Day and Weekend trips from Barcelona

Barcelona is beautiful, no denying that. But sometimes we all need a change of scenery....

May 28, 2024
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Let’s set the stage. You’ve settled down in your long-term or a monthly rental apartment in Barcelona. A month in, and perhaps you want to explore your surroundings, and get a sense of the region as only a local could. You’re in luck. A short distance from France, Madrid, and Mediterranean islands all at the same time, Catalunya is well situated between land and sea. There are few other places in the world that can boast having world class beaches in the same region as ski slopes—yet it’s not just the topography here that makes it such a special place to explore. With history dating back to the middle ages and the architecture to prove it, there’s plenty to see that’s accessible from the city. In no time you’ll see that an extended stay in Barcelona gives way to so much more. Here are some of our favorite day and weekend trips to take in and around Catalunya.


Fans of Game of Thrones, bicycles, cathedrals, and medieval history, rejoice. Girona is a tiny gem of a town, perfect for a day trip, and just a 40 minute high-speed train ride away. Though the surrounding province has much to offer in the ways of culture, nature, and gastronomy, a visit to the small capital city is a great way to dip your feet into the region. Girona’s old town sits on a hill along the easternshore of the Onya river, and the colorful facade of its buildings are reflected in the water. Here you’ll find the labyrinthine cobbled streets of the Jewish quarter, arab baths, monasteries, medieval city walls, and the famed cathedral, whose Gothic-style nave is the widest in the world.

Much of the old town provided the backdrop for Season 6 of Game of Thrones, and plenty of visitors come for this reason alone. Another draw is the bustling community of cyclists, who ride up and down the inclined streets, or congregate at La Fabrica, a hip cafe catering to clientele coming in on 2 wheels, but not exclusively. The old town is connected to the new by a series of eleven bridges, the most famous being the Pont de les Peixateries Velles, designed by Gustave Eiffel, of the Eiffel Tower. On weekend mornings a flea market sets up alongside the Pedra bridge, next to the famous statue of a lion, whose tradition calls for people to line up and kiss its backside. If antiques and kissing statues are not your style, sit in the adjacent terrace at Konig, and order some of their famed Bravas, find one of the city’s many natural wine purveyors, or stop into Rocambolesc for ice cream from one of the famed Roca brothers.


The small, picturesque town of Cadaqués is located in the very northeastern part of Spain—just 170 km from Barcelona, and 20 km from the French border. Accessible by bus or car and surrounded by a dense national park at the tip of the Cap de Creus peninsula, this isolated town has a history rooted in fishing, wine-making, and olive oil production. In the early 20th century it gained popularity as the St. Tropez of Spain, and became a destination for writers and artists like Federico García Lorca, Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Luís Buñel, and most famously, Salvador Dalí. Fans of the Surrealist painter will see how works such as The Persistence of Memory, The Port of Cadaqués (Night), and The Spectre of Sex Appeal have all been influenced by the surrounding coastline. In 1930 he purchased a home in Portlligat, where he lived until his death in 1982. Left untouched, the home is now a museum, and is a must-see for art lovers and art ambivalents alike.

Other activities include a hike in Cap de Creus National Park, a boat ride out into the bay and around the peninsula, or simply relaxing on any of the small beachfronts. Summer is notably busier, and while much is closed during winter months it’s still a fine time to visit. Whatever weather you decide to come, do not skip out on the seafood. Make a reservation at Can Tito, to eat traditional food or try the waterside restaurant Casa Nun and order the zarzuela. Look out onto the bay and let the inspiration come.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols

This is a locals’ local town, beloved for its seaside charm. In addition to its beaches, coves, and pine forests, Sant Feliu de Guíxols has a charming center, busy port, and rocky headlands that look down at the sea. There’s no shortage of activities here, and the accessible shoreline makes diving and water sports especially popular. This town is also home to La Pedralta, the largest rocking stone (rocking stones are boulders poised in such a way that they can be easily rocked) in Europe, which lies in the national park that overlooks the bay. Sant Feliu de Guíxols has medieval origins, and grew around the monastery that shares its name. It’s also home to additional sites of architectural interest like the Modernist La Costáncia Casino. Just an hour’s drive from Barcelona, this makes a great day or weekend excursion outside of the city.


Just a 45 minute train ride from Barcelona, Sitges is an easily accessible destination, and a great way to spend a day exploring outside of the city. This white-washed Mediterranean town is home to only 30,000 inhabitants, and is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Originally a wine-producing fishing village, it gained popularity in the 1960s as a safe haven for artists and the LGBTQ community. Nowadays, it boasts events year round, such as Pride, Carnival, and the Sitges Film Festival. Sitges is small, walkable and easy to navigate, with 26 beaches to choose from, a seaside promenade, and bustling commercial center. Come for a day, and you’ll find yourself making plans to come back for a weekend.

