Barcelona almost needs no introduction; this place has it all. From its beautiful architecture, divine cuisine, lively tapas bars, beaches, and raucous nightlife, it’s easy to see why this is one of Europe’s most popular destinations.
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But don’t let the city’s charms blind you to the rest of Catalonia. This is a region with much more to offer than its capital. You’ll find stunning landscapes, from the mountains to the rugged coast, Medieval and modern cities, and plenty of historic sites. And the best part is you don’t have to go far to find them. These are the best day trips from Barcelona.
1. Montserrat: The Mountain Monastery
A visit to Montserrat is the most popular and well-known day trip from Barcelona. But don’t let its popularity put you off – its fame is well-deserved. Montserrat is a picturesque mountain range about an hour north of Barcelona on the train, home to Catalonia’s holiest site, the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery. Inside the monastery is the revered Black Madonna, known as La Moreneta, which attracts pilgrims worldwide.
But Montserrat is also a wonderful place for nature enthusiasts as well; the mountains alone make the train journey worth it. Ridden with walking trails and offering incredible views, this is some of the best hiking in Catalonia. To get there, regular trains run from Plaça d’Espanya train station.
2. Sitges: A Charming Coastal Getaway
The second most common day trip from Barcelona is to take the train to Sitges. This buzzing little city is beautifully known for its beaches (far better than those in Barcelona), intricate Catalan architecture, and LGBTQ+ friendliness. Sitges is a wonderful place for aimless wanderings through the old town; around every corner, another street of colorful houses, a white-washed villa, or vibrant flowers spilling out over an apartment balcony.
Then, spread your towel at one of the city’s sandy beaches, perfect for sunbathing and swimming. And if you’re a film fanatic, visit in October when the Sitges International Film Festival takes over the city. Take the R2 train south from Estació de França, Passeig de Gràcia, or Sants train stations to get here.
3. Girona: Catalonia’s Historic Second City
For a different taste of Catalonia, head north of Barcelona again, making a beeline for Girona. This region’s second city is a treasure trove of medieval architecture, history, and enchanting alleyways. The old town and its surrounds give Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter a run for its money.
There are regular direct trains to Girona, which take around 1 hour and 15 minutes. Once there, start your explorations at the river, where postcard-perfect houses reflect their colors onto the water. Then, cross the bridge built by the same guy who made the Eiffel Tower and venture into the streets of the old town. Here, the cathedral is a highlight, as is the labyrinth of streets that make up El Call, the Jewish Quarter.
4. Tarragona: Roman Ruins & Mediterranean Beauty
History enthusiasts will want to catch the train to Tarragona, about 1 hour south of Barcelona. An impressive collection of Roman ruins has earned Tarragona a UNESCO World Heritage status, making this a truly unique place to visit in Catalonia.
There’s a well-preserved Roman Amphitheatre, where gladiators once duked it out with the Mediterranean glittering in the background. There’s a 12th-century cathedral, a preserved Roman forum, and even more Roman history inside the Museu Nacional Arqueològic de Tarragona. When you’re done with all the ancient stuff, venture out to the beach or head to the old town and join the locals for a drink and a bite to eat. There are plenty of bars to choose from around Plaça del Fòrum, an atmospheric spot to enjoy food and wine while admiring the Roman ruins surrounding you.
5. Costa Brava: Spain’s Most Stunning Coastline
You’ve heard of Spain’s Costa del Sol, but have you heard of the Costa Brava? This is the most stunning stretch of coast in the country and is only a short drive or bus ride from Barcelona. Characterized by rugged cliffs, hidden coves where clear water laps at sandy shores, and some of the most beautiful towns you’ll see in Europe, this is an ideal place to escape the city for a day.
Discover the charming villages that dot the coastline, such as Calella de Palafrugell, Begur, and Tossa de Mar. Relax on the sandy beaches, swim in the turquoise waters, and soak up the Mediterranean sun. And if you want to get active, tracing the entire coastline is the Camí de Ronda, a walking trail that links the towns and lets you easily discover secluded coves and beaches only accessible on foot.
6. Figueres & Cadaqués: Surreal Delights of Dalí
For a healthy dose of art with a side of madness, head to the northern tip of the Costa Brava, where you’ll find two towns home to Spain’s most eccentric artist: Salvador Dalí. Figueres, Dalí’s birthplace, is a two-hour drive from Barcelona and home to the wonderful, if zany, Dalí Theatre Museum. This place is a trip with surrealist paintings, sculptures, and installations that will make you question reality. This is Dalí’s world, and you’re just a visitor.
Another hour by car to the coast brings you to Cadaqués. This idyllic town has whitewashed villas and homes, a beautiful beach, and some incredible restaurants. A short stroll over the hill brings you to the Dalí House-Museum in Portlligat, a wacky villa where Dalí lived with his muse and wife, Gala. A visit here lets you see inside how the artist lived and worked, and you’ll be able to imagine his wild parties with his crew of celebrity mates, like Picasso, Magritte, and Buñuel.
7. Penedès: Wine Tasting in the Catalan Countryside
West of Barcelona is the Penedès region, Catalonia’s most famous wine country. This is picturesque countryside with rolling hills covered in wineries, perfect for a day of lazily driving (or cycling) between wineries, indulging in a few glasses, and learning about the winemaking process.
Like any good wine region, the food here is also among the best in Catalonia (and it has some tough competition). Winery restaurants abound, pairing the finest Catalan dishes with glasses of red, white, and the region’s most famous export, the sparkling Cava – Spain’s version of Champagne.