Looking for a getaway from the city and the perfect day trip from Barcelona? Look no further. I have selected the best excursions from Barcelona by train and by car so that, when you want some time away from the fabulous city, you can have the best ideas for places near Barcelona to visit in a day, all of the ideas below are between 30minutes and 2h from Barcelona.
As you know, I am Catalan and so this is my land and I want to make sure that you have the best of times so this list of Barcelona day trips is a great way to get a flavour for Catalunya beyond Barcelona.
Bonus: I asked locals who live in each of the places listed as one day trip ideas to give me their inside scoop so you also get the very-local hidden gems. Each of the trip ideas mentioned here are places near Barcelona so you do not waste too much time getting there and back. Lastly, I have also included tips on when it is best to go to each and how to get there.
Set, ready, go!
Tip: If you are going to drive yourself, these tips from Wagoners abroad on road signs in Spain might be useful for your day trips from Barcelona.
- Beachside town of Sitges
- Learn to appreciate Cava and organic wine in Penedes
- Poblet Monastery and Kosher wines
- Figueres, Dali and Cadaques
- Medieval town of Besalu
Beachside town of Sitges
Alright, I am biased at this one. Sitges is where I come from, but it is also one of the most recommended and lauded small towns within easy reach from Barcelona by most guides and lists so I am not the only one. It is quaint, it is small, it can be reached by a 30min comfortable train ride, it is fully walkable and it offers the peace and beach life that Spain is known for. What more can you ask your day trip from Barcelona that all those ingredients?
Things to do and see in Sitges
Sitges is multi-faceted. You can go simply to lay on the beach, eat a paella by the sea promenade and have a leisurely walk along the sea, or you can go for one of the many festivals and events that line the calendar, from the crazy bare-it-all Carnival to the famous Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia. Or just go for the culture and heritage. Here are a few options to explore Sitges rich heritage.
Cau Ferrat, a museum since 1933, was the workshop and residence of Modernist artist Santiago Rusiñol, contemporary of Gaudi, who used the space to organise artistic events turning Cau Ferrat in the “Temple of Modernisme”. He collected art throughout his life and even pieces by Picasso are on display. Next to Cau Ferrat you can find Museu Maricel (Sea and sky in Catalan) which houses a lot of art pieces. But what makes this building outstanding is its location, perched above the sea waves.
Perhaps the most emblematic of the buildings in Sitges, aside from the famous church, is the Maricel Palace. Today, the building can be rented for private events and the local Town Hall organises exhibitions throughout the year. Civil marriages can also take place inside. A friend of mine got married there and it was the most beautiful venue. Inside, the rooms are incredibly ornate in the blue ceramic tiles that remind the visitor how close to the sea they are. The cloisters and the Gold Room are impressive and from the terraces at the top one can see the sea. Guided tours are available on Sunday.
Best time to go
All year round. In February there is the craziest Carnival you will ever see. In May, the vintage car rally from Barcelona to Sitges. In May, the flower carpets of Corpus Cristi. In June, the Sitges Gay Pride. In July, the International Tango Festival. In August the Festa Major, a three day party and tradition festival covering the streets with parades and fire works in honour of the town’s Patron’s Saint St. Bartholomew. In September, a smaller version of a Festa Major in honour of Saint Tecla. In October the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia. And even if you don’t come for any event, just have a walk along the 1,5km sea promenade to put your towel down on the beach.
How to get to Sitges
The best way to get to Sitges is by train. Rodalies Renfe trains depart 4 every hour from either Passeig de Gracia or Sant Stations and cost about 5-7 euro. Timetables can be found here. You can also take the bus but the train is pretty convenient. Once in Sitges, the train is very much in the city center so you will find your way around without any issues.
Learn to appreciate Cava and organic wine in Penedes
Catalunya and Spain are well known for wine making. In fact, Spain is one of the top-4 largest producers of wine in the world together with Italy, France and the US, and although I always feel very disappointed at how bad we are at marketing Spanish wines abroad, there are some really amazing wineries near Barcelona so what better day trip that one to visit the pioneer in organic wine making and one of the original cava producers, the Catalan version of Champagne (because champagne can only be called champagne if it comes form the Champagne region).
