Anyone who's been to Catalonia will tell you that it's one of the most beautiful little corners of Europe. It has easy access to both the mountains and the sea, along with countless cities and towns worth exploring.
Regional capital Barcelona makes an ideal home base for exploring Catalonia and beyond. Whether you prefer natural beauty, idyllic small towns, or busy cities, chances are at least one of these day trips from Barcelona will catch your eye.
Discover Dalí in Cadaqués
If you've ever wanted to visit a town that looks like it's straight off a postcard, Cadaqués is the place to be. With whitewashed buildings that contrast starkly against the blue Mediterranean waves and endless sky, it's the kind of place that's just begging to be photographed. It's no wonder this stunning little town was such an inspiration to Salvador Dalí, whose former home in Cadaqués is now a fascinating labyrinthine museum.
Getting There: The only public transportation option is the bus. Several Cadaqués-bound buses depart Barcelona Nord station every day, with travel time clocking in at just under three hours.
Travel Tip: Reservations are required to visit the Dalí house-museum, so be sure to book your tickets in advance.
With a stunning Gothic cathedral, a wealth of museums, and even some impressively preserved Arab baths, Girona offers no shortage of cultural discoveries. But one of the best things to do here is to simply see where its ancient streets take you—no matter where you end up, you won't be disappointed.
Travel Tip: Girona is one of the region's biggest strongholds of the Catalan independence movement. Respect the local identity by not referring to people or things as "Spanish," and by making an effort to say a few words in Catalan when possible.
In many ways, Tarragona feels like a smaller version of Barcelona without nearly as many tourists. But those who do make it to this fascinating corner of Catalonia mainly do so for its wealth of well-preserved Roman ruins, including a full amphitheater.
Getting There: The train from Barcelona Sants station will get you to Tarragona in just over an hour.
Travel Tip: Get a combined ticket to most of Tarragona's major attractions from the tourist office on Carrer Major. This will save you time and money compared to buying each ticket individually.
You don't need to be religious to appreciate the breathtaking Montserrat Monastery, set high in the hills outside Barcelona. Not only is the complex itself—complete with an impressive museum—worth a visit, but the magnificent mountains also make for some great hiking.
Getting There: Take the R5 train from the Plaça d'Espanya station to get to Montserrat in about an hour.
Travel Tip: When buying your train tickets, consider the "Tot Montserrat" option. This 50-euro ticket covers most of your expenses for the day, including a ride up the mountain on the cable car, lunch at the monastery restaurant, access to the museum, and so much more.
Kick Back & Relax in Sitges
It's no secret that there are plenty of fabulous beaches in Barcelona, but sometimes you need a change of scenery. Our pick for a perfect seaside escape is Sitges, a colorful and lively destination just a little ways down the coast. When you get tired of the beach (if that's even possible), be sure to spend some time exploring its picturesque historic center.
Getting There: Sitges is located along line R2 of the Rodalies commuter train network. Travel time from Barcelona is around 35 minutes.
Travel Tip: If great nightlife is what you're after, consider staying in Sitges for more than just a day. Its clubs give those in Barcelona a run for their money. The town is particularly famous for its LGBT nightlife scene.
Get in Touch with Nature at Serra de Collserola Natural Park
As fun and exciting as Barcelona is, sometimes you just need to get away from the urban hustle and bustle. That's where Serra de Collserola Natural Park comes in. Located just north of the city, it offers a peaceful refuge for anyone seeking a serene escape in calm natural surroundings.
Getting There: Take FGC train S2 or S6 from Plaça de Catalunya, Provença, or Gràcia in Barcelona in direction Sabadell, and get off at Baixador de Vallvidrera. The train ride takes between 15 and 20 minutes.
Travel Tip: As the largest green space in the greater Barcelona area, the park is particularly nice for hiking and biking. Check out the many routes and start planning your adventure.
Tucked away in the Pyrenees between Spain and France, Andorra's novelty comes mainly from its small size. But despite only occupying less than 200 square miles, this tiny country packs a big punch. It's especially famous for its shopping scene and ski resorts but also boasts plenty of fascinating museums and world-class spas.
Getting There: Buses run by Eurolines and Alsa run between Barcelona Nord station and national capital Andorra la Vella. The trip takes three hours and 15 minutes.
Enjoy Fun in the Sun in Tossa De Mar
As one of the most popular destinations on Catalonia's Costa Brava, Tossa De Mar's biggest draw is definitely the beach. But that's not all. This ancient fishing town also boasts an ancient Roman archaeological site, a century-old lighthouse with magnificent views, and so much more.
Getting There: Buses run throughout the day from Barcelona Nord to Tossa De Mar. Travel time is an hour and 20 minutes.
Travel Tip: Tossa is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with facilities and equipment for everything from surfing to mountain biking easily accessible.
See Two Cathedrals in Lleida
Often overlooked among its fellow Catalan cities in favor of Barcelona or Girona, Lleida provides a relaxing, laid-back alternative to its more popular counterparts. Its magnificent old cathedral-castle complex, La Seu Vella, overlooks the town from an imposing hill. After visiting, make your way down to the new cathedral in the city center as well.
Getting There: The high-speed train between Barcelona Sants and Lleida will get you there in about an hour.
Travel Tip: Lleida boasts some of Catalonia's most unique cuisine. Try the local l'Alt Urgell cheeses, or the famous snails if you're feeling brave.
Visit Wine Country in Vilafranca del Penedès
Catalonia is home to some of Spain's most exquisite wine regions, and Vilafranca del Penedès is right in the heart of it all. Known for its production of D.O. Penedès wine, it's also one of the country's foremost producers of cava (Spanish sparkling wine).
Getting There: The R4 train from Barcelona Sants will get you to Vilafranca in about 50 minutes.
Travel Tip: Don't limit your wine experience to the vineyards and bodegas. Vilafranca's historic center is dotted with elaborate 20th century homes built by successful wine merchants.
Explore History & Culture in Zaragoza
Despite being located on the high-speed rail route between Madrid and Barcelona, Zaragoza still isn't on many travelers' radar. But it should be. It's home to one of the most magnificent cathedrals in Spain, a great shopping scene, and even some Roman ruins.
Getting There: The high-speed train from Barcelona Sants gets you to Zaragoza in an hour and 45 minutes.
Travel Tip: Come hungry—Zaragoza is renowned for having one of the most famous tapas scenes in Spain.
Step Back in Time in Besalú
As one of the most magnificent medieval towns in the region, Besalú is a history buff's dream come true. Whether you want to check out the fascinating Museum of Miniatures, discover the medieval Jewish bathhouse (one of the few of its kind remaining in Europe), or simply get lost and see where its charming streets take you, you're sure to be captivated.
Getting There: Buses operated by Teisa connect Barcelona and Besalú. Travel time is just under two hours.
Travel Tip: Despite its small size, Besalú makes a great jumping-off point for exploring more of the Costa Brava and even the Pyrenees.