7 Nature Inspired Day Trips from Barcelona
Looking for a city break with a gateway into the countryside? Then bag yourself some cheap flights to Barcelona. While the city itself is one of the busiest in Europe, it’s just a short hop to the Costa Barcelona, a green province with a wide network of nature reserves, animal sanctuaries, vineyards, unspoilt villages and seaside getaways. Here’s my ideas for seven nature inspired day trips from Barcelona.
Where to go on a day trip from Barcelona
Costa Barcelona‘s marketing tag is ‘Barcelona is much more.’ Much more than a city that’s world famous for its art, architecture, food and tourist buzz? That’s a bold claim. But the region isn’t offering more of the same. While food, art and architecture are obviously still present in the pretty villages and medieval towns, Costa Barcelona is focused on nature tourism.
This region has 16 natural parks and over 100 kms of coastline, as well as mountains, monasteries and medieval castles by the handful. And it is using its landscape and parks as well as its long history of wine production to entertain and engage visitors. With Barcelona only a short hop away by car or train, it’s ideal for day trips or an escape out of the crowded hot city in summer.
I spend a week touring places close to Barcelona and go home exhausted. But in a good way. Check out a few of these fun and active things to do with your family, only a few kilometres from Gaudi’s gothic spires..
1 Walking tours of Penedes vineyards
A combination of wine and exercise in the heat of the day may sound an unlikely recommendation, but trust me, in the Catalonian hills it makes perfect sense. I find myself happily stomping through rural vineyards not once, but twice in a week. The first time in the rolling countryside of El Penedes. This region is west of Barcelona and one of the largest wine regions in the country, with more than 300 wineries scattered around the hillsides. Our tour guide Albert Massana talks us through the history of the area and its relationship with wine; today and in the past. But he doesn’t just talk. We lift leaves to see the burgeoning grapes, run our fingers through the mineral rich clay and limestone soil, and pick up freshly fallen peaches from organic plots where staff are busy pruning this year’s crop.
At Eudald Massana Noya winery in the north of Penedes, we visit the the cellars to learn the ingredients for the production of their cava, which is shipped around the world. We gaze up at tall fermentation tanks that seem big enough to brew the clouds. We taste. We taste some more, and then we meet the owner Eudald. “It is our responsibility to own the winery and not leave it to sink,” he says. As he’s the ninth generation of the family to be in charge, that’s some responsibility.
2 Nordic walking in Alella Vineyards
Later on, it’s time for a walk. Yes I know, we already did that! But this time it’s a nordic walking trail. A hike with Nordic walking poles in Alella; one of the smallest and oldest wine producing regions in Spain. Our poles give us that extra push as we slowly push up the steep vineyards of Alta Alella Winery. We pause on the hill for a glass of chilled cava. The Mediterranean is on our left and the towers of Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia on our right as we are only about 15 km north of the city of Barcelona. Never has a glass of fizz tasted so good. Apart from the one we have later in the visitor centre that comes with delicious Catalan food.
3 Donkey Riding in Rucs Del Corredor
You thought donkey riding was for five year old kids on the beach? Think again. Rucs Del Corredor is a donkey preservation centre about half an hour’s drive in light traffic (just under 50km) north west of Barcelona. It is a great Barcelona day trip for families, offering riding for all ages in Parc del Rukimon in the Canyamars valley.
A four week old donkey wobbles over to sniff us out under the watchful eye of his mother. We are far more excited about meeting him than he is about meeting us. We’re even more excited when we get our own donkeys. But we soon calm down. Donkey riding is possibly one of the most relaxing things I have ever done. You don’t need to know the route. The donkey has that covered. You don’t need to put in any effort; the donkey has that covered too. You just have to sit down. And hope that he doesn’t decide to do the same.
4 Biking in Delta del Llobregat
I’m finding that you don’t have to go far from the city to experience nature in its raw, pure state. In fact, only a few minutes drive from El Prat airport is a tranquil area called Espais Naturals Del Riu, part of the Delta De Llobregat. It can be a bit alarming when the planes blast over your head, but nothing as alarming as it must have been for the ducks when the airport first opened. And imagine the conversation when the airbus A380 started flying over!