This excursion from Barcelona will take you to visit some of the best and most original wineries near Barcelona, making for a lovely day trip idea.
Things to do and see at Cava Llopart
Cava Llopart has been making cava since 1887, that makes it one of the very first cava producers in Spain after Codorniu started in 1872. Located in the small village of Subirats, on the hills above Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, the capital of Cava, about half an hour by car, from Barcelona on the highway, Cava Llopart is worth a visit because of the great tours they offer and the incredible history.
Above all, the views over the important Montserrat Mountains from the country house where the Gran Reserva Tour starts are incredible. You will have a full 360 degree understanding of the cava production from the vineyard to the cellar and the disgorging, a fascinating process. Of course, the Gran Reserva Tour starts with breakfast, Catalan style, with bread with tomato, extra virgin olive oil, ham and other cold cuts and cured meats like fuet and botifarra. Breakfast is paired with a couple of Llopart’s cavas, including their most premium one, which maintains the original label from the first bottle in 1887.
Lunch should be had at the Mirador de les Caves, right above Cava Llopart, with amazing views and even better Catalan food. Cava Llopart offers a combined Gran Reserva tour plus lunch for 60 euro which is a steal. You cannot get there by public transport so you will need your car.
Things to do and see at Albet i Noya
After lunch, head out to Albet i Noya, another pioneer in the wine making world of Spain. Albet i Noya offers a variety of tours, some of them following the Slow Travel philosophy with bike tours and walks along the vineyards. They were the pioneers of organic wines, which now account for 60% of all the wineries in Penedes DO, the wine appellation where the Cava region and Albet i Noya are located. A tour will give you the chance of seeing the original winery, as the family had been in the wine making business long before they started producing organic wines at the request of a Danish wine distributor in the 70s. At the end of the tour, the tasting takes place in the garden, under the shade of tall trees, with views over the vineyards. A very pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Although you should also drive, we met a couple who lived in Barcelona at the winery who had come by train and walked from the station a very pleasant 45min through villages and countryside.
Best time to go
This is an all year round trip. If you go during the wine harvesting you will see the area in motion and all the wine making process live. In spring, the vines will start to green and flourish. In the summer, before the harvest, the grapes are in full bloom and the vineyards very pretty. In winter, the landscapes are more tamed but the visits are equally worthy.
How to get there
It is not easy to organise this day trip from Barcelona without a car so I would suggest you rent one for the day to have the flexibility of being able to drive around leisurely. This will also give you the chance to explore the countryside near both wineries and even make a quick trip to Montserrat which we will talk about later. If you can’t drive, you can take the train to Sant Sadurni d’Anoia and then get local taxis. Train timetables can be found here.
Poblet Monastery and Kosher wines
Learn about Priorat’s younger brother Appellation, Montsant, and about how Kosher wine is made and about the impact it had on a small 200 inhabitant town at Celler Capcanes. In the afternoon, explore the beautiful Poblet Monastery, a 31-monk religious 12th century complex and UNECO site.
This is a great one day trip from Barcelona for those who are keen to getting under the skin on a place and looking beyond the mere touristy ideas. You will not find this excursion mentioned anywhere else because these places are only known to locals. Visits to the winery are not open to the general public and there are no group tours so for something unique and special, consider this Barcelona excursion idea.
Things to do and see at Celler de Capcanes
The name Priorat has recently gained momentum and fame. What most people don’t know is that, in Catalunya, the Autonomic Region Barcelona is the capital for, Priorat is the name of a county as well as a wine appellation. Sometimes, this creates confusion because, inside the Priorat county there are two appellations, Montsant and Priorat. Although they are similar, Priorat’s soil make it a very characteristic and unique wine region whereas Montsant has a different soil and hence different but equally fantastic wines.
Priorat has been awarded many accolades and largely known as a more refined and boutique alternative to Rioja wines with more character and very low production. Wine connoisseurs all over fall for the unique soil and soul of Priorat wines.
