Barcelona offers pretty much everything you could ever possibly want from a European city, yet sometimes, it’s just good to get out and explore what’s close by. Stunning mountains, picturesque coastlines, towns and small cities are just a short train or bus ride away. If you’re studying in Barcelona and fancy leaving books behind for the weekend, here are a few ideas that could give you that ‘getaway’ feeling without hopping on a plane.
Sitges is an extremely popular coastal town, about 35km south of Barcelona, and is easily reachable by train or bus. Although just a small town, it boasts a buzzing nightlife and a whopping 17 different beaches. With over 26,000 foreigners living there, it has a very international vibe.
Sitges is also famous for its annual Carnival, which usually lasts around a week between February and March, attracting around a million visitors to the small streets and sea front. Sitges has been known as the Saint-Tropez of Spain, so it’s definitely worth exploring the many things it has to offer. You can either take the train (from Passeig de Gràcia) or bus (from Plaza Catalunya), both of which cost around €7.60 return trip and take around 40 minutes to get there.
Montserrat is a multi-peaked mountain around 60km south west of Barcelona, and was actually Spain’s first “national park.” The site is 1,236m above sea level, and boasts incredible panoramic views of the Catalan countryside and terrain. If you like hiking then this is for you. It’s a popular destination for religious people as on top of the mountain you’ll find a spectacularly-kept abbey and monastery. There are also several hiking routes to choose from. Getting there isn’t the easiest thing and requires catching a train from Plaza Espanya, and later a cable car that will take you halfway up the mountain where you’ll also find a few bars and restaurants. The journey takes around two hours, and combined tickets are around €27.50 return.
Parque Natural de Collserola
If walking, cycling or nature spotting in the heart of the countryside in your thing, then this is the place for you. Not only is this enormous green space (22 times bigger than New York’s Central Park) accessible using your T-10 metro card, it only takes around 10 minutes from the city center to get to it. Be blown away by the spectacular panoramic views, and stop off for a picnic and some refreshments along the way – it’ll be your cheapest day out ever! To get there, take the Ferrocarril from Plaza Catalunya to Peu del Funicular, and then take the funicular up to the top of the mountain. Feel free to explore, and eventually descend down to the foot of Tibidabo for a well-deserved drink on the terrace Mirablau with the incredible view of the city.
About 100km north of Barcelona is the beautiful and historic city of Girona. Although not quite situated next to the beach, there’s a beautiful river running right through the centre which gives it a bit of a Venice feel. As it’s a rather small city, it’s very easy (and fun!) to walk about and explore the small streets and gardens. Walking across the ancient wall that runs alongside the city is a must do, as the views of the countryside and Girona itself are breathtaking, especially during sunset. To get there, take a train from Passeig de Gràcia, a return ticket costs around €25.
Sant Cugat del Vallès
If you fancy a change of scenery from the city and don’t fancy an hour or so on the train, Sant Cugat del Vallès is a great option. Just 20 minutes from Plaza Catalunya on the Ferrocarril train (zone 3), this small, beautiful town is situated between rolling green mountains, with not an edge of Barcelona in sight. The town is famous for its restaurants, and there are plenty to choose from. Check out the small markets and boutiques, not to mention the spectacular monastery which dates as far back as the 9th century.
Tarragona is a fascinating city about an hour away by train from Barcelona. As well as being very pretty and picturesque, the city is rich with Roman buildings, castles and ruins, so there really is plenty to see and enjoy. The Amphitheatre is definitely a must see with the Mediterranean in the background. As it is not very big (population of around 130,000), it’s easy to get around by foot. There are several beaches just next to the city, and a few beach bars and restaurants to keep you busy. Tarragona is also famous for the Castellers (human towers), so make sure you pick a day when something is on! You can catch the train from Sants Estació for about €20 return.