Mountains, beaches, history & nature make weekend trips from Barcelona limitless.
According to local travel authorities, holiday-goers should plan to spend their summer months much closer to home by taking road trips versus jet setting to a faraway place. And with so many beautiful beach towns and remote mountain villages to visit from Barcelona in just under two hours, this isn’t necessarily bad news!
Of course, we’ve loved exploring new European cities like Vienna, London, Paris, Prague, and Rome. But a friend once told us if we moved to Spain and didn’t have a chance to actually experience it beyond Barcelona, it would be a real shame. And man, was he right!
Living here has offered our family tons of opportunities to take amazing weekend trips north, south, and west of the city. From waterfall hikes and swimming in crystal clear streams to strolling the streets of white dotted villages, Spain offers many unique experiences.
Whichever kind of adventure your family fancies, the regions just outside metropolitan Barcelona won’t disappoint. The first time we ventured out for a quick weekend trip, I was surprised and thrilled to see how removed you feel after only a short drive from the hustle and bustle.
Here are a few of our very favorite destinations a hop, skip and a jump from the crowded streets. Whether you live here as a local and have yet to explore beyond Barca, or are a future tourist planning your trip to this Mediterranean coastline, this list is for you!
8 Awesome Weekend Trips from Barcelona in Under 2 Hours
Begur/Sa Tuna – Costa Brava (90 mins)
In my opinion, the town of Begur with neighboring seaside Sa Tuna is one of the most beautiful gems in all of Costa Brava. Visitors will be swept away by the picturesque natural beauty of Platja de Sa Tuna’s rocky coves, pebble scattered beaches and coastline hiking trails such as Cami de Ronda.
And the nearby medieval town of Begur, with its hilltop castle, is an ideal spot for capturing the history and culture of the surrounding area. While Begur/Sa Tuna boasts 40,000 visitors in summertime, we are told it does not get overrun with tourists in the same way that Tossa de Mar does. It tends to attract more locals than tourists, which usually means the authenticity of its character remains.
How We Spent Our Time: We randomly decided to take a day trip here in February and it was such a wonderful Sunday afternoon. The water in Sa Tuna was crystal clear, literally, and we could see right to the bottom! The unusually warm day beckoned visitors to the tiny beaches, but otherwise, the area was very quiet.
We snapped photos, climbed the rocky coves and hiked a short distance along the trails. It was simply breathtaking! Once we worked up a good enough appetite, we drove the five minutes to uphill Begur and had a delicious Spanish Caribbean lunch at Bar Restaurant Havana.
Insider Tip: Begur is not walking distance to the Sa Tuna beach area and the two-lane roads leading between both are steep with no sidewalk. So you will most definitely want to have a car here.
Beget – Girona (120 mins)
If your goal for a weekend destination includes total isolation nestled deep in the mountains, look no further! Beget is truly a relaxation-seeker’s oasis! Walking around the tiny stone village, which is home to a mere 50 residents, feels like something out of a Disney fairy tale.
I was swept away by the beauty of limestone and mortar houses, neatly manicured flower beds, and weathered wooden doors scattered throughout. The majestic Beget Bridge which dates back to the 14th Century and the Church of San Cristobal are highlighted for snapping frame-worthy photos!
How We Spent Our Time: It was July summer holiday when we ventured to Beget. I had seen a few photos online, but it was so much more beautiful in person! We stayed at a house share, Mas La Cabanya, the only property of its kind in the town. Home-cooked dinners were lovingly prepared for us and we enjoyed eating alfresco on the outdoor patio.
During the day, we wandered the narrow streets, walked along the Beget Stream and even took a little dip in the fresh water. If swimming is something you’re interested in doing while in Beget, there are designated areas on the far end of town up the steep hill. (Just ask a local for directions, they’re quite willing to help as long as you attempt in Spanish of course!)
Insider Tip: Beget is mainly a residential village with only one restaurant, one hostal, a bar and zero stores. So if you plan to stay for the weekend, be sure to stock up on groceries in the nearby town of Mollo which is 15 minutes away by car. The only restaurant in Beget, Can Jeroni, serves the most incredible warm pan con tomate I’ve ever had!
