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Barcelona is the forever alive, vibrant and dynamic capital of Catalonia. A trip to this spirited city is always going to be packed full of late night tapas tastings, amazing architecture and walks along tree-lined boulevards.
The city is an infectious mix of old and new and is the ideal place to soak up Catalonian culture and learn about history.
But Barcelona is also a great base for exploring this scenic slice of the country. So we’ve rounded up the best day trips from Barcelona to make it easy for you to choose one. You’ll get to explore a coast lined with beautiful beaches, culturally influential cities and some super special natural landscapes.
It’s easy to spend some time finding out more about this part of the world on some amazing day trips from Barcelona.
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Getting around Spain on trains is fairly straightforward and Barcelona is well connected by rail. A magical day trip from Barcelona by train is to take a trip all the way to the gorgeous city of Girona.
Leave the sights of one city behind as you make your way on the train towards another hub of history. The journey itself is really simple and only takes around 40 minutes.
Arrive in the beautiful city with its magical mixture of history and spend the day there walking the streets and learning about is many conquerings and its combination of cultures.
Explore the decaying charm of the old Jewish Quarter as well as the Arabic baths and, of course, the impressive cathedral, before strolling along the River Onyar with its colourful display of red and yellow buildings.
Make a stop for lunch at Rambla de la Llibertat where you sit under the shade of the many trees at a cafe and watch the world go by.
For a great day out from Barcelona, a trip to the mountain of Montserrat is a great option. Not only is it an incredible slice of scenery with its long, serrated silhouette, which also boasts hiking opportunities galore – it’s also a place of worship, too.
Home to the 12th century Virgen Moreneta (Black Virgin), the Royal Basilica of Montserrat is well worth a visit atop the mountain. There’s also a Benedictine monastery at this religious site; if you turn up on the right day you may get to hear the choir singing.
But one of the best things here is the cog wheel train. A rarity in the world today, the opportunity to ride on this slice of mechanical history with soaring, panoramic views makes this, without doubt, one of the best day trips from Barcelona by train.
Just under an hour and a half from Barcelona by train is the sunny seaside resort town of Salou. A simple and fun day trip from Barcelona by train, a day here is all about splashing in the sea and soaking up the sun on the beach.
The capital of Costa Daurada, Salou gets busy in the summer months with holidaymakers enjoying laid-back summer holidays, which means it is full of good amenities and places to eat and drink. The town is surrounded by rolling mountains and rocky coves and the perfect place to spend the day swimming and sipping on sangria.
Take a stroll along the seafront promenade, where you can find a wide selection of international restaurants, and enjoy lunch looking out across the sea.
If you want to explore more of the coast, there’s a string of beaches to discover: Platja de Ponent, Platja dels Capellans, Platja Llarga and are all pleasant places to spend some time.
Thankfully for train fans, there are some amazing opportunities to sample some unusual rail journeys within easy reach of the Catalonian capital. And you’ll find one such journey nestled in northern Spain’s mountain range (and border with France), the Pyrenees.
Travelling to the village of Ribes de Freser is part of the trip in itself: watch as the scenery gradually becomes more and more mountainous the closer you get to the charming settlement. From here is where you’ll get to embark on one of the coolest day trips from Barcelona by train.
Taking the rack railway from Ribes de Freser to Vall de Núria is a journey you’re not likely to forget, with the steep valleys, craggy peaks and forested hills on show as your slowly wind your way to your destination.
Once there, hike to the summit of Puigmal (2,913m) and enjoy the views.
Though exploring Barcelona is interesting, it’s easy to get a change of scenery from this Catalonian city. In fact you can easily visit the Spanish capital itself on an easy day trip from Barcelona by train.
Discover what Madrid has to offer simply by taking the high-speed train to the bustling metropolis. Once in Madrid, you can hop on a tour bus and make the most of your time by travelling around the city with ease.
With a hop-on, hop-off ticket you can get off at wherever you please and see the sights that are important to you. Perhaps you want to see the busy Puerta del Sol, the Prado museum or the Gran Via.
