Travel

Five Places to Visit Outside Barcelona

Apologies again for this INCREDIBLY pic-heavy post, but trust me, it’s worth it. During our stay in Barcelona, we took two day trips a couple hours outside of Barcelona, all within the Catalonia region of Spain.

Catalonia is a region in Northern Spain, sort of like a state but from what I understand the regions of Spain are different than the states of the United States and our tour guide didn’t want us thinking they were the same. There is a lot of political turmoil right now because many Catalonians want to secede from Spain and I’m not good at explaining it but here is an article that explains it quite eloquently.

This was one of many political displays we say throughout the region.

We went on two separate day trips in the Catalonia region with two AWESOME tour companies:

  1. Costa Brava, Girona, and Pals with In Out Barcelona Tours – This was a very small tour in a van with a personal tour guide. It was us 5 girls, a retired Australian couple, and our tour guide Paul. BEST dynamic ever. 
  2. Montserrat Monastery and Oller Del Mas Winery with Castle Experience Wine Tours – This was a big bus tour but once we got to the places, we split out among four separate tour guides, so it made it a lot more manageable. 

These two day-long tours were amazing and allowed us to see so much more of Spain than we ever could on our own., with the added benefit of having an incredibly knowledgeable guide. I would highly recommend both of these tours.

So, without further ado, here are the five places to visit within 2 hours of Barcelona!

ONE | COSTA BRAVA

Proximity to Barcelona: 1-2 hour drive depending on where you stop

Recommendations:

  • Go cliff jumping (if/where it’s SAFE and you maybe get help from some Spanish teenagers)
  • Eat seafood at a restaurant overlooking the water

This is quite possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. It’s one of the places I’ve always seen in magazines and on instagram like Positano or Greece, and I never thought I myself would actually get to visit. I’m still pinching myself!

We went to lunch at a restaurant on the water, and it was AMAZING. I wish I remembered the name of it 🙁

The ceviche, tuna tartare with caviar, burrata, fried clams, and LOTS of Spanish white wine was the most divine combination. And, it made for the best state of mind to go cliff jumping afterwards! I’ve been trying really hard to be more adventurous as of late (I think it started when I…you know…moved across the country to NYC), so this was such a fun thing to do.

This is the view from the cliffs we jumped from. Not too shabby!

TWO | GIRONA

Proximity to Barcelona: 102 km (1 hour 14 minute drive)

Recommendations:

  • Either go on a guided tour or print a really good self guided tour. There is SO much history here that you’d never know about, and its easy to get lost 🙂

This is one of the locations that Game of Thrones was filmed at, and although I’ve never seen Game of Thrones before, I recognize the significance of this for sure! Recognize this?

Also, you know, it was built by the Roman Empire in 300 AD so also I’d say that’s pretty significant. At least significant enough to put on the 10 euro bill!

This city has so much history and is honestly breathtaking. It was founded in 79 BC! So many different people, from the Romans to the Moors to the Visigoths have inhabited this small little town, and seeing all their influences from thousands of years combined is very cool.

THREE | PALS

Proximity to Barcelona: 131 km (1 hour 34 minute drive)

Pals was a nearly abandoned medieval village until the late 19th century when a local wealthy doctor invested millions of dollars in restoring the village to its former glory.

Now, it’s absolutely stunning, so much so that I used my precious international data to immediately look up real estate there. You can get a 1000 year old house in the middle of the village for $400,000…not bad! The church in the middle of the village at the top of a hill is simple yet beautiful, and I love how all the architecture ties together in the whole town, including the church.

This town is literally on the coast, so if you’re headed to the beach, stop by Pals to see a bit of history before hitting the water, it’ll be worth it!