About an hour and a half from Barcelona, you can visit Celler de Capcanes, a cooperative winery that was made famous for its production of the first Kosher wine in Spain. As a cooperative, the winery is owned and managed by a council that represents the 80 vineyard owners. A tour of the winery, organised by appointment, gives insights into how Kosher wine is made but also on life in a small village where wine, and Kosher wine in particular, revived and provided a favourable livelihood to an otherwise impoverished and bulk grape production region. Plus their wines are excellent and expressive of the four types of soils and the very different types of vineyards the 80 farmers have.
Things to do and see at Poblet Monastery
After Capcanes, Monestir de Poblet is a great way to understand how the Church brought wine back to Spain after the Moorish occupation and the Christian Reconquest. It is also a UNESCO heritage listed site and a beautiful expression of Romanesque and Gothic art. Poblet is inhabited by 31 ordained Cistercian monks leading a monastic life.
Best time to go
This is a year round trip from Barcelona although the landscapes in Priorat will look very different depending on the season you decide to visit. In winter, it can get pretty cold so wrap up, and the vineyards can even be covered in snow, which makes for an incredible sight. In summer, the area looks lush and inviting.
How to get there
Unfortunately this is not a trip that you can go on without a car so it is essential to rent one for the day. Priorat and Poblet are about 2h drive from Barcelona so you should start the day early to make the most of it. Bear in mind in the winter months the sun set early, a around 5pm, while in the summer the sun will be up until 9-10pm. I used Google maps and found that it has all the info to get there and the drive is easy so it should not be an issue to locate both places.
A visit to the winery requires you to book ahead but they offer various options including a horseback ride among the wineries as well as tours and tastings. More details here.
Tours of Poblet are organised in Catalan and Spanish almost every hour and you can also visit on your own with a map but I recommend the tour if language is not an issue.
Girona has centuries of history, beautiful architecture and rich heritage. It is one of the four provinces in the Autonomous Community of Catalunya and it is also the name of its capital. It has the same political status as Barcelona but it is significantly more peaceful. Thanks to the several rivers meeting in the city, it is often called the Venice of Catalunya.
Things to do and see in Girona
Girona is a beautiful 100,000 inhabitant city with colourful riverside houses and a rich heritage from the Romans to the Visigoths and the Moors until Charlemagne conquered the city, expelled the Moors and made it one of the fourteen counties of Catalunya in the 8th century. But troubles did not end there. For the following centuries, Girona suffered twenty-five sieges and was captured seven times. It was a County and a Duchy. Up until today, Princess Leonor of Asturias still carries the title of Princess of Girona.
Girona is also famous for its Jewish community which flourished in the 12th century when it had one of the most important Kabbalistic, or Judaist schools of thought, in Europe. But the presence of Jews in Catalunya, and in Spain, came to an end in 1492, the year of the discovery of America, when the Catholic Monarchs expelled them all from the Spanish territory under what is known as the Spanish Inquisition. Nonetheless, the Call or Jewish getto, is one of the best preserved in Europe and should be part of your visit to the city.
Of course, if you can get a booking and can afford it, El Celler de Can Roca, several times chosen Best Restaurant in the world and currently second, is in Girona too. If you can’t get a reservation there, try their ice cream parlour, Rocambolesc wuere you can try interesting flavour combinations with the same pedigree.
Other things to do in Girona include having a look at the impressive Cathedral and, of course, the beautiful reflections on the Onyar river which bring about the city’s stunning colourful facades against the flowing waters. Start at the 12th-century Esglesia de Sant Pere de Galligants and meander the canals and narrow lanes. Girona is a city to get lost it.
Best time to go
Girona is an all-year-round destination. It can be hot in the summer and cooler but pleasant in the winter. The best months to go are both spring and autumn, particularly June and September. In the summer, there are a lot of cultural events happening, free open air concerts, markets, etc. but it can be a little bit too hot for some. I personally love it.
How to get there
The city is located 100km from Barcelona and it takes about an hour to drive there. This is an easy day excursion from Barcelona because the city can also be reached by Renfe train from Barcelona so you don’t have to drive. There are trains almost every hour from Sants Station. Timetables can be found here. If you are driving yourself and want to add some nature, try to squeeze in some wine visits in the Emporda Wine region.
