Transport back in time to some of the most authentic and breathtaking castles near the Catalonia capital.
If there is one thing about living in Catalonia that will never grow old for me, it’s the incredible and unique medieval castles near Barcelona. One more jaw dropping and awe inspiring than the next. And each with its own mysterious history.
I can’t stop taking pictures every time I’m in front of one! Our personal favorite is the castle of Tossa de Mar (read below) which sits perched above the sea right along the Mediterranean with the most breathtaking views in Costa Brava. Talk about a postcard!
Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but I’m totally swept away anytime we venture to a medieval castle in or near Barcelona. I’m immediately transformed from everyday mom/blogger to a Stark female character from Game of Thrones! And as far as my two Disney princess obsessed daughters go, it doesn’t get any better than seeing real authentic castles.
These masterpieces of history are not to be missed. So as you plan your travels to the bustling and vibrant city of Barcelona, be sure to include a car rental for a few days and venture outside the concrete jungle. All of these places are less than two hours from the Catalonia capital and are soo worth the trips!
Medieval Castles Near Barcelona Not to Miss
Contribution by Nisha & Vasu of Le Monde, The Poetic Travels
Cardona Castle or Castell de Cardona can be spotted from a far distance when you drive towards the small village of Cardona in Catalunya.
The town of Cardona was founded in around the 10th Century and was once the seat of a province ruled by the dukes of Cardona. They lived atop one mountain in a castle which also had a simple Roman church.
The castle was originally constructed more than 1,000 years ago. The golden-brown castle is well maintained and a still-standing decree from yesteryears requires that citizens of Cardona take one day each year to work on the maintenance and preservation of the grand ruin, which may be explained by its remarkable present-day appearance.
The castle complex includes a Gothic cloister, a ducal patio, an old cistern, the Church of San Vicente and the tower. As per the legend, the daughter of the Viscount of Cardona was imprisoned by her brothers because she had fallen in love with a Moor. In the tower is where she was held prisoner.
While most of the castle is rebuilt, the Romanesque arches of Church of San Vicente built in Catalan Romanesque style retain its beauty.
The view from the castle is very impressive overlooking the entire Catalan countryside from atop the castle is simply breath-taking. On one side, the salt mountain can be seen which in earlier days was a source of income for the people of Cardona. There is a Cardener river and the old town as well.
It can take several hours to explore the castle and entry is free.
Castle of Lleida
Contribution by Paulina on the Road
The Castle of Lleida, locally known as Seu Vella old cathedral, is said to be city’s most emblematic monument. It is the previous cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Diocese.
Located in Lleida, Catalonia, Spain, the castle sits on the pinnacle of Lleida Hill.
The construction of La Seu Vella began in 1203 under the direction of the master builder, Pere de Coma, but the bell tower was not completed until 1431. Historians believe that the castle was built on top of a former Muslim mosque.
The first building to be completed was the temple, that was be-hallowed for the worship of the Virgin Mary in 1278. But the constructions continued interrupted and the cloister was finally completed in the 14th century. During the 14th century, the construction began on the bell tower and continued until 1431.
The architecture of the temple makes the castle incredible, which has a Latin cross floor plan with two aisles and a nave. The temple’s interior has outstanding features that include the stonework on the naves, showing the influence of the artisans from Tuscany, Toulouse, and Provence who worked for Cathedral in the 13th century.
Its beauty is no less than the castles seen in the movies set in Spain.
Positioned on the hill, the cathedral overlooks the city and offers magnificent views of Lleida and surrounding countryside of Segria county. That’s what makes the Castle of Lleida unique.
You should come and witness the oldest bells and doorways from the 15th and 14th centuries and the gallery that offers breath-taking views. There are also several terraces on which I strongly recommend trying the local food such as fried baby squid.
Castle of Tossa de Mar
Contribution by My Path in the World
Located less than 90 km (about 55 miles) away from Barcelona, Tossa de Mar is a highly popular beach town sitting on the Costa Brava. But what makes it stand out is the remarkable Castell de Tossa de Mar, which is one of the most unique and beautiful castles in the region of Catalunya.
Overlooking the sea and enclosing the Platja Gran (the town’s main beach) on the west, this 12th-century medieval beauty will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Its walls and towers were built as a defense against piracy, and they surround the medieval old town (also called Vila Vella), which was declared a national artistic monument.
The castle and old town are completely free to visit, and they are a perfect place for those who love to wander around freely. Take your time and roam the enchanting maze of medieval narrow cobblestone streets and alleys dotted with restaurants, shops, and art galleries.
You can also climb the walls and get some amazing panoramic views, check out the remains of the Old Church of Sant Vicenç, visit the Museo Municipal de Tossa de Mar (if you love art museums), and even take a photo next to a statue of the actress Ava Gardner – a homage to her movie ‘Pandora and the Flying Dutchman’ that was shot in Tossa de Mar.
Contribution by Dymabroad
One of the best castles in Catalunya is undoubtedly the most famous in Barcelona, called Montjuïc Castle. This castle can be found on top of the Montjuïc hill.
The building started in 1640 as a military fortress and played a significant role in many battles. For example, during the Catalan Revolt, Catalonia wanted to become independent from Spain. The King of Spain sent thousands of men to stop this. However, at the Battle of Montjuïc, the Catalans won.
