After wandering around the La Ramblas and familiarising yourself with the Gaudi masterpieces, there is a danger of taking Barcelona for granted.
With its lavish architecture, nightlife and peerless attractions, the boredom factor might seem impossible but how many times can you scale the Sagrada Família without wondering what lies beyond the city’s borders? Courtesy of a great public transport network and a plethora of hire car companies to choose from, there are numerous escape routes to a series of wonderful destinations across Catalonia to explore on Barcelona holidays.
Situated in the north-westerly reaches of Spain, the Catalan region is one of the most attractive in the Iberian Peninsula. With its pine forested mountains, national parks, beaches and romantic villages, there is a remarkable diversity to the region and provides a distinctive regional perspective on an otherwise cosmopolitan world city.
One of the most attractive beaches in the region is Sitges, which is less than 45 minutes by train from Barcelona city centre. With its artistic heritage, party atmosphere and open, relaxed scene, Sitges is certainly not a conservative Spanish town. The town is home a flamboyant street carnival, international film festival and in keeping with its gay friendly atmosphere, there is an annual Pride march, where visitors can be forgiven for thinking they’ve arrived in a Catalan clone of Brighton. With the beautiful turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea providing the town with a lush cocktail setting, visitors will be delighted discovering the yet unknown pleasures of Sitges.
In contrast to the open hedonism of Sitges is a daytrip to Caldes de Montbui, which is situated in the upper valley of the Caldes River. An easy thirty kilometre trip from Barcelona, the historic Spa town is famous for hot thermal springs and deeply relaxing atmosphere. Visitors going to Barcelona in 2012 will definitely want to return home with fresh skin and a day trip to Caldes de Montbui will make everyone appear ten years younger. At least while the effects last. The hot springs of the town have been exploited since Roman times, and the remnants of the Roman baths and other Roman buildings can still be seen on a good day. The town retains most of its medieval fortifications including the local prison (Torre de la Presó), which are remarkably well preserved. Definitely a day trip for heritage lovers, the town’s historical appeal focuses upon the hermitage of la Mare de Déu del Remei, which dates all the way back to the sixteenth century.
Another historic offering in Catalonia is the medieval town Girona, which is a 90 minute train journey from Barcelona. Girona is widely considered to be one of the beautiful towns in Catalonia. Dominated by medieval buildings and reminiscences of the Roman, Arab and Jewish cultures, the city is a joy to behold on a summer’s day. Due to its magnificent location, day trippers from Barcelona will be able to enjoy trekking excursions in the nearby Prynees Mountains or relax on the beach in the Costa Brava. Famous for its regional dishes and flair for gastronomy, no one goes thirsty for culture, food or activities when they depart Barcelona for a wander around Girona.
The birthplace of Salvador Dali
Arguably the most popular daytrip from Barcelona is a train journey to Figueres, which is the birthplace of surrealist artist Salvador Dali. Forming part of a pilgrimage, visitors travel in expectation of entering the Dalí Theatre-Museum, which is the largest surrealistic object in the world. The modern museum occupies the former Municipal Theatre, a 19th century construction that was destroyed at the end of the Spanish Civil War. On the ashes of its ruins, Dalí decided to create his memoir. The museum contains the broadest range of works spanning the artistic career of Salvador Dalí (1904-1989), from his earliest artistic experiences and his surrealist creations down to the works of the last years of his life. Questions will be asked if you arrive in Barcelona and don’t make a daytrip to Figueres because this is one of the greatest and most celebrated art museums in the world.
The home of Cava
Finally one of the most understated delights of short breaks to Barcelona is the opportunity to explore the region’s beautiful vineyards. The Spanish wine region of Penedès is a short train or car journey south of Barcelona and offers visitors the chance to enjoy some fascinating wine tours. The area is renowned as home to Cava, Spanish champagne, but also produces outstanding white wines and good quality reds. The Penedes region is an ideal destination for full day wine excursions to the region with visits to the vineyards of wine and cava producers. With so much gorgeous wine and cava to sample, visitors are advised to take public transport to the district. A daytrip to Penedès most definitely forms part of the quintessential Barcelona experience. The city is truly blessed to be surrounded by vineyards, art pilgrimages, mountains and historic medieval towns that haven’t changed for centuries. Catalonia is thus one of the most beautiful regions in Western Europe and represents a wonderful place to explore when taking an extended break in the culture capital of Barcelona.
About the Author: D. Agnew is a member of the easyJet holidays travel writers team.