Figueres, Dali and Cadaques
This requires a longer drive from Barcelona but it is so worth it. Start at Dali’s Museum in Figueres, a city close to the border with France, about an hour and a half drive from Barcelona, before you head off to Cadaques, a tiny fishing village at the end of a very winding road for a late lunch.
Dali – Genius or fool?
Dali was both a genius or a fool depending on how you look at it. His works of art, mostly painting and later on sculptures, jewelry, articles, books, movies and installations, were inspired by the French Impressionism first then by Surrealism. He was born in 1904 in Figueres and attended a French primary school, the vehicle through which he became in contact with French Art. His father sent him to Madrid in the 1920s to study Fine Arts and there is where he met other contemporary Spanish artists of his time like famous movie director Luis Buñuel and writer Federico García Lorca with whom he collaborated extensively throughout his career.
At the end of he 20s, Dali traveled to Paris for the first time, met Picasso and visited the Louvre. This was only the first of many other future visits where he came into contact with Surrealism, the influence that most strongly shows in his work.
Dali he was always a rebel. His work was shown in several galleries and exhibitions through the 20s but he never finished his Fine Arts degree because he was expelled several times from the school. From the 30s, Cubism, Impressionism and Futurism were well behind and he was a established Surrealist painter. Some of his most famous and acclaimed works were from that period. The well-known “The Persistence of Memory” with the abstract and melting clocks, were painted then.
Although Dali was a native from Figueres, he was born in a turbulent time so when the Spanish Civil War destroyed most of Spain and sat dictator Franco on the Government, he was well integrated into French society and lived in Paris. He travelled to the UK, Germany and the US on some of the first commercial ships to make the Atlantic crossing and eventually moved to the US when WWII Hitler’s troops took Bordeuax, where he was living in 1940. He expanded into American movies with the Marx Brothers and Hitchcock, entered into collaborations with theatre and jewelry makers and became more and more an all-rounded artist. His work continued to be Surreal, in all the senses of the word, also the most mundane one. In the 50s he returned to Spain and continued expanding into illustrations and touching on mystical topics. He wrote for The Herald and Vogue and continued to exhibit all over the world including the Georges-Pompidou Centre in Paris, London’s Tate Gallery, the New York Guggenheim and the MOMA, where his work was part of several exhibitions over the years.
In Figueres, one can visit his Theatre-Museum where some of his pieces and installations are on display. You will be mesmerised by the art and the illusions Dali played on the visitor. This is a museum that was built and designed by him as his home town paid him homage so he was involved in its creation before it opened in 1970, 14 years before he died. Dali spent his last years between the house in Portlligat, Pubol Castle, where he was appointed Marquis of Pubol by the Spanish King Juan Carlos I and his home in Figueres.
Aside from the museum in Figueres, his house in Portlligat, an extremely picturesque and pretty fishing village right on the border with France, is the location of another of his house-museums. Gala, his wife and muse, died there and this is where he spent most of his working life in Spain until that moment.
In the summer, the Theatre-Museum also offers night tours if you are keen to do the itinerary the reverse order and enjoy a lazy day in Cadaques.
Cadaques is an incredibly beautiful fishing village, it is Santorini meets a real peaceful life. Although a very popular place to visit by locals, Cadaques still maintains the charm of a real village that has not succumbed to the tourism industry.
It has a much quieter vibe than Santorini and people don’t come here to party. It’s relatively isolated and peaceful status is surely thanks to its hard to reach location, a bit over 2h from Barcelona on a scenic but winding road. Don’t get me wrong, it is not particularly empty, in the summer time it is hard to find parking space because the village is tiny and the only access road narrow and practically one lane only. But when you get there, the air is still filled with the smell of freshly caught fish and traditional Havaneres songs are still sang in the summer nights. Havaneres talk about a time when Catalans fled to Cuba and a sort of native American music mixed with a type of Spanish music to create this lulling music. They are very famous of Calella de Palafrugel but can also be heard in Cadaques.
