Barcelona - Around Town - Beyond Barcelona (part 2) - Churches & Monasteries, National Parks & Nature Reserves

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A Scenic Drive


From Barcelona take the AP7 motorway until exit 4, then take the C260 to Cadaqués. The journey should take about two and a half hours in all. Just before dropping down to the town, stop at the viewpoint and take in the azure coastline and the whitewashed houses of this former fishing village. Once in Cadaqués, now one of Catalonia’s trendiest beach towns, wander the quaint boutique-filled streets. After a splash in the sea and a coffee on one of the chic terrace cafés, take the road leaving Port Lligat and head for the Cap de Creus lighthouse. Drive through the desolately beautiful landscape of this rocky headland before doubling back and heading off to Port de la Selva. The road twists and winds interminably, but the picture-perfect scenery will leave you speechless.


Stop in the tiny, mountain-enclosed Port de la Selva for an excellent seafood lunch at the Cala Herminda. Then drive to the neighbouring village of Selva del Mar with its tiny river and have a post-prandial coffee on the terrace of the Bar Stop before continuing up to the Monestir Sant Pere de Rodes . You’ll be tempted to stop several times on the way up to take in the views. Don’t, because the best is to be had from the monastery, which offers an incredible sweeping vista of the whole area. There are plenty of well-signposted walks around the mountain top here and it is worth staying put to see the sun set slowly over the bay.

Churches & Monasteries

  1. Monestir de Montserrat

    Catalonia’s holiest place is the region’s most visited monastery. It boasts some Romanesque art and a statue of the “Black Virgin” (see Montserrat).


    • 93 877 77 77

    • Adm

    • DA to Basilica

  2. Monestir de Poblet

    This busy, working monastery contains the Gothic Capella de Sant Jordi, a Romanesque church, and the Porta Daurada, a doorway that was gilded for Felipe II’s visit in 1564.

    • off N240, 10 km W of Montblanc

    • 97 787 02 54

    • Adm

  3. Monestir de Ripoll

    The west portal of this monastery (879) has reputedly the finest Romanesque carvings in Spain. Of the original buildings, only the doorway and cloister remain.


    • 972 70 23 51

    • Adm

  4. Monestir de Santes Creus

    The cloister at this Gothic treasure (1150) is notable for the beautifully sculpted capitals by English artist Reinard Funoll.

    • Santes Creus, 25 km NW of Montblanc

    • 977 63 83 29

    • Closed Mon

    • Adm

    • Tue free

  5. Monestir de Sant Pere de Rodes

    The dilapidated charm of this UNESCO World Heritage Site may have dwindled since its face-lift, but nothing detracts from the views it offers over Cap de Creus and Port de la Selva.

    • 22 km E of Figueres

    • 972 38 75 59

    • Closed Mon

    • Adm

  6. Sant Climent i Santa Maria de Taüll

    These two churches are perfect examples of the Romanesque churches that pepper the Pyrenees. Dating from 1123, most of the original frescoes are now in the MNAC in Barcelona.

    • 138 km N of Lleida

    • 973 69 40 00

  7. Catedral de La Seu d’Urgell

    Dating from around 1040, this cathedral is one of the most elegant in Catalonia.

    La Seu d’Urgell

    • 973 35 32 42

    • Adm

    • DA

  8. Catedral de Santa Maria

    This cathedral is remarkable for possessing the widest Gothic nave anywhere in Europe and the second widest of any type after the Basilica in the Vatican.

    Old Town, Girona

    • 972 21 58 14

    • Adm

    • Sun free

  9. Catedral de Santa Tecla

    At 104-m (340-ft) long, Tarragona’s cathedral is the largest in the region. Its architecture is a mixture of Gothic and Romanesque, and it is crowned by a huge octagonal bell tower.

    Old Town, Tarragona

    • 977 23 86 85

    • Closed Sun except for 11am mass

    • Adm

  10. Sant Joan de les Abadesses

    This pretty French Romanesque-style monastery in the Pyrenees harbours a prestigious collection of Romanesque sculpture.

    Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Usual opening hours for monasteries and churches are 10am–1pm & 3–7pm Mon–Sat, 10am–1pm Sun. Call to confirm seasonal times.

National Parks & Nature Reserves

  1. Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici

    The magnificent peaks of Catalonia’s only national park are accessible from the resort of Espot. You’ll find ponds and lakes 2,000 m (6,560 ft) up.

    • 148 km N of Lleida

  2. Delta de l’Ebre

    This giant delta is a patch-work of paddy fields. The wide expanse of the River Ebre is a nature reserve for migratory birds and has scores of bird-watching stations.

    • 28 km SE of Tortosa

  3. Parc Natural de la Zona Volcànica de la Garrotxa

    It is 10,000 years since La Garrotxa last erupted and the volcanoes are long since extinct. The largest crater is the Santa Margalida, at 500 m (1,640 ft) wide. It is magical here in spring when thousands of butterflies emerge.

    • 40 km NW of Girona

  4. Cap de Creus

    As the Pyrenees tumble into the Mediterranean, they create a rocky headland, which juts out 10 km (6.25 miles). It forms Catalonia’s most easterly point and offers spectacular views of the craggy coastline.

    • 36 km E of Figueres

  5. Parc Natural del Cadí-Moixeró

    Covered in a carpet of conifers and oaks, this mountain range has surprisingly lush vegetation. Several peaks are over 2,000 m (6,560 ft) high.

    • 20 km E of La Seu d’Urgell

  6. Parc Natural del Montseny

    Forming Catalonia’s most accessible natural park, these woodland hills are well-equipped for walkers and mountain bikers, with a huge network of trails. Climb the well-signposted and popular Turó de l’Home, which is the highest peak.

    • 48 km NW of Barcelona

  7. Massis de Pedraforca

    A nature reserve surrounds this huge outcrop of mountains, a favourite of rock climbers with peaks rising to 2,500 m (8,200 ft).

    • 64 km N of Manresa

  8. Serra de l’Albera

    On the eastern part of the border between Spain and France, the tree-covered slopes of Albera are speckled with interesting ruins.

    • 15 km N of Figueres

  9. Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de l’Empordà

    This nature reserve hides birdwatching towers. Those in the Laguna de Vilalt and La Bassa de Gall Mari allow bird-lovers to observe herons, moorhens and other bird species nesting in spring.

    • 15 km E of Figueres

  10. Parc Natural de Sant Llorenç del Munt

    Surrounded by industry and within easy reach of Barcelona, this is a surprisingly untamed park inhabited by large numbers of wild boar. Walk up Cerro de la Mola to see the Romanesque monastery.

    • 12 km E of Manresa

For more information call Turisme de Catalunya on 012.

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