Barcelona’s great location allows for many spontaneous day-trips to places around the region. And while most people are very familiar with Sitges and Montserrat, we’re here to show you some lesser-known but equally worthwhile destinations.
A treat for lovers of wine and the outdoors, the rural region of Penedès sits just 45 minutes south of Barcelona. With a cheery, laid-back atmosphere to complement the dramatic landscape, Penedès is home to over 150 vineyards. Renowned for its Cava and billed as white wine heaven, this area is the perfect setting for a relaxing day filled with friendly locals, breathtaking scenery and plenty of great food and wine.
What to do
El Molí Tours are a particular highlight amongst the numerous vineyard tours. They offer an extensive range of activities, such as the ‘Penedès Bike, Cava & Wine One-day Tour’. The tour alternates between relaxed cycling on country lanes with regular stops at some of the finest wineries in the region; and the final destination is the medieval castle and church of Sant Marti Sarroca, where you can witness magnificent views of Penedès and Montserrat. You can find out more about their tours by visiting their website www.elmolitours.com. Half-day trips cost around €75 euros, while full day visits come in at around €125, depending on the tour.
Another slightly more offbeat activity that you can do on your whistle-stop tour of the Penedès region is the popular ‘Create Your Own Cava’ day which not only includes tastings and a tour around the thousand year-old farmhouse, but also the opportunity to make your own Cava which is then bottled for you take home. This tour costs €30 per person and full details can be found here: www.barcelona-life.com/play/entertainment_details/233-Create_Your_Own_Cava
Where to eat
Most vineyard day-tours include lunch, and El Molí’s luxury tour, ‘Gran Reserva Bike & Wine Tour’ features a gourmet Catalan meal. If you fancy exploring the gastronomic delights of the area yourself, then you are sure to find some excellent local restaurants. We recommend the charming Mercat, which offers Mediterranean fare by 2009’s Chef of the Year, Oriol Llavina, and is located in the centre of the Penedès. You can visit the website here: www.restaurantmercat.cat
How to get there
Vineyard tours normally offer a pickup from local train stations Sant Sadurni d’Anoia or Vilafranca del Penedès, both of which can be reached by the C4 Cercanias line that stops at Plaça Catalunya and Sants Estació. The other option, and argued by many to be the better option for viewing the picturesque scenery, is to travel by car. Take the A-2 motorway southbound until the number 27 Exit, and from there you are able to reach the many intimate villages by following local road signs.
· Most top wineries can offer multilingual guides
· The nearby town of Olèrdola features remains of the ancient town, a medieval castle and the church of Sant Miquel which dates back to the 10th century
· Freixenet hosts an open-air market featuring local produce, which is well worth a visit if you happen to visit Vilafranca de Penedès on a Saturday
Caldes de Montbui
Another hidden gem that can be enjoyed in a day from Barcelona, is the small town of Caldes de Montbui, located 33km north west of the city. Deemed a Cultural Heritage Site of National Interest, the town features Roman baths and thermal springs—which are some of the most extensive in Europe—whilst still remaining relatively hidden from the tourist radar.
What to do
Discover the rich history of the town at the adjoining Tourist Office and Thermalia Museum, which ranges from the baths in the town’s square that were once the hub of the sacred bathing practice in Roman times; to the story of the town being blessed by the water gods which led to its water reaching such high temperatures (up to 74 degrees Celsius). The museum also features exhibitions on Roman baths and a selection of works by Pablo Picasso.
Another top spot that is not to be missed out on is the St. Miquel del Fai gardens. Entrance costs €6 per person but is well worth it for the jaw-dropping waterfall and rolling hills. For the more adventurous out there, there is the unique opportunity to participate in a small-group hiking tour where you can witness the natural cascades and pools of the area, as well as the tenth century Romanesque chapel, all supervised by a knowledgeable guide (and conducted in English). Booking couldn’t be simpler and www.viator.com will take care of all the details for around €74 euros per person.
Where to eat
If you choose to take the hiking tour then a small picnic would be included, but Caldes de Montbui offers a host of luxury and rustic eating spots. Mirko Carturan Cuiner is one of the best and most definitely worth a try if you’re planning an indulgent day-trip, and the menu changes every three weeks to offer its diners the highest quality seasonal meals. For more information you can visit their website www.mirkocarturan.com
How to get there
To travel to Caldes de Montbui by car from Barcelona you need to take the C-33 motorway, followed by the A-7 motorway (Exit: Mollet del Vallès-Caldes de Montbui CIM) and then finally the C-59 motorway. The bus is another option and it stops at The crossroad of Passeig de Sant Joan/Carrer de Diputació, and next to La Sagrera metro stop and Fabra i Puig bus station. Bus information can be obtained at: www.sagalés.com
•Pay a visit to the traditional laundry house which is still fully functioning with hot water from the Lion Spring
•Broquetas Balneario is the town’s historic spa hotel which is a perfect spot if you choose to extend your stay, although their indulgent spa treatments and baths are also on offer to the public for a fee (approximately €22 for a session in the thermal pool).