Fans of football can even stop off at the iconic Bernabeu Stadium. The bus also comes with an audio guide so you can learn a little more about where you are and the history behind the sights.
Enjoy an early dinner in the city and jump back on the train to Barcelona at 7:30pm.
There’s just something about wine tasting that feels right to do with your partner. Maybe it’s the amazing landscapes that tend to be home to vineyards, maybe it’s the alcohol. Or maybe it’s just a perfect way to spend time together.
You can explore different wine producers, from the bodega which was the first to plant the chardonnay grape in Spain, to learning about how vineyards are kept in tip-top condition for the best wine possible. Of course, there’s wine tasting and a delicious local brunch involved, too.
On this couples day trip from Barcelona you’ll also get to visit the oldest cava producer (dating back to the 16th century) and pack in a whole lot of cultural and historical sites, too.
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For those of you who love rock climbing, you’re going to love this romantic day trip from Barcelona for couples.
Spend the day with your other half as you head for the hills and see for yourselves the incredible beauty of the Catalonian countryside as you make the trip out of the city on a local train to the pretty town of Centelles.
From here you can walk with a local guide to the via ferrate – iron rungs leading up the mountain. This is a really fantastic area for climbing and the routes have steel cables connected the rockface.
Get kitted up, connected to a cable and then you can start climbing. There are various climbing aids that can be used, which is great for different abilities – there are even some steps carved into the rockface.
After a 3 hour climb and enjoying the views from atop the Baumes Corcades, you’ll head to the train station in Centelles and jump on the train back to Barcelona.
Three different countries? In one day? That’s what you can get up to on this cool day trip from Barcelona. You’ll get to travel from Spain across the border to France, to Andorra – one of the smallest countries in the world – before returning to Spain.
You’ll have to make an early start of course, but it’s worth it: in almost no time you and your partner will be in the charming Catalan village of Baga. This place is full of tumbledown medieval buildings and is surrounded by dramatic countryside.
Then it’s on to France and the famous spa town of Ax-Les-Thermes. You’ll get to enjoy these nourishing waters yourself, walk around the pretty town, and have lunch at a local French restaurant.
A scenic drive on this romantic day trip from Barcelona takes you to Andorra la Vella, the capital of Andorra, where you’ll get to browse the town (and its tax-free shops). And then you’ll be back in Barcelona before dinner!
So you’re thinking of taking a romantic day trip from Barcelona? There’s nothing more romantic than a cruise on a yacht in the Mediterranean sea. Treat your partner to a special day out with a touch of glamour as you set sail from Barcelona aboard an actual yacht.
Pretend you’re an A-lister for the day as you sail over the glistening waves and sunbathe on the deck. You can even put on a playlist and soundtrack your day out together.
See Barcelona from the sea as you top up your tan and then jump into the open water to cool off.
If you want, you can even arrange for food to be served aboard the yacht to make the trip extra romantic. Lunch on the Med aboard a yacht (for that luxury feel) is probably the ultimate in unforgettable days out.
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If your kids have had enough of wandering around museums and walking the city streets why not treat your family to a day out at the beach. Hop on one of the frequent trains that run throughout the day from Barcelona to Sitges and by chilling out on the beach within an hour.
The cool seaside town is a really fun day trip from Barcelona with kids; everyone will be happy to splash about in the surf and play in the sand for the day.
Sitges is a super chilled out place with plenty of attractive and historic buildings, whilst the beach is a wide ribbon of soft sand that is protected by the green Garraf massif hills.
The town also still has an authentic atmosphere, without being totally overwhelmed by tourism, so it’s also a good place to pull up a table in a local restaurant and tuck into some tasty tapas with your family.
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Historic towns are always a good option when you’re on holiday with children. Walking around historic streets with picturesque buildings and a laid-back atmosphere is a good backdrop to a chilled family holiday.
So for a great day trip from Barcelona with kids, head to the medieval town of Cardona. 100 kilometres from the city, and in the heart of Catalonia, this town is actually one of the best preserved medieval areas in the whole of spain.
