Best Day Trips from Barcelona: Tarragona, Girona, and beyond
Visiting Barcelona can be a highlight of your on-the-road life even if you have just a couple of days there. However, we would advise to stay much longer than a few days and go on some day trips if you want to truly GET Barcelona spirit. So today let’s assume that you’re already tired of Gaudi and endless fiestas (haha, just kidding, you can NEVER get enough of these :)) and want to see what’s outside the city borders.
Tarragona and Port Aventura
If you take a train going south-west along the coast from Barcelona, in an hour you will find yourself in Tarragona, which is a great location for history fans, but not only! In Roman times the city was the capital of the Spanish province of the Roman Empire, a thriving administrative and commercial center. Reminding us of the glorious past of Tarragona are numerous picturesque ruins in the center of the city and a very well preserved aqueduct to the north of it. The aqueduct is called Pont del Diable, can it get more badass than that? You’ll have to take a bus or drive to go see it, but it’s worth every kilometer!
In case you’re fed up with ruins (and it might as well happen, as Roman ruins are pretty much the same everywhere) and prefer something more exciting, just several kilometers south-west from Tarragona the famous Port Aventura fun park is ready to give you a rush of adrenaline. The park boasts the highest rollercoaster in Europe, called Shambhala, and more than a dozen other amazing attractions. Mind you, that the park is tremendously popular, and queues can be huge, so it’s better to either count on a whole day spent there or to buy a fast track ticket. The queues shorten quite a bit after lunch, but can still amount up to half an hour. The base entrance is 45 euros, and different types of priority tickets will cost you more, of course. Well, what can you do, adrenaline is expensive nowadays.
For those who enjoy leisurely strolling around small cozy towns, Girona is a must-visit. Located on the confluence of several rivers, its picturesque banks remind one of Florence but are much less crowded. The old cathedral in the center of the city is nearly cubical and very impressive (read “weird”). But the most fun part of walking around Girona is climbing a wall surrounding the old city. The path on top of the wall allows to see the labyrinth of small streets in the old town as clearly as on a map, and the view is gorgeous. But don’t forget a hat, as there’s nowhere to hide from the sun! Bonus: there are buses going from Girona to Costa Brava, so you can end your day on the beach if you’re tired of the heat.
Montserrat is a picturesque mountain about 50 km to the north-west of Barcelona, reachable by car or by train from Plaça d’Espanya. At more than 1000 meters above the sea level, the mountain is the highest point in Catalonia and is interesting by itself because of its unusual shape, but it wouldn’t be so famous without Santa Maria de Montserrat, an old abbey built on its slopes. The long queue in the monastery leads to the famous image of Virgin of Montserrat (the black virgin), one of the most celebrated images in Spain. The top of the mountain with the monastery, museum, shops and numerous viewpoints is accessible by train or by cable car, but a lot of sportier tourists undertake the way on foot via one of the well-marked paths. If this way doesn’t scare you, it’s certainly worth it, as the views are breathtaking!
For those who like to challenge themselves physically during holidays, a via ferrata is an excellent choice. Via ferrata is a specially prepared climbing route, where you are at all times tied to a steel cable and also have climbing aids, such as handles and carved steps. The only requirement to take the route is some enthusiasm, you don’t need any climbing experience and there are even climbing kits for rent. But mind that the routes are quite taxing and a lot of them involve great heights, so know thyself and choose the difficulty level wisely. There are more than 40 different via ferratas near Barcelona, some of them quite picturesque. For example, Cala del Molí, via ferrata near Sant Feliu de Guíxols, goes along the breathtaking rocks of Costa Brava, right over the blue water of the sea.
Vall de Núria
Pyrenees are just 2 hours away from Barcelona, and they are definitely worth a visit if you’re not afraid to get up early. Apart from the obvious Andorra, there are other places that are not less picturesque. One of them is Vall de Núria, a rather small ski resort in winter but a wonderful recreation area in summer. It is accessible by foot or by a rack railway from Ribes de Freser and has all the benefits of the civilization, including a shop and a restaurant. Vall de Núria is great for hiking trips, as there are good trails and you can choose to climb any of the surrounding mountains. If you decide to stay at the bottom of the valley, you can take a ride on a horse or rent a boat and go around the beautiful lake. In either case, remember to take some warm clothes with you, as it can get quite chilly in the mountains!
Although Barcelona can offer you a lot of wonderful experiences, it’s also totally worth it to get out of its borders and explore what’s around. As you can see, you don’t need a lot of time for this – just one day is enough for an unforgettable trip. And whether you choose spending this day on the rollercoasters, in the mountains or admiring the ruins – it’s gonna be awesome anyway!