Everyone adores Barcelona, and why not? It’s brimming with life; a fascinating city that captures your senses. But there’s so much more to this area, especially for travelers who believe you know a region through its food and wine.
Just venture an hour or so away by rail, rental car or, if you prefer, a private tour. You don’t have to log lots of kilometers to encounter a different world.
The winegrowing region of Penedès lies in the foothills of famous Montserrat – a symbol of Catalunya and home to Sant Sadurni d’Anola, the heart of Cava country, with over eighty producers responsible for 90% of all DO Cava production.
Make the Cava Interpretation Center your first stop. You’ll learn everything you need to know about how Cava is made: just like champagne but with different grapes.
Simón Coll Chocolate Experience. Your nose will lead the way to the headquarters for this renowned Spanish chocolatier!
Most of the Cava Bodegas are within walking distance or a quick taxi ride:
Cava Winery Gramona –producing elegant Cava for over 150 years, visit the vineyards and cellars of this prestigious house.
Cava Winery Freixenet –the largest and most famous producer, this is a must see. And by the way, it’s pronounced “Fresh-ah-net”!
Cava Winery Codorniu –the oldest family owned business in the country, known for its history, intriguing Modernist architecture and fabulous wine. Take the cellar tour on the ‘train’ for an unforgettable experience.
Only 5 km south of town, you’ll find the sweeping vineyard slopes of Llopart, who’ve been here since 1385 and crafted Cava for over 125 years. They offer a variety of touring options from basic tastings to full vineyard-cellar-food pairing experiences.
Bodega Torres – one of Spain’s premier winemakers, their Penedès location near the town of Villafranca, is worth the drive for wonderful wines and educational tours.
Many of the wineries offer pairing, but if you’re still hungry, seek out local favorites Botiga Ticus, Restaurant Canals & Munné, or Il Picardo.
Feeling adventurous? Drive to Sant Marti Sarroca for authentic, Catalan cuisine at Restaurant Sant Jordi ‘Ca la Katy’. Must-try items: ‘Xató’ (endive salad with almonds, garlic and white anchovies) and Muscovy duck with prunes and pine nuts. Fresh, local and inspired.
The Hotel Barcelona Golf offers comfortable accommodations and a relaxing, country retreat in the Alt Penedès. Only a short drive to San Sadurni, regional wineries and Montserrat.
Laid-back, seaside venue more your style? The idyllic town of Sitges is under an hour away from Barcelona by train or car.
With over 4 km of beaches, you can spend your time relaxing in the sun. Sitges has a practically perfect climate, sheltered by the Garraf mountains to the north.
Museums and galleries abound. Did you know that Facundo Bacardi (yes that Bacardi) was born here? Check out his namesake museum. Art lovers, will appreciate Museu Cau Ferrat and neighboring Palau Maricel, both celebrating the colorful, creative, and often quirky, Modernist era– typically Catalan. Wander the winding street and soak in the casual, relaxed lifestyle. Or wait until dark and party the night away.
Check out festivals, including the International Film Festival of Catalonia, the Barcelona-Sitges Vintage Car Rally, Harvest Fest and June’s annual Gay Pride Fair.
Sitges is crazy for tapas; every April they host the ‘Tapa of the Year Competition”. You’ll find a wealth of options, especially in the winding streets off the beaches.
Speaking of beaches, when it’s cocktail time, seek out one of the many beach clubs, known as “Chirinquitos”.
The Hotel Calipolis offers comfortable, modern rooms with views of the city and sea, mere steps from beaches, shops, clubs and restaurants. The hotel’s Infinity Restaurant serves modern Mediterranean cuisine and has a lively terrace.
The Costa Brava and Empordà
Rent a car and head 90 minutes north of Barcelona to explore rustic beach towns, castles, vineyards and medieval villages.
All along the Costa Brava you’ll find iconic Mediterranean resorts like Platja d’Aro, Palamòs, or Aiguablava. Stop and explore to your heart’s content.
The hillsides of Empordà are dotted with castles and medieval towns. Meander narrow, winding streets of Torrent, Castel d’Aro or Peratallada (Robin Hood Prince of Thieves was shot here!).
Should you only have time for one village, visit Pals – a perfect example with remarkable views of the Mediterranean.
Near the town of Torrent, you’ll find the welcoming Mas Oller Winery. Sustainable vineyards surround the 17thc farmhouse and cow- barn, which is now the modern winery.
Near Palamòs, take a narrow road off the C-31, winding through pine forests, to Brugarol Cellars, one of the most architecturally compelling wineries you’ll ever visit. At first glance, it’s very traditional; well tended, vineyards, manor house and gardens. The cellar, however, is hidden underground; an ultra modern, steel labyrinth.
‘Vicus’ is a fabulous restaurant in Pals. Gerard and Elisabet Damia put a youthful, fun spin on traditional ingredients, like the famous rice cultivated in Pals. Seaside villages offer up fresh fish in abundance. Local wines and local food!
Brugarol Cellars offers country quiet or try NM Suites in Platja d’Ano. Tucked into a quiet, residential street, it’s close to the beach and all the action. Indulge yourself: choose one of their ‘Suite Rooms’ – décor is contemporary, ‘70’s modern. Fabulous!
Travel To Girona
Take the high speed train or drive from Barcelona to magical Girona – an amazingly well preserved city that’s easy to explore.
Take your time and stroll the streets. Fan of ‘Game of Thrones”? You might some of these locales as many scenes in Braavos and King’s Landing were filmed in these streets.
Investigate the Arab Baths and The Jewish Quarter; home to a large population from the 12th to 15th century. Today, the narrow, cobblestone streets host trendy shops and eateries, as does the captivating Medieval Quarter.
Climb the 86 steps to the majestic Cathedral, centerpiece of Girona.
Cross the River Onyar via the pedestrian bridge built by the Eiffel Company of Paris in 1877. Stop along the red iron structure to savor the amazing view of the Cathedral juxtaposed with colorful houses.
Girona is known for innovative cuisine, with many Michelin rated restaurants including ‘El Callar de Can Roca’, voted best in the world by Restaurant Magazine.
Most establishments are located in the old town or Ramblas, like ‘Llevataps’ – charming and wine-centric with an ever-changing seasonal menu.
Like most cities, you can find a wide variety of accommodations. The Hotel Ultonia is a modern, comfortable three-star hotel with a location that cannot be beat – it’s right across the street from the Ramblas.
Next time your travels take you to Barcelona, explore the many faces of Catalunya – only a short adventure away.