Aside from the planes this is as tranquil as it gets on a day trip from Barcelona. You can travel in by train and rent bikes in the nearby village and pedal gently out to a reserve that’s all about protecting the wildlife. We spot birds from towers, bridges and walkways. We peer out from hides overlooking lakes and from abandoned lighthouses where figs grow out of the living room ceiling. And we pedal in the sunshine, working up an appetite for lunch at El Prat’s cultural centre.
5 Multi activity in Sitges
No one in Sitges appears to sit still for a minute. They are walking, they are sailing, they are jogging. At the church on the hill they are getting married. I’m tired just watching it all. But for all that it’s a very chilled out place and one of the best day trips from Barcelona. Set on the coast a few kilometres west of the Delta Del Llobregat, Sitges has a thriving gay community and you won’t go far without tripping over a lapdog on a lead. There’s a promenade culture here; I chat to an English couple who’ve spent their whole holiday moving from one beach side cafe to the next.
Plenty of the hotels offer bikes to rent and there’s a long picture postcard prom to pedal, as well as a pretty old town with narrow streets; sometimes so narrow they are swamped by a single a tree. You can also visit the Bacardi museum; Sitges is the founder’s hometown. I prefer to people watch, and enjoy the public art. The prom is full of sculptures. And a fair amount of my time is spent waiting for the bride to emerge from the church. Maybe you should bring some confetti just in case.
6 Segway fun in Els 3 Monts
Promenades are no good for segways. Too easy! To really test them out you need some off road hills, and that is what we get on the Els 3 Monts route. Today we are taking to the hills of Sant Llorenc del Munt Obac Natural Park; the first natural park in Spain. The park is situated within reach of three mountains and is a mecca for climbers, caving enthusiasts and walkers, with the historic Sant Llorenc del Munt Monastery a draw. But walking would be a failure today. Because the rolling hills and meadows and rivers, yes rivers, are mine for the taking on my little platform on wheels. The guides at Dinamic Solutions lead us expertly through the countryside pointing out landmark rocks like ‘The Camel’ and ‘The Locomotive.’ We also whizz over to the abandoned cultural centre Marquet de les Roques; a beautiful modernist building that was once home to a famous Catalan poet. I wonder if anyone’s ever written a poem about a segway?
7 Boating in Vilanova i la Geltru
You can’t come to the Med and not get out on the water. Vilanova i la Geltru is a nautical resort about 40 minutes drive south along the coast from Barcelona El Prat airport and a great Barcelona day trip. It’s small enough to wander on foot yet big enough to provide a decent yacht for the day should you fancy sailing. Or if you have a few euros to spare you could probably hire something more decadent than decent, taking the cue from Armani whose luxury yacht is permanently moored here. Or if you prefer to stay on dry land, you can wander down to the beach bar, grab a coffee and watch the world go by. Every activity break needs some down time.
Wine tours and hiking
Eudald Massana Noya and Alta Alella wineries can be visited by appointment. You can book a package that includes walking (or nordic walking) with a guide and a tasting afterwards. If you want to make a meal of it, Alta Alella provides an excellent spread of Catalan food to soak up the cava. If you have small children they can have their own tasting with grape juice at Eudald Massana Noya or paint with wine at Alta Allela. Both have great gift shops.
As well as vineyard walking tours the activity provider Albert Massana offers cycling and electric biking tours and independent rental in Penedes. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or you can hike the network of trails independently.
The association of Rucs Del Corredor in the Maresme region is an initiative to preserve the donkey species and has over sixty donkeys that can be hired. Small children are welcome and there is no upper age limit. There is a great education trail you can wander around at the centre to extend your visit. Call in advance to book a donkey ride. Details are on the website www.rukimon.com
Delta del Llobregat is ten minutes by train from Barcelona. No need for an organised tour from Barcelona; just hop on a train yourself. Or you can drive to the reserve and take a walk for free. For more details contact the tourist office Turisme baix Llobregat
Our segway ride started at Can Brossa in St Llorenc Natural Park. Activity provider Dinamic Solutions has 35 segways you can rent along with a guide. River crossings on them are optional!
Disclosure Note: Our thanks to Costa Barcelona tourism (Barcelona es Molt Mes) whose support enabled us to bring you this story. The views and experience are, as ever, entirely our own.