Winter getaway to Garraf
Nature and history come together in an activity packed weekend
Enjoy the sea, explore the legacy of Romanticism and taste a dish of xató, one of the stars dishes of the Penedes region. These are just three of the essential experiences that Garraf offers its visitors. The massif that gives its name to the county is part of a natural park that extends over 12,000 acres and that increases even more the number of activities you can take advantage of during an intense weekend. Shall we start?
Afternoon day 1: La Vila Nova and la Geltrú
The capital city of Garraf is the sum of two towns: la Vila Nova, which once formed part of Cubelles, and la Geltrú, which is now one of the most charismatic neighbourhoods in the city. The castle of Geltrú, which is currently home to the Garraf County Archive, and Santa Maria church, are the two most important buildings in the area. Plaça dels Lledoners is a welcoming part of la Geltrú, with plenty of bars and restaurants where you can have a drink or something to eat until the early hours.
Vilanova boasts one of the longest ramblas or boulevards in Catalonia, running for more than a kilometre from Sant Antoni Abat church in Plaça de les Neus to the seafront.
Packed with shops and restaurants, the Rambla is one of the city's main thoroughfares and its many terraces and the crowds that are always walking up or down fill it with life. A few metres away is Plaça de la Vila whose palm trees and porticoed arches are the are the hallmarks of a space dominated by the City Council , together with a statue of Josep Tomàs Ventosa, which stands in the middle of the square. Born in Vilanova in 1797, he was one of the indianos who returned from the Americas and invested a part of his fortune in improving it. Ventosa bought the old Capuchin convent that once stood on the square and demolished it to build schools and thereby promote the creation of public spaces. Have a bite to eat at one of the restaurants here like the local do. You'll find more shops on Carrer dels Caputxins and Carrer Sant Sebastià, and other places to eat and drink in Plaça dels Cotxes and Plaça de Soler i Gustems.
Morning day 2: A mummy called Nesi
The mummy of a five-year-old child from Ancient Egypt, known as Nesi, is one of the symbols of Balaguer de Vilanova library museum. Its one of the five mummies conserved by Catalan museums, and undoubtedly the one that awakens most curiosity. Located a few metres from the railway station, the museum has collections from Ancient Egypt and the Philipines, as well as a deposit of works from El Prado museum including works by El Greco, Ribera and Rubens. The library-museum also holds exhibitions on Modernisme, Pos-Modernisme and Noucentisme, with works by artists like Santiago Rusiñol, Ramon Casas and Joaquim Mir. Contemporary artists on display include Josep Guinovart, Antonio Saura and Andreu Alfaro, among others. It is the most important museum in the city and it's worth spending some time here. The building itself is also quite unique.
We can spend the rest of the morning checking out the Saturday market. The stalls line the covered municipal market in the centre of town, a place that is also worth visiting if you want to see fresh local products like fish, fruit, vegetables and meat. On the outside, the Saturday street market also has plenty of stalls, selling food and clothes, shoes, accessories, household goods and craftwork. Whether you shop inside or outside you're sure to find all the ingredients to make the local speciality: xató. It's a salad with escarole lettuce and raw salted cod, dressed in a delicious sauce of almonds and nyora peppers. The open air market takes place in a large area that covers Plaça Soler i Carbonell, Carerr Josep Llanza i Lleida and Avinguda de Francesc Macià.
Afternoon day 2: Exploring the park
Mediterranean fan palms, potholes, dry stone huts and houses all make up the landscape of the Garraf Natural Park, a natural space that allows you to do a large number of activities depending on the time you want to invest and, of course, the physical effort you are willing to make. The information center is located at La Pleta, the former hunting lodge of the Guell family and was designed by architect Francesc Berenguer, one of Gaudí's assistants. At la Pleta you can see an audiovisual presentation on the Garraf Natural Park, as well as an exhibition on the conservation of the Bonelli's eagle, a species that is native to this environment. You also have the option of setting of on your own and following a route, either on foot or on mountain bike. One option is to follow the Costes path, a one and a half hour long trail that starts at La Pleta and passes by the fons de les Coves and the avenc de la Flauta chasm before arriving in the village of Garraf.
Another possibility is a bicycle routes named Masies del Garraf, that begins and ends at Olivella, and, in three hours, allows you to explore the ancient farmhouses of the region, like Can Liona, els Massets, la Fassina and Vallgrassa, among others.
