Are you looking for the best day trips from Barcelona? While there is no limit to the things to see and do in this incredible Spanish city, there comes a point when you need to get away from the noise and enjoy a different type of vacation, if only for a few hours.
Few cities in the world are as well-known and popular as Barcelona, which is crowded with tourists during peak season.
The city of architectural masterpieces, Barcelona’s landmarks such as La Sagrada Familia, see upwards of 40 million visitors each year. Fortunately, Barcelona is not far from some of the most beautiful places that have thousands of years of history, stunning Spanish landmarks, breathtaking views and smaller crowds!
Day trips from Barcelona include a monastery high in the mountains, fortified cities with historical medieval walls and an amusement park that dates back to 1901.
The best part is that all of these cities are easy to reach by car or public transport for you to enjoy unforgettable day trips from Barcelona.
If you’re planning a more extended visit to Spain, here are some tips on taking off on an Andalucia road trip.
Visiting Spain? Here are some posts you should read:
- Barcelona Bike Tour
- 10 Things To Do In Bilbao
- 12 Things To Do In San Sebastian
- 10 Things To Do In Oviedo
- Santillana del Mar
- 5 Day Trips From Barcelona
- 1- Sitges
- 2- Montserrat
- 3- Tibidabo
- 4- Girona
- 5- Tossa de Mar
5 Day Trips From Barcelona
Sitges is a day trip from Barcelona that won’t break the bank.
It’s a popular destination for its beautiful beaches, world-renowned film festivals and LGBT-friendly community.
How to spend your day in Sitges
Visit in February for one of the most popular events in this city.
Carnival is a citywide party known as the Mardi Gras of Spain that celebrates the commencement of Lent.
The Spanish see this tradition as a way of letting loose and getting into a bit of trouble before the 40 days of Lent begins
More than 250,000 people attend Carnival each year.
It always starts on Fat Tuesday and lasts an entire week with each night having a theme, such as the Pink Night, where everyone wears some variation of the colour pink.
During Carnival, the entire city is out on the streets – dancing, singing or focused on parades and costumes that demand the attention of all.
Music fills the streets as colourful fireworks fill every corner of the sky.
Walk the cobblestone streets
On regular [non-Carnival] days, Sitges is much quieter.
Walking through the narrow cobblestone streets and rows of colourful houses will show you firsthand just how much history the city still holds.
From 14th-century churches and hospitals to impressive cemeteries listed within Catalunya’s architectural heritage records, the city is packed with interesting historical facts to learn about and see.
A visit to Sitges is not complete without a tour of the Bacardi House.
As Sitges is the birthplace of Facundo Bacardi, the creator of the wonderful rum we enjoy today, there’s a museum in his honour.
Bacardi House features a fantastic tour that walks you through the history of the Bacardi family, their life in Cuba and their unique production of rum.
I can’t recommend this tour enough!
Tickets are €10 and include the history of Bacardi, a tour of the house, liquor samples and a mixology lesson with a Bacardi specialist.
The best part is sitting on the patio drinking the three drinks you’ve learnt to make.
How to get from Barcelona to Sitges
The train from Barcelona’s Estacion Francia (France Station) to Sitges costs 4Euro.
Purchase your train tickets at the station from the teller or from ticket machines.
It’s a good idea to purchase return tickets, in Barcelona, however, there are machines at the Sitges station should you need to buy a ticket for your trip back.
An hour from the city centre of Montserrat is a series of jagged mountains with breathtaking views.
At the top, there’s an Abbey, Monastery and museum.
There are also several hiking trails in and around Montserrat.
How to spend your day in Montserrat
Most notable attractions (aside from the breathtaking views) are:
The Black Madonna Statue
Located in the basilica within the Monastery, she is the patron saint of Catalonia and one of the most significant Black Madonna statues in the world.
Due to the historical significance she has within the Catholic religion and the many miracles attributed to her, wait times to see the statue can be upwards of an hour long, so plan accordingly!
To see additional information about the Madonna statue and her history, head to the Montserrat museum located in the same vicinity as the basilica.
Back in 880, lights, visions, miracles and even an image of the Virgin Mary were seen within these mountains, marking it a holy grotto.
To reach this famous cave, you will need to purchase a funicular ticket and look for the entrance for ‘Santa Cova’ before stepping onto the funicular car as there are a few that go to different areas of Montserrat.
It is about a 20-minute walk from the funicular to the cave itself.
Make sure to wear comfortable shoes!
Pro travel tip: make this trip early in the day! Montserrat is a top attraction in Barcelona and can get very crowded.
Getting there early will also ensure you get great pictures without any people in the background and your wait time will be significantly lower for entrances to the Abbey, museum or Monastery.
Entrance to the Monastery is free but there’s a charge to enter the museum.
There are several small restaurants, hotels and gift shops in the village but if you’re on a budget, pack a lunch as the restaurants can be pricey and crowded.
Enjoy your meal in one of the seating areas outside and take in the picturesque sights.
