Barcelona is the country’s second-largest city, next to Madrid, and the capital of the Catalonia region in northeastern Spain. It is strategically located on the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian peninsula, blessed with physical beauty and multiple cultural and natural attractions. So even if you spend weeks in the Catalonia capital, you’ll never run out of things to do and places to see.
However, the only way to delve deeper into Catalan culture and get a taste of life in the region is to go beyond the metropolis. Day trips from Barcelona will allow you to escape to another world or have a change of environment. It can be a day at the fishing town, medieval villages, the mountains, or the historic Roman ruins. You can even spend a day exploring what to eat in Barcelona and beyond!
If you decide to stay in and around the Barcelona city centre at the last minute or your plans fall through, don’t despair! There are plenty of incredible museums in Barcelona, places like Barcelona Port, beaches, and parks to keep you busy and entertained.
Whether you prefer to stay and explore the metropolitan area or discover more by organizing day trips from Barcelona, carrying a big suitcase is a burden. That’s why it’s best to leave your bags at a designated Barcelona luggage storage spot to travel light and with flexibility.
How to get out of Barcelona
Barcelona is a well-connected city, home to one of the most active and significant ports in the Mediterranean and an international airport connecting it to five continents. But if you’re heading out for Barcelona day trips, there’s no need to get a ticket to the ferry or book a flight. You can plan a quick road adventure that will take you to numerous fabulous destinations, from historic towns and seaside resorts to majestic mountain peaks and sprawling castles. Spend the day on an excursion and then the evening back in the city for a Barcelona wine tasting adventure.
Hiring a car is a good idea, especially if you’re still trying to familiarize yourself with how to get around Barcelona. And when driving out of the city capital, you can take your time during your day tour and stop at beautiful places to take photos.
Don’t fancy renting a car? You can take advantage of the capital’s sustainable public transport network and suburban rail service, the FGC Railway. Apart from the buses, metro, and tram, Barcelona boasts a network of urban and suburban trains, connecting Barcelona with nearby towns and other cities in Catalonia. It is known for its quality service and convenience, allowing you to enjoy your day trip without much hassle.
From Barcelona to Girona
One of Spain’s most historic sites, Girona, lies in northeast Catalonia, about 40 minutes from the Catalan capital. It is an awe-inspiring medieval city, home to the old Jewish quarter, one of the last surviving in the country, and should be part of your full-day tour.
The city is small, completely walkable, and less crowded than Barcelona. Its narrow winding alleys, cobbled streets and walkways, cathedrals, and dramatic stairways will make you feel like you’re stepping into another realm. That’s why it’s no surprise that it’s been a setting for numerous historical movies and TV shows, including the famous Game of Thrones.
If you want to see more of the city during your day trip from Barcelona, you can take advantage of one of the free walking tours at Girona. It allows you to discover its culture and history through stories and even legends of the sites. A local guide will highlight the major sights and attractions, including Girona Cathedral, the Museum of Jewish History, Arab Baths, and more.
How to get to Girona
This medieval city’s proximity to Barcelona makes for the best day trip. You can drive to the Girona Old Town for about an hour, but the easiest and most recommended way to get here is by train. Renfe’s high-speed trains are the quickest way to make the journey to Girona, which can take only about 38 minutes. The high-speed route also runs roughly one and a half to two hours. Book your train tickets ahead, but you can also get tickets from the station.
From Barcelona to Figueres
One of the most popular day trips from Barcelona you shouldn’t miss is Figueres. It’s a dream destination for the fans of famous surrealist painter Salvador Dalí and those who want to explore the Dalí Theatre-Museum. Dalí created the entire building to house his works, so he devoted all his time, effort, and resources to building a museum that reflects his eccentric personality.
Though a smaller city, Figueres offers iconic destinations and plenty of entertainment. In addition to the Dali Museum, it also features the Toy Museum of Catalonia, with thousands of games and toys, and the Empordà Museum, which houses one of the main art collections in the region.
If you have more time to kill, head to Sant Ferran's Castle, an easy 20-minute walk from the town. It is Europe’s largest 18th-century fortress, perched on top of a hill. It’s a first-rate heritage feature that could hold 4,000 men.
How to get to Figueres
Figueres is approximately 140 kilometers north of Barcelona, close to the French border. Driving from the Catalan capital to the small city can take up to an hour and a half in regular traffic, but the high-speed AVE/AVANT trains take 55 minutes to Figueres Vilafant from Barcelona Sants train station. You can take a bus, which takes 10 minutes to get to central town, close to the Dalí Museum.
From Barcelona to Costa Brava
Does your dream vacation include strolling on serene beaches, hiking mountain tops, and visiting a volcanic zone? If so, a Barcelona to Costa Brava day trip is the perfect adventure you must take. It’s a hidden jewel of the Catalonia region, just about sixty kilometers from Barcelona.
Beach lovers find a home at this seaside spot, especially if you reach the charming Tossa de Mar. It’s a favorite resort town and a walled fishing village in Costa Brava, renowned for its sunny weather, expansive sandy beaches, and glorious natural environment. Tossa de Mar also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with ancient towers, church ruins, castles, and old buildings that continue to amaze visitors.