Despite its beauty and romantic feel, Cadaques seems to have avoided international stardom and is still frequented by mostly Catalans who either have a house there or in the surrounding villages and who come to have a seafood dinner by the water or launch on a small boat to reach the hidden bays in the area that cannot be accessed by road. If you visit, I promise it will not let you go without great memories
Best time to go
Although Figueres and Dali are and all year round visit, Cadaques is most beautiful in the hotter months. If you visit i Spring or Autumn you will see a much more peaceful place and some restaurants and shops may be closed. In the winter, almost all the village will be empty and all tourist services closed. Avoid August at all costs as the place becomes totally clocked and you won’t be able to get in, park or find a place to eat.
How to get there
Tarragona is the capital of another of the four provinces in Catalunya and it is located about 100km from Barcelona along the coast. Although it is today a relatively peaceful city, Tarragona used to be one of the most important Roman ports and city in the Mediterranean, leaving behind notable UNESCO-listed Roman ruins that can be visited on preset routes highlighted by the local tourism office.
What to see in Tarragona
The best things to see in Tarragona are related to the Roman Empire, most notably, the remnants of the city’s 2nd century AD walls, which are considered the oldest Roman construction in Europe outside the Italian peninsula. After the walls, the amphitheatres is worth a visit. While the building is mostly in ruins, the seating area can still be seen, giving its back to the sea, and one can feel what it must have been like to be a spectator to one of the famous Empire’s entertainment shows with gladiators trying to take on wild beasts. From the walls and the amphitheatre you should also visit the 1st century AD circus, where horse and chariot races were held. The circus was 325 meter long and could host 30,000 people. The Praetorium is a Roman tower that once housed the stairs that connected the lower city to the provincial forum through the circus. In the 12th century, it was converted into a palace for the Crown of Aragon and then a prison.
After a generous dose of Roman history, you can head over to the Balco del Mediterrani, a beautiful place to stroll above the sea. After all, Tarragona is a coastal city.
Tarragona’s most famous church, the Cathedral, is a notable Romanesque 12th century building with a pretty cloister. It is said that the cathedral stands where a Roman temple used to be. Look our for the Rose window and
Best time to visit Tarragona
Tarragona is a pleasant city all year round thanks to the Mediterranean location by the sea and the mild climate. In the summer months you will enjoy hot weather and, even in the winter, the temperatures never drop too much.
How to get to Tarragona
Tarragona is an easy train ride away from Barcelona on the Renfe trains and the journey takes about an hour. There are trains almost every hour. Timetables can be found here.
Medieval town of Besalu
Besalu is one of the most beautiful towns in Catalunya and one of the best day trips from Barcelona, especially because not a lot of people know about it. Besalu was an important Medieval town with a famous count, Wilfred the Hairy, and a postcard perfect, picturesque stone bridge taken out of a Lancelot movie with only 2,400 inhabitants.
Things to do in Besalu
The village has a few notable sights in its narrow cobblestoned streets. Check out the Jewish bathhouse which is believed to be one of only 3 left in Europe, the Romanesque church, the Royal Curia and the hospital of Sant Julià. Besalu is a place to be discovered on foot, simply getting lost and getting in any place that looks interesting. This is a photogenic town where you won’t be able to stop yourself from taking constant photos.
When to visit Besalu
Besalu can be quite cold in the winter as it is in continental Catalunya but then again it would probably still be milder than the rest of Europe at the time. In the summer, it is a wonderful escape from Barcelona and spring will bring the blossoming flowers in the area.
How to get to Besalu
The town is not particularly near by public transportation but it is totally doable with a combination of Renfe train to Girona and then a bus to Besalu. Or you can take the bus directly from Barcelona to Besalu, more details here. The journey takes about 100 minutes.
This is perhaps the best known day trip from Barcelona and one of the best known landmarks near Barcelona, almost everyone considers it the go-to excursion when you want to get away from the urban landscapes. And with reason.
Montserrat is an abbey, a mountain, a national park, a basilica and a sanctuary. Sitting at over 1,200m high and with a very unique shape, rounded and eroded through the millions of years since its formation, Montserrat dominates the area and presides over most of Catalunya. It is said that on a clear day, one can even see Mallorca.
