With so much to see, do, and experience in Barcelona, it’s only natural that it is one of the best places to visit in Spain, and an essential stop on any good Spain itinerary. But the benefits of visiting Barcelona don’t end at the city limits.
Once you feel like you’ve seen enough of Barcelona, it’s time to look for places you can visit in the surrounding region. Catalonia is rich with destinations of historic charm and sandy beaches, so to help you decide, here are some of the best day trips from Barcelona that you should be looking at.
To explore more of the Catalonia region on a day trip, a great place to start is the city of Girona. Widely agreed to be one of the best places to visit from Barcelona, this historic city on River Onyar has charm and scenery in spades. There’s no better place to begin in Girona than on a bridge looking over at the city’s picture postcard riverfront. Once you’ve taken in the view of these colorful, traditional houses, find your way to the medieval bath house of Banys Àrabs. Next, take some time to wander the streets of Barri Vell, the city’s old quarter, and El Call, the medieval Jewish Quarter. As you do, see if you recognize spots like the stairs of Girona Cathedral that were used as a filming location for Game of Thrones. Lastly, climb up to Girona’s medieval walls to enjoy the stunning panoramic views from the watchtowers along the wall.
Getting there: There are frequent trains from Barcelona to Girona, with the high-speed trains only taking 40 minutes and regional trains taking more than twice as long. To visit other places like the Costa Brava together with Girona, it’s best to take an organized tour.
If you’re after a nice combination of beaches and sightseeing outside Barcelona, look to the seaside town of Sitges. You’ll probably want to start with some sightseeing, but know that there are 17 beaches along four kilometers of coast waiting for you when you’re ready. While you can explore the idyllic town center, it’s best to head to the top of the cliffs to see the town’s cherished Church of Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla. Nearby, visit the Cau Ferrat Museum with its collection of artwork by local artist Santiago Rusiñol and the Maricel Museum which features Spanish art from across the eras. Once you’re ready for some sun and sand, set out onto the Passeig Maritim beachfront promenade and walk until you find a beach spot you like.
Getting there: This is one of the easy train trips from Barcelona with frequent trains that make the 45 minute trip out to Sitges. If you want to combine Sitges with other popular day trip destinations then a guided tour is the way to go.
A reasonable distance outside the city, the mountain range of Montserrat is one of the most popular Barcelona day trips. Known for its landscape scenery and religious importance, Montserrat is a destination that ticks many boxes. Your journey really starts with a decision on how to get up into the mountains, whether by cog railway, cable car, or hike. Each route will have its own perspective on the beautiful surrounding mountainside, but all will bring you to the star attraction here, the Abbey of Montserrat. This working abbey with resident monks is best known for a 12th century carving of the Virgin Mary. For those interested in walking or hiking, there are various different trails, some of which will bring you to other important religious landmarks, such as the Santa Cova Chapel and Sant Miquel Cross.
Getting there: Just a short trip from Barcelona, how long it takes to reach the abbey will depend on how you choose to get there. It should take roughly an hour by train to reach the municipality of Monistrol de Montserrat at the foot of the mountains. If you don’t want to worry about finding your way there and up, going with a guided tour will cover all of that.
For those looking to delve into the region’s history, Tarragona has to be one of the best side trips from Barcelona. That’s because this port city in Catalonia boasts remains from both its medieval and ancient Roman eras. Start your visit with the city’s most iconic landmark, the 2nd century Amfiteatre Romà arena which overlooks the beach below. A short walk away you’ll come across the Circ Romà, part of a Roman chariot track, while the remains of the Forum can be found in certain streets through the city. In terms of sights from medieval Tarragona, you can’t miss the Tarragona Cathedral and its beautiful stained glass windows. To best see the city all at once, either head for the Passeig Arqueològic along the Old Town walls or venture up to the Balcón del Mediterráneo observation deck. Plus, there’s always the beach if you just want to relax.
Getting there: To travel from Barcelona to Tarragona you can take one of the regular trains and arrive in around 1 hour 15 minutes. But to fully grasp the importance of everything you’re seeing there you may want to visit on a guided tour.
There’s one very special reason to visit the town of Figueres for a day trip. That’s because Figueres is the birthplace and home of renowned artist Salvador Dalí. It’s only natural then that you begin your time here by visiting the Teatre Museu Dalí museum, the largest collection of his work in all of Spain. The museum was actually setup by Dalí, who wanted his art to be viewed together and uncurated. Once you’ve seen the museum, the artist’s birth house, and the nearby Dalí Jewels Collection which includes jewelry designed by Dali himself, then what? Well, Figueres has more to offer than just Dali, with attractions like the Toy Museum of Catalonia in town and the Castell de Sant Ferran fortress just on the outskirts.