Costa Brava is also a wonderful destination for outdoor enthusiasts. It has multiple biking and hiking trails and offers a natural paradise away from the city’s hustle and bustle. You can also get on a hot air balloon, or go scuba diving, bungee jumping, and more.
How to get to Costa Brava
You can hire a car or get a taxi to the coastal area and enjoy a walking tour, soaking in the beauty of the Mediterranean sea and beachside town. You can also catch a bus at Estacio del Nord in Barcelona or get on a train to Sils, which can take up to two hours. When you reach Sils, you’ll have to take a cab to Costa Brava.
From Barcelona to Besalú
Step into the medieval world and imagine life in the Middle Ages at Besalú. Blessed with epic natural landscapes and brimming with character, Besalu is a historic gem that will take every visitor to a distant era. It’s one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in the region, making an ideal day trip from Barcelona.
When visiting for the first time, you’ll spend a lot of time marveling at the fascinating ancient buildings that have stood the test of time. Walk on the riverside and the Romanesque bridge, supported by two towers and seven arcs.
A huge part of the original town walls dating back to the 12th century remains intact. When you go inside the walls, you’ll see a maze of cobbled streets and stone walls that have been there since the Middle Ages.
You can organize a half-day tour discovering the old medieval villages and then head to Castellfollit de la Roca, just fifteen minutes from Besalu. Sitting atop a cliffside, Castellfollit de la Roca is a picturesque urban area, offering a scenic view of the river valley below.
How to get to Besalu
There’s no easy connection from Barcelona to Besalu by train. You can take a train to Figueres, Girona, or Ripoll and catch a bus from there. But the fastest way to get to the town is by car, which can take about 1.5 hours. You can take alternative routes, including the C32 and C17 roads or the AP7 highway when driving there. For those who want to commute by bus, Barcelona Teisa Bus company operates several times a day.
From Barcelona to Montserrat
A day trip from Barcelona to Montserrat will show you how different these spectacular places are and similar in several aspects. Rich in natural beauty, Montserrat provides a peaceful and serene escape to tropical island life. It’s also full of different activities for all types of travelers.
One of the highlights of your visit would be the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. Watch a 20-minute video on the Soufriere Hills Volcano, showing how the volcanic eruption impacted island life.
You can also join a guided tour and walk around the Montserrat Monastery or the Santa Maria de Montserrat, perched on the magnificent mountain. It is accessible by a rack railway, scaling through the side of the mountain. From the monastery, it’s about 300 meters to the Montserrat peak, and from there, you can hike several signposted trails.
One of the difficult hikes for experienced hikers is the Blackwood Allen Trail. It will lead you past the Blackwood Allen stream to a viewing spot overlooking the villages and the ocean. It also offers stunning views of the island’s impressive vegetation.
How to get to Montserrat
The cheapest and easiest way to get to Montserrat from the Catalan capital is by train. Go to the Plaça Espanya Station and take the R5 line to Aeri de Montserrat. The train leaves every hour, and it takes an hour to get to the base of Monserrat.
From Barcelona to Tarragona
Visit Tarragona and admire its incredible Roman architecture, pristine beaches, and fascinating ancient monuments. It may not be as popular as other towns and cities near Barcelona, but a day trip to this port area will be memorable.
You’ll discover layers of history in Tarragona, from the world-heritage Roman ruins to the Romanesque-Gothic cathedral, cobblestoned streets, and medieval alleyways. One of its most-beloved sights is the Tarragona Amphitheatre. This incredible piece of history is a Roman amphitheatre that can be traced back to the second century. Entrance here is free, allowing you to see the stadium where tens of thousands watch public executions and gladiator battles.
Another site worth visiting is the El Poblet Monastery. Also known as Monasterio de Santa Maria de Poblet, the monastery is a UNESCO-listed site and one of the world’s largest existing Cistercian monasteries. There are also museums, monuments, and world-class restaurants where you can feast on local specialties.
How to get to Tarragona
There are several ways to get from Barcelona to Tarragona for a day trip: by car, rideshare, bus, or train. The train is the best mode of transportation, with an average travel time of 1 hour and 7 minutes, though the high-speed OIUIGO and AVE services may take only 56 minutes. About thirty-four trains operate from Barcelona to the port city; the first one leaves the Sants station at 5 AM.
Barcelona Day Trips
Barcelona is undoubtedly a magnificent destination for a weekend getaway or longer holidays. But don’t limit yourself to staying just within the city. Otherwise, you’ll be missing out on what the diverse and lively Catalonia region has to offer!
When you think you’ve seen enough in Barcelona and still have a day or two for an adventure out of the city, there are plenty of other places you should discover. Just within a couple of hours of the region’s capital, you’ll find ancient villages, historical towns, seaside resorts, mountain peaks, and endless natural and cultural attractions. Rent a car or take public transport and you’ll be taken to different sides of Catalonia.