Many people visit Barcelona to take in the fantastic sights of the city without realising that there are many more incredible sights only a short journey out of the city. These are our top 5 unmissable places a short train or car ride from Barcelona that could well become the highlight of your trip.
Montserrat is a totally unique place. This Benedictine monk mountain retreat dates back to 880 when sheperds witnessed a bright light descending from the sky and could hear angels singing. They shared their experiences with others who went to the same spot and witnessed the same thing. A vicar was then bought to the scene and had the same visions and concluded that the visions were a sign from God. When they explored the location further they found a cave and within the cave was an image of the virgin Mary and from that moment on the cave became a holy sanctuary for religious pilgrims.
Not only is the monestery one of the most beautiful in Europe, nestled into the imposing rock face but the natural beauty that surrounds it makes it a fantastic destination for mountain trekking and taking in the breath-taking views over Catalonia. Make sure you don’t miss the wonderful boys choir that perform at 13:00 every day and also it’s worth queuing to see the ‘Black Madonna’ and join in the pilgrim tradition of kissing or touching her hand as a blessing.
The Costa Brava is well worth jumping into a car and exploring. It is famous for its endless coves, bays and beaches, terraced vineyards and gastronomical importance.
There is something for everyone in the Costa Brava whether you’re looking for art history and culture, walking and outdoor activities or whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach get-away. Costa Brava was the birth place and stomping ground for Salvador Dali and there are three amazing museums including his home in the stunning Cadaques.
Alternatively if you’re looking to just take in the beauty of the area the coast line is exceptionally beautiful offering wonderful walks, world class golf courses as well as a whole host of water sports.
It is also a foodie heaven and is home to the highest concentration of michelin starred chefs in all of Spain. The selection of locally produced wine is also a major reason why this is such a popular destination for people looking for a tantalisingly tasty trip away.
The capital of Costa Brava is bursting at the seams with culture and history. The warren of winding streets, ancient arcaded houses, stunning churches, medieval baths and charming squares are always bustling with something interesting to see and do.
With many attractions, festivals, restaurants and cultural events all year round this medieval city is the perfect place to spend a day or two exploring. It is often viewed as a mini Barcelona so is an ideal day trip to get lost and observe the local life and culture in relaxing and welcoming surroundings.
Dali Museum and Figueres
As previously mentioned the Costa Brava is packed with art and culture and non more famous than being the birth place of Salvador Dali. Figueres is the town where Dali grew up and is now home to the Dali museum which boasts the most extensive range of his work.
The town itself is just 15 minutes by car from the beaches of Costa Brava and as it is not as touristy as Barcelona the city offers a relaxing atmosphere, a beautiful old town, low key cafes and restaraunts and even a castle.
Of course one of the main reasons people visit Figueres is to go to the Dali Museuem and take in his work in all its surrealist glory. The museum itself is the largest surreal object in the world and inside houses some of his most famous pieces including ‘Rainy Taxi’ and ‘The face of Mae West which may be used as an apartment’. This fantastical art experience is a must-see as you explore the mind of a surrealist genius.
Sitges, located 35kms south of Barcelona, is renowned for its film festival, carnivals and beautiful beaches. It is sometimes referred to as a mini Ibiza and is has become one of the most gay-friendly places in the world.
Sitges has 4kms of beach with a wonderful 20th Century colonial sea-front promenade. It offers a wide range of sports and watersport activities including sailing regattas, beach rugby and an annual triathalon.
There is always something going on here from art exhibitions, film festivals, carnivals, music concerts, firework displays so it has a really vibrant atmosphere. It is equally loved by young people looking to party as it is by families looking for a family friendly location. Sitges has always been known for its ‘open-minded’ nature of both the locals and visitors so it is a truly welcoming place where everyone is is made to feel at home.