One of the best things about Barcelona is the many varied landscapes that lie just beyond the city limits. For a family that needs a healthy dose of nature, a trip into history, or just some good old-fashioned fun together, you couldn’t be in a better place. Here are five of our favourite tried and tested day trips that will keep everyone in the family smiling.
Montserrat is one of the most popular trips from Barcelona, and for good reason. This day out is perfect for any family that finds the prospect of a long car journey stressful. Part of the fun of visiting Montserrat is the adventure of getting there. Take the R5 train from Plaça d’Espanya, where towards the end of the journey the impressive mountain range comes into view. Then, either jump on a railway train up the mountain, or go for the slightly more adventurous cable car option.
Nestled amongst the strange, but spectacular, finger-like formations of the Montserrat mountain range, visitors will find the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat. With religious roots stretching as far back as 888AD, the monastery continues to be a symbol of great spiritual importance, attracting pilgrims to this day. This is mostly due to one of its most famed features, a black Virgin Mary, known as La Moreneta, or the Virgin of Montserrat.
Besides the monastery, there’s a lot more to explore on the mountain. For more active families, there are several hiking paths that run up through Montserrat Natural Park. With different lengths and levels of difficulty, all routes end at interesting sites—including one at Santa Cova, where an image of the Virgin Mary is believed to have been seen—and offer views down over the Llobregat Valley right to the sea. Other activities include taking in a performance by the Montserrat Boy’s Choir. Thought to be the oldest in Europe, it includes some of the most talented young voices in Spain. These performances happen twice daily at 1pm and 6.45pm, so make sure to schedule your trip with this in mind.
Capital of Osona, the landlocked Catalan city of Vic is a pleasure to visit year-round. Famed for its long history and varied architecture, there’s plenty to explore here. Historical sites of interest include the Catedral de Sant Pere with its 11th century tower, which offers panoramic views over the city, as well as the town’s Plaça Major, which showcases the city’s past through its mix of Romanesque Gothic, Baroque and Modernista style buildings.
Perhaps one of the biggest draws to Vic, however, is its famed local sausages—fuet and llonganisa—that can be sampled at one of the many restaurants in town or at the bi-weekly farmers market. For something extra special, visit Vic during December, when the city hosts its annual Mercat Medieval—this year held on December 6th-10th. Watch as the town transforms into a medieval theatre with reconstructions of historical events that capture the imagination of adults and children alike.
Young ones can also explore their creative side with activities set up to learn about and experience medieval traditions. They can try their hand at shooting a bow and arrow, or play at being a knight for the day with workshops on makeup, costumes and medieval fighting styles. Whilst the children are occupied, parents can soak up the atmosphere and relax with a festive glass of mulled wine.
This coastal city, which lies about an hour away by train or car, is a wonderful destination for budding young historians. The wonderfully-preserved Roman ruins of Tàrraco are what make present-day Tarragona so fascinating. Tàrraco was the most important settlement on the Iberian peninsula and there is plenty still here to illustrate its glorious past.
Walk by the imposing Roman walls that divide the ancient city from its more modern past, and visit several intriguing sites. A storied gateway leads through to the site of the Provincial Forum, a huge square that was home to the city’s administrative and political buildings. Heading down to the lower part of the city is the Local Forum, where public life was centred, and the stunning amphitheatre that looks out to the Mediterranean.
Tarragona is a pleasant city for wandering with children, with lots of pedestrian areas, sunny squares and friendly cafes. If you’ve travelled by car, drive the three kilometres inland to the Pont del Diable, where part of the 27-metre-high Roman aqueduct, Les Ferreres, still stands. This impressive structure supplied water from the Francolí river to distribution tanks around the old city. You can park here and admire the aqueduct up close.
For those seeking an adrenaline rush, the whole family can enjoy a day trip to PortAventura World. Just an hour-and-a-half drive down the coast from Barcelona, PortAventura World expanded this year to include Ferrari Land, a dream experience for Formula 1 fans in search of a speedy thrill, with lots of racing-inspired rides. At the original PortAventura park, wander around the areas inspired by regions of the world, each offering themed shows, food and rides. Open until the first week of January—weekends only, November through December—the winter months are the ideal time to visit as the weather is cooler and the queues shorter, leaving more time to enjoy the rides. For an extra scare, head to the park before November 19th for its special Halloween celebrations, which include spooky nighttime shows and performances.
The town of Figueres is most famed for being the birthplace of Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. It can be hard to get kids excited about the prospect of visiting a museum, but the Dalí Teatre-Museum (open Tuesday-Sunday, 9.30am-6pm) provides a fun and immersive view into the artist’s life and works, transporting young and old alike to another world, as Dalí intended with all his pieces. After visiting the museum, it’s time to wander around the town itself, which is home to many architectural and historical features that span centuries of Spanish history, from the Castell de Sant Ferran, an 18th century fortress, which is thought to be the largest in Europe, to underground bomb shelters from the Spanish Civil War.