Morning day 3: From the sea to noble houses
If you want to have some fun in the sea the best thing to do is find out what's on offer at the Estació Nàutica, which include a wide range of activities, on land and at sea, to help you to get to know the region better. We suggest that you enjoy a family day out fishing, that combines a boat fishing trip with the possibility of eating what you catch at a restaurant later. The trip lasts four hours and pre-booking is required.
If you're more interested in history, you can go back to the 19th century at the Centre d'Interpretació del Romanticisme Manuel de Cabanyes. This interpretive centre is located in a country house built in 1798 on the outskirts of Vilanova and displays the patrimony of a family that is closely related to romanticism through the figure of the poet Manuel de Cabanyes. Apart from visiting the house itself, the centre features an exhibition on the role of the Cabanyes family in the worlds of literature, painting, science and technology. The Museu Romàntic Can Papiol will allow you to prolong your trip to the past. Here you can find out about the life of a well-off Vilanova family in the 19th century by exploring their family home.
Afternoon day 3: Mythology in the open air
To return to the present and conclude our weekend, there's nothing better than touring the seafront in Vilanova. If you come on foot, you'll find it right at the end of the Rambla, where there is a monolith dedicated to Francesc Macia, President of the Generalitat Government between 1931 and 1933, who was born in the city. Straight in front you can see the harbour, with the the Yacht Club and Vilanova Grand Marina, a luxury yacht harbour opened in 2009. If you continue along Passeig del Carmen you will find a large number of bars and restaurants with terraces, and beyond them, on the seashore, the famous sculpture Pasifae, which has become the emblem of the city. It was created by the local sculptor Òscar Estruga, who was inspired by Greek mythology and sought to embody the love story of Pasiphae, the wife of King Minos of Crete, who disguised herself as a cow to consummate her love for a bull. The infatuation of the queen was the punishment handed out by the sea god, Poseidon, after the king failed to sacrifice animals in his honor. The fruit of this affair between woman and beast was the Minotaur, half man and half bull. This magnificent sculpture will surely inspire your photographic talent and you will take away a picture postcard image as a souvenir of your visit to the town.
Where to stay and where to eat
Cultural venues in Garraf
Founded in 1884 by politician and writer Victor Balaguer i Cirera, the original nucleus of the Balaguer Library-Museum consists of the books and artworks that he gathered throughout his life, alongside the many donations received from prominent personalities. The museums’ art collection consists of over eight thousand pieces. In the permanent collection special attention is paid to the examples of art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the quality of which led to the museum becoming a section of the National Museum of Art of Catalonia.
- Avinguda de Víctor Balaguer, s/n, 08800
Located in the centre of Sitges, the Romantic Museum is set in the Llopis family home, built in 1793 outside the Medieval walled town. For many years it was one of the noblest houses in the new town area of Sitges and was inhabited by various generations of Llopis, a Sitges family of maritime origins who ascended the social scale thanks to accumulating land and trading in wine and spirits. As well as having the opportunity to explore a wealthy 19th century family home, visitors here can see the curious collection of dolls belong to Barcelona writer and illustrator Lola Anglada.
- C/ de Sant Gaudenci, 1, 08870
This Romantic Museum is set in the old Papiol family home; this was an influential family that moved to Vilanova in the middle of the 17th century and whose wealth was acquired through buying properties and marriage. The house conserves the original structure, layout and decoration. Its exteriors are in line with the austere style of the time with a neoclassical façade and painted architectural motifs. The inside, in contrast, is remarkable for its fastidious elegance. The tour of the building takes in the family quarters the servants’ quarters and the garden.
- C/Major, 32, 08800
An old house belonging to indianos, set in the heart of the Garraf Natural Park,Palau Novella has become the site of Catalonia’s first Buddhist monastery. You can explore it on a guided tour that will introduce you to the religion’s art and sacred objects. The monastery also holds meditation workshops that are open to everybody. It is located in privileged surroundings that are also worth visiting.
- Palau Novella, Parc Natural del Garraf, 08870
Located right next to the train station, the Vilanova Railway Museum has one of the world’s largest collection of railway related items in the world, including more than sixty vehicles from all eras, countries and technologies, with 28 steam locomotives dating from the late nineteenth century, including the oldest in Spain and the last one that was in active service in the country . Also on exhibition are wagons, diesel and electric engines and other curious vehicles.
- Plaça d'Eduard Maristany, s/n, 08800