Best Day Trips from Barcelona
Catalonia is a fabulous area of Spain to explore so take some day trips from Barcelona and really get to know it beyond its major city. There’s so much to see and do in Barcelona but if you can extend your trip then you’re really going to enjoy its surroundings. I’ve picked some of my top favourites from cities near Barcelona, wine tours, beach, culture, history and fun attractions. Can’t you tell already, there’s so much to choose from. I hope you enjoy these wonderful places as much as I do.
Try these Barcelona Day Trips
Great Barcelona Day Trips
Absolutely top of my list of Barcelona day trips has to be Montserrat Monastery and mountain. What a stunning place it is! Perched high on the mountain overlooking the Spanish countryside, its impact is unmistakable. I say, the monastery but it’s so much more than that. Not only will you get to see this amazing building with its famous Black Madonna statue but you’ll get to see spectacular views as you wander this extensive mountain attraction.
Take the Montserrat cable car to the Monastery
Park at the bottom, you’ll avoid the crowds and massive car parking headaches of trying to park closer to the monastery. Even better, you get to ride the cable car up to the top. You’ll actually take two cable car rides. Firstly to the monastery level and secondly on up to the mountain top.
Then ride to the very top
Whatever, you do, don’t miss out on the second trip to the top. The views are incredible and there are some great walks, for all abilities, to enjoy the natural surroundings. I’d advise doing the Monastery level first then taking the second cable car right to the top. Take your time and walk around and then walk all the way back down to the Monastery level before taking the cable car back down to where you started.
Basically, you’ll get to see everything Montserrat mountain has to offer without the gruelling climb to the top. When you walk down, you’ll meet a lot of people walking up. As an illustration, we were asked repeatedly how far it was to the top. Even though a lot of people set off to walk to some of the small chapels on the way up, they don’t realise how far it is. If you’re keen to walk up then you need to know that’s it’s a long way. Unless you’re very fit then take my advice and do it the easy way. Indeed, even walking down shouldn’t be underestimated, it’s tough on the knees as it’s very steep in places. Well worth it though, if you can manage it.
What to see on the Monastery level
Montserrat is rightly famous for its Benedictine monastery. Even if you’re not religious you’ll probably want to join the crowds who queue to get a glimpse of the Black Madonna in the Basilica. There’s quite a bit more to see here though. You can get a self-guided audio tour which will help you find your way around and it’s a surprisingly large complex. You can also visit the Audiovisual Room exhibition, “Inside Montserrat”. This shows what life inside the Benedictine Community is like. It also provides displays of the most important places inside the monastery with an audiovisual of the symbolic dimension of Montserrat.
You can also visit the museum which is quite an impressive art gallery. You can see works by many international artists here, for instance, Caravaggio, Picasso, Monet, Degas and more. When we were last here they were bringing in some new paintings for an exhibition and security was very high. Some of these pieces are extremely valuable. If you like art, it’s surely worthwhile visiting as it’s a diverse collection and very well presented.
Lastly, if you like to take home a few souvenirs then you’ll love it here. They’ve also got a very extensive gift shop which is almost an attraction in itself. I never buy souvenirs on my trips as I pack light and never have any spare space. However, I spent ages browsing in here. They have everything from religious items and works of art to fridge magnets and souvenir glasses.
Getting to Montserrat by train
Of course, you don’t have to drive to take a day trip from Barcelona to Montserrat. Instead, just take the train from Placa Espanya station in Barcelona. Check the timetable but there is a train every hour. The journey takes approximately an hour. You’ll need to combine your train trip with either the cable car as mentioned above, which would be my preference. Or you can take the funicular railway instead.
The cable car is an experience in itself and the views on the way up are amazing. If you want to take the cable car get off the train at Aeri. A few people have suggested it’s too scary, If you’re not keen on cable cars then take the funicular instead. It takes a bit longer to get you up to the mountain but it’ll get you there. To take the funicular, get off the train at Cremallera station instead. You need to decide when you buy your ticket in Barcelona as you purchase a combined ticket for either train/cable car or train/funicular. You can’t swap your choice when you get there.
One of the cities near Barcelona which is definitely worth a visit is Tarragona. The port city of Tarragona is also in Catalonia and it’s ideal for one of your Barcelona day trips. It’s a lovely place to visit. Quieter than Barcelona. You’ll be able to see the main sites on foot as it’s a very walkable city.
How to get from Barcelona to Tarragona
You can drive from Barcelona to Tarragona in about 90 minutes or you can also visit by train. The regional express train takes just over an hour and costs around 5 Euros. No need to book in advance, just buy your ticket at the station.
So, what are the top things to do in Tarragona?
Firstly, we started our visit to Tarragona with a visit to the Roman Amphitheatre. You’ll find it just a few steps away from the old town, overlooking the sea. It’s certainly a lovely setting and it must have been wonderful to sit here and watch shows taking place. What a fabulous choice of location. They knew a thing or two about location those Romans!