In addition, double and triple check your route directions. Our reservation on Booking.com had an incorrect address which landed us 20 minutes away from Beget! Since the town is so small, it can be tricky to find.
Castellfollit de La Roca – Girona (90 mins)
This was one of those bucket list towns I had my eye on and couldn’t wait to visit! It’s not your everyday Spanish village! Dramatically perched atop a cliffside in the Garrotxa volcanic landscape of Catalunya, Castellfollit de La Roca will take any visitor’s breath away! It certainly did mine…
The village is situated on a basalt crag, which is around 1 km in length and 50 meters high. Originally, thousands of years ago, lava flowed from volcanic eruptions, and then the erosive action of the two surrounding rivers formed the crag where the village lies today. The oldest part of the village is comprised of narrow streets, corners and squares, and can be traced back to the Middle Ages.
How We Spent Our Time: Strolling along the streets of the old town, the sense of closeness and proximity is such that you could forget you were just meters from a sheer drop. Despite photos of the town appearing rather small, there is plenty to fill a day while visiting Castellfollit de La Roca.
Never been to a meat curing museum before? Now’s your chance! Don’t miss the town’s microbrewery, Poch Cervesa Artesana, where the friendly local service is just as good as the delicious beer. Check out the 11th Century old church of San Salvador perched at the very edge of the town’s cliff. And for an experience of a lifetime, try a hot air balloon ride over Castellfollit de La Roca and the Garrotxa Volcanic Region. I have yet to try this one – but I am working up the confidence ha!
Insider Tip: The very best photos you’ll get of this village won’t be until you leave or right before you arrive. Be sure to have your camera ready while traveling on the A-26 major roadway. That’s when you’ll really have a chance to appreciate the dramatic elevation of Castellfollit de La Roca.
Sitges – Catalonia (35 mins)
The very first day trip we ever took after moving to Barcelona was to the ever-popular seaside town of Sitges. Known for its Baccardi distillery, nightlife scene, 17th Century Church of Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla, and annual Carnival and Film Festival, Sitges if a stop not to miss during your time in coastal Spain.
Sitges is referred to as the Saint-Tropez of Spain with 17 beaches, more than 4,500 hotels (more than half of which are rated 4-star), and a coastal walkway covered in outdoor cafes and restaurants. The compact old town and surrounding streets are filled with shops, restaurants, and many gay bars and nightclubs. The Maricel Museum and Cau Ferrat Museum showcase Catalan and other Spanish art.
How We Spent Our Time: With Sitges being such a convenient distance from Barcelona, we find ourselves here often between the months of May – October. And each time we visit, our day looks a little different but always involves a new discovery. I enjoy strolling around the streets of old town admiring the whitewashed stone buildings and shops. The town is usually busy, you should know, since many city-visitors find themselves escaping to Sitges for a glimpse of the beach. But crowds don’t bother me, I enjoy the activity!
The kids never tire of playing on the beachside jungle gyms and splashing in the water, followed by a stop at their favorite Sitges candy shop, Tesoro de Piratas. We like to finish our days grabbing an outdoor table along the beach and have enjoyed La Santa Maria in the past. It’s great for indulging in some delicious seafood paella, tuna tartar, and cocktails.
Insider Tip: Traveling to Sitges from Barcelona is rather easy. You can take a 50-minute train from Estacio Sants, which will drop you off at the main station in Sitges – only a 12-minute walk to the beach and old town. Or if you have a car, the drive from Barcelona along the coast is spectacular!
Winding roads and steep cliffs provide a vast view of the sparkling Balearic Sea below. There are also several miradors (lookout points) along the route where you can pull over and snap some Instagram-worthy photos! Word of advice if you suffer from carsickness (like ME!), bring along your wrist bands or Dramamine. I learned the hard way the first drive out.
Montserrat – Catalonia (40 mins)
Known as the “serrated mountain”, Montserrat has a reputation of being one of the most spiritual places in Spain dating back to the year 880. It’s not a surprise that nature lovers, pilgrims, hikers, church clergy and environmental nomads travel far and wide.
