Barcelona’s Gaudi architecture, tapas bars and golden beach make the city an exciting, upbeat city break. But Catalonia’s beauty isn’t just limited to one city, so here are three day trips from Barcelona for your next break.
Catalonia has been occupied for about 200,000 years! On this scale, the Roman era (2000 years ago) doesn’t sound that old, but they dominated this area of Europe so their visible influence in architecture is huge. When you think of aqueducts and amphitheatres, your first thought might be Italy, but Tarragona has large-scale Roman ruins that reflected its standing as a city at the time.
Tarragona is 30 minutes on the train from Barcelona and was an important Roman outpost to control trade across the Mediterranean.
The amphitheatre is still in a complete enough state to see the tunnels that the Gladiators, animals and other ‘entertainers’ would have entered the stage through. When it went into disuse, a church was built in the centre, in an effort to impose Christianity on the population. The cross-shape of the church and the alter can be seen today.
A short bus journey out the city is a wooded park in a valley. Crossing the valley is the impressive Roman aqueduct. It’s definitely worth visiting to see the scale of it. It stands two tiers high and you can walk across the top of it.
Related: Why don’t you check out this post by Yoair Blogs about Secret Towns of Europe Worth Visiting!
The city is famed for its human towers. The city even holds a competition every two years in October for groups to find the best human tower groups!
Along Rambla Nova there’s a statue depicting this most Spanish of festivals. Like Las Ramblas, it has cafes running through the pedestrianised centre of the road to stop for a coffee or meal.
Recognisable to many as the Great Sept of Baelor and Cersei’s infamous walk of shame in Game of Thrones, Girona’s cathedral is at the top of 91 steps and towers over the streets below.
It’s a 40 minute train journey – so makes it one of the very easy day trips from Barcelona and the city feels very different. The old centre has narrow, cobbled streets. The whole city feels like it’s pouring itself over you. The city walls are high and the stone architecture feels heavy in the winding streets. It’s incredible to wander through the old town and not know what’s about to appear around the corner.
Girona is a perfect day trip from Barcelona because the city feels so different and the architecture is like being in a different country.
Walking on top of the city walls gives you great views of the old architecture. The 12th-century Arab Baths are also breath-taking. The still water in the entrance pool is peaceful and turns stern columns into soft reflections.
Like most cities, the architecture spills out into the statues dotted around. Kissing the Lioness’ bottom is a must to prove that you want to return! This comes from an old myth, possibly to prove that you are a good citizen.
Known as the Gateway to the Costa Brava, Blanes’ beach stretches up to the French border.
It’s one of many beach towns on the trainline north of Barcelona up the coast towards France. For me, these towns have two lives. Hotels and touristy shops line the seafront, but as soon as you step further back from the beach a typical Spanish town emerges.
One café I went into was full of cabezudos; the costumes with huge heads moulded into characters. These are paraded through the town during their annual fiestas. Some of the cafes are social clubs and regulars pop by to chat with their neighbours.
The town hosts an international fireworks competition at the end of July each year, with 500,000 visitors, most of whom will watch from the beach!
It also has two botanical gardens and a monastery with views over the town and sea.
Although there’s certainly tourist sites to see, and the beach is great, this is a place to visit if you want to sit on metal tables next to groups of men playing cards and smoking cigars. It’s a town where you can escape the usual tourist trail.
Have you been on any day trips from Barcelona?