During Roman times, the Tarragona amphitheatre would have hosted gladiator fights, sometimes with wild beasts. An even darker side to the site is that it was also used for executions. In 259, a Christian bishop called Fructuós was burned alive here alongside two deacons. Right at the centre of the Amphitheatre, you can still see the remains of the Church of Our Lady of the Miracle which was constructed in the 6th century in commemoration of these martyrs.
Tarragona Amphitheatre Opening Times and Tickets
In the summer, the Amphitheatre is open from 9 am to 9 pm Tues to Saturday with reduced hours of 9 am to 3 pm on Sundays and Mondays. It closes slightly earlier in the winter. Tickets cost 3.5 Euros but you can also get a combined ticket for 11.5 Euros which includes 4 historical sites and museums in Tarragona. However, this does not include the Archaeological Museum. Children under 16 are free.
Pont del Diable
This amazing aqueduct is located just outside the city but it’s worth the trip. Don’t worry if you don’t have a car as you can get there easily by taking the number 5 bus. Its real name is Aqueduct des Ferreres but its better known as the Pont del Diable. Access is free and there is also free parking if you drive.
National Archaeological Museum
You’ll find the National Archaeological Museum in the old port area, at the former passenger terminal. Tarragona was an important town during the Roman period and this is reflected in the abundance of artefacts at the museum. The museum is closed on Mondays. It opens from 9.30 am to 8.30 pm from Tuesday to Saturday and from 10.30am to 2 pm on Sundays. Entry costs 4.50 Euros and children under 16 are free.
The Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of Tarragona, to give it its full name, is an interesting place. Its location previously hosted a Roman Temple dedicated to Emperor Augustus, a Visigoth Cathedral and a Moorish Mosque before becoming the site of the Roman Catholic Cathedral. You’ll find the cathedral at the highest point of the city.
When you visit you can view the inside of the cathedral but make sure you wander into the cloister. It’s probably my favourite part of the cathedral. You can see the columns close up and it has a tranquil air about it. Entry costs a reasonable 4 Euros. Opening hours vary throughout the year but you can usually visit during the day apart from Sundays which has quite restricted access.
Monumento a los Castellers
If you’re wandering around Tarragona, then you’ll come across this interesting statue at some point. It’s a human tower and incredibly, this commemorates an event that takes place here every year. That’s not something you see every day.
Penedes Wine Region
Another great idea for day trips from Barcelona is a tour of the Penedes Wine Region. Of course, you can book onto an organised wine tour from Barcelona. There are plenty of great ones on offer. For something a bit different, several companies offer cycling tours of the vineyards which is a good way to get back to nature. If you’d rather tour the area at your own pace then organise your own Catalonian wine tour. Hire a car for the day and plan your own wine tour from Barcelona.
Surprisingly, you can also put together a wine tour from Barcelona by train. If you’re driving you’ll have more choice but don’t let that put you off taking the train. You can all sample the wine if you take the train! Of course, you don’t have to drink wine to enjoy a wine tour. The scenery is pretty spectacular and I just love to wander through vineyards.
The quality label for wines produced in this area is Denominación de Origen Penedès. So this is what you need to look out for on the labels. You’ll find loads of winemakers in the area surrounding Barcelona but they don’t all allow visitors so check before you go. There are far too many vineyards for me to give you a comprehensive list but I’ve selected a few – all of these are accessible by train. If you’re also planning on visiting Tarragona on one of your Barcelona day trips then you’ll pass through the
Penedès wine region on your way from Barcelona. Make it into more than just a one day trip and explore this area a bit more.
Albet i Noya Organic Wines
If you’re interested in organic wine, then Albet i Noya is a great place to visit. They offer a number of different types of visit depending on your area of interest including tasting, food experiences and also electric bike rides through the vineyard. Take the train from Barcelona Sants to Lavern-Subirats. You can either take a taxi from the station to the vineyard, it’s around 4km or if you’re feeling fitter you can walk or hire bikes at the local tourism office.
Do you love Cava? It’s one of my favourites so I was delighted to discover that the Freixenet winery is only 40 minutes from Barcelona. Take the train to Sant Sadurni station which is within walking distance of the vineyard. You can discover traditional and modern methods for making cava on their tour which includes a train ride and tasting.
Also accessible from Sant Sadurni station is the Can Bonastre vineyard. Here you can actually stay at the vineyard since they style themselves as a vineyard resort. You can stay at the hotel, tour the vineyard, eat at the restaurant and even relax at the spa. It’s certainly the most all-around tourist experience you’ll get at a vineyard.
Another vineyard which you can walk to from Sant Sadurni station is Gramona. Here they specialise in organic and biodynamic agriculture. You can tour the vineyard and winery to see some of the leading technology of winemaking and also learn about the traditions of making Cava.
If you take the train to Vilafranca del Penedès station you can pay a visit to the Torres vineyard. Torres is a family run winery with vineyards across Catalonia. You can easily walk to the vineyard from the station. Here they offer a variety of tasting options including a food and wine pairing as well as the opportunity to tour the winery.
