Winter getaway to Vallès Oriental
A trip to the land of hot springs
Vallès Oriental is a county without the sea or large rivers, but the importance that water has played and plays in its character is beyond doubt. That is why, on this getaway, we want to invite you to visit two renowned spa towns: La Garriga and Caldes de Montbui. Water is also a major feature in the place where we will end our tour, Sant Miquel del Fai.
Afternoon day 1: 'Modernisme' in La Garriga
We'll start our trip around Vallès Oriental by calling in at a town that was one of the first summer resorts to be occupied by the Barcelona bourgeoisie, who left behind many examples of the Art Nouveau architectural style known as Modernisme,which fundamentally changed the town's appearance. Even though it's not summer now, it is still well worth visiting La Garriga to be blown away by its many buildings dating from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. You simply must take a stroll along the long, flat and enticing Passeig, a boulevard populated by a number of mansion houses built around a hundred years ago. The information panels located at the beginning or end of the Passeig give their names and locations: Casa Sebastià Bosch i Sala, Casa Santamaria, Casa Barraquer, Torre Iris... Worthy of mention in their own right is the block of mansions near Plaça del Silenci. This is known as l'Illa Raspall and consists of four houses, surrounded by gardens, built by Manuel J. Raspall between 1910 and 1913, which are now protected as items of National Cultural Heritage. But in order to see Raspall's first architectural work, you should head for the centrally located Carrer dels Banys, where, in 1903, the architect renovated his mother's family home from top to bottom. In doing so he preserved some Gothic elements of the original 14th century farmhouse, while observant eyes may notice the influence of Josep Puig i Cadafalch.
While there are scheduled tours around La Garriga, you can make your own way round the town's most prominent and iconic streets and stay informed thanks to the interactive GUIMO touch screen tablets, a innovative system that can be rented from the Visitor's Centre for 5 Euros.
Morning day 2: A civil war air field
On the outskirts of La Garriga, on the way to Les Franqueses del Vallès, there is a site that speaks to us of a fairly recent and painful past. We are talking about the Rosanes airfield, which will be our first destination this morning. It was built in the 1930s by an Argentine businessman, but was then expanded and put to use by the Republican Air Force once the Civil War had broken out, becoming a place of great strategic importance. That is why we will find bomb shelters, command buildings and canteens for the troops along the whole well-documented and marked route, in addition to the control tower. Since the airfield can be a little difficult to find, the GPS coordinates are E 2.281294, N 41.662702. Alternatively, you can look for Carrer de Ramon Ciurans.
But let's leave history behind now and immerse ourselves in nature. From La Garriga you can set out on a number of trails what will allow you to discover the lay of the land and the landscapes of this part of the Vallès Oriental. Choose the one you find most interesting, but if you're visiting with your family, we recommend a trail that is easy and relatively short, named Ca l'Oliveró. Setting out from Passeig dels Til·lers, head for Carrer de Cardedeu and the Torrent de la Cova. The path gets a little steep but is easy going and provides views of old farm fields that have now been taken over by woodlands, as well as marvellous views of La Garriga and a 16th century farmhouse named Masia de Ca l'Oliveró.
Afternoon day 2: Take it easy at a Spa
You can use the afternoon to take it easy in a healthy way - after all, this has been known as the land of hot springs since ancient times. If you are staying in La Garriga, we suggest that you head for the Gran Hotel Balneari Blancafort and choose the serve you fancy most. For example, you have the Templarium, taking its inspiration from an ancient Roman spa, complete with warm, hot and cold water pools; the Natatorium, with hydrotherapy treatments using mineral-medicinal waters. You can also consult the daily agenda of activities offered by the hotel.
Morning day 3: The town of boiling waters
On the last day of our trip we will carry on discovering the healthy benefits of thermal waters. In Vallès Oriental, we have Caldes de Montbui, a town whose waters emerge literally boiling from the earth at a temperature of 74ºC, as you can feel for yourself at the Font del Lleó. Be careful not to scald your hand! The square where this fountain is located, which called Plaça del Lleó, is beautiful and elegant with the hotel and spa Broquetas on one side, the modern City Hall building on another, and the Roman baths occupying a privileged position. It could, in fact, be said that the whole history of the town has been marked by the existence of its hot springs since it was the Romans who opened the first baths here, which are the best preserved examples from the period on the Iberian Peninsula. People came from all over to take the waters at Caldes and the baths once occupied a vast area, much larger than what we can see today. As for Hotel Broquetas, be sure to go in to check out its halls and, in addition, be surprised by the vast collection of owls (figures, not stuffed animals), which have become a symbol of more than just the hotel and are sold as souvenirs at many of the town's shops.
