If you have time on your hands and if you're a wanderlust, let the road take you beyond Barcelona, which is a great starting point for the Catalonia road trip. In this case, you might want to seriously consider hiring a car in Barcelona, because it's the easiest and fastest way to reach all the beautiful places near and around Barcelona. Also, Spain is one of the cheapest car hire countries.
If you prefer to stay near Barcelona and don’t head South, you can explore northern Spain—the north-eastern side of Barcelona. About 80 mi (130 km) up the road, situated on a hill, lies a charming medieval village Pals with cobbled streets, boutiques, cafés and a golden beach just a 10-minute drive away called Platja de Pals. A car hire in Barcelona makes the distances go away.
About six mi (10 km) away from the village you can discover the coastal region of Costa Brava. It consists of picturesque villages, amazing beaches, premium resorts and alluring nature. Needless to say, this area is popular among visitors. However, if you wish to discover a more traditional side, you can get behind your wheels and head over to the artsy Cadaqués, which is close to the French border and sheltered by the magnificent Pyrenees. Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, René Magritte, Pablo Picasso and others were frequent visitors to this village.
If you want more or you already know Barcelona is your starting point before your road trip to Valencia, Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, or Seville, continue reading. We’ll start slow and then drive full speed.
For the first trip after you hire your car in Barcelona, begin by driving about 38 mi (60 km) southwest from Barcelona to the unique and craggy peaked Montserrat mountain. It would be an amazing view by itself, however, at the foot of its peaks sits the dramatic 11th-century Monastery of Montserrat.
This construction has a great importance among religious locals from Barcelona. They say that everybody should hike to this mountain and reach the monastery before the dawn at least once in their lifetime. But regardless of your relationship to God—the Nature, the architectural masterpiece, and the cultural significance of this place should be enough to visit Monastery of Montserrat at least once. Oh, and bring your camera with you. Really. Regarding the parking—you can take your car right next to the monastery, or you can leave it half way and make a sports day out of the visit. That’s how flexible you are with a car hire in Barcelona.
Few things you should consider when at Montserrat:
Visit the Montserrat Monastery at midday. Every day at about 1 pm, in Basilica, you can listen to a boy choir. Ethereal.
Take a walk along the cathedral and breath in the view.
Visit the Montserrat Museum that holds a great value in artistic works. Not only you'll learn the history of Montserrat, the museum holds quite a collection of Catalan art.
Should you take lunch there? Yes. But if you're a true foodie, don't settle for the main restaurant at the monastery. It's ok for a quick fix (especially if you take a combo with the museum ticket), but there are a lot of better restaurants nearby. If you'll take the car hire in Barcelona, you can easily drive 1.5 miles from the site to La Rectoria for a nice Catalan meal with a modern twist.
Ready for more? For a well-rounded day trip drive to the Penedes area nearby to indulge in a glass of cava or any other wine. It's well worth the effort.
If you’ll want another trip after that or better yet, you’ll start your Spanish road trip in Barcelona, one of the potential stops is the small coastal town nested around the hills of Garraf National Park, the charming and stylish Sitges. While there, go for a swim! There’s plenty of sandy beaches in Sitges. You can take a dip right before the historic part of the city where the quin of the city's beauty is the Church of Sant Bartomeu. Right at sea, this subtle pink(ish) church is guarded by the mermaid statue by Catalan artist Pere Jou.
Still with us? Right! Get in your rental and head down the coast beyond Sitges and you will soon reach the larger fishing town called Vilanova i la Geltrú. Both Sitges and Vilanova i la Geltrú offer a relaxing day or night out.
After you'll rest and fill your belly with yummy breakfast, drive to Tarragona—a city from Roman times, which can't be hidden. In Tarragona, you can admire Tarragona Cathedral and The Amfiteatre Romà, which was built in the 2nd century. Most roman fans visit the Les Ferreres aqueduct as well. But if you’re in a hurry and prefer to continue, don’t worry, with a car hire in Barcelona, you still have plenty of chances to meet with historic monuments.
If you visit this city in the Summer, you can drive to the most photographed bay in the Costa Dorada—the name of this part of the coast. Look for the Tamariu Castle—a well-preserved castle, located just above this beautiful sandy beach. Tere are a few nice restaurants in Tarragona. Arcs will spoil you with minimalistic Spanish cuisine if fine dining is your cup of tea, and La Capital will strengthen you with excellent burgers, tapas and soul food deserts if you want to head South before the Sun goes down.
From Tarragona, you can drive to the old town of Miravet situated by the Ebro River and pointing its castle towards the sky. Miravet is not only a charming photo-stop but an interesting little city with the spirit of long lost stories trapped inside it. You can visit the castle—that dates back to the time of the Knights Templar—and historical centre. There are several hotels in Miravet—suitable for those that are searching for low-priced accommodations and for those that prefer hotels on a pricier end. Villa Retiro offers a great value for your money. And they have free parking. Such a relief for those engaged in a car hire in Barcelona.
Now you can take your road trip into a higher gear and proceed to Valencia. There you can decide if you’ll proceed South and visit Toledo (a charming old city, with a lot of cultural heritage and amazingly sweet marzipan), Cartagena, Malaga, Gibraltar and other—smaller—costal villages at the Alboran Sea.
The other option is that you turn right at Valencia and drive for three or four hours to Madrid. If this vibrant, multicultural and extremely tourist-friendly city is on your bucket list, book a hotel in advance—for a few days, because there is a lot to see. Oh, and choose a hotel with parking on site. Majority of hotels in the city centre has underground garage parking available. This will enable you to reach all the major cities on foot or by using the public transfer and have your car parked safely and ready for the future adventures.