There is never a dull moment in Barcelona, but luckily the city boasts a long list of wonderfully interesting day trip destinations for when you need a break from the hustle and bustle. Barcelona is located just one hour south of the famous Costa Brava, where you can spend many happy days exploring some of the most beautiful beaches in Spain. If you are an art lover you can visit Dali’s home and birthplace in Cadaques and his fascinating museum in Figueres. History and architecture enthusiasts have many well-preserved historic towns and attractions to visit including Tossa de Mar, Besalu, Tarragona and Girona, to name but a few. If you crave outdoor activities you can visit Andorra, Campdevanol, Castelldelfels (for water sports) and lovely Horta de Sant Joan, where Picasso is believed to have been inspired to become an artist.
The Principality of Andorra is located 200 km north of Barcelona, where it beckons day trippers to come and enjoy fresh mountain air and a host of year-round activities. During the summer you can explore the countryside on foot along a vast network of hiking paths, mountain-bike trails and equestrian trails. Other summer activities include zip-lining and the hair-raising Tobotronic Mountain Slide in the Naturlandia Adventure Eco-Park. Water-sport fanatics should visit Family Park Canillo. In winter the area becomes blanketed in snow and boasts over 300 km of ski slopes and other winter-sport activities. In addition, Andorra offers great shopping, history, arts and culture and delicious cuisine.
Spain boasts many historic villages for visitors to uncover and Besalu, although it is located quite far off the beaten track, definitely deserves a spot on your list of interesting day trips. You enter the historic village by way of a fortified 11th century bridge; as you wander the winding cobblestone streets you will be surrounded by ancient buildings which were once monasteries, hospitals and churches. Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles dominate and photographers will be overwhelmed with choices. You can admire an ancient Jewish Bath-House, one of just a handful of surviving buildings of its kind in the world and visit the fascinating Museum of Miniatures. Soak up the atmosphere in a local restaurant while savoring delicious Catalan cuisine.
Besalu, 17850 Girona, Spain
Blanes is a popular coastal town located about an hour north of Barcelona, where it marks the start of Spain’s Costa Brava region. What makes Blanes stand out from other coastal towns are its fabulous beaches, clean sparking water and old-world charm. This is one of the few coastal resorts in Spain which has not been ruined by rampant tourism, and you will still find an interesting downtown where the small streets and squares are filled with Catalan eateries, tapas bars and boutique shops. You can choose from several beaches including the beautiful 4-km S’Abanell beach and the small and cozy Sant Francesc Beach. For a change of pace you can take a scenic boat trip to Tossa de Mar, to view the beautiful coastline from a new perspective.
Blanes, 17300 Girona, Spain
Located on an idyllic bay in the eastern-most corner of Spain, about two hours north of Barcelona, Cadaques is an ideal day trip destination. Your drive to Cadaques features a particularly scenic coastal route, but you will need to concentrate on your driving along the tortuous road into the city. One of the highlights of your trip should be visiting the neighboring village of Portllegat to see Casa Museo Salvador Dali, the sea-front home and studio of the world-famous artist. You need to book well in advance to visit or content yourself with the view from outside the house. Other popular activities include soaking up the unique atmosphere at a sea-view tapas bar, taking a scenic boat trip or exploring the beaches, coves and rock formations of Cabo de Crues.
Cadaques, Girona, Spain
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5. Cala Fonda
Located about 30 min south of Barcelona, Cala Fonda (aka Waikiki Beach) is a popular haunt for beach lovers who wish to avoid the tourist crowds on the Barcelona beaches. Reputed to be a real little coastal paradise, finding this beach requires quite some effort including a 15-20 min hike from the nearest parking area at La Mora Beach or Platja Llarga, if you are approaching from the south. Either way, your effort will be rewarded when you reach this secluded little gem which is tucked into an almost-untouched cove. You will need to bring along everything you need (and carry it out again); be sure to bring plenty of drinking water and sunscreen and a picnic if you are planning to stay all day.
