After my first course submission for 2022, I decided to go for my first solo trip of the year and so I booked a flight to Barcelona. I gave myself around 4 days there, but I wasn’t just confined to the city itself. I also did a few day trips to towns and cities around Catalonia including Montserrat, Tarragona, and Girona. Well, 4 days seemed short but I managed to pack in a lot of things mainly because I was traveling solo.
After spending a night after my flight, I made my way to the nearest metro station. Along the way, I came across Casa Batllo. This building also known as Casa Dels Ossos or House of Bones stands out as a stark representation of Modernist Catalonian architecture. It was first constructed in 1877 and was then redesigned in 1904 by Antoni Gaudí, a well-known architect for his works including the famous Sagrada Família which was my next destination.
The Basílica de la Sagrada Família is essentially one of the major attractions in the city. Starting its construction in 1882, this basilica is still under construction, and works are expected to be completed beyond 2026. Some of its unique features include the use of a mix of both gothic and modernist Catalonian architecture, the huge spires that overlook the city, as well as the detailed sculptures on the facade. As I entered the basilica, I was mesmerized by the huge columns and nave vaults, and the lights that shone through the colorful stained windows.
Afterward, I headed over to Barri Gòtic, or the Gothic Quarter to have my lunch as well as explore some of Barcelona’s medieval historical sites. Every alleyway and every street was pretty interesting to explore. I stumbled upon different kinds of restaurants, shops, and cafes. Some of the sites that I visited included the Cathedral of Barcelona, La Casa de l’Ardiaca, and the photogenic Carrer del Bisbe.
Nearby, I visited the Mercado de La Boqueria which was a famous market that sold all sorts of things such as meats, sweets, as well as fruits, vegetables, and other sorts of food.
Next, I walked down the La Rambla to hop on the metro to Vallcarca on my way to Park Güell. The walk up to Park Güell wasn’t exactly easy as I had to climb up steep hills to get there, but along the way, I got a glimpse of some of the neighborhoods. Once I’ve passed the main entrance, there was more climbing to do, and I eventually, arrived at this lookout point that rewarded me with stunning views of the city. Afterward, I went down to the Greek Theatre to take a look at the intricate mosaics, and buildings also designed by Antoni Gaudi.
After exploring parts of Park Güell, I walked through some neighborhoods to get to Puente de Mühlberg to watch the sunset.
The morning after, I caught an hour train that took me to Montserrat. Montserrat got its name from its serrated look, and the moment I caught sight of the mountain, I was just amazed at the scenery. I hopped on another train from a town at the base of the mountain that took me up to a monastery called the Santa Maria de Montserrat. This sanctuary holds an important place as a religious retreat for Catalonians and they say that you’re not Catalonian if you’ve never hiked up here which was crazy because this was at an altitude of around 720 meters above sea level.
After exploring the monastery, I decided to go for a hike and climbed up one of the suggested routes to get better views of the mountain range.
On my third day, I decided to have my first proper day trip. I boarded a regional train to Tarragona, which was a city south of Barcelona. Along the way, I had scenic views of beaches as well as some coastal towns.
Tarragona is well known for its rich history. From the Roman Empire to Islamic Rule, and then to the Aragon Kingdom, various kingdoms have left their mark on this city. The first stop I made was at a Roman Amphitheatre where gladiator fights & public spectacles once took place. Built in the 2nd Century AD, over the years, this amphitheater was utilized for many purposes including being a church, and it was finally abandoned in the mid-20th century after serving its purpose as a prison.
Next, I visited the Circ Romà which was a 1st Century AD Roman circus. It was pretty interesting to explore all of the tunnels and chambers that were under the circus itself. There was also a tower that gave me a nice view of the beachfront.
Next, I explored the Old City. Every street was just beautiful. There were really old houses, restaurants, cafes, and cathedrals for me to see. Nearby, I climbed up the old Roman Walls which had old fortification artifacts as well as different views of the city.
From the city walls, I walked through the streets to get to the old Roman Forum, where administrative matters used to take place. What was left were just fragments of walls and columns.
Then, I took a bus towards the North and hiked through some trails and hills to get to an old Roman Aqueduct. Photos don’t really do justice but it was really huge. You were also able to walk across the aqueduct as well and get a view of the forests to the north of Tarragona.
As the sun was setting, I quickly hiked and took a bus back towards the beach to catch the sunset at Punta del Miracle.
On my final day, I boarded a high-speed train to Girona. Girona is located in the north of Barcelona and it takes just 40 minutes to get there. Just like Tarragona, this city is also full of historical sites. The only difference is that Girona is more medieval in nature as compared to Tarragona, and most of the sites here were from the 10th century AD. Spoiler alert: Girona was probably the most beautiful place I’ve seen in the past 4 days.
First, I visited Barri Vell, also known as the Old Quarter. From the various bridges, you had views of the colorful buildings that lined the River Onyar.
Within the Old Quarter, there were various sites such as the Old Fortress, the Banys Arabs, which used to be a Public Bath, and the Cathedral of Girona. There were also huge medieval city walls that you can actually climb to get sweeping views of the city.
Next, I boarded the bus further up north to Besalú. Along the way, I caught views of the countryside as well as views of the Pyrenees mountain range which separated Spain from France and Andorra. Besalú is a town that used to be a fort. The fort from the middle-ages still exists today, and I had a picturesque view of it from a nearby bridge. There was a bridge that I could cross to get to the old city itself which was pretty fun to explore. I genuinely didn’t know what I was expecting at every turn and I just found interesting things one after another. Given the pandemic, it was actually pretty quiet, and loads of shops were closed.
And so that was my time in Catalonia. A nice 4-day solo trip packed with lots of interesting things to see and do.