There are some truly beautiful towns near Barcelona and exploring them reveals a tapestry of places, each with its own unique charm and beauty. From serene beaches to historic streets, these destinations offer an escape from the hustle of the city into a world of diverse experiences.
So let me take you on a journey through these hidden gems, places I’ve uncovered during my time living in Spain and exploring the nooks and corners around Barcelona.
Ready to discover towns where ancient castles stand guard over sun-kissed beaches and narrow cobbled streets echo with stories of the past? Keep reading and I promise, you’ll find more than just picturesque views!
Sitges is like Barcelona’s cooler little sibling that doesn’t try too hard. It’s a beach town, sure, but there’s so much more to it than just sand and surf.
The first thing you’ll notice about Sitges is its artsy vibe. This place loves its art and festivals.
If you’re into museums, the Cau Ferrat Museum is a must-visit – it’s like stepping into an artist’s dream. And for film buffs, the Sitges Film Festival is not to be missed.
Now, the beaches are great – there are about 17 of them! – but the town itself is the real star.
Wandering around the old town, with its narrow streets and gorgeous old buildings, feels like a mini adventure. You’ll find some pretty cool shops and cafes too.
Getting there is a breeze. It’s only about 40 minutes by train from Barcelona. You can catch a train from Barcelona Sants station, and it’s a straight shot. If you’re driving, it’s about the same time, depending on traffic.
For a town near Barcelona that’s perfect for a day trip, enter: Montserrat. This place is like something out of a storybook, especially with the Montserrat Monastery perched up high, overlooking the landscape.
The views from up there are incredible – you can see right across Catalonia on a clear day.
But it’s not just about the views. The monastery itself is pretty impressive, with a rich history and the famous Black Madonna statue.
If you’re feeling adventurous, there are some great hiking trails around too. Just be sure to wear good shoes!
Getting to Montserrat is a bit of an adventure itself. You can take a train from Barcelona’s Plaça Espanya station to Aeri de Montserrat, and then it’s a cable car ride up to the monastery.
The whole trip takes about an hour and a half. If you’re driving, it’s about an hour, but the winding roads make it a fun drive.
Girona is a bit farther away, but it’s totally worth the trip. It’s like stepping back in time, with its medieval walls and ancient buildings. The Jewish Quarter is especially fascinating, with its narrow alleys and historic feel.
One of the coolest things about Girona is the food. It’s got some top-notch restaurants, including a few Michelin-starred ones.
But even the smaller, local places serve up some amazing dishes. And let’s not forget about the ice cream – Rocambolesc Gelateria is a must!
For Game of Thrones fans, Girona was a filming location with some of the show’s most famous scenes filmed here. So you can walk in the footsteps of your favorite characters!
Getting there takes a bit longer – about an hour and a half by train from Barcelona Sants station. The train ride is quite scenic though, so it’s part of the experience. Driving takes about the same time, and the route is pretty straightforward.
Let’s swing over to Tarragona, a place that’s like a living museum. Seriously, history buffs, you’re in for a treat.
The Roman ruins here are some of the best-preserved in Spain. The amphitheater, right by the sea, is a highlight. Imagine gladiators battling it out with the Mediterranean as their backdrop – pretty cool, right?
But Tarragona isn’t just about ancient history. The old town is a maze of narrow streets filled with vibrant cafes and shops.
And don’t even get me started on the beach – it’s perfect for a lazy afternoon.
If you’re wondering how to get there, it’s simple. By train, it’s about an hour from Barcelona Sants station. If you’re driving, it’s roughly the same amount of time, with the route taking you along the scenic coastline.
Vilafranca del Penedès
For any wine lovers out there, you’ve probably heard of Vilafranca del Penedès. It’s the heart of the Penedès wine region, known for its fantastic wines, especially Cava, Spain’s answer to champagne.
A visit here means you can tour vineyards and wineries – and yes, there are plenty of tastings. The town itself is charming, with a lovely old square and some great little restaurants. If you’re into architecture, the Santa Maria church is worth a look.
Getting to Vilafranca del Penedès is easy. It’s about a 45-minute train ride from Barcelona. Driving is also an option and takes about the same time, offering you the freedom to explore the surrounding vineyards at your own pace.
Entering the town of Besalú is like stepping into a medieval fairy tale. The star of the show is the old bridge leading into the town – it’s like something out of a movie.
Once you’re across the bridge, the town itself is full of surprises. The medieval streets are well-preserved, and there are some fascinating old buildings to explore, like the Miqvé, a medieval Jewish bathhouse.
One of the best things about Besalú is that it’s not overrun by tourists, so it has a laid-back, authentic vibe. It’s a great place to wander around, soak in the atmosphere, and enjoy some local cuisine.
Getting there is a bit of a journey – it’s about two hours by car from Barcelona. There’s no direct train, so driving is your best bet. The drive is scenic and takes you through some beautiful parts of Catalonia.
Tossa De Mar
The seaside town of Tossa De Mar is like a little slice of paradise with a twist of history. What makes Tossa De Mar stand out is its medieval castle right by the beach.
Yeah, you heard that right – a castle on the beach! It’s not every day you get to sunbathe with a view of ancient stone walls and towers.
The old town, Vila Vella, is full of narrow cobbled streets and hidden nooks to explore. It’s the perfect mix of history and beach life.
The beaches themselves are gorgeous, with clear blue waters and golden sand. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are some great hiking trails around the coast.
Getting there is pretty straightforward. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Barcelona. There’s no direct train, so if you don’t have a car, you can take a bus from Barcelona’s Estació del Nord.
