Studying abroad in Spain this semester? We’ve got a lineup of 10 of the best weekend trips from Barcelona, so you’ll have plenty to do all semester long.
Whether you’re studying abroad in Spain or just visiting for a few weeks, no doubt Barcelona is on your bucket list. Head’s up, though: while Barcelona is the capital of the Catalan region and offers a ton to see and do, it’s not the only place you’ll want to visit while you’re there. Catalonia is full of culture and history, delicious food and tons of small towns—and big cities—to explore. While you’re in the area, make time for at least one of these awesome places in Catalonia and the surrounding regions. They’re perfect for a quick weekend (or mid-week) trip!
Getting there: You can easily take a high-speed train from Barcelona to Valencia. It costs about €30 (one-way) and takes just over 3 hours. You can also grab a cheap flight to Valencia, which takes about an hour and costs around $50-$100 (round trip).
What to do: Valencia is a can’t-miss stop in Spain, blending the ultra-modern with longstanding and historic culture and architecture. Stroll through Old Town Valencia for a dose of history and endless quirky cafes and city streets to get lost in, then pop over to see the City of Arts and Sciences: a massive, futuristic complex of museums, parks and an aquarium. While you’re there, be sure to try some authentic paella (it originated in Valencia!), check out the beaches and experience one of dozens of Valencia’s festivals.
2. Costa Brava
Getting there: The easiest way to get to Costa Brava is simply to rent a car and drive there. In order to rent a car in Spain, you just need to be 21 or older with a driver’s license, a passport and a credit card. You’ll also need an International Driver’s License (which you can get pretty easily through AAA). Alternatively, you can take a train to Blanes and a bus from Blanes to Costa Brava.
What to do: Imagine your ideal Spanish beach and that’s probably close to what Costa Brava looks like. Miles of sandy beaches, stunningly clear-blue water, rocky cliffs and small medieval towns to explore make up a lot of the Costa Brava region. Spend the weekend sunbathing, kayaking, snorkeling and soaking in the amazing coastline views.
Getting there: Get from Barcelona to Tarragona via train—it takes 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your train. Prices vary from €10-€25 typically, depending on the itinerary. Renfe, the national railway company in Spain, is a great place to get tickets.
What to do: Although perhaps not as well-known as other places in Catalonia, Tarragona is the perfect place to explore during a free weekend. Some of Spain’s most well-preserved ruins, including ruins of a Roman amphitheater and chariot tracks, are here in Tarragona. Enjoy a walk (or a picnic) along the Balcon del Mediterraneo, which overlooks the Mediterraean Sea and the city. And, of course, be sure to spend an afternoon on the beaches!
Getting there: A high-speed train will take you between Barcelona and Madrid in just under 3 hours. If you have a Eurail pass, you don’t need to purchase a ticket, just make seat reservations. Otherwise, tickets are about €70-€100 (each way). You can also fly. Flights from Barcelona to Madrid are about 1.5 hours and you can usually find tickets for €60-€80 (roundtrip).
What to do: Madrid is the capital of Spain and thus is definitely deserving of at least a weekend. Madrid is a very classy and cultured city, so get ready for plenty of chic city strolls, elegant palaces and fancy parks and gardens. Don’t miss the famous Prado Museum, a massive museum with a huge collection of European art, and the nearby El Retiro Park, one of the largest parks in Madrid. Pack a picnic, go boating on the lake or just enjoy people-watching! Once you’re warmed up to the posh city, round out your weekend with a tour of the Royal Palace—with over 3,000 rooms, it’s the largest functioning palace in Europe.
Getting there: Getting to Mallorca from Barcelona is surprisingly easy. There are direct flights every day that are a little under an hour and you can usually find them for about €20-€30 roundtrip, which means that Mallorca is also a very cheap weekend trip from Barcelona!
What to do: If lying around on some of Spain’s most beautiful beaches isn’t enough for you, you’ll want to take advantage of the rest of what this stunning island has to offer. Rent a car and drive around—public transportation is available, but service is minimal. While Palma is the most popular place to stay, smaller villages like Valdemossa, Soller and Cales de Mallorca are super charming, endlessly-Instagrammable and—best of all—never far from a beach. For some seriously stunning views, drive up to Cap de Formentor, the very tip of the island for a sunset you’ll never forget.
Getting there: Girona is relatively close to Barcelona, so it’s easy to squeeze into a day or a quick weekend. There are plenty of trains daily. Trains from Barcelona to Girona take about 45 minutes and usually cost around €13 each way.
What to do: If the streets and staircases of Girona look a bit familiar to you, it may be because it was a major filming location for Season 6 of Game of Thrones. Besides it’s modern cameo on TV, though, Girona holds plenty of Spanish culture. From the historic Jewish Quarter to medieval castle walls, Girona is the perfect place to soak up some of Catalonia’s history!
Getting there: Seville might be on the opposite side of Spain from Barcelona, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit. The high-speed train can get you there in 5.5 hours and will cost about €85 each way. Of course, you can always fly too, which only takes 2 hours. Flights from Barcelona to Seville are usually about €50-€85 roundtrip, although you can often find them for even less than that.
What to do: First, check all the must-dos off your list. Take a long stroll through the stunning and iconic Plaza de Espana. Then wander into the adjoining (and equally stunning) Maria Luisa Park. Snap some perfect instas on the rooftop walkway of Las Setas de Sevilla overlooking the city. Game of Thrones fan? The Royal Alcázars of Seville might look familiar (and is worth a visit). After that, explore ancient churches, endless tapas bars and catch a flamenco show!
Getting there: Since it’s an island, flying is the quickest (and cheapest) option. Flights from Barcelona to Ibiza are around an hour and are usually only €20-€30.
What to do: If you’re feeling like you need to experience some more of the Spanish nightlife, there’s no place that does it quite like Ibiza. Whether you want to just chill on the beach all day or party ‘til the sun comes up (or both), Ibiza’s a good place to do it. Visit the legendary Pacha or dance the night away at Amnesia—with a 5,000-person capacity, it’ll be an experience you’ll never forget.
Getting there: Sitges is a quick 30-40 minute train ride from Barcelona. You can take a regional train, so you don’t need to buy tickets online—just grab one when you get to the station. Passeig de Gracia is the main station they depart from. Tickets are €7.20 (roundtrip). Look for the trains to Vilanova i la Geltru or St. Vincenç de Calders and then get off at Sitges.
What to do: Sitges is the perfect place for a small-town beach day! It’s not far from Barcelona, but it has a totally different vibe, so it’s a great place for a quick escape. The beachfront old town has plenty of shopping and places to eat, so if you just want to relax near the beach all weekend, you totally can! Sitges is also surrounded by the Garraf Natural Park, filled with hiking trails and scenic views. If you’re in Barcelona in the spring, Sitges also has one of the loudest and wildest Carnival festivals.
Getting there: Getting to Miravet is a bit trickier than some of the other places on this list, but it’s worth the effort! There aren’t any buses or trains that run directly into Miravet, but you can take a train from Miravet to Mora la Nova (€12, 2 hours). From there, a quick taxi ride will get you into the village.
What to do: Miravet, a small village on the Ebro river, is the perfect place if you just need a weekend away from everything. The village, transformed by the Knights Templar in the 1100s, still looks like something out of a medieval storybook. Explore the massive Miravet castle, go kayaking on the Ebro River, stroll through the historic center of the village and enjoy a quiet weekend away.
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