Depending on the season, there is a farmer’s market and picnic area within the town.
How to get to from Barcelona to Montserrat
Getting to Montserrat is not difficult, but does have a few steps to it. Here are some instructions:
First, you will need to get to Plaça Espanya, specifically to Las Arenas in the centre of the city.
The entrance to the station that will take you to Montserrat is across the street from Las Arenas.
Follow the signs to either Montserrat or the R5 Manresa train.
Remember that the station is quite large and it may be a bit of a walk.
At the R5 track, there are ticket machines with signs that say ‘Montserrat’.
Top tip: There are many options to choose from on the ticket machines (single or return trips and various travel packages) which can get confusing.
The most popular option is to buy return tickets for a simple train + rack railway or cable car (your choice) for €22.
Additional options you can select from include tickets for funicular rides up to different parts of Montserrat mountain once you are up there, as well as a package that includes all this plus entry to the museum (€7) plus a buffet lunch.
Prices for these options vary and can go up to €60.
The rack railway will get you there in about 20 minutes as there three stops and is much more comfortable than the cable car, however, I highly recommend the cable car option (unless you’re afraid of heights) for the fantastic views you’ll see on the way up.
The first part of the journey is a one-hour train trip to the base of the mountain.
From there, you head up to the monastery on whatever choice you made earlier (railway or cable car).
Known to the locals as “Magic Mountain”, Tibidabo is the highest point Barcelona and another can’t-miss experience while visiting the city.
From the top of the mountain, you have incredible panoramic views overlooking Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea.
A city guide provides clarity on what parts of the city you are looking at, which is extremely useful as you are so high up.
How to spend your day in Tibidabo
Honestly, the views alone are worth the trip up to Tibidabo, but there is so much more to see and do once you’re at the top.
Attractions in Tibidabo include:
- the communications tower
- Collserola (Torre de Collserola)
- Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (Tibidabo Cathedral del Sagrat Cor)
- Parque de Atracciones Tibidabo amusement park with an airplane circling the park since 1928
- a haunted house and a mini train
It’s free to enter the Cathedral, however, for €3 you can take the elevator and then climb a narrow winding staircase to the feet of the Christ statue, putting you at the highest point in the park.
Fun fact: the Christ on top of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart is said to be taller than the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil!
How to get from Barcelona to Tibidabo
Getting to Tibidabo will take you anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the transport you use to make your way up.
Driving or renting a car is without a doubt the fastest way to reach the top. You will be able to park on a lot adjacent to the amusement park.
The most common public transport is to take the metro L7 – Termibus to Avinguda Tibidabo.
From there, you will need to walk over to the funicular ticket office and purchase tickets depending on the activities you’d like to see.
The cost of a return ticket for funicular only is about €7 with added extras, such as entrance fees to the amusement park.
The ride itself is picturesque and possibly nerve-wracking for those of you who have a fear of heights, as you are suspended in the air while you make your way up to the main amusement park area.
Don’t worry, it is a quick ride that lasts only a few minutes.
The funicular runs daily depending on the season, opens at 10:30 am each day and is available every 30 minutes.
Important to note: in February, the funicular only runs on a very limited weekend schedule.
Buy a Barcelona transport card, which also gives you discounts on over 100 attractions.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you know or may have heard of the HBO show, Game of Thrones.
What you might not know is that much of season five and six were filmed in this city!
Girona is a quiet, historic town famous for its medieval architecture, beautiful Jewish Quarters and most recently, for portraying the fictional city of Braavos.
How to spend your day in Girona
Girona is a fantastic blend of old and new.
Walk the walls
A legacy of the many sieges Girona faced throughout the centuries are its impressive ancient walls.
The walls built during the Roman period are the most impressive and add to Girona’s Medieval backdrop.
If you decide to make your way up these Roman structures, you will be walking along the most extensive Carolingian Wall of Europe!
The reward is the most breathtaking view of the city.
However, be warned, the walk up is tedious and not recommended for those with walking issues on steep inclines.
On my most recent trip to Girona, I was recovering from a broken ankle and foolishly thought I could do the climb.
The truth is, I could barely make it around the city, the uneven cobblestone streets wreaked havoc on my ankle, let alone try and climb the narrow stairways and uphill tracks!
However, if you can, definitely make the climb up – it is so worth it.
Cathedral of St. Maria de Girona
Walking around the city, there is no way you can miss the beauty that is the Cathedral of St. Maria de Girona.
Situated in the city’s centre, the beautiful structure stands tall and mighty.
Thanks to Game of Thrones, it has become one of the most popular sites in Girona so get there early if you want a photo without a crowd in the background!
Temps de Flors
My favourite time to visit Girona, and what brings me back to this beautiful city year after year, is during the Temps de Flors festival.
Temps de Flors is a flower festival that transforms the city into a living art installation for a week in May, filling the streets with magnificent colours and flowers from all over the world.
The festival originated in 1954 and has been a major part of the city every year since.
