If you can't tell, we love Barcelona. We love its style, its opulence, and even its edginess. Part of what we love so much about Barcelona is how easy it is to get away to see other appealing corners of Catalonia and beyond. Below, see our top two Barcelona day trip picks: Andorra and Sitges.
Barcelona Day Trips
Escaping to A (Small) Country: Andorra
Highlights: bragging rights; mountain scenery; good shopping deals
Duration: eight to 12 hours
Exertion level: low
Accessible by: bus, private car
One of Europe's smallest countries is a just a bus journey away from Barcelona. The landlocked nation of Andorra, a Catalan-speaking anomaly of a mini-nation with a population of just over 70,000, is wedged in between France (on its north) and Spain (on its south).
Recently, Andorra has done a good job marketing itself as a ski resort destination, though we don't recommend a skiing day trip.
The most reliable connection between Barcelona and Andorra La Vella is provided by Nadal Autocars. Nadal runs eight daily buses between Barcelona and Andorra La Vella, the capital of Andorra. The bus takes about three hours, making it an all-day destination from Barcelona. A roundtrip ticket costs €45.
Novatel Autocars also runs a bus connection between Andorra and the Barcelona airport, the Toulouse airport and the Girona bus station during ski season, from December through the end of April. Ticket prices vary depending on the day and time.
Aside from skiing, Andorra offers great shopping deals, especially on electronics. But let's be clear: You want to visit Andorra for bragging rights. While there's plenty to see in Andorra, the real appeal for many is the opportunity to tell their friends about having visited another European country.
For more information about the tiny Pyrenean country, check out the official Andorra tourist board Web site.
Cultured Seaside Idyll: Sitges
Highlights: seaside relaxation; lively beaches; culture break
Duration: four to eight hours
Exertion level: low to medium
Accessible by: train, private car
Sitges, a little pearl of a town less than an hour from Barcelona, is known as a gay resort, an artsy hang-out and a flashy, celebrity hot spot. It serves all of these constituencies, somehow managing to sustain such a wide range of scenes harmoniously.
Sitges' charms are many. First of all, the city is architecturally stunning. The grand 18th-century mansions of Americanos (Spaniards who made their fortunes in the Americas before returning to Spain to live high on the hog) are breathtaking.
Secondly, Sitges has got beaches, plenty of them, and an exciting nightclub circuit to take over once the sun has gone down. The city also sports a range of small, chic shops.
Sitges is known for its pervasive arts scene, which culminates several times a year in big events. These include an international film festival, a summer concert series and an international jazz festival. Summertime cultural events (running from June through September) are organized into a series called Sitgestiucultura.
If you tire of beaches, exquisite architecture, fun nightlife and cute shops, you can always go for a hike. Sitges is jammed in between the ocean and Garraf mountains. The Garraf Nature Reserve is a gorgeous national park, and its lovely hiking trails provide a great way to familiarize yourself with the mountain terrain.
On a regional RENFE train, it takes about an hour to get to Sitges.
The official Sitges tourist board site is a good place to look for information about the area's architectural wonders, boutique scene, and cultural calendar.
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