Some of my favourite getaways near Barcelona
About a thousand little explorations can be made into the surrounding area of Barcelona. Catalunya offers diverse excursions, from forested hills and mountains to Roman ruins, high altitude lakes, secluded coves to vineyards and nature reserves. As you may or may not know, I am a fan of picking a direction and going for a drive on the weekend to “see what we can see on the other side of the mountain.”
Here I have selected a few great spots a little further afield. Most are accessible via bus or train and only a few hours outside of Barcelona.
Barcelona is bordered on both the east and west side by a river; the Besos, and the Llobregat. The Llobregat flows down near the airport and then branches out into a network of streams, canals and small lakes that form a delta as the river empties into the Mediterranean. In an effort to preserve the estuary, the government as reserved various areas and you can find a number of nature reserves with lovely walks and excellent birding. It’s a weird experience to watch the avian summer visitors frolic in the waters, squawking and strutting while in the background aeroplanes land and take off from the nearby airport. The reserves are also home to some wild horses and a neon swarm of pink flamingoes. The cultivated land around the delta is full of artichokes and in the right season you can see the huge purple flowers swaying their giant thistle like blooms. Then you can head back to a market in Barcelona and buy locally grown artichokes by the bucketload.
Garraf is one of my favourite places to visit. You can easily reach the village with a 20 minute train ride. Nestled against the cliffs and the garraf nature reserve the tiny village is home to a picturesque harbour and a lovely little curve of beach. The charm is echoed in the white wooden seaside cabins which run along the beach front. Originally built to house the railway workers as they built the train tracks from Barcelona to Sitges, they are now weekend casas. The beach is a lovely spot to go swimming in summer, and although it can get crowded (as all beaches this close to Barcelona) it still offers something unique. The sweeping hills that leap up behind the beach and houses contrast with the blue sea, and you can find some interesting architecture if you take an amble through the village square. It’s really great to come here during the week, when you can get away from the weekenders who come to sunbathe and swim. You may be lucky enough to have the place to yourself! There are some great spots on the cafe terrace for lunch overlooking the beach and sea, but you really do have to get there ahead of time to find a table or be prepared to wait in a queue!
Tossa del Mar
This choice is probably already on plenty of lists for day tripping from Barcelona, but it is certainly there for good reason! In my humble opinion Tossa is a great getaway. There is literally something here to appeal to all tastes. Great restaurants, lovely beaches perfect for swimming and snorkelling, historical ruins overlooking the sea, and it’s not too far from Barcelona that you spend hours in the bus or car or train getting there and back! It’s big enough and small enough that you can find a spot to escape the tourists, but still get around easily on foot. You can spot dolphins and watch seagulls gracefully glide as you sip a drink in the cafe on the mountain top, your views framed by aloes and golden spanish sunshine. A walk along the old town walls is especially fun. I love it as it gives an interesting perspective into all the balconies and terraces of the old and new villages.
Ok so this title is somewhat general, but I’ll leave it that way as there are just too many places to choose from. If you find yourself in the mountains on the French border you will know what I mean. The whole area is stuffed with fantastic vistas, hidden lakes, hot springs, forests, nature reserves, quaint villages and towns, and scenic drives that won’t go down well with anyone who gets carsick. About a two hour drive north of Barcelona, after you pass the strange fingers of Monserrat, you slowly begin to ascend, and the landscape changes. Mountains of rocky green rear up and your car will twist and turn up gorges and passes. There are plenty of hikes in the area and a weekend spent here exploring and eating speciality Catalan food cannot be missed! Rent a weekend house and escape into nature. If you go in winter you will find the mountains covered in snow and the ski slopes ready and waiting for you.