You can practically feel the history as you meander around its streets – but your guide will fill you in on the exciting legends and stories from the area.
In particular, the Castle of Cardona is a wonder to behold. This impregnable fortress couldn’t even be conquered by the likes of Napoleon!
On this interesting day trip from Barcelona, you’ll also get to visit what was once one of the most important salt mines in the world, informally known as Salt Mountain.
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For a day trip from Barcelona for kids that you know they’re going to love, PortAventura ticks a lot of boxes. It’s not too far from the city itself, and with a tour, you can benefit from a hotel pick up to make the day run smoothly.
Once at the park you can expect a day jammed full of thrills and laughter as you adventure around the various differently themed zones.
PortAventura is actually the largest theme park in Spain and boasts over 37 attractions. Go on an expedition into the Himalayas, go on thrill rides in the Wild West and be charmed by Imperial China.
Ride big rollercoasters, zoom down water slides and even try out skydiving in a simulator. There’s some super fun rides for smaller children and lots of daily shows and performances to enjoy.
Once everyone is thoroughly tired out from a busy day, you’ll be whisked back to your hotel in Barcelona in time for dinner.
Just an hour and a half drive north of Barcelona and you and your family will be in the historic town of Besalú. Another great day trip from Barcelona with kids, they’ll get to be wowed by the medieval architecture of this town.
An important town in the middle ages, when the influence of Besalú was much greater and the land it controlled much wider, you can see the importance in the grand medieval buildings that dot the town. It looks more like somewhere from Middle Earth than Spain!
Wander over its incredible Romanesque bridge – with its arches and towers – visit the thousand-year-old Church of Sant Pere; your children will think they’ve travelled to a different time and place altogether.
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The truly beautiful town of Tossa de Mar is well worth a visit and is a fantastic cheap day trip from Barcelona. Easily reached on inexpensive public transport from the Catalonian capital, it takes just over an hour to reach Tossa De Mar on the train.
Once in the truly inviting town, you’ll happy that you decided to spend the day here. The town itself is popular with holidaymakers – and, with some blissed out beaches and an elegant old town, it’s easy to see why.
Stroll around the old city streets and be seduced by the charismatic buildings and ancient history that dates back to the 12th century. Walk the old walls and hike up to the fort which sits alongside the beach for pleasant views of the town and coastline below.
For more history, head to Tarragona. Not only is this Catalonian city home to a number of beautiful medieval (and later) buildings, but it’s also choc a block with Roman ruins, too.
This cheap day trip from Barcelona is also very easy: it’s just an hour on the train south along the Costa Brava to this historic marvel.
The first thing you should do is head to the 12th century Tarragona Cathedral, a mix of a Romanesque and Gothic building – a striking piece of architecture.
But the star of the history show at Tarragona are its UNESCO designated Roman ruins. Called ‘Tarraco’ back then, this area boasts ruins of a palace and an amphitheatre overlooking the sea, and a part of the Aurelian Way.
Barcelona really is the best place for day trips. Once you’ve seen all there is to see in the city, just hop on the train and try out one the best trips by train from Barcelona to other top cities such as Madrid.
Why not see what the rest of the coast is like and travel to one of the charming resort towns nearby? You can spend the day simply relaxing on the deck of a yacht for the afternoon and soak up the city from the sea or try something more adventurous by climbing in the nearby hills.
There are so many places to see in a day and so many amazing experiences to try out – your trip to Barcelona is going to be truly amazing.
If you’re heading around Europe, be sure to check out the top things to do in Europe, rated by our team of expert travel guides.
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Emma Johnson lives to travel! Born in Washington D.C., Emma is a hotel connoisseur and a staff writer at Hotel Jules. An army brat, Emma got the travel bug early and has never been able to stop. Now, she has proudly visited 70+ countries and plans to visit every country in the world! Passionate about her ukelele (obviously) and her family, Emma eventually wants to retire in Thailand and write a book about all of her travel experiences.