Barcelona may be one of the world’s most vibrant cultural destinations, but even its proudest residents need to escape the city lights from time to time. Where do the locals go when they need to get away? Strap on your backpack; Catalonia is calling.
If you’re a Dalí devotee, this city is for you. Located along the stunningly beautiful Costa Brava, Figueres was once the surrealist artist’s hometown, and it currently houses the irresistible — and irresistibly bizarre — Dalí Theatre and Museum. Take a train from Barcelona to explore the site, and then grab a bus to nearby Girona before you make your way back; this medieval walled city is known for its Moorish architecture, labyrinthine streets and Arabian baths.
Just 35 kilometers southwest of Barcelona, the coastal town of Sitges is a perfect respite from the constant thrum of city life. Unwind on one of 17 beaches, explore the local shops and museums, and get lost in the charming city center. Looking for an authentic Spanish-holiday experience? Do Sitges like the other Barcelonans: Lounge all day on the beach, and then spend all night sipping cava in the nightlife center, La Calle del Pecado. Plus, if you book your hotel and car rental with Platinum Travel American Express, you’ll earn cardmember points that can go toward your next journey.
Of course, not every day trip is focused on beaches and bars. For a more spiritual getaway, grab a local train to Montserrat to bask in the majesty of its towering mountains and famous monastery. This Catholic site is an important pilgrimage for travelers who want to catch a glimpse of the 12th-century La Moreneta wood carving; the sculpture is one of Europe’s most famous Black Madonnas. What’s more, Montserrat is home to the world’s oldest press, the Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat.
Prefer to explore the rugged side of Spain? Book a private tour through the Pyrenees Mountains, and you’ll be able to see the range and its surrounding villages in all their glory. Start with a stroll through the Baroque buildings of Vic, and move on the stone village of Queralbs for its Church of Sant Sadurni de Fustanya; legend has it that fairies built this perfect structure. Then, ascend to Nuria, and spend the rest of the afternoon wandering through the lush Pyrenees terrain. You can even walk the Como de la Vaca path to a refuge nearly 2,000 meters above sea level.
Alella and Mataró
Nothing says Catalonia like a proper glass of vino tinto, and Alella and Mataró are the best places to find one. Explore Alella’s prestigious local vineyards, and sign up for a wine-tasting event to sample the reds and whites with a seaside view. If you’re hungry for some iconic Catalonian cuisine, continue on to Mataró for its bevy of foodie hot-spots; you’ll be able to sample traditional churros, jamóns and canned delicacies and chat with the locals about their favorite Catalonian dishes.