Cala Fonda, Espai Natural de la Munta de la Mora, Tarragona, 43007, Spain
6. Callela de Palafrugell
Callela de Palafrugell is easily accessible by car in about 90 min from central Barcelona and is often cited as one of the most attractive coastal villages on mainland Spain. The town started off as a simple fishing village and still retains much of its original humble charm. The main reasons to visit include enjoying beach activities including a variety of water sports and diving, but many visitors also like to see some near-by attractions like the well-preserved Ruins of the Empuries, a Greco-Roman archaeological site and the beautiful Cap Roig Botanical Gardens. You can also visit a beautiful medieval castle in near-by Begur.
Callela de Palafrugell, Girona, Spain
Campdevanol is a popular day-trip destination for outdoor enthusiasts, located about 90 min north of Barcelona. The most popular activity is hiking the Ruta del 7 Gorgs, a 7.5 km hike which will take you along a very scenic trail to see up to seven waterfalls. It is possible to have a refreshing swim in one of the natural pools along your route. If you are feeling especially energetic you could also visit Estiulaventura to explore the aerial rope course or hike/cycle the 12km Ruta Del Ferro trail. When you have worked up a good appetite you can visit Formatgeria Palou, a small artisan cheesery, to taste some excellent cheeses and stock up for a picnic.
Campdevanol, Girona, Spain
The pretty village of Castelldelfels is easily accessible from central Barcelona in around thirty minutes. The village boasts a 6 km stretch of lovely sandy beach, almost completely devoid of the usual high-rise apartment buildings which characterize so much of the Spanish coastline. The beach is the primary draw-card, offering safe bathing, kite-surfing, body boarding and beach volley ball. You can hire a lounger and there are plenty of little beach bars to keep you hydrated. The Canal Olimpic was built as a training area for Olympic athletes – today you can enjoy kayaking, rowing and cable-skiing on the canal. If you prefer to explore beyond the beaches you can visit the hilltop castle, the pretty Parroquia Santa Maria church or visit the Gava Mines Archaeological Site.
Castelldelfels, Barcelona, Spain
9. Costa Brava
Spain’s famous Costa Brava (Wild Coast) lies to the north of Barcelona where it offers day trippers a scenic and adventurous coastal day out. The town of Blanes marks the start of the Costa Brava and you can be there in about an hour. Beyond Blanes you will find a 160km stretch of rugged coastline interspersed by miles of golden sandy beaches, bustling tourist hot-spots like Calella, Girona, Lloret de Mar and a few simpler and quieter spots like Pals, Tossa de Mar and Cadaques. Along the way you can visit the Dali Museum (near Figueres), the Archaeological Museum of Catalonia (near L’Escala) and the Botanical Gardens (near Blanes). There are numerous wonderful places to stop and enjoy the view as you feast on a Catalonian lunch.
Costa Brava, Spain
Figueres is probably the most attractive of the Costa Brava towns for lover of history and art. The town is located about 45min from Girona, where it is home to the most important Dali museum in Spain, the marvelous Teatro Museo Dali, housed in the town’s former theater. This surrealist wonderland takes you deep into the heart of Dali’s bizarre world and is not to be missed, whether or not you are an art lover. The town is also home to several other museums including the Toy Museum, Museu De L’Emporda (art museum) and the Technology Museum. Round off your day with a visit to the house where Dali was born and the ancient old Castle of Sant Ferran, one of the largest of its kind in Europe.
Figueres, 17600, Girona, Spain
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Easily accessible from Barcelona by road or rail in about 90 minutes, Girona is a brilliant option for a day trip. Narrow winding streets, cobbles and medieval walls set the scene in this lovely old city which boasts one of the best preserved Jewish Districts in Europe, called El Call. You can get a wonderful overview of the city by taking a walk along the intact medieval walls – a testimony to their 9th century builders. At the heart of the city you will find the Girona Cathedral, which you may recognize from “Game of Thrones”. History lovers can also visit the Sant Pierre de Galligants Benedictine Abbey, which is home to the fascinating Archaeology Museum of Catalonia.
Girona, 17007, Girona, Spain
12. Horta de Sant Joan
The pretty hill-top town of Horta de Sant Joan is a beacon for art enthusiasts and nature lovers, and is believed to be where Picasso developed his love of nature. Today people who visit Horta will find a place where time appears to have stood still – the style of the houses and other buildings is unchanged from the 1600’s. Historic highlights include the old Town Council Building, the 16th century House of the Tithe and the ancient Convent de la Mare de Deu Angels, which dates back to the 13th century. Of course, the Picasso Museum is a must-see for any art lover. There are a number of hiking and biking trails offering spectacular scenery and even a chance to go canyoning near the village.
