Planning a Catalonia road trip itinerary is one of the best ways to see this beautiful autonomous region of Spain. Though countless visitors each year flock to Barcelona, there is just so much to see and do outside of the city that spending an entire week (or more) in Catalonia is never a bad idea.
Spain is a massive country and each region is so distinct that it can be well worth dedicating an entire itinerary solely to one area. There is so much to take in and see that you will be able to get a great feel for the unique culture, cuisines and traditions of the region. And this is especially true of when you plan a Catalonia itinerary.
Fiercely independent Catalonia can sometimes feel a world away from the rest of Spain, with a different language and culture that courses through it. So if you’re interested in spending time exploring this beautiful region beyond Barcelona, this Catalonia road trip is for you.
How Many Days in Catalonia?
Before you start planning your Catalonia trip, you likely need to determine how many days you should dedicate to it. While I have gone on about how it’s important to see some areas outside of Barcelona, it is also a great idea to make sure you dedicate enough time to see the city and do it justice, as well.
So how long should you spend in Catalonia? Ideally, I would recommend planning out a week to explore the region. This will give you enough time to explore Barcelona, go on a few day trips, and also visit a couple of other cities in the region as well — all without feeling too rushed.
Getting To & Around Catalonia
Catalonia is one of the most accessible regions of Spain and there are two international airports that you could arrive into.
The first and most likely airport to fly into is Barcelona, which serves countless international flights from all over the world. The second is the smaller Girona/Costa Brava airport which operated more seasonally and serves mostly budget airlines across Europe.
The Barcelona airport is located only a bit south of the city centre and it’s easy to get to the city from the airport using both public transport or simply taking a taxi. If you happen to be flying into Girona and want to head to Barcelona to begin your Catalonia itinerary, keep in mind that it is located about an hour north of the city and you will need to catch a train or drive into Barcelona.
Once you’ve arrived in Catalonia, it’s time to discuss how to get around. The below itinerary is meant as a road trip so it is recommended that you rent a car, however, you actually can visit all of these places using public transport – it will just not be as convenient.
You can either opt to rent a car as soon as you arrive or plan to pick a car up after you spend your first few days in Barcelona. Barcelona itself doesn’t need a car to explore – most everywhere is easily accessible by foot or by using the extensive public transit system within the city.
Ideally, you could plan to hire a car on day 3 of this itinerary in order to embark on a day trip or even on day 4 when you leave Barcelona altogether.
Have a look on Rentalcars.com in order to find great deals on car hires in Catalonia to see what suits your itinerary best.
Keep in mind that it can be more cost-effective to rent a car for an entire week, however, you do need to account for any parking costs in Barcelona (or elsewhere) to determine if this works well for your overall Spain trip cost.
7-Day Catalonia Road Trip Itinerary
Without further ado, here is how to spend 7 days in Catalonia. This route will take you through a diverse array of Catalonian cities along with some great day trip destinations. You’ll be able to enjoy historic sites, beautiful coastline, Roman ruins and famous art museums all within the span of one week.
Day 1: Barcelona
Start your Catalonia trip in the beautiful and historic city of Barcelona. As Spain’s second-largest city and a major European metropolis, Barcelona is one of the most popular destinations in the entire world – and for good reason; there is a ton of things to see and do.
On the first day of your Barcelona itinerary, take the time to explore some of the city’s iconic sites, including the Houses of Gaudí, La Rambla, Boquería Market and the Gothic Quarter.