If you’re an art lover then you’ve likely heard of Figueres which is home to the Salvador Dali museum. However, there’s a lot more to Figueres than just that. Take the fast train from Barcelona and you can be in Figueres in under an hour so it makes a great day trip from Barcelona.
Dali Theatre & Museum
I’m a huge fan of Salvador Dali’s work so I was delighted when I discovered this museum was so easily accessible from Barcelona. He has such a unique vision in his art that just leaps at you from the canvas but it’s so much more impressive up close. For instance, I had no idea some of his paintings were so big, they’re gigantic. You’ll also find a lot of sculptures, not to mention the information on this great painter and his life. And just wait until you see the building itself – it was also designed by Dali and I think you’ll agree it’s unique.
Find the Dali Theatre & Museum in the centre of town so it’s easy to walk to. You can buy tickets on the door but I’d advise booking ahead as there can be long queues. Tickets are 14 Euros online or 15 Euros at the door and children under 8 are free. This includes access to the main collection and the Dali Jewels collection. You can also visit the museum at night for a completely different surreal experience.
Casa Natal Dali
While I’m still enthusing about Salvador Dali, you can view the house he was born in here in Figueres. After you visit the museum, wander over to Monturiol Street and take a look. Casa Natal Salvador Dali is a modernist style house, built around 1898 and spent his early years living here.
Castell de Sant Ferran
Castell de Sant Ferran stands overlooking Figueres from a hill just outside the city. You can walk up in about 15 minutes from the centre. When you get there you can view quite a lot for free as the extensive outer ramparts are open access. However, it would be a shame not to go inside as it’s a very reasonable 3.50 Euro fee and you’ll get to see some exhibits and an audio-visual presentation.
Sitges is on the Costa Dorada, just south of Barcelona. You can easily reach Sitges by train from Barcelona for 4 Euros. Alternatively, there is also a bus but it will cost you more at 7 Euros. So, why does Sitges make a good day trip from Barcelona? Firstly, there’s a lovely beach. Now, I know Barcelona has its own beaches but if you want a change of scenery with somewhere nice to relax then this makes a good choice. Not to mention that the Sitges beaches are rated blue flag. Wander up from the boardwalk and you’ll find winding narrow lanes and picturesque squares in the old town area. Throw in a few museums and basically, Sitges has something for everyone
Start exploring Sitges by walking along the Passeig Maritim, a wide promenade along the seafront. It’s a beautiful area with plenty of shops and cafe’s along the way if you want to grab a coffee and admire the view. Then turn inland and head for the old town.
I must admit I like a town or city where I can just start walking and see what I find. Throw away the map and guidebook for once and just explore without any preconceived ideas of where I should go. Sitges is the perfect place for this kind of wandering. It’s compact enough to make it walkable and it has so much to discover. Every time you turn a corner they’ll be something delightful to look at.
PortAventura World Theme Park
PortAventura World is one of Europe’s largest family theme park resorts and it’s welcomed more than 85 million visitors since it opened in 1995. In addition to the actual theme park, you’ll also find hotels, golf courses and even a beach resort. So, if you’re looking for something a bit different for one of your day trips from Barcelona, then head to PortAventura World.
Getting to PortAventura from Barcelona
You can drive to PortAventura in about 90 minutes and you’ll find plenty of parking available. If you’d rather take the train then you can conveniently buy a combined train and theme park ticket which in effect gives you the return journey for free.
When you arrive, you’ll find there are actually two theme parks that make up the resort. The original one and Ferrari Land. You can either pay separately for each park or buy a combined ticket for both. Realistically, you’ll only want to visit one park if you are visiting for just one day. If you want to experience everything the park has to offer then I’d suggest staying in one of the onsite hotels and making a short break out of it. In which case, a multi-day ticket will offer you the best value.
The original PortAventura park covers 105 hectares which makes it a very large area to walk around. Inside you’ll find 6 different themed areas with 42 rides and 40 shows. Not to mention the shops, restaurants and food carts. For instance, Mediterrània is styled on a Mediterranean village and is the first area you’ll come to when you enter the park. Other areas include Polynesia, China, Mexico and the Far West. The 6th area, SésamoAventura, features characters from the popular Sesame Street TV series. You’ll find everything from thrill rides to family fun shows and it makes a great day out.
As you might expect Ferrari Land is dedicated to the famous Italian car manufacturer. In the Ferrari experience immerses you into GT and F1 through an interactive tour of the Ferrari Gallery. Test your driving skills at Pole Position and experience the thrill of riding an F1 car in Red Force. There’s a junior version for younger family members. In fact, there’s a whole kids section so it’s great for all the family.
Caribe Aquatic Park
If you prefer water rides to roller coasters or if you love both then you’ll love Caribe Aquatic Park. Relax on the beach, swim in the pool or test your courage on the thrilling rides. My favourite activity is floating along the lazy river, El Río Loco but you’ll find plenty of ways to get your adrenaline pumping too.