After spending three of our four weeks in Barcelona, we decided it was time to get outside the city and see what we could get up to in a day trip. We soon realized that, because we are a family of four, it would actually be cheaper to rent a car for four days than it would to take public transport to see the sights on our list. So we researched our prices and got a great deal on a little car from Enterprise. We rented the car on the website doyouspain.com which was actually about 20€ cheaper than anywhere else on the web.
The four destinations we chose were all about our passion for history. We have two boys who love Medieval Times as well as all things Roman, so instead of hitting up the beach towns or the hillside monastery of Montserrat, we went to the Medieval walled cities of Tossa De Mar, Pal, and Girona, and the Roman ruins at Tarragona. We absolutely loved all of these day trips and we highly recommend all of them.
Tossa De Mar
This cute beachside town has a 14th century walled city perched upon the headland at the South side of the bay. The site of the walled city (Vila Vella) was the last fortified medieval town in Costa Brava. We thought the city was beautiful and we enjoyed walking along the top of the fortified wall. There are a few original buildings still in tact and the meandering cobblestone streets were full of charm. Once we were done exploring we enjoyed some playtime on the beach.
We are so happy that we made the trek out to Pals. It is a well-preserved medieval town and wandering around its tiny streets made us feel like we had been transported back in time. We ended up getting there quite late in the day (around 4pm) and it felt like we had the town all to ourselves. There were barely any tourists around and all the locals were having their siesta. Pals is simply stunning.
I channeled my Game of Thrones vibe in Girona. Quite a few scenes were filmed in this medieval town, including much of the King’s Landing scenes.
Another walled town filled with narrow, winding, cobblestone streets. Girona boasts a monstrous church, visible from anywhere in the city. Unfortunately, you have to pay to go in to the church which I have a problem with on principle so we did not get to see the inside. The outside was quite impressive though! There was a serious lack of parking in this city and we ended up looking for a space for a half an hour! It was also a very rainy day when we visited but that did not stop us! We walked the top of the fortified walls, wandered the windy streets, and peered into trendy shop windows.
We HAD to go to Tarragona to see the Roman Amphitheater. The 2nd-century arena facing the Mediterranean was the highlight of our day. The kids channeled their inner gladiators and Mike and I walked the ruins imagining life in ancient times. The ruins are in a spectacular spot, perched over the sea. So picturesque! The rest of the walled city is equally fascinating.
I have to wonder if Europeans are so impressed with these ancient cities as we are. Coming from Canada, a 100-year-old building is considered old. We just don’t have the same history as Europe. Every building and cobblestone street is a marvel to us!
- Driving into and out of Barcelona was a little bit hairy. Although the people here obey the road rules, they do so at an alarming speed. Driving within the city is not for the feint of heart.
- Any of the major highways require toll payments. We spent about 10€ each day we were out on tolls. You can take the secondary roads (we did that too) but be prepared for lots of windy roads, lots of stops and starts, and adding a good chunk of time onto your travel day.
- Pretty much all rental cars here are standard. If you can’t drive a stick, take the train.
- Fuel is expensive, even by Canadian standards. If you are American, you will realize just how lucky you are to have such cheap gas in the USA.
- If you are staying in Barcelona, chances are you will also need to pay for parking which really adds on to your final cost. We bought a five-day pass in a parking garage close to our house which was 50€. There is no way around this.
- A four-day car rental cost us 65€. Even adding in parking, gas, and tolls, this still worked out to be much cheaper than taking public transport to each of these destinations for our family of four.