End your busy day taking in the seaside vibes of the Barceloneta neighbourhood and watching the sun set below the Mediterranean.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
There are countless places to rest your head in Barcelona no matter your travel style or budget. If you’re looking for the deal place to stay in this beautiful city, have a look at these great options:
Hotel Condado— If you’re looking for a great, central hotel to start off your Catalonia itinerary, then this is a fantastic option for you. Situated in an optimal location for sightseeing, they have numerous spacious and comfortable rooms available and also include breakfast in the nightly rate. Click here to see their latest prices
Room Mate Anna — This small boutique hotel is the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for a quaint and romantic room in Barcelona. They have countless plush, comfortable rooms available and its location in the city centre means within easy reach of all of the best attractions in Barcelona. Click here to see their latest prices
Fabrizzio’s Petit — This small, locally-run hostel is a great place to stay if you’re on a budget in Barcelona or travelling solo. Centrally located within easy walking distance of all of Barcelona’s main attractions, they not only have both dorm and private rooms available but also include a great breakfast in their rates. Click here to see their latest prices
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Barcelona hotels!
Day 2: Barcelona
On your second day in Barcelona, pick up where you left off yesterday and make sure to take the time to take in more Gaudí’s famous contributions to the city — namely, the Sagrada Familia.
This is easily the most famous attraction in Barcelona — if not all of Spain — and no trip to this city would be complete without visiting this incredible cathedral. If you want to learn more about the history of this place, you can book a guided tour with skip-the-line tickets here.
After touring La Sagrada Familia, take the time to get lost in Park Güell and enjoy more Gaudí pieces along with some of the most iconic views of Barcelona. Then, end your day at the Bunkers of Carmel and gorging yourself on some local tapas.
Day 3: Montserrat Day Trip
Day 3 of your itinerary is when you can opt to begin exploring Catalonia outside of Barcelona – and that is by going on a day trip to the incredible Montserrat. Located just a bit away from the city centre of Barcelona, this gorgeous area feels a world away.
Known for its gorgeous mountain views and Benedictine monastery, this is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the entire region. Take the cable car up to the top of the mountain and enjoy the spectacular views along the way. Then, make sure to tour the monastery and learn about the history of this beautiful place.
Montserrat is one of the most popular day trips from Barcelona for a reason and no Catalonia itinerary would be complete without it.
Day 4: Girona
Day 4 is where your Catalonia road trip really begins – and that is by driving a bit north of Barcelona to the lovely city of Girona.
This charming city is compact yet completely packed with things to do. Though we definitely recommend spending as much time as possible here, because of its small size you can definitely see the majority of the top sites if you only have one day to dedicate to your Girona itinerary.
Begin your day taking in the views from the city walls before meandering down to the Arab Baths and visiting the Jewish Quarter. Visit the beautiful cathedral, head to the archaeological and Jewish museums admire the beauty of the houses hanging over the River Onyar.
Girona also has excellent restaurants where you can sample a broad array of Catalonian specialities no matter your budget. The city has everything from Michelin-starred fine dining establishments to divey tapas bars and everything in between.
There is absolutely no doubt that this is a must-visit on your Catalonia trip, even if you only have one day in Girona.
Where to Stay in Girona
Though many people visit Girona only as a day trip, it actually makes for an excellent base for this leg of your Catalonia road trip and there are plenty of great places to stay in the city. If you’re searching for the perfect place to rest your head, have a look at these suggestions:
Hotel Nord 1901 Superior – An excellent luxe option in Girona, then this locally-run hotel is a great choice. They have a myriad of plush rooms available, a swimming pool, garden and bar on-site, free parking, and breakfast is included. It is also centrally located within easy walking distance of Girona’s top sites. Click here to see their availability
Hotel Costabella – Another great option for those looking for something a bit more mid-range is this family-run hotel. Situated very close to Girona’s old town and all of its top sites, they have numerous great rooms available, and even a gym, sauna and swimming pool on site. Free parking is also included. Click here to see their availability
Little Home Girona – If you’d rather have your own apartment in Girona than stay in a hotel, then these flats are an excellent option. Situated within the Old Town, they’re perfectly located for exploring this Catalonian city. You can choose from a one or two-bedroom depending on your needs and you can also enjoy a fully equipped kitchen. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Girona hotels!
