It’s not without reason that Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in Europe.
With all it has to offer, from Gaudi’s famous buildings and architecture to sandy beaches. From big shopping avenues to delicious tapas and inexpensive wine. You could simply spend weeks exploring all the unusual, free and fun must do things in Barcelona.
But even if you venture out of the city a little, there are still so many things to see and the city makes a great base for day trips outside of Barcelona.
Take a day trip from Barcelona, over the weekend or anytime really! Just because there are some pretty fantastic places around.
Here’s my exclusive list of best day trips from Barcelona.
Girona is such a beautiful old city and can be reached in 35 minutes from Barcelona via the new high-speed AVE rail service.
Set on the junction of three rivers and encased in ancient Roman walls, the city recently generated some buzz in the news as the latest filming location of the popular Game of Thrones TV show. And who doesn’t like Game of Thrones?
Walking along the city’s walls takes you on a complete circuit of Girona and gives you some charming views of the rooftops below. The most prominent site is Girona Cathedral built on an ancient religious site which today shows a combination of Gothic and Romanesque architecture.
A fantastic time to visit the city is during the Temps de Flors, a floral exhibition that covers pretty much the whole city for a few days. You will hardly get any prettier shots of the city then around that time!
The elegant Arab Baths are also well worth the few Euros entrance fee to learn about their interesting history and admire their beautiful construction.
And you probably have seen a photography like the one below? This is another popular image of Girona referred to as the multi-coloured facades of the Cases de l’Onyar that overlook the Onyar River.
The best views can be found from the narrow Gomez and Palanques Vermelles bridges.
Girona is also not only a great place for a day trip from Barcelona but also to stay overnight as you will find some beautiful places to relax in the evening and especially some lovely bars to sit outside and take in the atmosphere.
Here are some of my recommendations where to stay overnight in Girona.
Here are some recommendations where to stay in Girona:
Just an hour south of Barcelona by train await Tarragona’s Roman remains and sweeping sandy beaches which attract many day-trippers from the city.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tarraco boasts a wonderful amphitheater overlooking the sea and numerous other fragments of the once bustling Roman city can be found all throughout Tarragona.
Stepping forward a few thousand years to the 11th century you can say hello to the Tarragona Cathedral! For a €5 donation visitors can admire stunning vaulted ceilings, elegant
For a €5 donation visitors can admire stunning vaulted ceilings, elegant archways and an acclaimed art collection.
Known as the ‘Golden Coast’ Tarragona’s 15km coastline provides sparkling coves, sandy shorelines and blue flagged cleanliness for the sun-seekers among us. Day trips from Barcelona truly never looked so good before!
Are you ready to spread your beach towel?
After a day of sightseeing and sunbathing, you can simply savour on some local delicacies under the Roman arches and vaults in one of the many restaurants built into the city’s Roman remains.
If you decide to stay for the night, I recommend resting your head in the old part of the city around Plaza de la Font.
Here are some recommendations where to stay in Tarragona:
The lovely bohemian town of Sitges is an easy 35-minute train ride outside of Barcelona. It’s famous for its open, welcoming and tolerant attitude to people of all races, religions and sexual orientation.
For rugged landscapes, geological curiosities and Catalonia’s first Buddhist temple, a walk through Garraf National Park nearby is highly recommended. There are marked trails for walking and biking for day visitors from Barcelona to enjoy thoroughly.
Or try one of the many cafés, bars, restaurants set in the winding alleyways and palm-lined promenade right by the sea.
If you need some real beach time, the choice is yours! Over 17 beaches with fine sand and good water quality are waiting for you.
Badalona & Montgat Nord Beach
Badalona is a city stuffed with historical sites, exciting festivals and some great beaches along the coast. Only 10km on the train or subway, this is one of the easiest day trips from Barcelona.
Spend a day here sampling Anis del Mono at the distillery or checking out the wealth of Roman remains at the Badalona Museum which houses the ruins of the ancient city of Baetulo with its elaborate bath houses.
Badalona is one of the best day trips from Barcelona if you love sampling food and learn about history. And of course, if want to get your toes sandy!
Don’t Miss Out On Badalona Festivals & Events
If you happen to be in town for one of the cities weird but wonderful festivals in May, you cannot miss the celebration of Badalona’s patron saint involving extensive fire walks and group dancing sessions on the pier.
If you are on the lookout for one of the best pizza places around, check out Miranapoli, a small space with lovely atmosphere inside and super delicious pizza right from the stone-oven!
Not far from Badalona, you can also find Montgat Nord beach which is a nice change from the busy beaches of Barcelona.
Great for windsurfing, kayaking and other watersports, Montgat Nord is a hub for locals taking a day break from the city.
Well, speaking of busy, this photo was taken on an exceptionally hot day in Barcelona and the beach was definitely as crowded as elsewhere around the coast!
I call this: an ocean of sun umbrellas.
Tossa de Mar
Situated North of Lloret de Mar and about half way between Barcelona and the French border, Tossa de Mar can be reached on the RENFE train to nearby Blanes where you take a bus or taxi until you reach Tossa de Mar. More travel information can be found here.
Once an ancient fishing village, Tossa de Mar is today a large hotspot for travellers from near and far and especially popular for a day trip from Barcelona.
The main beach of town, Plaja Gran, can however get very crowded in summer and I like to opt for one of the smaller bays then. The unmistakable silhouette of the town with its castle can be perfectly spotted from the sea when cruising on a Catamaran.
