From stunning Gaudi architecture and gorgeous urban beaches to an endless flow of tapas and gin-and-tonics, Barcelona has a lot to offer visitors. And there's even more to ooh and ahh over in the smaller towns beyond the city's borders. Whether Roman ruins, vineyards, architecture, or beaches pique your interest, there's something in every direction from Barcelona. Here, four must-take day trips, each offering a little something different.
Priorat: Picturesque Vineyards
This tiny region’s wine production, which dates back to a 12th-century monastery, was once pooh-poohed. Over the past decade, however, a new and innovative generation of vintners have started exporting vintages that have become considered the most elite in Spain. Today, Priorat is one of two wine regions in the country that boast the highest qualification level, according to wine regulations (the other one is Rioja).
Tour the vineyards to sample the garnacha-based vino. Because of the area’s hills, each vineyard has its own microclimate and thus, produces a blend that tastes different. With top-quality wine and natural, unspoiled scenery, prepare for a picture-perfect day.
Located about an hour down the coast from Barcelona, this port city is one of Spain’s most important sites for Roman ruins. The Amfiteatre Romà, which dates back to the second-century B.C., faces the ocean for an impressive photo op. Here, visitors can catch ancient traces of gladiators going at it against each other or with wild animals. More good views can be had from the Passeig Arqueològic, the path on top of the medieval walls. The town is also famous for its international fireworks display competition and food. It even holds a festival in late April and early May that’s devoted entirely to tapas. Count us in.
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Go up the coast from Barcelona to Spain’s easternmost point and you’ll find Salvador Dali’s inspiration: Cadaqués, a fishing village that’s surrounded by a natural park and features picturesque pebble beaches. After a mass exodus in the late 1800s — believed to be due in part to a relentless winter wind — the town swung bohemian and became a haven for arty types. Today, the area, which is situated right on the Costa Brava, has a strong French presence. Spend the day exploring the location by foot or hiking on trails to nearby villages. Just don’t leave without grabbing a cocktail in the Plaça Passeig, the town’s beachside square.
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Girona isn’t an unfamiliar name when planning a trip to Catalonia — and there’s a reason for that. The walled Old Quarter, Roman fortress ruins, and medieval architecture are all draws for tourists who love cities, but want a break from the bustle of Barcelona. Just an hour away by train, Girona houses a famous cathedral and the unique square, Plaça de la Independècia. Architecture buffs can check out the Noucentisme-style buildings while history-lovers can head to the Museum of Jewish History or Jewish Quarter, where kabbalistic studies thrived during the Middle Ages. The Museu del Cinema and Museu d’Art are two musts for art enthusiasts. But the best way to explore this city is to do as the locals do and enjoy the cafes, window shop, or simply flaneur your way around the medieval townscape.
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Montserrat, a multi-peaked mountain in Catalonia, is one of the most popular day trips to take from Barcelona. Located about 30 miles (or one hour) from the city, this destination is revered for both its striking landscape and spiritual history. Set out for some epic hikes that serve up panoramic views of the rocky formations. When you’ve had enough, make your way to the monastery, Santa Maria de Montserrat, which is home to the legendary black Madonna relic (La Moreneta).
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