Horta de Sant Joan, 43596, Tarragona, Spain
13. Illas Medes
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The Medes Islands are a small archipelago composed of seven small islands off the coast of L’Estartit, which are famous for offering scuba divers an underwater wonderland to explore. The islands form part of the Baix Ter National Park and offer dive sites for all levels of scuba expertise, including areas of limestone caves and tunnels and a wreck dive site. If you have never learned to scuba dive you can enroll for a course at one of several diving schools in L’Estartit. If swimming and diving do not appeal to you it is still possible to admire the underwater world from the comfort of a glass-bottom boat – Nautilus in L’Estartit operates several trips per day.
Illas Medes, Passeig Maritim 33, L’Estartit, Spain
Mataro is a beautiful coastal town which perfectly combines lovely beaches with historic features which date back to Roman times. Mataro is perfectly positioned for a day trip from Barcelona and you can reach it by road or rail in about 45 minutes. You can learn about the Roman era by visiting the Llauder Tower Archeological Site and other interesting historic features include the 16th century walled Old Town and the 15th century Basilica of Santa Maria. A pleasant stroll along La Lrier and La Rambla will reveal a wealth of wonderful old buildings filled with shops and restaurants. Along the sea shore you will find a wide promenade for walking or biking and excellent beach facilities in summer. There is also a working marina area lined with shops and eateries.
Mataro, 08301, Barcelona, Spain
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No visit to Barcelona would be complete without taking a day out to visit amazing Montserrat, which you can easily access by public transport in around two hours (one hour by road). The town is dwarfed by the massive Montserrat Mountain – you can reach the summit by taking a 15 min cable car ride. Highlights of your visit to Montserrat include seeing the legendary Black Virgin statue (which is believed to have mystic powers) in the Basilica of Montserrat (free entrance), the beautiful and serene Benedictine Abbey and the Art Museum of Montserrat. You can take a funicular railway to the amazing Rosari Monumental, where you can admire religious sculptures by several famous Catalan Modernists, including Gaudi. If art and religion are not to your liking you can simply explore the exceptional mountain area on foot.
Montserrat, 08691, Barcelona, Spain
Another of Spain’s historic old villages which simply demand to be explored, Pals is located about 45 minutes east of Girona. Pals boasts a very beautiful historic Old Quarter where you can spend a few hours strolling along winding cobbled paths, surrounded by medieval architecture. There are four intact defensive towers, linked by ancient stone walls, which offer sweeping views across the countryside and out to the ocean. Historic highlights of the village include the 1000-year-old Church of Sant Pere and the fortified Museu-Casa de Cultura (which also houses the Museum of Archaeology). Pas has a reputation for gastronomic delights – you can soak up the unique atmosphere while you enjoy one of the village’s traditional rice dishes.
Pals, 17256, Girona, Spain
Spain’s scenic and fertile Penedes Wine Region is located about an hour south of Barcelona, where it welcomes visitors to come and explore. As you drive through the region you will find several interesting towns and villages like Calafell, Sitges and Vilafranca del Penedes, which is the usual starting point for tours of the region and is home to the Wine Museum. You can explore on your own or join a guided wine tour, which is a great option for first-time visitors. Many of the wineries offer special wine experiences like creating your own Cava, in-depth cellar tours and private tastings. Joining a cycling tour of the Penedes Region is a very popular option.
Vilafranca del Penedes, 08720, Barcelona, Spain
18. PortAventura World
A day trip from Barcelona to PortAventura World in Salau is sure to please the whole family. PortAventura World is an enormous entertainment resort and theme park that offers hair-raising rides and roller coasters for all ages. In total, the park boasts 43 themed rides which range in excitement from the terrifying Dragon Khan roller coaster to the much more sedate Teacups for younger visitors. You can reach the park by train in just over an hour from Barcelona and there are on-site hotels if you would like to spread the fun over two days. Besides the rides, the resort also produces several shows and parades.
