Barcelona is a vibrant and exciting city to live in, genuinely offering something for everyone. However, if you ever feel like heading out of the city, there’s an abundance of great destinations right on Barna’s doorstep that shouldn’t be missed. Check out a few of them here!
If you’re looking for an escape to clear your head, then the serene vibes of Montserrat (literally ‘serrated mountain’) could be exactly what you need! The sites’ religious connections date back to when the Roman’s first constructed a temple there, and it has continued in that vein over the years. Christian monks seeking solace built various hermitages around the mountain, some of which can still be seen today, and the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery was first constructed there in the 10th century. Despite being sacked by Napoleonic troops, and witnessing considerable repression during the Civil War and Francoist era, the monastery continues to thrive to this day.
Once there you can visit the monastery itself, taking in the gothic architecture, and iconic statute of the Virgin of Montserrat. Alternatively, you can follow one of the plethora of trails which wind their way around the mountain. The views from the top are stunning, and on a clear day you can even see as far as Mallorca.
To get to Montserrat, take the FGC R5 train from Plaça Espanya, final destination Manresa. You have three main options to make it up the mountain; walking, via the Aeri de Montserrat (a cable car), or via the Cremallera (a rack railway). If you plan on walking or taking the Aeri, get off at the stop Aeri de Montserrat. From there, you can either jump straight on the Aeri, or cross a small footbridge and follow the yellow/blue arrows to your right for a trail which will lead you up the mountain. If you’d prefer to relax and take the rack railway, stay on R5 one more stop, and get off at Monistrol de Montserrat. From there you can take the Cremallera up to the monastery itself.
Sitges is probably best known amongst internationals for its wild Carnival celebrations, but it’s well worth a visit any time of the year. Beautiful beaches, great food, a tranquil atmosphere and a dynamic nightlife await you, a mere 35km down the coast from Barcelona.
The train is the quickest and cheapest way to get there, with a return ticket costing around €8.20 from Sants Estació, although you can take the same train from Passeig de Gracia or Estació de França. The train takes just over half an hour to arrive, but you won’t get bored as you take in picturesque views of the sea and coastline.
Situated just over 100km north-east of Barcelona, Girona is a major Catalan city that offers lots to see. You can take a high-speed Renfe train from Barcelona Sants, which will get you to Girona in around 40 minutes. The city has changed hands many times, with the Romans, Visigoths, Moors and French each controlling the city over the years. With such a diverse range of influences, Girona has many attractions to spend a day enjoying.
Original Roman walls surrounding the city were extended during the medieval ages, and on the Passeig de la Muralla, a walkway along the city walls, you can take in impressive views of over the city. The walls, which were originally constructed to defend the city, were demolished under French occupation; but in recent years the walls on the Eastern side have been reconstructed.
Girona has a rich Jewish history, and El Call (the Jewish quarter) remains one of the best preserved in Europe today. The quarter contains narrow, labyrinthine streets with stone steps and cobblestones.
Despite being constructed after the Moorish occupation, Girona has Arab Baths which date back to the 12th century. They were inspired by Roman and Arab architecture, and contain a changing room, an octagonal pool, and warm/cold rooms.
Finally, Girona sits alongside the River Onyar, and arguably its most iconic image is that of the view up the river, absorbing the colourful façades of the houses. Additionally, the Palanques Vermelles bridge, which spans the river, was built by the same Eiffel company that created the eponymous tower in Paris.
© Börkur Sigurbjörnsson (2011), licensed under CC BY 2.0 License