Travel: Catalonia has more to offer than just Barcelona

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When on a city break, getting in a car or onto a train and venturing away from the city limits might not necessarily be top of your agenda, but it’s something you should consider doing.

Last week’s Travel page looked at some of the very best things Barcelona has to offer.

This week, it looks at the surrounding Catalan area and three different places to visit.

Santa Maria de Montserrat is about 40km north west of Barcelona, 1,236 metres up the Montserrat mountains.

The monastery attracts more than two millions visitors each year and is accessible via a train from the valley floor or a winding road suitable for cars and coaches.

Pilgrims from across the world visit La Moreneta – the Black Madonna – at the back of the Montserrat basilica, looking down over the altar.

The monastery also boasts one of the oldest printing presses in the world and is home to one of Europe’s oldest male choirs.

Montserrat is a famous rock-climbing area with names for each of the distinctive 700 needle peaks which surround the monastery.

Very little of the original monastery remains, as in 1811, Napoleon’s troops destroyed much of it.

It was also an important Franco stronghold during the Spanish Civil War.

While Barcelona has its fair share of sun and beaches, hot on its heals is Stiges, located 35km south of the city on the southern edge of the Garraf Massif region.

Once a traditional fishing village, the town has become a destination in its own right, boasting more than 300 days of sunshine each year, 17 sandy beaches and a wealth of history and culture.

Amid its winding lanes are numerous shops, bars and restaurants.

Sitges’ cosmopolitan reputation dates back to the 19th century when Catalan painter, Santiago Rusiñol, moved there and turned the town into one meeting point for artists and intellectuals related to the Catalan Modernista movement.

Nowadays, the picturesque resort hosts events throughout the year, including the Barcelona–Sitges International Vintage Car Rally and the Sitges International Film Festival of Catalonia.

Located about half an hour to the north east of Barcelona, La Roca Village is one of the best chic shopping destinations in Catalonia.

La Roca Village boasts more than 100 boutiques and restaurants with almost all offering healthy discounts on what you would expect to pay on the high street.

There are all the designer names you would expect from a boutique shopping village with a proportion of the space also given over to independent Catalan businesses, which are nestled among the likes of Tag Heuer, Versace, Superdry and Tommy Hilfiger.

FACT FILE

Flights from Birmingham Airport to Barcelona with Monarch start from £34.99 one way (£72.98 return). Customers are allocated a seat at check-in or can reserve one in advance for £5.99 per flight. Seats with extra leg room are also available at an additional cost. Customers can avoid booking charges by paying using a debit card or PayPal and check-in online. For more information visit www.monarch.co.uk.

The 4-star Barceló Raval Hotel is situated in the heart of Barcelona in the Raval neighbourhood.

It has become a symbol of the transformation taking place in the area due to its oval structure, avant-garde interior design and roof-top views across the city.

Prices start from €120 per room per night, including taxes.

For more information visit visit www.barceloraval.com.