things to do outside Barcelona, The Colonia Güell Crypt, Spain

10 things to do outside Barcelona

A list of some of the top sights & monuments outside Barcelona

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Catalonia, Spain
Kasper Christiansen
Text & photos: Kasper Christiansen
November 17th, 2020 (revised version)

The name of the region that surrounds Barcelona is Catalonia. It is revided into four araes: Gironés (with Girona as its capital), Tarragonés (with Tarragona as its capital) and Barcelonés (with Barcelona as its capital) and Lledonés (with Lleida as its capital).

 

"Catalonia has sea, mountains, a rich culture and a great variety in landscapes"
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If you prefer staying in Barcelona and doing sight seeing in the city, read our artcile about The best sights in Barcelona
Vineyards in Priorat
Vineyards in Priorat

1

Montserrat

The mountain of Montserrat is located around 30 km. from Barcelona and can be reached by either car, bus or train. Montserrat was created by a long geological proces that started more than 50 million years ago. It is a protected natural park with an exceptionally rich fauna and flora, Among the many beautiful trees, you can see quercus ilex (evergreen oak) and viburnum tinus. The mountain measures 1236 meters (the highest peak called Sant Jeroni).

Montserrat is famous for its monastery. On most days you can hear the marvelous boys choir l'Escolanía sing. Remember to see the black virgen (la Moreneta) after the songs.

Montserrat, south-west of Barcelona
Montserrat, south-west of Barcelona

2

Girona

Girona is a fantastic, historic city, with no less than 4 rivers running through the city (Ter, Güell, Galligants and Oñar). Girona is located little more than one hour's drive from Barcelona. The city offers history, culture, gastronomy and beautiful nature to the visitor.

The city has its name from Gerunda, a Roman citadel. It was later conquered by the moors before Charlemagne took the city in 785. The city's heyday comes with the middle ages, when Girona becomes an important city during the 12th century and during the reign of Jaime I and Peter III in the 13th century. Today, several important remains from that period can be visited: One of the most important sights in Girona is the cathedral. The enormous church has the widest nave in a gothic church in the world. Also, the Jewish quarter, the call, is a must-see when you visit Girona.

Girona, north of Barcelona
Girona, north of Barcelona

3

Tarragona

The historic city of Tarragona was - like Barcelona - founded by the Romans. The Romans came to Spain during the Second Punic War (218-201) when Hannibal famously crossed the Pyrenees with his elephants. Roman Tarraco become the capital of Hispania Citerior("nearer Spain"), ie. the Nord-eastern Spain, and the city became a fairly big one with more than 50.000 inhabitants, with city walls, a theater, a circus and baths. Several of these buildings can still be seen today. The Archaeological Ensamble of Roman buildings is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are a total of 13 buildings or structures, among them the city wall, the theatre, the amphitheatre and the circus. One of the most impressive buildings is the amphitheatre located close to the sea and the city hoasts the fine National Archaeological Museum. Just outside the city itself, you can find the impressive remains of the enormous Ferreres Aqueduct (also called the Devil's Bridge) and the Médol quarry.

Tarragona is also famous for its cathedral, one of the most impressive in Catalonia. Before the cathedral, there has been a Roman temple, a visigothic cathedral and a moorish mosque on the same location. The church that can be visited today, was built from 1154, and combines romanesque, gothic and barroque elements.

Tarragona
Tarragona, south of Barcelona. In the picture the Roman amphitheatre

4

Crypt of the Colonia Güell

One of the lesser known works by the Catalan architect from Reus, Antoni Gaudí, Colonia Güell is a small jewel. Even though the church was never finished, this small cript is a beautiful example of how Gaudí worked. In the pretty crypt, you will find most of the key structures in the architecture of the mature Gaudí: hyberbolic paraboloids and hyperboloids. The church was used as an experimentarium to see if he's theories would work in real life.

The church is located just 20 minutes' drive from Barcelona, and can ideally be combined with a visit to Montserrat or one of the many excellent wineries south of Barcelona.