Day 5: Figueres & Besalú Day Trip
Use your second day in Girona to hop in the car and visit some of the top day trip destinations in northern Catalonia. Begin your day by driving by Banyoles Lake before making it to the incredibly picturesque town of Besalú.
This village is incredibly compact and you can wander around it in under an hour, but it is well worth it. Known for its imposing bridge at the entrance, this is truly a hidden gem in the region and a truly unique spot to include on your Catalonia road trip itinerary.
Next, drive to the city of Figueres. Primarily known as the birthplace of legendary surrealist Salvador Dalí, this is the city to visit if you’re a modern art fan.
There are lots of things to see in Figueres that have to do with the artist, but you absolutely cannot miss the Dalí Theatre-Museum if you really want to experience the art and mind of this iconic Catalonian figure.
Figueres is also home to the fascinating Castell de Sant Ferran, an 18th Century fortress that is super interesting to explore.
Day 6: Coastal Drive
Day six of this road trip includes a great route along the Mediterranean. Though this isn’t necessarily a Costa Brava itinerary, you can head east from Girona and stop by a number of towns along the coast before making it to your final destination, Tarragona.
A lot of the coast is quite built up and full of seaside high-rises that are there to cater for the hordes of tourist crowds that descend on the area in the warmer months, but there are also a number of charming towns and cities that are worth visiting along the way.
Make sure to make a stop in the gorgeous Tossa de Mar before continuing on south. The city of Blanes is also worth a stop, with a great seaside promenade and botanical garden to explore.
Of course, no stop on a coastal Catalonia road trip itinerary would be complete without visiting the beautiful town of Sitges, located just a bit south of Barcelona. This whitewashed town is home to a number of lovely beaches, beautiful side streets and some incredible restaurants.
Spend the night in Tarragona so you have the full day to explore this city the following day.
Where to Stay in Tarragona
Tarragona isn’t the most popular place to visit in Catalonia, however, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a number of great accommodation options in this city. If you’re wondering where to stay in Tarragona, have a look at these great suggestions:
B&B Hotel Tarragona – This plush, boutique hotel located in the centre of Tarragona is an excellent choice if you’re after a bit of luxury. They have a number of wonderful rooms available, a fantastic location, an on-site bar and include breakfast in the nightly rate. Click here to see their availability
Placa de la Font – If you’re looking for a more budget to mid-range accommodation option, then this hotel is a great choice. Located in the Old Town of Tarragona, they have a range of basic yet clean and comfortable rooms available (all ensuite), a restaurant and bar on site and even a terrace to enjoy the warm evenings on! Click here to see their availability
Apartamentos Astoria – If you’d rather have your own apartment in Tarragona than stay in a hotel, then these apartments are an excellent choice. There are numerous different options to choose from that can suit any budget in a central location. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Tarragona hotels!
Day 7: Tarragona
Located about an hour and a half south of Barcelona, this city is well-known for its plethora of Roman ruins, however, it has a lot more to offer beyond that.
Spend your day taking in the Roman antiquities including the amphitheatre, circus, and Roman walls. Of course, you cannot miss the Mercat de Tarragona — the city’s central market where you can sample local specialities and see an integral part of Tarragona’s culture.
If you’re visiting in the warmer months, make sure to hit the sand on one of Tarragona’s many beautiful beaches. If you’re interested in driving a few kilometres outside of the city, then head to the Puente del Diablo — an excellently-preserved Roman aqueduct that you can even walk across.
End your day in the lovely Seralló neighbourhood. This fishing area of Tarragona has countless seaside cafes and a number of wonderful restaurants serving up local seafood specialities.
This 7-day Catalonia road trip itinerary will take you by a number of the highlights that this incredible region has to offer. Taking you to massive metropolises, beautiful coastal areas, and wonderful medieval towns, you’re sure to have an amazing experience following this route.
When travelling in Catalonia, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads
Are you planning a trip to Catalonia? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!