), consider Vic.
The market town of Vic has a small but well-preserved medaevil centre and a large market square flanked by buildings dating from the Middle Ages to the 17th century. A market is held there on Tuesday and Saturday mornings.
If you like late 19th century romantic art, the Sert museum (exhibition of Sert's works) is certainly worth a visit. The leatherwork museum - despite its apparently prosaic subject - is a jewel. It has a remarkable collection of pieces from Europe, Africa, China, and from the earliest times.
You should find enough to do and see for most of the day and it is only about an hour from Barcelona. Trains can be packed on Fridays and weekends, when hiking parties to the Pyrenees and students jam the carriages.
The Baroque cathedral is a little dull but it does have a strange collection of 'reliquaries' - in this case, body parts made from wax - which were used to 'cure' the afflicted. Intriguingly, there are any number of arms, hands, legs, feet, etc. but none of the 'naughty bits'.
Don't drink the tap water. The county of Osona is famed for its pig farms - there are actually more swine (11 m) than people (7 m) in Catalonia. This fact, plus lack of environmental controls and a dry climate have led to the kind of nitrate levels you would expect in a guano colony rather than in the local water supply. Don't be surprised when farm lorries laden with pig slurry sneak out after dusk - it's an exercise in competitive (and highly anti-social) dumping. Message: stick to bottled water and don't swim in the rivers.
Trains - roughly hourly throughout the day, incl. from Sants, Plaza Catalunya, and Arc de Triomf mainline [RENFE] stations.
From Sants stn., earliest outbound train - 5-ish morning. Latest back from Vic, 9-ish evening. RENFE web:
- Museum Visits
- Arts and Culture
Daytrip to Girona
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!
- Historical Travel
Another nice place to go specially if you are travelling with children,is the largest of Theme Parks in Spain,PORT AVENTURA, it has five areas or worlds,and I am sure that you'll have lots of fun there.Is located about 95 km south of Barcelona in Salou,province of Tarragona.Is very easy to go by train,bus or car (1 hour).
SKIING IN CATALUNYA
If you come to Barcelona area with time enough and in wintertime,a good idea must be spend a few days in one of numerous Ski Resorts that Catalonia has.They are located on Pyrenees mountains also at Girona and Lleida provinces,about one hour in car from Barcelona mostly of them.The best ones are :
VALL DE NURIA,
Another nice place for wintersports on the area is ANDORRA.
Another good idea if you got a car and time during your visit to Barcelona,may go to this nice valley: VALL DE BOÍ.It is located on Lleida province at Pyrenees mountains about 90 miles from Barcelona.
Here you'll see some beautiful ROMANESQUE ARCHITECTURE in almost all small villages on this valley you'll find a beautiful romanesque church,the best ones are in the small villages of Boí and Taull.All of them are designed by UNESCO as World Heritage and really it worth a visit.
This is a picture taken at Taull Romanesque Church.
Tarragona is an hour south of barcelona on the train, and is a beautiful old town. It is a world heritage site, and has several impressive roman ruins.
however, my favourite area was the old town around the cathedral (check opening times for the cathedral as it was closed the first time i was there). The cathedral itself is very impressive as are the cloisters that are attached. It is very quiet - we were there in November and were the only people in the Cathedral
it is full of narrow winding medieval lanes. i intend to back to barcelona and this will be the first place on my list
getting across the railway to the beach is difficult, but well worth the effort.
Trains run roughly once an hour, to and from Sants station
- Historical Travel
Lloret del mar
Lloret del Mar is about an hour and a half from Barcelona, the beaches are beautiful and clear and there is also an area of the city with an old castle and stone steps leading up to it. Overall however the city is substantially made for tourists and it is overpopulated with large hotels and fast food places bordering the beach! If you're in Barcelona for a long time though you might find a road trip to lloret as a fun beach escape. To get there take a train then bus, ask at sants estacio.
- Family Travel
Arrive cheapest to a beautyful Costa Brava beach!
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.
- Budget Travel
If you have some time to check out what is outside of Barcelona there are many places to choose from. I arrived and departed from Girona and decided that it should also go on my itinerary. I truly believe it is a MUST! The city itself is amazing and every where you turn is a piece of history just ready to be explored. It is easy to get to by either bus or train from Barcelona stations. It is about an hour to hour and a half from Barcelona to the north.
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
Romance by the sea
Tossa de Mar, about 25 minutes drive from Barcelona, is a beautiful and quiet city (by contrast to its partying neghbour to the West, Lloret de Mar!) with a breathtaking Vila Vella (Old City), an incredible assortment of restaurants and a beautiful beach. Far less tourist-filled than Lloret and a wonderful place to spend a romantic evening with the one you love.
- Food and Dining
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
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