From historical sites to beautiful beaches, Catalonia has a wealth of hidden gems within easy reach of Barcelona.
Once you’ve seen the biggest sights in Barcelona, it’s time to look further afield. Thankfully, the Catalonia region is full of things to see and do, many of which are accessible via public transport from the regional capital.
The jagged Montserrat mountain range rises more than 1,200 metres above sea level and is an impressive sight on a clear day. Tourists flock to the well-known Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, nestling between the peaks and offering an incredible view across the Catalonian countryside. The highest peak, Sant Jeroni, can be accessed via a footpath from the top station of the funicular railway.
The Benedictine Abbey can be reached by road although parking can often be difficult on weekends. Alternatively, it’s one of the best day trips from Barcelona to take by public transport. Take the regional train from Barcelona’s Plaça d’Espanya station, and complete your journey by the Aeri de Montserrat cable car or by the Montserrat Rack Railway.
Arguably the most upscale resort in Spain, Sitges is known for its compact old town, lengthy beaches, and vibrant gay community especially in the summer months. Sitges has attracted people for vacations since the 19th century, and was a key location for the Modernisme movement, which paved the way for the likes of Picasso.
Best of all for anyone visiting Barcelona, the beaches of Sitges are super easy to reach from the big city. Regular trains run all through the day, or you can take the bus if you prefer.
Lloret de Mar
One of the highlights of the Costa Brava, Lloret de Mar is known for its beaches and the medieval hilltop Castle of Sant Joan. The architecture of the town varies greatly. The central Iglesia de Sant Romà church provides examples of both Catalan Gothic and modernist architecture, while the Santa Clotilde Gardens overlooking the Mediterranean were built in the style of the Italian Renaissance.
Without a car, the easiest way to reach the resort is by bus. Regular scheduled services leave Barcelona’s El Prat Airport and call at the city’s Estació del Nord station on their way to Lloret de Mar. By train, it’s possible to get as far as Blanes but then you’ll need to complete the journey by bus.
Built at the confluence of the rivers Ter, Onyar, Galligants, and Güell, Girona is the largest city of northern Catalonia yet doesn’t get anywhere near the number of tourists as its big brother. The city is beautiful, a mixture of museums, galleries and Gothic churches, dotted around a tangled web of cobbled streets and medieval stone walls.
The new high-speed AVE train from Barcelona to Girona will transport you between the cities in less than 40 minutes. Bus connections are also available, but they are less frequent.
This one is further away from the city than the others on this list but it’s worth the extra time and effort to get there. Cadaqués is a sleepy fishing village with predominantly white architecture. Its beauty drew the likes of Picasso, Miró and Salvador Dali, the latter of which had a house in the village that is now a museum dedicated to him.
The best way to visit Cadaqués is by car, as without one you’ll need to take a train & bus journey that will take more than three hours one-way. From Barcelona Sants or Passeig de Gràcia, take a train to Figueres where you can pick up a bus to Cadaqués. Alternatively, there are direct buses from Barcelona Nord to Cadaqués but they are less frequent so more planning is required.