From Mediterranean beaches to sloping vineyards, these easy day trips will enhance any visit to Barcelona.
Barcelona is an amazing city with so much to see, do, and eat, but it is also an excellent base for exploring the wonderful sights of Catalonia. Add a few days to your trip and escape the city with these easily accessible but also deeply enriching day trips.
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A pleasant coastal town situated directly on the Mediterranean, Sitges is about an hour south of Barcelona and easily accessible by car, bus, and train. There are numerous reasons to visit Sitges––including its reputation as a particularly welcoming destination for gay travelers––but its seventeen clean, warm beaches are a significant draw. As with any coastal town, the most easily accessible beaches tend to be the most crowded, so if you’re looking for more solitude, you’ll probably prefer one of the stretches of sand on the outskirts of town. Platja d’Aiguadolç, Platja dels Balmains, and Playa del Muerto, all of which lie on the east side of town, are the main nudist beaches.
Located about an hour and a half by car or train from Barcelona, Cambrils is a peaceful and demure setting known for its Michelin-starred restaurants and clean beaches with calm, cerulean-colored waters. All nine of the town’s beaches are Blue Flag-certified, meaning that they’re clean, ecologically maintained, and well-labeled.
INSIDER TIPCambrils’s train station is so small that it doesn’t appear on the list of regional stations. You’ll need to use your phone’s map app and its public transportation option or go to the Renfre website and manually type in the name “Cambrils” as your destination.
An hour and a half north of Barcelona by either car or train, Girona is a vision from the Medieval Ages with its brooding castle, soaring cathedral, its labyrinth of climbing cobblestone streets and connecting staircases, and an ever-so-dreamy riverside setting. No wonder it was one of the filming locations for the sixth season of Game of Thrones. Girona is also home to El Cellar de Can Roca, a three Michelin-starred restaurant that has been twice named the best restaurant in the world (and was immortalized with its own episode of Chef’s Table.)
The capital of the Spanish region of Aragon, Zaragoza is about ninety minutes from Barcelona by car or train and has everything you could want from a day-trip destination: fabulous fountains, wonderful tapas restaurants with extensive outdoor seating, gorgeous avenues and wandering narrow side streets, and multiple museums. The city’s Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar is not only splendid, but it’s also said to be the first church in the world dedicated specifically to the Virgin Mary.
The Vineyards of Terra Alta
It would be a mistake to come to Barcelona and not take the time to explore some of the nearby vineyards. Terra Alta is a Spanish wine region that consists of multiple vineyards, and the wines made with Garnacha Blanca––known as grenache blanc in France––are a particular highlight. The regulatory council, which oversees the appellation, maintains a combination wine-olive oil shop and a museum with an interactive exhibit. They can also provide guidance about tours and tastings and any questions related to wine tourism. The shop-museum is approximately two hours from Barcelona by car and is worth a trip for the bargain prices alone.
Colònia Güell is a remnant from a time when the villages (called colonies) were built around rural industrial centers and factories. This particular colony remains intact in part because it features the spectacular Güell Crypt, one of Gaudi’s least-known works. The crypt––a UNESCO World Heritage site––is both architecturally unique and incredibly beautiful, making it a great option for an afternoon trip. It’s easily accessible via public transportation and lies just outside of Barcelona.
Salvador Dalí Museums Tour
Salvador Dalí was not only one of the most prominent Surrealist artists in history, but he was also a native son of Catalonia, who spent a good portion of his life north of Barcelona. Appropriately, several museums related to his work exist close to his hometown of Figueres: the Gala Dalí Castle Púbol, a medieval estate dedicated to his wife Gala; the Teatre-Museu Dalí (where his body is entombed beneath the theatre’s stage); and the Salvador Dalí House in Portlligat. All of these museums are within the same geographical region and (depending on train schedules) a couple of hours from Barcelona, although if you want to see all of them, you may want to rent a car and make a full day of it.
Parc Natural de la Zona Volcànica de la Garrotxa
Girona’s Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park is a massive natural park covering over 12,000 hectares. While the landscape is varied, its most remarkable features are the 40 volcanic cones that dot the landscape. Incredibly vast, this park offers a plethora of outdoor activities, which includes trekking its scenic trails either on foot or via horse, cycling and mountain biking, and carriage rides.
Montserrat is an easy, unique, and popular day trip from Barcelona, and home to the world-famous La Moreneta (the Black Virgin of Montserrat), which resides in a Benedictine monastery nestled into the mountain and surrounded by jagged peaks. Take a funicular to view the monastery from above and to experience breathtaking views that stretch to the Pyrenees. Montserrat is an easy one-hour train trip from Barcelona.
Many of the ingredients that make Barcelona such an attractive destination are also present in the port city of Tarragona, but in a smaller package and at a slower pace. You can wander Tarragona’s own version of La Rambla, gaze at the azure sea from the remains of a well-preserved Roman amphitheater (part of the city’s larger Tarraco ruins complex), and find a souvenir or a bite to eat at the city’s large indoor market. The city is also home to a national archaeological museum, and is well regarded for its fresh grilled seafood, which is at its best in the seaside neighborhood of El Serrallo. Tarragona lies approximately one hour south of Barcelona and is easily accessible by train