I highly recommend taking a trip, for example with Catamaran Sensation. I jumped on a day tour along the coast from Lloret de Mar with them, all the way to Tossa and jumped into the turquoise blue water on the way, an absolute fantastic experience!
Around Tossa de Mar, there are some great walking trails too and a lovely beach from which to enjoy picture-perfect views of the Old Town.
For any history buff, Tossa de Mar is yet another paradise with its Old Town set on the hill encircled by its 14th-century walls complete with battlements and towers. And really, there are just so many things to do here, you just need to set your priorities and go!
As the craggy edges and rounded domes of the aptly named Montserrat or ‘Serrated mountain’ soar up to the sky you can absolutely see why this has become such a spiritual centre for pilgrims from across the world.
Only 1 hour north-west by train, Montserrat is an unmissable day trip from Barcelona or tranquil overnight break from the buzz of the city.
Nestled at the base of the mountain you will find a Benedictine monastery famous for its Black Madonna statue and Gregorian chanting choir boys that perform at 1pm each day.
There are two funiculars that you can take into the mountains. Santa Cova takes you up to an ancient holy grotto where the discovery of an image of the Virgin Mary accompanied by reports of a great light in the sky ignited the area’s spiritual importance.
The funicular of Saint Joan runs up into the mountain above the monastery and from the top, a range of walking trails weave through the landscape. There are combined ticket prices when using both so check out their website for more information.
There are spectacular views from the top but don’t forget to take a jacket and pack some lunch as it can get pretty windy up there and there aren’t any shops or restaurants.
As it is such an easy day trip from Barcelona it can get pretty busy during the daytime. So you may want to choose to stay overnight to relish the tranquillity of the mountain once the crowd depart.
Stay overnight on Montserrat Mountain:
Begur is not so much an international tourist spot as an escape from the city for the Spaniards who live and work in Barcelona.
A charming town with a historic centre and castle set on the hilltop overlooking the huge number of small coves clustered along the coast.
Boasting Spain’s only protected national marine park, the coast of Begur offers remarkable diving opportunities as well as other watersports.
While there are numerous monuments of interest, I definitely recommend climbing up to the ruins of the medieval castle called Castell de Begur, that overlooks the city.
Here are some of the small coves with lovely pebble beaches and crystal clear water you have to check out:
- Sa Tuna Beach, turquoise water, pebble beach, picturesque white-washed houses, a few lovely walks around.
- Aigua Blava, small sandy beach with a nice restaurant right on the shore.
- Playa Fonda, pebble beach, very shallow at the shore until it drops off deeply, right near the impressive Begur Cave.
All those beaches yet again do get quite crowded in summertime since the coves are small and especially parking can get tricky, just come early in the day and you’ll be fine.
If a day is just not enough time to explore all the small coves and beaches around Begur, you can of course stay overnight.
Here are some cool accommodation options in Begur:
Empuriabrava brings together a strange but delightful combination of upmarket attractions, which I really quite like though.
Empuriabrava is accessible from Barcelona on public transport or by car in about 2 hours.
With almost 24 kilometers of canals and 5000 private jetties, it’s the biggest residential marina in the world. You can spend your time enjoying the beautiful beaches, waterfront bars and restaurants and admiring fancy boats!
Empuriabrava is also the home to Europe’s biggest skydiving centre, suitable for everyone from the nervous first timer to the experienced adrenaline junkie.
You will see, the sky is often littered with a rainbow of parachutes looking down on the town. If you don’t want to go that high, I recommend you try to fly in the wind tunnel, I did too!
In strong contrast to the glittering yachts and flash parachutes, Empuriabrava boasts the stunning Natural Park of the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà that is home to over 320 different species of birds and offers a large amount of hiking and biking trails.
Empuriabrava is not only a wonderful destination for a day trip from Barcelona but also to spend a night or two.
There are some beautiful places to sleep in Empuriabrava, I stayed here:
Roses & Cap de Creus National Park
Last but not least, possibly my favourite place on the Costa Brava!
A few hours train or bus ride out from Barcelona, the town of Roses is situated on the edge of the Gulf of Roses and its west-facing sea views are the perfect spot for catching beautiful sunsets. To get the most out of this part of the coast, I recommend making it a bit more than just a day trip from Barcelona.
The towns’ historic past of Roman and 15th-century military occupation is still evident today as you can check out the ruins of the Medieval fortifications of the Ciutadella de Roses built to defend against African privateers and the crumbling Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria de Roses.
If you are in search of the truly ancient, it’s also well worth a trip out to the Megalithic Complex on the road to Montjoi.
The real highlight of this area however is the Cap de Creus National Park, which isn’t far from Roses and offers a beautiful combination of protected marine area, wind and sea-sculpted rocky outcrops and some of the most amazing vistas.
One of the places I would immediately return to! Just look at this water!
You should definitely spend some time walking the coastal path to experience the true beauty of the area.
Or opt for one of the hikes which last a few days and camp at one of the allocated campgrounds along the way.
If you want to be active on the water, try kayaking on the crystalline waters visiting deserted coves or even combine it with a seaside picnic or snorkeling.
And now, are you in for an overnight treat?
Thank you to the Costa Brava Tourism and Catalunya Experience for making many parts of this trip possible! All the opinions expressed in this article are my own. I truly enjoyed my travels along the Costa Brava and Costa Daurada respectively and can only really recommend everyone to visit!