Colonia Güell, crypt, with vaults
Colonia Güell - fascinating architecture designed by Antoni Gaudí

5

Skiing close to Barcelona

Yes, Skiiing is possible close to Barcelona, even though most people associate Barcelona with beach and sea. The Pyrenees are just 1 1/2 hour’s transportation away, and in the mountains north of Barcelona there are several excellent areas for skiing. Vall de Nuria is one of the closest to Barcelona, and a nice place for families with kids. However, if you drive a little further and reach Masella or la Molina (both around 2 hour's drive from the Capital of Catalonia) you will be rewarded with excellent skiing suitable for more demanding people and professionals.

Further north-west you find Baquiera-Beret, which is arguably Spain's best place for skiing. By car, you can reach Baqueira-Beret in around 3½-4 hours from Barcelona.

Skiing close to Barcelona, Baqueira-Beret
Baqueira-Beret - one of the best places to enjoy skiing close to Barcelona

6

Wineries in Priorat

We highly recommend to go to Priorat if you have time for an excursion when you are visiting Barcelona. Priorat is a beautiful wine region some 120 kilometers (around 80 miles) from Barcelona.

Priorat is one of the very best wine regions in Europe. The wine region is small: it counts around 90 wineries, but the average level of the wines is higher than almost any other wine region in the World.On top of the wines comes beautiful nature: hilly landscapes with plum trees (prunus), olive trees, almond trees and - of course - vines.

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Read more about our Winery Excursion to Priorat
Ferrer Bobet Winery in Priorat
Priorat - Ferrer Bobet Winery in Priorat

7

Ripoll

Ripoll has one of the most important romanesque churches in Europe: Santa María de Ripoll. The impressive portal of the church was made in the 12. century and tells the story of the bible in stone. The church and the cloister are beautiful examples of romanesque architecture in Catalonia

Inside the church, you will find the remains of Wilfred the Hairy (Guifré el Pilós), the founding father of Catalonia and the one who built the church. At the end of the 9th Century, count Guifré succeeded in uniting the counties under one county and becoming independant og the Carolingian crown.

Ripoll
Romanesque churches - detail from the portal of Santa María Basilica in Ropoll

8

Gardens of Cap Roig & Marimurtra

North of Barcelona on the Costa Brava there are several fine examples of gardens. Our favourite gardens are Cap Roig and Marimurtra.

Cap Roig is located next to Palafrugell, which offers a fine beach. The garden measures 17 hectares and has more than 500 different species from around the world. The garden was created in 1927 by Russian Nicolai Woevodsky and English Dorothy Webster. Today, the garden is owned by Obra Social ”la Caixa”. During the summer, you can experience the Cap Roig Festival with live music in the garden. Also, the garden has sculptures made by local and foreign artists.

Marimurtra is a botanical garden in the outskirts of Blanes on Costa Brava. The garden has more than 4.000 plant species and the gardens location offers spectacular sea views to the visitor. Marumurtra was created by the German business man Carl Faust (1874 -1952).

Gardens outside Barcelona, Marimurtra, Costa Brava
Gardens of Marimurtra - beautiful gardens on the Costa Brava

9

Sant Cugat

Sant Cugat del Vallès is located around 30 minutes' drive from Barcelona. The city is one of the richest cities in Catalonia with a presence of several important tech-companies, but the city is foremost known for the Monastery of Sant Cugat.

The monastery of Sant Cugat contains the remains of an important saint, St. Cucuphas (in Catalan: Sant Cugat) who was tortured by the Romans.

Sant cugat, Santa Maria Church
Sant Cugat - with medieval churches

10

Beaches south & north of Barcelona

If you want some excellent beaches that are less crowded than the ones in Barcelona, you can take a short drive south a go to beaches like Sitges or Castelldefels. If you have time for a longer drive, we can recommend beaches like Llefranc and Palafrugell on the Costa Brava. Nearby these two beaches there are some lovely gardens called Jardins de Cap Roig, that also arrange concerts a few times a year.

Closer to Barcelona you have beaches like Tossa de Mar (that also offers medieval architecture and a lively town) and Sant Feliu de Guíxols with several nice restaurants.

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Read more about our Excursion to Costa Brava & Girona that combines beaches and the historic city of Girona.
Castelldefels
The beach of Castelldefels, south of Barcelona. Photo: Wikipedia
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