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Adventuring Outside Barcelona Exploring Catalonia's Hidden Treasure

Adventuring Outside Barcelona: Exploring Catalonia’s Hidden Treasure

by Christian Petzold - updated November 30, 2023

We all know that Barcelona can match any city in the world, but what many people don’t know is that venturing just outside the city can often prove to be just as fun. Here are the best places that if you haven’t been to yet, you should start booking time off of work, because these attractions are must-sees.

Day Trips from Barcelona

If you’re adventuring outside Barcelona, there are plenty of day trip options to choose from. Here are some of the best day trips you can take from Barcelona, each with its unique charm and appeal.

Montserrat

For those adventuring outside Barcelona, Montserrat is not just a geographical marvel but also a spiritual beacon. The mountain, with its peculiarly jagged peaks, is believed to have been sculpted by angels with golden saws, according to local legends. Nestled atop these mountains is the Montserrat Monastery, home to the venerated Black Madonna statue. 

Montserrat1

Pilgrims and travelers have been drawn to its divine allure for centuries. The intertwining trails surrounding the monastery also beckon hikers and nature lovers, making Montserrat a perfect fusion of spirituality and natural splendor.

Girona

Girona, an ancient city worth exploring when adventuring outside Barcelona, is a testament to Catalonia’s rich history. Founded by the Romans, it later thrived under Moorish rule and became a significant hub for the Jewish community in the medieval era. Its well-preserved Jewish Quarter, with labyrinthine alleys and hidden courtyards, whispers tales of bygone times.

Girona 1

 The iconic colorful houses flanking the Onyar River and the grandeur of the Cathedral of Saint Mary stand as reminders of the city’s architectural and cultural evolution. Girona is a walk through time, every corner echoing with history.

Tarragona

As you consider adventuring outside Barcelona, Tarragona should be high on your list, especially if ancient Roman history fascinates you. Once known as Tarraco, this city was a vital Mediterranean port and the capital of Hispania Tarraconensis, a Roman province. 

Tarragona

Today, the remnants of its glorious past, like the “Circ Roma” and the amphitheater, proudly stand as UNESCO World Heritage sites. These architectural marvels, juxtaposed with the azure backdrop of the Mediterranean, create a mesmerizing panorama, making Tarragona a blend of antiquity and scenic beauty.

Sitges

Sitges, a short journey when adventuring outside Barcelona, is often termed the ‘St. Tropez of Spain.’ Historically, it was a town of fishermen and winemakers. But the modernist era saw an influx of artists and bohemians, entranced by its Mediterranean charm.

Sitges 1

Today, Sitges juggles multiple identities: a beach paradise, an art hub, and a focal point of Catalonia’s LGBTQ+ community, especially during its vibrant Carnaval and Pride celebrations. This coastal town, with its narrow streets and sun-kissed beaches, is a melting pot of history, art, and festivities.

Garraf

For nature enthusiasts adventuring outside Barcelona, Garraf is a sanctuary of tranquility. Historically, its limestone caves and terrains were home to prehistoric humans, their presence evidenced by ancient cave paintings and artifacts. Over time, Garraf’s rugged beauty also drew spiritual seekers. 

The Palau Novella, nestled within the park, is now a Buddhist monastery and offers a unique synthesis of nature and spiritual introspection. A visit to Garraf is like a rejuvenating retreat, away from the urban bustle.

Calella

Calella, a delightful stop for those adventuring outside Barcelona, boasts a history dating back to the Romans. Over the centuries, it transformed from a humble fishing village to a bustling tourist magnet. 

Calella

The town’s historic lighthouse, erected in the 1850s, stands as a beacon, not just for seafarers but also for travelers seeking panoramic vistas of the shimmering Mediterranean. The golden beaches of Calella, coupled with its historic remnants, create a perfect seaside escapade, echoing with tales of yore.

Sant Sadurni d’Anoia

For wine aficionados adventuring outside Barcelona, Sant Sadurni d’Anoia is a pilgrimage. Catalonia’s viticulture legacy, especially its famed cava production, is deeply rooted in this town. The Penedès region, with its fertile plains and ideal climate, has been a wine-producing hub since Roman times.