Figueres is a town that’s all about art and imagination. That makes sense once you realize that this is the birthplace of Salvador Dalí, as well as being home to the Teatre-Museu Dalí.
This museum is as surreal as Dalí’s art, and it’s a must-visit for anyone interested in his work.
But there’s more to Figueres than just Dalí. The town has a charming feel, with a mix of Gothic and neoclassical architecture.
The Sant Ferran Castle is another highlight, offering great views over the town and surrounding countryside.
Figueres is about a two-hour train ride from Barcelona, and it’s a scenic journey through the Catalan countryside. By car, it’s about the same duration and offers the flexibility to stop and explore along the way.
Castellfollit de la Roca
Castellfollit de la Roca is like something out of a storybook. It’s perched on a narrow basalt cliff, more than 50 meters high.
Honestly, the view of the town, with its old stone houses teetering on the edge of the cliff, is something you won’t forget in a hurry.
While it’s one of the smallest towns in Catalonia, its dramatic location and charming streets make it a great spot for photographers and anyone looking for a unique experience. The town is also known for its local produce, so it’s a great place to enjoy some Catalan cuisine.
Getting to Castellfollit de la Roca can be a bit of a journey – it’s best reached by car, and it’s about a two-hour drive from Barcelona. The route takes you through some beautiful landscapes, making the drive part of the adventure.
When you see Cadaqués, you’ll wonder if it’s somehow a dreamy painting come to life. This seaside town is a bit off the beaten path, but trust me, it’s worth the detour.
Cadaqués is famous for its whitewashed houses and cobblestone streets, all set against the backdrop of the sparkling Mediterranean.
It’s not just pretty looks though, as Cadaqués has a rich artistic history. It was a favorite of Salvador Dalí, and once you visit, you’ll understand why.
The light and the landscape here seem to inspire creativity. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Casa-Museu Dalí in nearby Portlligat, Dalí’s former home turned museum.
Getting to Cadaqués is a bit of an adventure – it’s about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Barcelona. The roads are winding but offer some spectacular views. There’s no direct train, so driving is your best bet.
Now, Miravet might be small, but it packs a lot of punch. In particular, Miravet is known for its pottery, so if you’re into arts and crafts, you’ll love it here.
The town is dominated by an impressive Templar castle, perched high above the Ebro River. The views from the top are worth the climb – you can see for miles.
The river itself adds to the charm of Miravet. You can take a leisurely boat ride or just enjoy a stroll along the banks. The town has a peaceful vibe that’s perfect for unwinding.
To get to Miravet, you’re looking at about a two-hour drive from Barcelona. It’s a bit off the usual tourist path, so driving is the most convenient option.
Horta de Sant Joan
Horta de Sant Joan is a hidden gem that’s as picturesque as they come. This town is tucked away up in the mountains and is known for its stunning natural beauty.
It was another favorite of Picasso, and he even said that everything he knew, he learned in Horta.
One of the main attractions here is the Parc Natural dels Ports, a haven for hikers and nature lovers. The landscapes are rugged and beautiful, with plenty of trails to explore.
The town itself, with its ancient stone buildings and narrow streets, is like a step back in time.
Getting to Horta de Sant Joan is a bit of a journey – it’s around a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Barcelona. There’s no direct train service, so a car is your best option.
For a town near Barcelona that’s a perfect blend of old and new, you can’t go wrong with Sant Cugat. Just a stone’s throw from Barcelona, Sant Cugat is known for its impressive monastery, the Monestir de Sant Cugat, a true marvel with a cloister that’s a feast for the eyes.
But that’s not all this town has to offer. Sant Cugat is also a modern, vibrant place. It’s got a thriving art scene, cozy cafes, and some pretty cool shops.
The town’s green spaces, like the Parc de Collserola, are perfect for a lazy afternoon stroll or a picnic.
Getting there is a cinch. It’s just about a 25-minute train ride from Barcelona, making it an ideal spot for a quick getaway. If you’re driving, it’s about the same amount of time, depending on traffic.
Badalona is often overlooked in favor of its big neighbor, Barcelona, but it’s got a charm all its own. The beach here is a highlight – it’s less crowded than Barcelona’s and just as beautiful.
Strolling along the Badalona promenade on a sunny day is a simple pleasure you won’t want to miss.
Badalona also has a rich history, showcased by the Roman ruins of the ancient city of Baetulo. The Badalona Museum offers a glimpse into this past, and it’s definitely worth a visit.
You can get to Badalona easily from Barcelona. It’s just a 15-minute train ride, which makes it perfect for a spontaneous day trip. By car, it’s about the same time.
Finally, let’s explore Siurana, a little further afield but a real hidden treasure. This tiny village is perched on a cliff with jaw-dropping views of the surrounding countryside.
The ruins of an ancient castle add to the town’s dramatic setting – it’s truly something to see.
Siurana is a haven for climbers and hikers, with its rugged terrain and trails. But even if you’re not into extreme sports, the sheer beauty of the place is enough to make the trip worthwhile.
The village itself, with its narrow streets and traditional stone houses, is like a journey back in time.
Getting to Siurana can be somewhat of an adventure too – it’s about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Barcelona. There’s no direct public transport, so a car is your best bet here.
Each of these towns near Barcelona offers a unique slice of Catalan life, from serene monasteries and sunny beaches to dramatic clifftop villages. Whether you’re looking for a quick day trip or a longer adventure, these spots are sure to add some memorable chapters to your travel story.