the urbanist: barcelona

Overwhelmed by Other Tourists? These Are the Best Day Trips From Barcelona

River Onyar in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Photo: SPM/Getty Images/AWL Images RM

When the tourist-clogged streets of Barcelona overwhelm you, head for the surrounding hills, or the sea, or a quiet little village within day-tripping distance. These five getaways — recommended by locals — are just the ticket.

El Prat de Llobregat
30 minutes from city center by taxi
“Barcelona is an incredible spot for sailing, with low waves and an average wind power of around 15 knots. In summer, we have our local southwest wind called ‘Garbí’ that punctually appears after noon and ensures a minimum of 12 knots every day. If you want to try a unique Barcelona sailing experience, the Center Municipal de Vela El Prat offers a sailing course with a Patí Català, a lightweight wooden boat that was invented along the Maresme Coast almost 100 years ago. With just one sail and no wheel, rudder, or handle to control it, the boat reacts with the position of your own weight. It’s very fast — just you and the sea — a real adrenaline rush!” —Nacho Gómez Gómez, TV-commercial director 

Sitges. Photo: MadrugadaVerde/Getty Images/iStockphoto

30 minutes from city center by train
“You can’t not fall in love with Sitges the first time you go. Wander through the narrow cobblestone lanes of the old town, looking into the many shops along Carrer de Sant Francesc or stopping at the restaurants and cafés along Carrer Major. The streets lead down to the promenade, Paseo Marítimo/Paseo de la Ribera, where you can stroll with a hypnotic view of the Mediterranean Sea. You can sunbathe on one of its many beaches or have paella at any restaurant near the ocean; Mare Nostrum is great and very traditional. You will be able to spend all day between the sea, the shopping, the good food, and the museums. Museu Cau Ferrat, the home and workshop of the early 20th-century artist Santiago Rusiñol, is particularly interesting. And if you want to stay late, there’s a fascinating nightlife scene in Sitges, too.” —Xesco Espar, former professional handball player and founder of Xesco Espar Coaching Systems

Vineyards of the Alella wine region in Serralada de Marina. Photo: Hans Geel/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Serralada de Marina Natural Park
40 minutes from city center by metro/bus
“For a mountain-biking enthusiast like me, Barcelona has a fantastic variety of trails, mainly found in the two hilly natural parks surrounding the city, Collserola and Serralada de Marina. I prefer to ride in the latter one; it’s less crowded but still easy to get to. Some trails are more downhill and endurance-oriented, while others are more what I would call ‘panoramic biking,’ like the main Ronda Verda route. You bike through forests and past Iberian archeological sites, including centuries-old hermitages and monasteries like Sant Jeroni de la Murtra. There’s also the beautiful grapevine scenery of Alella. At the highest points in the park, you can look all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, over the coastal villages of Maresme county, and south over the Barcelona metropolitan area. Also, it’s not necessary to plan a circular route because not far from wherever you are, you’ll be able to reach a train station to get back to the city.” —Ruben Falcon, networking company manager

40 minutes from city center by train
“Girona is a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of Barcelona — small, easily walkable, with many open green spaces. Start at the Plaça de la Independència, in the newer part of the city, where there are a number of typical Catalan restaurants that do a great menú del día (a three-course lunch). Save room for ice cream at Gelateria La Bombonera; for €3.50 [$4.33] you can have a chocolate cone and three scoops — the Red Berry, Baileys, and Ferrero Rocher is a killer combo! To get to Girona’s medieval center, cross the river on the red metal Eiffel Bridge, designed by Gustave Eiffel before he built Paris’s famous tower. Be sure to stop and admire the brightly painted façades of the houses that line the river. Climb the stairs up to the magnificent cathedral at the center of Força Vella, then walk along the high Roman walls that once encircled the entire medieval old town. This gives you the opportunity to see Girona in all its glory — and Game of Thrones fans can pretend like they are in King’s Landing. After wandering through the medieval streets of the old town, I recommend a coffee break at Federal Cafè, in the heart of the lovely Jewish quarter.” — Beth Jepson, co-founder of the multimedia production company Add2bee Creative

Parc de Collserola. Photo: Max Bailen/Getty Images/Cultura RF

Parc de Collserola
50 minutes from city center by metro and funicular
“The mountain range and natural park of Collserola has many hiking trails, but a favorite of locals is the Carretera de les Aigües; it’s a flat and easy 10-kilometer [6.2-mile] path. Plus, you get to ride a funicular to get there! The wide trail has amazing views of the city; you can also continue over to the other side of the mountain, in the direction of Turó d’en Cors, to see very different valley views. If you want something more challenging, climb the hill toward Tibidabo, famous for its amusement park, telecommunications tower, and the giant Sagrat Cor church. You’ll have many steps to climb to reach the cathedral, but it will be worth it!” —Sarah Hansson, personal trainer at Wellbeing by Sarah

Girona, Sitges, and Other Worthy Day Trips From Barcelona