 Modern-day Sant Sadurni d’Anoia celebrates this legacy with its numerous wineries and vineyards. Here, one can not only savor exquisite wines but also delve deep into the intricate process of winemaking, all set amidst verdant vineyard expanses.

Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo

For adrenaline junkies adventuring outside Barcelona, the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo is a thrill-filled destination. Since its inauguration in 1991, this racetrack has been synonymous with speed, skill, and spectacle. It’s not just a venue for the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix but also a testament to Catalonia’s passion for motorsports. 

Circuit De Catalunya In Montmelo

Whether you’re watching a race, exploring behind-the-scenes, or even experiencing a lap, the Circuit promises a pulse-racing experience, making it an unmissable

Exploring Catalonia’s Nature

If you’re adventuring outside Barcelona and looking to explore the natural beauty of Catalonia, you’ll find plenty of options. From the Pyrenees Mountains to Collserola Park and Montseny, there’s something for every nature lover.

Pyrenees Mountains

The Pyrenees Mountains are a must-visit destination if you’re looking for breathtaking views and outdoor adventures. Located just a few hours from Barcelona, the Pyrenees offer a wide range of activities, including hiking, skiing, and mountain biking. You can also explore the charming villages and towns that dot the mountainside.

Pyrenees Mountains

Collserola Park

If you’re looking for a nature escape that’s closer to the city, Collserola Park is a great option. This natural park covers over 8,000 hectares and is home to a variety of wildlife and plants. You can explore the park’s many hiking trails, take in the stunning views of the city and sea, or simply relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

Montseny

Montseny is another great option for nature lovers. This natural park is located just an hour from Barcelona and offers a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, and horseback riding. You can also explore the park’s many trails and take in the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and forests.

Montseny 1

Whether you’re looking for a beachside escape or a mountain adventure, adventuring outside Barcelona offers plenty of opportunities to explore Catalonia’s natural beauty. So pack your bags, grab your hiking boots, and get ready to discover the great outdoors.

Water Activities

When adventuring outside Barcelona, there are plenty of water activities to enjoy. Whether you want to relax on a boat or get your heart pumping with some water sports, there’s something for everyone.

Boating and Fishing

If you want to spend some time on the water without getting too active, consider a boat tour or fishing excursion. There are plenty of options available, from small private boats to larger group tours. 

Many tours include a guide who can point out interesting sights and provide historical context. If you’re interested in fishing, you can try your hand at catching local species like sea bass or mackerel.

Surfing and SUP

For the more adventurous, there are plenty of surfing and SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) opportunities around Barcelona. Some of the best spots for surfing include Castelldefels and Sitges, while SUP enthusiasts can head to the beaches in Barceloneta or El Masnou. If you’re new to either sport, there are plenty of rental shops and schools that offer lessons and equipment.

Swimming

Of course, no water activities guide would be complete without mentioning swimming. Barcelona has plenty of beaches to choose from, including the popular Barceloneta Beach and quieter spots like Bogatell Beach. If you’re looking for something a little more secluded, consider heading to one of the coves along the Costa Brava. Just be sure to check the water conditions before jumping in.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy the water when adventuring outside Barcelona. Whether you want to relax and take in the scenery or get your adrenaline pumping with some water sports, there’s something for everyone.

Historical and Cultural Attractions

1. Montserrat Monastery

When adventuring outside Barcelona, Montserrat is an iconic destination steeped in history. This mountaintop monastery, located just an hour away, is home to the venerated Black Madonna statue, believed to have been found in the 9th century. 

Pilgrims have flocked to this spiritual haven for centuries, seeking blessings and marveling at its unique location amidst jagged mountain peaks. The monastery also houses one of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe, the Escolania, which performs daily.

