VILLAGES NEAR BARCELONA TO VISIT ON YOUR OWN
If you are staying several days in Barcelona, it might be a great idea to go out of town for a morning or a day. There are many towns near Barcelona that can be reached by public transportation and are easy to explore on your own. Barcelona villages famous for their architecture, beaches, museums or cellars worth visiting.
Many off the beaten path towns are connected with the city by bus. However, we believe it’s often not the easiest way to move around since their schedule is reduced. So today we’ve selected for you our favorite villages near Barcelona where you can get to by train. Enjoy!
Here are some beautiful Barcelona villages that you can reach by public transportation in one hour or less:
Sitges - Classy modernist seaside
BTW, if you’ve planned a leisurely day and don’t mind hopping on and off the train, a quick stop to check out the vintage beach stalls of Garraf. Or you might rather go further into Vilanova i la Geltru can be a great way to extend your day. They say that if Vilanova was closer to Barcelona than Sitges, Sitges wouldn’t even be that popular!
Penedes Wine Country
If you are a wine person, the R4 line towards Sant Vicenç de Calders gets you to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia in around 1 hour, departing from Plaça Catalunya. The train station is right outside of the village. From there a road with sidewalks takes you across a bridge over the river. In a mere 10 minutes walk you can be in some great winery such as Gramona or Recaredo. Or even at a chocolate factory!
You might want to time your trip to be on a Thursday or Saturday morning: that’s when the outdoors market takes place. On Saturdays, the nearby town of Vilafranca (3 train stops further) is known to be one of the largest in the area. Vilafranca has a lovely old town with a nice church and a wine museum.
Sant Cugat - Monastery and nature
Also from Plaça Catalunya (but from a different station accessed from Pelai street) depart the FGC suburban trains. Lines S1, S2, S5, S6 and S7 all stop in Sant Cugat after a convenient 25 minute ride. From the station, a leisurely 15 minutes walk along streets lined up with cute stores and quaint cafes will get you to the Monastery of Sant Cugat. This Romanesque building is a little known gem mostly visited by locals.
Sant Cugat is a favorite place to live for wealthy ex-pats for its peaceful atmosphere, international schools and the nature around it. The town market takes place in front of the monastery on Thursday morning.
If you are a hiker, there’s an easy path that takes you back to Barcelona via the Sant Medir hermitage. It takes 4 hours if you walk all the way to Plaça Catalunya. But the last hour can be spared taking public transportation as soon as you enter the city limits. For some reason, Googlemaps insists in taking you along the BP147 road. Don’t do it. If you add the hermitage as an intermediate stop and zoom in you’ll see that the path you need to take is clearly marked. It’s called Camí de l’Arrabassada a Sant Medir.
Another alternative is to get back on the train and a 15 minute ride on the S1 will get you to Terrassa Rambla. Some of the top sites there are the Museum of Science and Technology inside an old refurbished factory, some ancient early Christian architecture, and the Gaudi-looking farmhouse Masia Freixa.
Colònia Güell - Gaudi's other unfinished church
There are other FGC lines that depart from Plaça Espanya instead. Lines S3, S4, S8 and S9 take you to Colonia Güell in half an hour. This former industrial facility that included housing for the factory workers, is now a quiet neighborhood of a nearby village.
There Antoni Gaudi left unfinished but functional what was going to be the local parish church. The upper floor where the main church had to go wasn’t even started. So nowadays the “crypt” is a functioning church, but it’s open for visitors outside mass hours.
A 7 minute walk will take you to the Interpretation Center where you can buy the tickets and get an introduction to the history of the place and Gaudi’s architecture. When you are done, the Crypt is just around the corner.
BTW, the trains to the Montserrat Monastery also depart from Plaça Espanya but they don’t stop at Colonia Guell. For an extended day, ride two stops further and switch to the R5 at Sant Vicenç dels Horts. Stop at Aeri de Montserrat (to take the cable car up) or Monistrol de Montserrat (to use the rack train). The R50 trains are also an option if you plan to take the rack train, but they don’t stop at the cable car station.
Another option could be walking 15 minutes to Molí Nou Ciutat Cooperativa and take the R5 from there. Googlemaps will tell you what’s the best combination depending on what time of the day you plan to do it.
Quaint fishing towns
The R1 from Plaça Catalunya towards Maçanet – Massanes is a favorite train line of mine because most of the time it rides along the Mediterranean Sea. And it’s often used by our tour guides, since a few of them are born and live in these coastal villages I want to tell you about.
Badalona with the scenic Pont del Petroli bridge is the place to go for photography lovers. Vilassar de Mar is famous for the spicy sauce of the Espinaler tapas bar, a favorite of our guide Montse. Caldes d’Estrach is famous for its thermal waters and the Hotel Colon Spa (check opening hours and Covid restrictions). Arenys de Mar is a lovely fishing town with great seafood restaurants.
Canet de Mar hides modernist works by Domenech i Muntaner, Gaudi’s professor. One of them is the Santa Florentina Castle, that was Horn Hill in Game of Thrones. It’s almost 30 minutes walk from the station, so make sure to check their opening hours before going. Our guide Miriam is born in Canet and she says you can’t miss her favorite gelato place: La Gelateria, by the awarded gelato maker Jordi Roig. She also recommends the 6Q restaurant. It is located in the modernist house of Domenech i Muntaner’s wife, a little known jewel.
Finally, Sant Pol de Mar is a lovely village with modernist homes built for the “indianos“. They were the adventurers that immigrated to America and came back rich after a hard life of work in the cotton or tobacco industry. There are great restaurants there too, don’t miss the paella ones at the Club Nautic and Voramar. Our guide Bego also recommends to check out the old fishing boats anchored at the beach and the views over the village from the Sant Pau hermitage.
AND BONUS! What's within 1.5 hours?
Medieval towns and Salvador Dali
Don’t mind a longer ride? Then in 1.5 hours the R4 takes you to Manresa, a town with an impressive medieval cathedral towering on top of a hill overlooking the valley. Christians will be interested to know that this town played an important part in the life of Saint Ignatius, who lived in a cave there (which by the way is open to the public as a spiritual center).
In the opposite direction, the R3 takes you to Vic, famous for its busy outdoors market celebrated in the porched Plaça Major square since the 800s (yes! that’s many centuries!). The alleys of its Old Town have preserved its medieval feel. The Cathedral is worth a visit, and the Episcopal Museum is a must for medieval art lovers.
Finally, the R11 from Passeig de Gracia takes you to Girona in 1 hour and 15 minutes, but then you have a taxi ride or a 20 minute walk to its Old Town. There you’ll feel like in Italy without the crowds, exploring its gorgeous medieval alleys (another GOT setting), the Cathedral and the old Jewish section.
Or if money isn’t an issue, you can get on the high speed train, more expensive but faster: the ride takes only 40 minutes from Sants Station. Or you can take it further to Figueres-Vilafant, and from there again walk or taxi to the famous Salvador Dali Theater Museum.
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