FOUR | MONTSERRAT MONASTERY

Proximity to Barcelona: 61 km (58 minute drive)

Recommendations:

  • Watch the Montserrat Boys Choir perform daily in the church at 1 p.m. It’s a short performance and they sound heavenly! Make sure to get there at least 15 minutes early if you want a seat
  • Then, do the liquor tasting for 2 euros at La Botiga
  • Suck it up and make the 20 minute uphill walk to the Cross of Saint Michael. Allegedly the best views of the Monastery (see picture above for yourself below!)

Montserrat is a mountain right outside Barcelona, and it is arguably one of the most beautiful natural land features I’ve ever laid eyes on.

It literally translates to ‘serrated mountain’ in latin and that is the most accurate way to describe it. After doing lots of research, I really think the monastery is the best landmark to hit on the mountain. If you do a tour to the monastery, you can easily do a bit of hiking around it, and see so many gorgeous views. Plus, the monastery is so beautiful, and rich in history.

FIVE | VINEYARDS

Proximity to Barcelona: 65 km (55 minute drive)

Recommendation:

As I’m sure you’re familiar, Spain is known around the world for their wines. They’re actually the third largest exporter of wines in the world, behind Italy and France. Tempranillo, grenach, and syrah are arguably the most well known Spanish grape varieties, but even some cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay are grown in this region.

The vineyard we went to was an organic vineyard and it was very interesting to see a lot of the science behind their agricultural practices.

We toured the vineyard, and the caves, and then did a tasting. The bottles we tested ranged from $10-$40 and you honestly couldn’t tell! My favorite was the cab sauv, I think it was $15-$20.

. . . . .

And those are the five places to go outside Barcelona! I had such an amazing time on my first trip to Spain and I have a funny feeling I’ll be back 🙂

I watched Eat Pray Love on the airplane headed here and while I’m honestly not the biggest fan of the premise of that movie (aka how she divorces her husband), one thing that movie reminds me is how important it is to just marvel at something. I feel like these places throughout Spain allowed me to just be in awe and marvel over and over and over again.

I’m not sure how many times in one week a person should be able to think to themselves *This is the most beautiful place I have ever ever seen*, but I am so lucky that this trip to Spain was filled to the max with marveling at God’s beautiful creations that he made for us.

Thanks for reading!

Travel Diaries: Barcelona, Spain

Hello from my gate at the Paris airport! This grand European trip I’m on is coming to an end, and I am SO sad. BUT! I have two beautiful hours to before my flight home boards, and I figure there’s no time like the present to fill you in on our trip to Barcelona, how we planned it, what we did, and what we liked! I will be writing later this month about our day trips, my trip to Paris, and my trip to Champagne. But first…BARTHELONA!

WHERE WE STAYED:

  • Neighborhood: El Born. This is a super trendy, centrally located neighborhood that’s great for shopping, food, nightlife, and culture. 
  • Nights 1-2: Park Hotel Barcelona. I got here two days before the rest of my friends and stayed at this adorable boutique hotel. It has a really decent breakfast, an awesome rooftop pool, is in the most absolutely perfect location, and was reasonably priced. Need I say more? Also, they had Haribos in the mini bar and yes they restocked them daily 🙂
  • Nights 3-6: airbnb in El Born. This is an excellent, inexpensive way for lots of people to stay together without getting multiple hotel rooms. When split between six people, the price per night isn’t bad at all. I think it was literally less than $30/night for each of us, which is insane. Yes, it was cramped quarters but you get what you pay for. Six girls in a two bedroom apartment means lots of compromise, and also lots of money leftover for the important things in life like SANGRIA! Also, here’s a joke for you: How many advertising majors does it take to figure out a European washer/dryer? The answer is apparently 5 lol 

WHERE WE ATE:

  • El Chigre: My tour guide on the first day said this is the best place in El Born for Vermouth. We went there after the tour and yes, it is VERY good. I just had vermouth here, but apparently the tapas are also delicious.
  • Bormouth: Excellent place for tapas in El Born! This is a very highly rated tapas bar and it is very delicious. The goat cheese and roasted red peppers (pictured) is amazing, but definitely made to share, as it’s super rich. 
  • Lots of little tapas restaurants I can’t name, but are very delicious. Just stay away from places right on Las Ramblas, right next to Sagrada Familia, etc. They’re very overpriced and my tour guide said at the super touristy places, they literally freeze the paella and just thaw it out when people order it…not so authentic!!