2. Girona’s Jewish Quarter

Girona, a stone’s throw away when adventuring outside Barcelona, offers a poignant walk back in time with its well-preserved Jewish Quarter, or Call. Once a thriving hub of Jewish life in the medieval era, the narrow alleyways and hidden courtyards echo tales of the Sephardic community. 

The Museum of Jewish History in Girona provides a deep dive into the legacy of this community and its eventual expulsion in 1492.

3. Roman Ruins in Tarragona

For history buffs adventuring outside Barcelona, Tarragona offers a treasure trove of ancient Roman ruins. Once the capital of the Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis, Tarraco (ancient Tarragona) boasts structures like the Roman amphitheater overlooking the Mediterranean, the Circ Roma chariot racing track, and the intricate Roman aqueduct, “Pont del Diable”. 

The ancient walls surrounding the city provide a glimpse into a time when gladiators and charioteers were the talk of the town.

4. Colonia Güell in Santa Coloma de Cervelló

Those adventuring outside Barcelona with an affinity for modernist architecture should venture to Colonia Güell. Designed as an industrial colony by the famed architect Antoni Gaudí for his patron Eusebi Güell, this settlement is home to innovative structures and designs. 

Colonia Guell In Santa Coloma De Cervello

While the highlight is the unfinished Gaudí church, the entire colony is a testament to Catalonia’s industrial heritage intertwined with Gaudí’s visionary genius.

5. Iberian Settlement of Ullastret

An intriguing stop for those adventuring outside Barcelona is the ancient Iberian settlement of Ullastret. Located in the Empordà region, this archaeological site dates back to the 6th century BC and was one of the main Iberian settlements in Catalonia. 

With reconstructed walls, buildings, and streets, visitors can visualize the lives of the Iberians and their interactions with other Mediterranean civilizations.

6. Castle of Cardona

A majestic venture for anyone adventuring outside Barcelona is the Castle of Cardona, a medieval fortress that played a crucial role in several wars due to its strategic location. 

Castle Of Cardona

Besides its military history, the castle is proximate to the Salt Mountain Cultural Park, showcasing one of the most significant salt deposits in the world. The interplay of history and geology makes Cardona a multifaceted experience.

In essence, adventuring outside Barcelona opens doors to a rich tapestry of history and culture, where every site is a chapter of tales from bygone eras, waiting to enthrall the modern traveler.

Food and Wine Experiences

When adventuring outside Barcelona, one of the best ways to experience the culture and cuisine of Catalonia is through food and wine. Catalonia is known for its rich and diverse culinary traditions, and there are plenty of opportunities to explore the region’s vineyards, wineries, and tapas bars.

Catalonia’s Cuisine

Catalonia’s cuisine is a reflection of its history and geography. The region’s proximity to the Mediterranean Sea has influenced its cuisine, which is characterized by fresh seafood, olive oil, and vegetables. Some of the most famous Catalan dishes include paella, escalivada, and botifarra amb mongetes.

If you’re looking to experience traditional Catalan cuisine, a visit to El Celler de Can Roca is a must. This three-Michelin-starred restaurant is known for its innovative dishes that showcase the best of Catalan ingredients.

Wine Regions

Catalonia is also home to several wine regions, including Penedès, Priorat, and Empordà. Penedès is known for its production of cava, a sparkling wine that is made using the same method as champagne. Priorat is known for its full-bodied red wines, while Empordà produces both red and white wines.

Visiting a vineyard is a great way to experience Catalonia’s wine country. Many vineyards offer tours and tastings, allowing you to learn about the winemaking process and sample some of the region’s best wines.

Tapas Bars

Tapas bars are a staple of Catalan cuisine, and there are plenty of great options to choose from in Barcelona and beyond. Some of the most popular tapas dishes include patatas bravas, croquetas, and jamón ibérico.

If you’re looking for a truly authentic tapas experience, head to El Quim de la Boqueria. Located in Barcelona’s famous La Boqueria market, this tapas bar is known for its fresh seafood and innovative dishes.