Montserrat is a holy place for Catalans because of the 12th century black Our Lady of Montserrat Romanesque carving inside which was named the patron saint of Catalunya in 1881. The mountain also gives its name to many Catalan women, like for example my sister. For years, it was believed that the caring was originally black, but it was recently discovered that it was blackened by smoke. There are many other legends around the mountain, the virgin and the sanctuary. In the past it was common for people to hike all the way to Montserrat as a pilgrimage. My father did it many times as a younger boy.
Things to do in Montserrat
Montserrat is one of the best trekking and hiking destinations in Catalunya and the mountain is made of a network of paths ready to be explored and detailed here. The mountain also offers great wall climbing opportunities to the experienced ones.
If neither of these options are of your liking and you are looking to do quieter and more relaxed things in Montserrat, this is also a great cultural and religious excursion from Barcelona. You can visit the Museum created in 1929 by Gaudi’s contemporary Puig i Cadafalch.
From the monastery level, you can also buy tickets to get on the almost-vertical cable car to the top of the mountain. The Sant Joan funicular railway was opened in 1918 to connect the monastery with Sant Joan Chapel, which is on the top of the mountain, where there is also a viewpoint. In 1997 the infrastructure was modernised and the funiculars had new panoramic vehicles installed, for visitors to fully enjoy the journey. This is a lovely little excursion to take.
Going to Montserrat means a visit to the abbey, the Renaissance basilica and the sanctuary which house 70 Benedictine monks. You can enter the basilica and visit it, even go behind the altar to see the virgin behind a glass window.
If you time your visit well, a listen to the beautiful boys choir singing, L’Escolania de Montserrat, famous across Catalunya and considered one of the oldest in Europe with texts mentioning it dated from the 14th century. You can listen to some of it in the video below although hearing it live, in the basilica, is a whole different experience.
Do not leave Montserrat without buying some of the snacks, sweets and liquor made by the monastery, one of the traditions dating back to the Medieval times. They will make for a great souvenir for those back home. You can buy them in the few stores in the area or in the daily market that has been operating in the main square area since I can remember. This market is at the center of some of the best memories from my childhood.
When to go to Montserrat
Although Montserrat, like all of Catalunya, can be visited all year round, it is quite cold in the winter and may even get snow so you can have a very different experience in the various seasons.
How to get to Montserrat
Getting to Montserrat is easy because it is all very well laid out to make Montserrat a great day trip from Barcelona. From Barcelona Placa Espanya station take the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC) on the line Llobregat-Anoia towards Manresa and get off at the Monistrol de Montserrat station. Timetables for the FCG can be found here. Once at Monistrol, take the Rack Railway up to the mountain. You can find details for the train and funicular tickets here. If you want to go on an organised tour, the official ones can be booked here. There are even Express tours which include a direct train from Barcelona all the way, an audio guide, maps and and snacks for an awesome day out of Barcelona.
I created this table as a quick guide to the regions, how to get there, why you should visit and how long it would take from Barcelona.
|Area||Distance||How to get there||Why you should visit|
|Sitges||30min||Train||Beaches and heritage|
|Caves and wines of Penedes||45min||Car or train + taxi||Wine and nature|
|Poblet and Capcanes||1h 45min||Car||UNESCO monastery and wine|
|Girona||1h||Train||Quaint city and heritage|
|Cadaques and Dali||1h 30min||Train + bus||Dali and fishing village|
|Tarragona||1h||Train||UNESCO Roman sites|
|Besalu||2h||Bus||Quaint Medieval village|
|Montserrat||1h 30min||Train||Mountain, monastery and views|
If you’d like to read more about Spain, check these posts…
- Gaig Restaurant Barcelona: Traditional Catalan fine-dining since 1869
- Top 10 wineries near Barcelona to visit – Penedès and Cava wine tours
- Disfrutar Restaurant, elBulli’s legacy freshly carried on
- A day out of Barcelona taking the Cava Llopart 1887 Gran Reserva Tour
- Albet i Noya – the pioneer in organic winemaking in Spain