Years later, the fortress was expanded and became a castle. But a lot changed over the years, there were many renovations and the building was used as a prison for a very long time.
Furthermore, during the Spanish civil war at the beginning of the 20th century, a lot of people were imprisoned and died here.
What’s special about the castle is that it played such an important role in the history of Catalonia. Another great thing is that you can still visit the castle today and be transported back in time. Not much has changed.
You can go inside the castle for a 5€ admission fee, which you should definitely do! Also, there are guided tours during which you learn a lot about the history of the castle, the architecture and the role of the castle for the city of Barcelona and Catalonia. These tours take about 1 hour and cost 4€ extra.
As the castle is located on top of a hill, it can be difficult to get there if you go by foot. Fortunately, there is a very fun cable car, the Montjuïc Cable Car, that can get you there from the lower part of the hill. From there a funicular connects with the metro network of Barcelona.
Miravet is a tiny village dating back to the 2nd Century and located in the middle of a beautiful landscape between a mountain range, the River Ebro and a lush forest. And at the peak of this village sits the Castle of Miravet, a truly picturesque sight.
And while the castle itself is exciting to see, arriving to the tiny village by crossing the River Ebro on ferry is also a unique and memorable experience. The ferry is the only one left of its kind without the use of a motor and today transports automobiles.
Miravet is considered to be the largest fortified complex in Catalonia, and one of the best examples of Romanesque, religious and military, architecture of the Templar order in the whole Western world.
The Miravet Castle compound is made up of the royal area, the main and representative area that is situated in the highest point and by the lower area.
From the church the terrace can be reached by an elongated spiral staircase leading to an observation point offering several spectacular views of the river Ebro and the land surrounding Miravet. The castle is open for public visits throughout the year.
Castell dén Plaja Lloret de Mar
If you’re a native Catalan reading this article, you may wonder why the Castell d’ en Plaja Lloret de Mar would be on this list. Since it’s actually a private residence designed in the 1930s and not a royal castle or medieval fortress by definition.
But I think we can all agree its beauty and splendor (not to mention the thousands of photos taken of it by tourists) has earned it the rightful title of a castle.
It’s construction was not without controversy among the locals, however it has now become an iconic symbol of the Lloret de Mar town and draws in tourists from throughout the coast to admire its beauty.
As if this structure wasn’t breathtaking enough, the rugged coastline below offers the perfect setting for a day of discovery. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes for your visit, as the castle’s mountain has lots of stairs to climb. But as others have said, the views make the climb well worth it!
The castle can be reached by following the coastal path that surrounds it and passes through the cove of Sa Caleta and, from there, you can access the cliffs of the coast that form a natural viewpoint.
Castle of Besalu
Easily one of the most beautiful villages in Catalonia is the town of Besalu in the Garrotxa volcanic region of Girona. It was on my Catalonia bucket list for two years until we finally had a chance to visit last Autumn. And what a site she is!
Besalu is located one hour and 45 minutes from Barcelona and 30 minutes from Girona. It is also connected via public transportation via train from Figures or Girona. A day trip to Besalu will offer plenty of ways to pass the time and learn about the history behind the town walls.
Besalu’s most significant feature is its 12th-century Romanesque bridge over the Fluvià River, which features a gateway at its midpoint. The origin of the city was the castle of Besalú that appears in documents from the 10th century. The castle was built on top of a hill where today the remains of the canonical church of Santa Maria from the High Middle Ages can be found.
Around the year 1000, Besalú was one of the most important Catalan counties, one of the reasons due to its market and commercial routes that gathered artisans, business men and peasant farmers. In 1966 the town of Besalu was declared a National Historic and Artistic Ensemble due to its great architectural value.
This medieval town is very walkable with plenty of sites to visit such as The Church of Sant Vicente de Besalú, the Jewish Baths and Synagogue, the Monastery of Sant Pere, and the Hospital of Sant Julia.
Castel de Begur
Positioned at the heart of the Emporada district of Costa Brava region, Begur and its beaches are some of the most breathtaking in the country. Both Begur old town, with the numerous landmarks that represent key points in its history, as well as the eight coves and small beaches that lie within its boundaries, make up an unrivaled landscape.
The most famous image of Begur is undoubtedly the medieval castle that overlooks the town, although there are plenty of other places of interest to visit, such as the numerous “Indies” houses, the 16th-century defensive towers (a legacy of the period when pirates sailed the Mediterranean, built by the people of Begur to protect themselves against attack), the church (built in the Gothic style and dedicated to St Peter), as well as such other historic buildings as the Cultural Centre and the Old School.
Visitors will admit, the walk up to the elevated castle hill is steep but well worth it. And the views that are offered of the Mediterranean Sea and Begur village from the very top are photo-op worthy.
Although there is not much left of the castle beyond ruins, visitors will experience the history and events of the past by way of informational plaques along the walk.
Although there is not much left of the castle beyond ruins, visitors will experience the history and events of the past by way of informational plaques along the walk. Much of what one can find during their day or weekend trip to Begur possesses the same authenticity maintained over the years.
Buildings preserved, cobblestone streets bustling with shops and restaurants and a local Spanish vibe that can only be felt in a beach side Catalonia village such as Begur.