Thanks to its unique blend of sand and city, Barcelona has long been Catalonia’s headline act, but with its tourism industry bursting at the seams – visitors outnumber residents by an astonishing 30 million – it’s time to consider travelling elsewhere in the region. With everything from ancient medieval villages to well-heeled coastal towns, read on to discover the prettiest towns in Catalonia for weekend trips from Barcelona.
Weekend trips from Barcelona contents:
Located 60 miles northeast of Barcelona, Girona is perfectly placed for a weekend trip from the city, but it’s also a worthy holiday destination in its own right. The largest city in Northern Catalonia, the ancient city has all the charm and character of Barcelona minus the crowds, inflated prices and mass tourism. Ancient medieval streets twist and turn next to a well-preserved city wall from where visitors can peer down onto a maze of cobblestone alleys lined with neoclassical buildings. A kaleidoscope of colourful houses hangs precariously over the winding Onyar river, which is crisscrossed with several distinctive bridges, and towering cathedrals cast a shadow over secret gardens, arcaded squares and hidden courtyards. An eclectic line-up of bars and restaurants offer and insight into authentic Catalonian life with their predominantly local clientele while the Arab Baths and streets of old town may prove familiar to any visiting Game of Thrones enthusiasts.
Widely considered to be one of the prettiest villages in the whole of Spain, Peratallada places a picture-perfect collection of stone houses, arch-covered alleyways and photogenic squares in the middle of the Catalonian countryside. Unruly green foliage engulfs many of the stone walls throughout the summer months while later in the year the leaves transform into an autumnal rainbow of red, yellow and orange – an eye-catching addition to what is already an unquestionably beautiful destination. Upon initial arrival, Peratallada gives the impression of a sleepy, long-forgotten medieval village with many of the streets offering nothing more than stark silence and a picturesque backdrop. Wander deeper, however, and you’ll discover that it’s actually a popular weekend getaway among well-heeled Barcelonans with antique shops, boutique guest houses and trendy restaurants lining the streets and the sounds of children laughing and Freddie Mercury singing permeating the squares.
Accessed via a striking 12th-century Romanesque bridge, the town of Besalú transports visitors back to the Middle Ages with its marvellously well-preserved medieval architecture. Ancient stone buildings tumble down a riverside hill towards the Fluvià while rolling pine-covered mountains complete the dramatic backdrop. Once through the gated threshold, visitors are greeted by a labyrinth of tiny cobblestone alleys that open up onto historic market squares which are now home to an array of cosy cafes and trendy tapas bars. 10 Del Pont is the perfect spot for a coffee with an outside seating area overlooking Besalú bridge while Quina Llauna Besalú offers craft beer and a contemporary take on traditional tapas.
Sitting 822 metres above sea level in the beautiful Collsacabra mountain range, the medieval village of Rupit is the perfect launchpad for several hiking routes that weave throughout the surrounding forest. Historic stone houses carved into the mountainside create an impressive scene and a hanging wooden bridge that dates back to 1945 makes for an interesting entrance into the village. For a panoramic view of the cliffside houses, make your way along the trail that passes the Ermita de Santa Magdalena church and keep going to reach the majestic Salt de Sallent waterfall, which cascades 100 metres down a sheer cliff face. Several viewpoints can be found surrounding the waterfall from where you can enjoy breathtaking views across the surrounding tree-covered mountains.
A sleepy village located high in the Cadí mountain range, Baga is another good starting point for countryside hikes. The village itself follows the same format as most traditional Catalonian villages with historic medieval houses lining tiny cobblestone alleyways. The streets remain somewhat deserted throughout the day but head to the central squares and you may well be treated to a taste of local life thanks to a seasonal line-up of concerts and dances – expect to see participants of all ages taking part in the traditional Sardana dance. Pay a visit to La Baguetina for an authentic Catalonia lunch with rustic set menus served in a casual wood-panelled dining room.
Begur and Sa Tuna
Offering a high-end alternative to the bucket-and-spade Costa Brava that’s familiar to most Brits, Begur and Sa Tuna are two hidden gems that will appeal to the most sophisticated of sun-seekers, making them ideal for weekend trips from Barcelona as well as longer holidays. The hilltop town of Begur boasts a unique landscape thanks to its combination of Moorish and Spanish architecture along with glamorous Cuban-style mansions while the tiny bay of Sa Tuna is a pristine cove surrounded by pastel-coloured houses and pine-filled forests. The shimmering turquoise sea laps against a small pebbled beach, colourful boats bob atop gentle waves and a well-manicured footpath runs along the hillside allowing for spectacular views of the far-reaching coastline.