Looking for things to do around Barcelona? If you’re planning a visit to the Catalan capital and want to get off the beaten track, we’ve put together 5 getaways for you. Discover hidden spots just half an hour from the city: unspoiled beaches, hot spring resorts, a Gaudí creation far from the teeming crowds of the Sagrada Familia, and the monastery where Columbus was greeted by the Catholic Monarchs following the conquest of America.
So, take note, hire a car to get around at your own pace and enjoy these unique experiences.
A monastery, a modernist winery and a natural park
Just half an hour from Barcelona lies Sant Cugat, a pleasant town with one of the highest per capita incomes in Spain. The town is famous for its monastery, the most important in the Barcelona region. With 144 different column tops–known as capitals–the cloister is a jewel of the European Romanesque style. Sant Cugat also has a modernist winery dating to 1921 and designed by the architect César Martinell, a testament to the town’s wine-making past.
If you want to get back to nature, a route through Collserola Natural Park will be right up your street. Perfect for an enjoyable excursion on foot or by bike, this park is the green lung of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area and home to El pi d’en Xandri, a huge stone pine over 230 years old and 23 metres high.
Soak in the hottest hot springs on the Iberian Peninsular
After hours traipsing around Barcelona, you’ll be ready for a break. And what could be better than a soak in the hot springs? Less than half an hour from Barcelona by car lies the hot springs resort with the hottest water on the Iberian Peninsula. Perfect for a romantic getaway, Caldes de Montbui is an agreeable little town which once had as many as 7 spas. For a reasonable sum, you can take a dip in the waters at Baños Termales el Safareig. These public thermal baths have a pool with space for just 15 people and are located in a former laundry.
You can also visit the Termas Romanas, some of the best-preserved Roman baths in Spain, and dip a hand in the 74ºC water gushing from the Font del Lleó (Lion’s Fountain). The water is rich in chlorine, sodium, lithium, bromine and iodine and for centuries was used to soften wood for wine bottles and wicker. Round off your visit to Caldes with a soak in another of the baths, a visit to the modernist Codina pharmacy or the Thermalia Museum.
Unspoiled beaches, wetlands and artichokes
Did you know the region’s only two virgin beaches lie just outside Barcelona? Cal Francès and El Remolar, in the neighbouring town of Viladecans, are part of the Delta de Llobregat Natural Areas and of great ecological value. Due to the proximity of Prat de Llobregat airport, it’s not uncommon to see planes passing low overhead on their way in to land as you stroll around this natural landscape. If you’re a movie buff, you’ll feel like Cary Grant in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest! Plane spotters should keep their cameras at the ready as this is the perfect place to snap big birds like the A380.
As always, the best way to round off a visit to the Baix Llobregat is a good feed. And in this part of the region, you can’t leave without trying both the artichokes and Prat de Llobregat’s own local breed of chicken, known as “pollastre de pota blava” (blue foot chicken).
So you see, this trip out of Barcelona is sure to please lovers of unspoiled beaches, planes and local food alike.
Gaudí’s best-kept secret
As well as virgin beaches, wetlands and first-class produce, the Baix Llobregat area guards Antoni Gaudí’s best-kept secret. Just 20 minutes from Barcelona, Colònia Güell in Santa Coloma de Cervelló is a company town which used to produce velvet and velveteen. Among other services, the town had a hospital, restaurant, school, store and chapel, as well as the factories and homes for the workers, of course. And all this fitted within 160 hectares. The architect of the Sagrada Familia designed the entire Colonia including the church, though he only got as far as building the crypt, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005.
Badalona, so much more than the home of ‘la Penya’
If Badalona is famous for anything, it’s for its basketball team, ‘la Penya’. And for being the long-term home of Pompeu Fabra, father of the Catalan language. However, this coastal city, easily reached by metro or train from Barcelona, has so much more to offer and is a great place to explore and entertain yourself within easy reach of Barcelona. Here are our recommendations for an affordable and unforgettable day out:
One of Badalona’s biggest attractions is the legendary Pont del Petroli (petrol bridge). Jutting some 250 meters into the sea, as the name suggests, it was traditionally used for offloading petroleum products. Waiting to greet you at the start of the bridge is a sculpture of a naked, hairy, bearded monkey holding a bottle of anis and staring intently at the label. If you’re wondering whether it’s because he recognises himself, you’d be right. This is the monkey from the Anís del Mono bottles, a legendary aniseed liqueur which has been distilled in Badalona since 1868. To learn more about the history of Anís del Mono, visit the incredible modernist factory where it’s still made to this day.
If you want to end your visit to Badalona by escaping the hustle and bustle of the city, you could do worse than a trip to the Sant Jeroni de la Murtra Gothic monastery. Founded in 1416, the monastery has a wonderful cloister. Interestingly, this was where the Catholic Monarchs stayed for a time in 1492 and where they received Christopher Columbus on his return from America.