PortAventura World, Avinguda del Batlle Pere Molas, 43840 Vila-seca, Tarragona, Spain
19. Sant Feliu de Guixols
Another of Spain’s lovely coastal towns which oozes charm and beauty, San Feliu de Guixols is located about an hour north of Barcelona. History and architecture enthusiasts will find several interesting attractions in the town including the beautiful 19th century Benedictine Monastery around which the town was established. Other historic attractions include the Shipwreck Rescue Center (now part of the History Museum, the Old Hospital and the Cemetery which features several lovely stone sculptures. There are several pretty beaches and coves where you can soak up the sun and enjoy seasonal water sports and the coast is known for its good dive sites.
Sant Feliu de Guixols, 17220, Girona, Spain
Sitges is located about twenty minutes south of Barcelona, where it has been a popular beach resort for many decades. There are quick and easy public transport links to get you to Sitges, and once you are there you can easily walk everywhere. The old town is absolutely charming, with lovely old buildings demanding to be photographed and narrow cobbled lanes which beckon explorers. You will find lovely shops and galleries featuring works by local artists and the lively beach area boasts 17 beaches and offers a range of water sports and many bars and eateries. Art lovers should not miss the Cau Ferrat Museum to see great examples of Catalan Modernism.
Sitges, 08870, Barcelona, Spain
Tarragona was once an important Roman Capital which is filled with wonderful ancient ruins and other archaeological gems. Located about 90 minutes by road (or just over an hour by train) from Barcelona, the city definitely deserves a place on your list of day trips. One of the most outstanding attractions in the city is the ruins of the 2nd century Roman amphitheatre, which was carved out of bedrock and can accommodate 14,000 spectators. You can also visit the National Archaeological Museum, the Roman Forum, the Circ Roma ancient Roman chariot track and the beautiful Tarragona Cathedral. For a change of pace you can spend a few hours relaxing on the lovely El Milagro beach and enjoying a seafood lunch at one of the many promenade restaurants.
Tarragona, 43004, Spain
Tibidabo is a tall mountain overlooking Barcelona, and is believed to be the place where Jesus was tempted by the devil. Whether you believe this legend or not, Tibidabo is still well worth a visit to admire the beautiful Catholic Church of Sagrat Cor which you will find at the summit. The church took over 60 years to build and first opened its doors in 1961. Near-by you can visit a remarkable old amusement park which was built in 1899, and was the first of its kind in Spain. It still offers 30 rides, including some of the original attractions. You can reach the summit of Tibidabo by Funicular railway.
Tibidabo, 08035, Barcelona, Spain
23. Tossa de Mar
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No visit to Barcelona could be considered complete without visiting the only completely -surviving walled medieval town along the coast of Catalonia. Tossa de Mar is a fascinating town to explore; you enter through an arched portal which provides access to a wonderfully preserved castle and towers. The old town is full of historic buildings which now house delightful shops, bars and eateries. The Municipal Museum (which is part museum and part art gallery) is well worth a visit. For a break from history and architecture you can soak up some sun on one of the town’s many idyllic beaches and rocky coves or go snorkeling or diving at La Mar Menuda Beach.
Tossa de Mar, 17320, Girona, Spain
Nestled in the heart of the Serra del Montseny mountain range, the beautifully preserved town of Vic is well deserving of a place on your list of day trips. Spain may have many other such towns to explore but Vic is special in that it is considered to be the most representative of Catalan history and culture. As you wander around on foot you will notice many Roman remains, dating back to the second century which Vic was a Roman settlement. Today you can enjoy a beautiful city square, the Placa Mayor, which is encircled by beautiful porticoed buildings. Highlights of your trip would include visits to the 11th century San Per Cathedral, the Roman Temple and the Episcopal Museum.
Vic, 08500, Barcelona, Spain
25. Vilafranca de Penedes
Vilafranca de Penedes lies at the heart of Spain’s beautiful Penedes Wine Region, which is the home of the country’s national drink, Cava. Wine enthusiasts come from near and far to spend some time learning about the Spanish wine industry. The region is easy to explore by car and there are dozens of vineyards and wineries who welcome visitors to come for a tour and tasting. If you would prefer a guided tour you can find one to suit you in Vilafranca, which is the official gate-way to the area. Before you set off to explore the vineyards you can visit the Wine Museum, the Gothic Church of Santa Maria and the character-full historic town center.
Vilafranca de Penedes, 08720, Barcelona, Spain
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