Adventuring outside Barcelona offers a wealth of opportunities to experience Catalonia’s rich food and wine culture. Whether you’re exploring the region’s vineyards, trying traditional Catalan dishes, or sampling tapas at a local bar, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Outdoor Activities

When adventuring outside Barcelona, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely hike, an exhilarating bike tour, or a unique experience like parasailing, there’s something for everyone.

Hiking

Hiking is a great way to explore the beautiful natural surroundings of Barcelona. There are many hiking trails available, ranging from easy to challenging. Some popular options include Montserrat Mountain, Garraf Natural Park, and the Collserola Natural Park. These trails provide stunning views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

Biking

If you’re looking for a more active adventure, a bike tour is a great way to explore the city and its surroundings. There are many bike rental companies in Barcelona, and many offer guided tours. Some popular bike tours include the Barcelona City Bike Tour, the Montserrat Bike Tour, and the Costa Brava Bike Tour. These tours provide a unique perspective on the city and its surrounding areas.

Parasailing

For the ultimate adventure, try parasailing. This unique activity provides breathtaking views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. There are many parasailing companies in Barcelona and many offer packages that include transportation and equipment rental. Some popular companies include Barcelona Watersports, Sky Watersports, and Parasailing Barcelona.

Adventuring outside Barcelona provides plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. Whether you prefer hiking, biking, parasailing, or any other adventure, there’s something for everyone. So get out and explore the beautiful natural surroundings of Barcelona!

Seasonal Considerations

When planning your adventure outside Barcelona, it’s important to consider the season. Different times of the year offer unique experiences and challenges. Below are some seasonal considerations to keep in mind.

Summer Activities

Summer is a popular time to visit Barcelona, but it can also be quite hot and crowded. If you’re up for the challenge, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. Here are some ideas:

  • Beaches: Barcelona is known for its beautiful beaches. Spend a day soaking up the sun and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Water sports: Try your hand at paddleboarding, kayaking, or windsurfing. There are plenty of rental shops along the coast.
  • Hiking: While it may be too hot for some, early morning or evening hikes can be a great way to explore the nearby mountains.
  • Festivals: Summer is the festival season in Barcelona. From music to food to cultural celebrations, there’s always something going on.

Spring and October Activities

Spring and October are great times to visit Barcelona. The weather is mild and there are fewer crowds. Here are some activities to consider:

  • City walking tours: Take advantage of the comfortable weather and explore the city on foot. There are plenty of guided tours available.
  • Wine tasting: Spring and fall are great times to visit nearby wineries. Enjoy a day of wine tasting and scenic views.
  • Nature walks: The nearby mountains and parks are beautiful in the spring and fall. Take a leisurely walk and enjoy the scenery.
  • Cultural events: Barcelona is known for its art and culture. Check out a museum or attend a concert or theater performance.

No matter what time of year you visit, adventuring outside Barcelona is sure to be a memorable experience.

Montserrat Hiking Tour 2

Travel Tips

Travel Insurance

Before adventuring outside Barcelona, it is always important to have travel insurance. This will ensure that you are covered in case of any unforeseen circumstances such as accidents, theft, or medical emergencies. Make sure to read the policy carefully and understand what is covered and what is not. Keep a copy of the policy with you at all times during your trip.

Getting Around

There are several ways to get around when adventuring outside Barcelona. The most convenient way is to rent a car. This will allow you to explore the surrounding areas at your own pace. However, if you do not want to drive, there are other options available.

The FGC (Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya) is a train system that connects Barcelona with the surrounding areas. It is a great way to get around and explore the nearby towns and villages. The FGC offers several different ticket options, including single tickets, day passes, and multi-day passes.

Another option is to take a bus. Several bus companies operate in the area, including Sarfa and Sagalés. These buses run regularly and are a great way to get around.

When planning your trip, make sure to check the schedules and plan your routes. This will help you save time and avoid any unnecessary delays.

In summary, when adventuring outside Barcelona, make sure to have travel insurance and plan your transportation. Whether you choose to rent a car, take the FGC, or a bus, there are plenty of options available to help you explore the surrounding areas.