WHERE WE WENT:

  • El Born: This is such a fun neighborhood to get lost in, have fun in, and explore. In my personal opinion, this is where all young people should stay when they come to Barcelona. There’s tons of shops, restaurants, nightlife, and sooo much history. The streets are very narrow and it’s traditionally where the artisans have lived in Barcelona for centuries, so the culture and the little shops along the streets are so vibrant and artsy. There’s lots of great self guided walking tours on the internet, or do like I did and take a tour of the neighborhood with a local! It was the best two hours I spent and I’m so glad I did that right when I got here. Look how cute the streets are!
  • Sagrada Familia: There was no good way for me to take a picture of this entire basilica. It is insanely huge, insanely gorgeous, and just beautiful. ADVICE would be to buy tickets weeks in advanced if you want to go to the top of the towers (which you should, I’ve heard it’s breathtaking but I was a dummy and bought my tickets the day of, so they were sold out 🙁 )
  • Parc de la Ciutadella: This is a stunning park that was built by the government of Spain in the mid-19th century. It is massive and beautiful park that many compare to Central Park…I have no comment on that 🙂 
  • Gothic Quarter: Again, the Gothic Quarter is also known for its narrow streets. It’s the center of the ‘Old Town’ of Barcelona, which together with El Born used to be surrounded by a large protective wall. It was massively restored in the 19th century so I guess it’s not really ‘gothic’ anymore, but the bones are still there and it is a stunning neighborhood. The cathedral, pictured right (or below on mobile), is absolutely gorgeous.
  • The beach! I didn’t take any pictures of the beach because I was terrified to bring my big camera, but we went about 5 miles north of Barcelona on electric bikes that we rented, and those beaches were a lot more secluded. The sand in Barcelona is interesting, it’s not as fine as in Florida, but not rocky or pebbly. I sort of like it because it is sand but you don’t have that ‘sand everywhere’ feeling since it’s way less fine, and easy to brush off.
  • Get out of the city! We did two day tours that were honestly the highlights of the trip. I’m writing a whole post on these next week, so stay tuned! We went to Girona, Pals, Costa Brava, Monsterrat, and did a winery tour in the mountains during these two day trips. The highlight for me? Cliff jumping in Costa Brava! A very non-Tori thing to do, but when in Rome, eh? 

WHERE MY FRIENDS WENT AFTER I LEFT: Most unfortunately, I had to go to Paris a couple days before the rest of my friends left Barcelona (such a tragedy…), so they had a couple extra days to explore. While I haven’t been to these places myself, they said great things about:

  • Las Ramblas – I’m sort of bummed I missed out on this one but it was a bit far from El Born and I decided Sagrada Familia was more important for the time I had
  • Picasso Museum – This is in El Born and apparently is a really good, smaller museum
  • Nightclubs along the beach – Severely not my cup of tea, but they had a blast. Barcelona is apparently a great city for nightlife.

HOW WE PLANNED:

GOOGLE DOCS GOOGLE DOCS GOOGLE DOCS! If you’re not a millenial, I’m not sure what to tell you, but you should probably get on board 🙂 HERE is a template of the google sheet we used to plan our trip. We had a MILLION tabs on this by the end, but I stripped it down to just four key tabs that any group of OCD girlfriends can use to plan a big trip like this (I made the template for up to 8 people and up to 8 days). Then, we had two planning meetings in the two weeks preceding the trip. We used these to finalize our day-to-day plans and discuss everyone’s priorities and such.

Thank you so much for reading! If you have anything you’d like to add about Barcelona, or planning big trips with lots of girlfriends, please share your tips below!

 

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