Planning Your Time
Not far from Barcelona, the beautiful towns of Vic, Girona, and Cadaqués are easily reachable from the city by bus or train in a couple of hours. Figueres is a must if you want to see the Teatre-Museu Dalí. Girona makes an excellent base from which to explore La Garrotxa—for that, you'll need to rent a car. Tarragona and its environs are definitely worth a few days; it's easily reached from Barcelona by train, or allow 1½ hours' drive, especially on weekends and in summer. If you're driving, a visit to the wineries in the Penedès region en route is well worth the detour; most of Spain's cava comes from here. Tarragona's important Roman wonders are best seen on foot at a leisurely pace, broken up with a meal at any of the fine seafood restaurants in the Serallo fishing quarter.
Valencia is three hours by express train from Barcelona; if you have a flexible schedule, you might think about stopping in Tarragona on your way. From Tarragona, it's a comfortable hour-long train ride to Valencia; by car, you have the option of stopping for a meal and a walkabout in one of the coastal towns like Castellon. Historic Valencia and the Santiago Calatrava–designed City of Arts and Sciences complex can be covered in two days, but you might well want one more to indulge in the city's food and explore the nightlife in the Barrio del Carmen.
Travel agencies in Alicante can arrange tours of the city and bus and train tours to Guadalest, the Algar waterfalls, the Peñón de Ifach (Calpe) on the Costa Blanca, and inland to Elche.
In Valencia, Las Fallas fiestas begin March 1 and reach a climax between March 15 and El Día de San José (St. Joseph's Day) on March 19, which is Father's Day in Spain. Las Fallas originated from St. Joseph's role as patron saint of carpenters; in medieval times, carpenters' guilds celebrated the arrival of spring by cleaning out their shops and making bonfires with scraps of wood. These days it's a 19-day celebration ending with fireworks, floats, carnival processions, and bullfights. On March 19, huge wood and papier-mâché effigies, typically of political figures and other personalities, the result of a year's work by local community groups, are torched to end the fiestas.