Visitors from all over the world come to Montserrat to catch a glimpse of the Black Madonna, a wooden figure of the Virgin Mary holding a baby Jesus on her lap. This figure was discovered in a mountain cave by church elders after visions of the Holy Mother were reported and a choir of angels was heard singing many centuries ago.
The statue now sits behind the monastery altar protected by glass, though the public is welcome to have an up-close experience. You’ll wait on line for some time, but getting the change to touch this historic relic makes waiting worth it!
Another highlight of your visit to Montserrat monastery is to listen to the famous boy choir performances of Gregorian chants and other genres of religious choral music. The performances can be heard free of charge in the Basilica daily at 13:00. Get there early for a seat!
How We Spent Our Time: I think it’s safe to say that our first visit was spent walking around with our jaws on the ground! In order to get the full experience and appreciate what you are witnessing, I suggest reading up on the history. I recommend the below book on Amazon, Ghosts of Spain. It’s simply fascinating! While we always look forward to stopping inside the monastery and gazing at the grandiose gold and black altar, one of our favorite activities happens to take place outside the church.
Built into the outer wall of the mountain are gravel walking paths and countless little shrines, places of prayer. They are each different, equally beautiful and usually with some sort of religious inscription. Often times people can be seen praying or laying flowers at the shrines. It is a time of reflection and solitude that can only be achieved in such a holy place.
Insiders Tip: For thrill-seekers and those not afraid of heights, a beautifully unique adventure to the top of Montserrat can be achieved by a cable car. From Barcelona, take the street-level elevator from Placa de Espana down to the Montserrat train, which will eventually drop you off at the cable car station. After paying for tickets, you’ll be on your way to an incredible ride through the clouds up to the village.
A word to the wise, pack sandwiches and drinks which you go. There is one large (slightly overpriced) cafeteria and a small restaurant there, so not many food options. You will find on most days a row of vendor tents selling local cheese, meats, nuts and oils. You’ll pay more of course because of where you are – but we always splurge on a few items and live in the moment!
Calella de Palafrugell – Costa Brava (90 mins)
Had we not been told by our Catalan neighbors downstairs about Calella de Palafrugell, we may have driven right past without a second glance off the highway. But thankfully, we took the recommendation of the locals (a wise thing to do if you’re a tourist or expat!) and made the trip.
That Sunday afternoon in June was one of the most memorable we’ve ever spent together. Not because we did anything spectacular or out of the ordinary. But because the time spent embodied the typical Spanish culture of relaxation, Mediterranean sun, time with family, and deliciously fresh food.
Calella de Palafrugell is an ancient fishing village than has maintained its authentic charm through the years despite the arrival of mass tourism. Winding seaside trails of the Camino de Ronda allow visitors to hike to each of the rocky coves that make Calella beaches so special. The town also boasts an impressive Botanical Garden and Castle of Cap Roig, which have both been declared a Cultural Heritage Site of National Interest.
How We Spent Our Time: No matter how many years we live in Spain, I still feel like an “expat”. Someone who is here temporarily. (Maybe it’s the language barrier or the mentality – I can’t decide.) And Calella reminded me of that, in a good way though! I spent the afternoon here just admiring the “local” way of life. Sunbathers basking, kids splashing in the sea, two-hour siesta lunches, and a completely chill and tranquila vibe that Spain is so famous for. This was truly the best part of our afternoon here.
The kids enjoyed climbing rocky jetties and jumping into the refreshing water below. I love taking photos of architecture and nature, so I was plenty busy that afternoon. Whitewashed stone homes hugged by vines of Fushia Bougainvillea made easily subjects.
We had a simple but mouth-watering lunch at Bark enjoying traditional tapas like fried calamari, patatas bravas, fried eggs and jamon, and green peppers. Highly recommend this spot for the food and the scenery at outdoor tables.
Insider Tip: If you plan to visit Calella in the summer months, arrive to the beach early! The coves aren’t very big (unlike the beach towns of Gava or Casteldefells to the south of Barcelona with their long and wide stretches of sand) and get extremely crowded. We also noticed that no one seemed to be eating or drinking on the beach, unlike many in Spain that involve chiringuitos serving cervezas and tapas.