Special festival maps are distributed to visitors walking through the city that showcase every single exhibit available during the festival and are marked by numbers and colour codes for ease of use.
Some attractions, such as the Jewish Museum and the Arabic baths, charge an entrance fee on regular days, but are free, open to the public and covered in breathtaking flowers during this festival.
Keep in mind that while you should take advantage of these exhibits, lines are much longer than usual on both weekends during the festival, so plan accordingly.
On non-festival days, the city is quiet and has become a retreat for retirees from around the world due to its tranquillity and year-long beautiful weather.
Amazingly, Girona has not become inundated with tourists as other major cities in Spain seem to be, which makes it the perfect city to settle down and retire in.
Ramblas de la Libertad
As you walk through Girona, you may notice a smaller version of Barcelona’s infamous Las Ramblas, named Ramblas de la Libertad.
Walking on this strip will put you in a higher trafficked area with many shops, restaurants and some of the best dessert shops in the world.
The Eiffel Bridge
One of the most interesting things about Girona is that it has a total of 11 bridges!
The most famous of these bridges is Pont Eiffel or The Eiffel Bridge.
Constructed by Gustave Eiffel right and made with the same materials as the Eiffel Tower, this lovely little crossing over the Onyar River connects the newer city to Girona’s historic Old Town.
How to get from Barcelona to Girona
Girona is a 1.5-hour drive from Barcelona. This is especially helpful for visitors flying into Girona’s airport, as there are many more budget airline flights to Girona than Barcelona’s El Prat Airport.
- By car: Follow the AP-7 road and look for signs leading to Girona. It’s important to note that AP roads have various tolls.
- By train: Take the new high-speed Ave/Renfe trains from the centre of Barcelona that will have you in Girona in about an hour. All trains are direct and depart from Barcelona’s Sants or El Clot Aragó train stations.
- By bus: For a more scenic route (and cheaper tickets), opt for the bus instead. The most popular bus company, Sagales, has several trips to Girona daily.
- By tour: check out these tours from Barcelona to Girona.
5- Tossa de Mar
A bit further north from Girona, within Spain’s Costa Brava, you will find the beautiful beach town of Tossa de Mar.
Tossa de Mar is most notably known for having the only remaining medieval fortified town on the Catalan coast, Villa Vella.
How to spend your day in Tossa de Mar
As soon as you step into the historic old town, you’ll find yourself transported to a different time.
Walking along the narrow cobblestone streets, you will pass various landmarks that set this city apart from all others in Spain.
Don’t be surprised if you’re Be prepared to be blown away by the beauty and grandeur of the castle of Tossa de Mar.
With towering walls that surround the Old Town and medieval architectural details, this landmark is incredible to see in person.
Built in the early 1900s, the Tossa Lighthouse is another impressive structure that provides breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea. There’s a small museum on the ground floor.
If you have time, be sure to stop in and learn about some of the city’s history.
In addition to all of the historical things you can visit and learn about, Tossa is also the starting point for five popular hiking trails. Check out this Costa Brava hiking tour.
These vary from one to five hours in distance and difficulty level.
Visit the super friendly staff in the tourist centre for detailed information on each trail, as well as maps and a list of hiking essentials.
Tossa is a small city and can easily be seen in its entirety in about half a day.
Pack for the beach as there are three beaches within the city once you have walked through it all.
Ava Gardener Statue
Fun fact about Tossa de Mar: the city was featured in the movie Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, starring Ava Gardner and James Mason in 1950. During the making of the film, Ava won the hearts of the townspeople with her charm and kind nature. A bronze statue was erected in her honour and has become a major tourist attraction. As with most attractions, be sure to get there early or on non-peak weekdays for the best photo opportunities!
How to get from Barcelona to Tossa de Mar
Tossa is not as easily accessible from Barcelona as other destinations are, however, making your way there is not hard at all.
The most popular method of transportation is, believe it or not, by bus, which takes about an hour and 20 minutes.
Sarfa runs 10+ bus trips each day from two stations in Barcelona: El Prat Airport and Estacio del Nord, located near the Arc de Triomf.
If you drive from Barcelona to Tossa, take either the C32 or the AP7 motorway. There’s a parking lot next to the main beach, Platja Gran.
As you can see, each city surrounding Barcelona has its own charm and moment within history.
Which will you be visiting first?
Maria Hedian is the founder and author of Em Around the World, a site dedicated to simplifying travel for aspiring budget solo travelers and digital nomads. After almost a decade within the corporate fashion world, Maria traded Louboutins for window seats as she set out to explore the world with only a laptop and her carry-on. Most recently, she joined the Skyscanner team as a freelance contributing writer and has travelled to over 25 countries and 135 cities worldwide – always on the lookout for great deals, tasty Mexican food and breathtaking fashion exhibits. Through her site, Maria’s mission is to show her readers that travel is possible for absolutely anyone, especially those on a budget. You can find her latest guide, The 30 Best FREE Things To Do In NYC This Spring, as well as many other helpful guides, here.