Getting there: Regular trains make the journey from Barcelona to Figueres in just under an hour. To also see the places that inspired Dali’s work, you’ll want to visit Figueres as part of a dedicated Dali tour.
6. Costa Brava
The Costa Brava is one of the classic things to see in Spain outside of Barcelona. With many places to visit in the area, from idyllic fishing towns to protected nature reserves, it’s best to stick to just a few spots, like Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar. Visiting Lloret de Mar you’ll want to walk the town’s scenic beach front promenade and explore each of its beaches while also making time for the striking Church of Sant Romà. As for Tossa de Mar, it’s home to a fortified medieval old town, an ancient Roman villa, and plenty more beaches. To get between the coastal villages, you might like to take a boat cruise along the coast and see the rugged cliffs from a different angle.
Getting there: To visit the Costa Brava from Barcelona, it is possible to get a train to Blanes and then move between different seaside towns by local bus or boat. However, if you just want to enjoy the scenery and not worry about timetables, a guided tour is a more relaxed approach.
At the far eastern end of the Costa Brava lies the gorgeous seaside town of Cadaqués, another day trip opportunity from Barcelona. With traditional buildings decked out in white and pale blue, plus a relaxed coastal vibe, Cadaqués is perfect for a low-key day. While the waterfront promenade is lined with modernist buildings, the narrow alleys through the Old Town feel much more like that of a traditional fishing village. Just the next bay over from Cadaqués is the Casa-Museo de Salvador Dali, a house where the famed artist once lived. Nowadays, the home is a museum where you can see Dali’s studio and assorted memorabilia.
Getting there: With its Dali connection, Cadaqués is one of several stops on Dali-themed tours from Barcelona. Unfortunately, Cadaqués isn’t well-connected by public transport, so your only other option is to rent a car and drive there yourself.
8. Cava Wineries
Travel isn’t just about sightseeing and beaches, so why not take one of the day tours from Barcelona that introduces you to the wines of the Catalonia region. On a winery tour you can head out to the two wine regions of Catalonia, Penedes and Pla de Bages. Visiting the well-established wine region of Penedes, you can sample some of the sparkling wine, known as cava that Penedes is famous for. Pla de Bages may be a much younger wine region, but it does have wineries like Oller del Mas which is set inside a medieval castle. Besides wine-tasting you can spend your day walking through vineyards and filling your stomach with regional tapas to balance out all that alcohol.
Getting there: Reaching wineries out in the countryside on public transport isn’t really viable, so your best option for a day trip like this is to go with an organized tour.
There’s really no other place to start a visit to Vic than in the city’s main square, Plaça Major. Lined with grand vaulted arcades and Renaissance and Baroque architecture, this is the immensely pretty heart to this medieval town. Walk through the streets of Vic to find the ancient Roman Temple of Vic and then make your way to the impressive Vic Cathedral. With a jumble of architectural styles incorporated into this 11th century building, it’s certainly a noteworthy sight. From there, take a short walk down to the River Meder to see the Queralt Bridge, once the main entrance into the city. Finally, head back to the Episcopal Museum of Vic and witness its vast collection of Catalan artwork.
Getting there: Frequent trains make the 1 hour 20 minute trip from Barcelona to Vic. To also visit historic villages up in the Pyrenees mountains, consider visiting with a guided tour instead.
With a day trip to the town of Besalú, you have the opportunity to step into the Middle Ages in this wonderfully preserved town. The best place to start in Besalú is with the charming medieval arch bridge which spans the River Fluvià. From there, it’s onto the Benedictine monastery of Sant Pere de Besalú which dates back to the 10th century. After walking through the city’s streets bordered by arcades, find your way to the city’s superb Jewish Quarter. Here you can see what remains of the town’s medieval synagogue and visit the Mikveh, Jewish baths which were uncovered in 1964. Besalú is also home to a Museum of Miniatures with all sorts of historic scale recreations.
Getting there: Hourly buses run from Girona to Besalú, so you’ll first need to take the train from Barcelona to Girona. All told the trip should take a little more than 2 hours. A more straightforward alternative is to go with a guided tour that will show you some other medieval villages as well.
You should now have plenty of day trip ideas from Barcelona. It’s safe to say that there is a lot to see in Catalonia beyond its main city.