In addition, I recommend bringing water shoes or something comfortable that you don’t mind getting wet. The beach in Calella is actually stones (HOT stones!) and can really hurt your feet when making a dash to the waterline. The locals all seemed to already know this and once again, we were caught looking like expats – ha!
Rupit – Girona (90 mins)
Certain experiences living abroad have been defining for our family. And the weekend we spent in Rupit hiking to the Salto de Sallent was one of them. The town of Rupit is as charming and majestic as a scene from Lord of the Rings with stairways made of stone, a labyrinth of narrow alleyways and tiny squares of shops large enough to fit just 50 people.
But the village is not the only reason to enjoy time in Rupit. The Salto de Sallent is the largest waterfall in all of Catalonia with a vertical drop of almost 100 meters and easily accessible via hiking trails from the town center. The path is about 6 kilometres approximately, three for going and three for returning and although the signs show us an estimated time of one hour and a half, having three toddlers in tow meant the trek was almost two hours each way!
How We Spent Our Time: Our hearts were set on hiking to the falls, so while we enjoyed exploring the little town, we didn’t waste too much time there. There is a large parking area in front of the village which was very convenient. Once we made our way past the shops and cafes, we looked for signs marked Salto de Sallent.
I’ll admit, hearing the distance and the length of time it took the average person made me doubt whether this journey would turn sour. Our kids have great stamina and a spirit of adventure, but this was a lot! However once we got started on the trek, they each took turns “leading” and keeping watch for big rocks, mini waterfalls (of which there were tons along the way) and slippery paths.
We felt like a little team, a force of nature to be reckoned with! And the closer we got to the final destination, the more excited we got. Finally we reached the steepest peak, the very end of the trail, and looked down.
The sound of the cascading water hitting the rocks below gave us a sense of accomplishment (and relief!) We snapped one too many selfies and each took several deep breaths while pinching ourselves. Many hikers sat around the viewpoint enjoying packed lunches (something we wished we had thought of in advance, by the way). It was a magnificent sight and a special weekend trip memory!
Insider Tip: The village of Rupit itself is lovely for walking around and spending an afternoon shopping/eating/admiring. But if hiking to the waterfalls is in your plans, be sure to check the weather. It rained heavily the night before our visit which left many parts of the already narrow and slippery trail wet and muddy. Not for the faint at heart!
Tarragona – Costa Daurada (60 mins)
A city filled with rich history, you’ll enjoy stepping back in time during your visit to Tarragona. Located in the Costa Daurada, the city was founded in the 5th Century BC and many remains are still visible to the public today. The Roman Circus, Tarragona Amphitheater and Roman Wall tell the tales of a time when this city was largely ruled by the Roman Emperor Augustus.
As another one of Spain’s famous seaside cities, Tarragona beaches are world renowned for their extremely fine golden sand and very mild slope into the water making it an enjoyable place for swimming and wading.
How We Spent Our Time: Viewing the amphitheater where gladiators once fought as well as the Tarragona Cathedral dating back to the 12th and 13th Centuries were highlights for us! We told tales of battles lost and victories won to the kids, which they thoroughly enjoyed. And although the Cathedral was closed when we visited, the exterior romantic style architecture was incredible enough to satisfy our cravings for creativity.
If you are looking to buy fresh and seasonal products in a picturesque setting, be sure to visit Tarragona’s municipal markets. The main market, Mercat Central, located just off the upscale shopping boulevard of Rambla Nova, is housed in a hallmark Modernist building.
Insider Tip: A unique way to educate the whole family about Tarragona and experience events of its past is to download the app Imageen. This app for mobile devices (IOS and Android) places video recreations over your camera view of monuments and spaces in Tarragona. Hold your devise up to the monument you’re standing in front of and watch chariots and Roman soldiers go past. Very cool for little ones who can’t always imagine the events of history unfolding.
Wherever you plan to holiday this summer, I wish you all the enjoyment and adventure in the world! We all deserve some major rest and relaxation, now more than ever…