“Waikiki” Beach

This secluded beach in the Tarragona region of Catalonia is a beloved local secret. Formally known as Cala Fonda, but lovingly nicknamed to reflect the Hawaiian paradise, this hidden beach provides a tranquility impossible to find on any of Barcelona’s bustling beaches. Accessible by car, train, or bus, make plans to arrive at La Morra beach in Tamarit, Tarragona. From there, you’ll have a 20 minute hike through forests, passing Platja Roca Plana until you come to view Waikiki and its hidden slice of paradise. Here you won’t find the rocky shores so ever present on the Mediterranean, but soft golden sand instead. Keep in mind that this is a secluded spot, without nearby shops or chiringuitos (beach bars). Come prepared with water, sunscreen, shade, and sustenance.


Lleida lies within its eponymous portion of Catalunya, just two hours inland from Barcelona. Dating back to the Bronze Ages, this small city is one of the few which still looks and feels as it might have in decades past, and boasts something for everyone. Whether it’s skiing, hiking, arts, architecture, football or viticulture you’re after, you can be sure to find it here.

La Garrotxa

Though at its most gorgeous in the fall, La Garrotxa is a region worthy of exploration regardless of the season. Home to medieval cities like Besalú, Begur, and Olot, La Garrotxa also hosts a volcanic national park, and is considered to have one of the best examples of a volcanic landscape in Europe. It’s an area best explored by car, though certainly manageable by bus with sme prior planning. Come for cycling, hiking, hot air ballooning, or simply a respite from your work desk.


Lying in between Spain and France, Andorra is a country of its own—one of the smallest in the world. Resting 2,000 meters above sea level in the Pyrenees mountains, this landlocked microstate is synonymous with skiing, and is the perfect place for winter sports adrenaline seekers. Catalan, Spanish and French are spoken almost universally, and although it's not a part of the EU, Andorra accepts euros and has special status—until recently it was a duty free tax haven. While definitely possible as a day trip, there is enough to see here to spread out over several days. Ski season usually runs from December to March, and warrants a trip to Grandvalira, one of the largest ski resorts in the world, which boasts 118 slopes.

For the slope-averse, there’s also Cadea Spa, a massive natural spring complex worthy of a day on its own. Fans of architecture will rejoice in all of the Romanesque structures, and all can find solace in one of the many bordas—traditional mountain bars-turned-restaurants. Expect thick stone walls, meat based meals, traditional recipes and filling portions. Favorites include La Borda de l'Avi and Can Manel.


Despite being Spain’s third largest city, tourists often skip Valencia in favor of Madrid and Barcelona. Although Valencia is the birthplace of paella—the universally beloved dish so emblematic of Spain—there’s much more reason to visit than gastronomy alone. Easily accessible from Barcelona (and Madrid for that matter) by bus, train, plane, or car, Valencia is a quick trip south-east. Both modern and medieval, there are cultural activities in abundance, and plenty to do year-round. One should check out the old bull fighting stadium and the City of Arts and Sciences, a dramatic, multi-complex comprising an aquarium, 3D cinema, science museum, opera house and sculpture garden. It lies in the Turia Gardens, which were formed on top of the former Turia riverbed. Art lovers should head to IVAM, Valenica’s museum of modern art, whose gallery has a strong permanent collection and hosts notable traveling exhibitions. A trip at the beginning of September coincides with Las Fallas, a local festival not for the faint of heart. From September 1st through 5th, the streets are taken over with fireworks and pyrotechnic displays.

For all other times of the year, browsing the Mercado Central de Valencia is a must-do, and a great way to spend a morning. Those looking to rub shoulders with local crowds should head to bustling neighborhoods like Ruzafa and El Carmen. While out, make sure to try agua de Valencia, a powerful yet delicious concoction of orange juice, cava, and gin (we recommend trying the version served up at Café de las Horas). Balance out or replace the alcohol with the local version of horchata. Unlike the Mexican beverage, here horchata is made from water, sugar, and soaked tiger nuts (which confusingly are tubers and not nuts at all). It's an acquired taste, yet surprisingly refreshing, and traditionally eaten alongside pastries called fartons to tide you over between lunch and dinner. Yet for all of the culture and eating there is to do, one of the nicest ways to spend an afternoon in Valencia is to rent a bike in the Old City, and ride along the Turia Gardens until you reach the sea.

Balearic Islands

Composed of Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera, the Balearic Islands have long been a destination for anyone seeking an island getaway—in whatever manifestation one could envision. Mallorca is the largest island, as its name implies, and has long catered to an upscale crowd. Ibiza meanwhile has maintained an illustrious club scene, and is beloved by party goers and hippie communities alike. Formentera and Menorca are the smaller, more secluded islands, with less development and a sense of quiet the other islands can no longer rival. Regardless of what you’re seeking, you can be sure to find it here. Take a 30 minute plane ride, or pack your car and your pets on the ferry. In no time, you’ll reach a kind of paradise. Wanderlust in overdrive? Book your Barcelona home base with Ukio, and make your daydreams a reality.