Are you looking to get away for a long weekend or road trip through the Catalan countryside? With finals week over at GBSB and spring break right around the corner, there is no better time to explore this traditional Catalan region that has a diverse mix of cultural and geographical offerings. From Dali’s Museum in Figueres to the Roman ruins in Tarragona and the magnificent La Garrotxa Volcanic Natural Park, there is something for everyone.
Pack your bags and let’s go.
Meander down narrow cobblestoned streets nestled by ancient arcaded houses in the magnificent old town. Just 103 kilometers from Barcelona, Girona is an ancient city enclosed by two eras of ramparts. Once used to fortify the city, the Força Vella outlines the original Roman city founded more than 2,000 years ago, and the Medieval Quarter was the section of the old town that expanded in the 14th and 15th centuries. The fortress-like Romanesque cathedral was built in the 11th century and was updated throughout the 17th century. The magnificent façade is styled with Baroque elements and the interior is fashioned according to Gothic style.
Until 1492, the city was home to a huge community of Jews that were ultimately expulsed from the city and the region. The Museu d’Història dels Jueus de Girona tells the story about their misfortune.
Stroll along River Onyar and marvel at the colorful assortment of homes that flank it leading into the newer section of town.
Most notable for its association with Salvador Dali, the traditional Catalan town Figueres, renown for it Modernista architecture lies in a tranquil river plain, not but 140 kilometers from Barcelona. Dali’s Surrealist genius is captured in his Teatre-Museu Dali, a 19th-century Municipal Theater converted to house some of the master’s greatest works. Protected by tall red walls that are crowned with giant white eggs, the museum’s Oscar-like golden statues and plaster croissant draw visitors from far and wide.
Close to Barcelona and easily accessible by train from Plaça Espanya, Montserrat is perched high atop a mountain and considered to be one of Catalunya’s holiest sites. Of course, for the strong at heart, there is about 3-hours of hiking trails leading up to this magnificent monetary, but for those that want to take in the views without breaking a sweat, there is a cable car or cog-wheel railway that lead up the mountain. Don’t forget to pack walking shoes. Once you have ascended to the top there are peaceful walks and places to sit down and enjoy a picnic lunch. Season permitting, you might even be able to catch a choir performance in the basilica, facilitating a tranquil and serene siesta.
Similar in size to Girona, Tarragona is predominantly known for its Roman ruins. Situated 100 kilometers from Barcelona, this port town on the Costa Daurade is an exquisite adventure for history enthusiasts. Be enthralled by Tarragona’s UNESCO-protected ancient Roman amphitheater dating back to the 2nd-century.
Marvel at the pristine golden beaches and whitewashed town that is Sitges. Only 42 kilometers south from Barcelona, this resort style town draws sun-worshipers with its calm, peaceful waters, expansive beaches, and pedestrian promenade. The historic city center also offers a bit of history and culture. Two marvelous churches, Iglesia Bartomeu and Iglesia de Santa Tecla, attract keen sightseers with cameras ready, along with the avant-garde Modernist architecture found through the town.
An average sized medieval walled town, easily reached by train, but preferred transportation is by car. The major lure, attracting visitors, is the "Cistercian Route", a triad of breathtaking monasteries, not far from one another, at Poblet, Vallbona de les Monges and Santes Creus.
A cute little seaside artists’ spot on the Costa Brava and favorite to both Picasso and Salvador Dali who were drawn to the area's incredible light and sea breezes. 170 kilometers from Barcelona, this rough and rocky coastline highlights some of the most exquisite hidden beaches and relaxing coves.
A charming medieval town located in the flatlands of La Plana de Vic to the south of the Pyrenees, along the Meder River. The town’s tourist information office is located just off Plaça Major, the largest of Catalunya’s central squares. Lined with spectacular Boroque and Modernista mansions, it is a wonderful place to grab a glass of cava or café con leche at any one of the cafés with a pleasant outdoor terrace.
9. Colònia Güell
Apart from the iconic Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s final large project was the establishment of a utopian textile workers’ complex for his magnate Eusebi Güell outside of Barcelona at Santa Coloma de Cervelló. Gaudi’s main objective on the compound was to erect the colony’s church, Colònia Güell, though he was only able to complete the crypt, which is currently open to visitors.
A magical, fairytale, medieval town, characterized by a maze of cobblestone streets and tranquil squares that lookout upon beautifully kept historic buildings, marking the passage of time. Besalú houses an old Sephardic quarter with medieval Jewish Baths that were prized for ritual ablutions. The 10th-centur Benedictine monastery of Sant Pere, 10th-century chapel of Santa Maria, the 13th-century Romanesque church of Sant Vincenç, and the 17th-century church of Sant Juliàare are all noteworthy sites, not to be missed. The centerpiece, Viejo Bridge, built in the 11th-century and renovated in the 14th-century, will be the highlight of many pictures as you stroll in and out of the old town.
At the end of the 19th-century with the construction of the railroad, Ripoll became a bustling commercial town with a booming textile industry. Located 109 kilometers from Barcelona at the confluence of the Ter and Freser rivers, the town was originally built around the Benedictine monastery of Santa María de Ripoll, founded around the 9th century.
A wonderful natural retreat from the city. Only 18 kilometers away from Girona and 121 kilometers from Barcelona, near La Garrotxa Nature Reserve, the town is surrounded by the rolling hills of the Sierra Rocacorba. Banyoles played a major role in the textile industry starting back in the 13th-century. The most awe-inspiring attraction is visiting the beautiful lake with a 6-kilometer perimeter. It serves as a fabulous place to relax, to meander along the pathways, cycle, boat or try your hand at fishing in the crystal-clear waters that are absolutely memorizing.
Now that finals are complete. Where will you be heading to?
Written by Emily Dawn Szajda, GBSB Global Content Manager