To get to know more about the town and its history, stop off at Thermalia, the Caldes de Montbui Museum, located in the same square. The building's façade is currently undergoing restoration, but, as is true of people, the most important things are to be found on the inside. An attractive sculpture by Sebastià Badia, dedicated to the town, will welcome you inside. The ground floor is reserved for temporary exhibitions while the first floor is given over to the theme of spas and thermal waters. On the second floor, however, art takes pride of place. It was precisely the need to take the waters that brought the famous sculptor Manolo Hugue to these lands and some of his works are on display at Thermalia, as well as a number of pieces that Pablo Ruiz Picasso devoted to the sculptor and his family.
At the museum you will also find the tourist information center with everything you need to know to visit the town. And you might be surprised by the many places you could explore. For example, its medieval walls, Romanesque bridge, the Esclop mill, the old Codina pharmacy, the Delger museum, various public wash basins, and Can Sanmartí where pasta has been made since 1700. And there's still more to explore; at the beginning of the street you will find a wonderful Bell Tower, which was originally a part of the 12th century walls and later used as a prison, and is considered to be an item of national cultural interest. We recommend that you cross the bridge and venture into the Can Rius park, the old garden of the spa of the same name, which is now closed to the public, although a portion of the building has been beautifully restored and hosts a number of activities.
Afternoon day 3: Caves and waterfalls
For the final afternoon of our visit, we've saved one of those little gems that we are always happy to visit time and time again. Sant Miquel del Fai is located in a spectacular setting, perched on top of the Bertí cliff tops. Here you can find amazing old buildings such as Gothic monastery with its chapel carved out of a cave in the mountain, the beautiful caves of Sant Miquel and Tosques and the Tenes and Rossinyol waterfalls. It's a beautiful place to put an end to our getaway.
Where to stay and where to eat
Cultural venues in Vallès Oriental
Over the last decade, the old Roca Umbert textile factory has become the centre of cultural life in the capital of Vallès Oriental. The building contains different spaces including the municipal library, opened in 2005, the Centre Tecnològic i Universitari, the Espai d'Arts, which provides services and resources to the region’s artistic community with the aim of promoting contemporary creation, and cub, a space given over to rehearsals and musical production. Special mention must be made of La Troca, a unique space that hosts a dozen entities related to the world of popular and traditional culture.
- Prat de la Riba, 77, 08401
Not many places can claim to have been wine and champagne production facilities before becoming a theatre with a program of dance and children’s and professional drama. The building is very beautiful both inside and out, and retains its original cellars. What was once the wine vat is now the sound and light booth. A place, then, that offers some added value when attending a show, and a good example of how to convert old buildings to other uses.
- Castelao, 2, 08100
On the ground floor here there is the tourism office of Caldes de Montbui, an obligatory stop-off to find out everything you need to visit the town. You can also take advantage of your visit to see everything that Thermalia has to offer, from the history of the town’s spas to an important selection of works by the sculptor Manolo Hugue, who lived in the village for many years, and a number of pieces by his friend Pablo Picasso. The temporary exhibition room also features interesting exhibits.
- Plaça de la Font del Lleó, 20, 08140
Head for Castelltercol to discover the house where Enric Prat de la Riba, one of the greatest 20th century Catalan politicians, lived. Prat de la Riba was the creator and first president of the Mancomunitat (Commonwealth), and whether you agree with his politics or not, the house is worth a visit because it retains the decor and atmosphere of an early 20th century town house. We particularly like the bedroom, with its 19th century furniture, and the atmosphere of the office, which was transferred here from Barcelona.
- Plaça de Prat de la Riba, 7, 08183
The museum’s collection covers various fields, including archeology, art, decorative arts, ethnography and numismatics. The Natural Sciences are also studied here since an extension was built in 1987. The museum is therefore multidisciplinary, as you will discover when you explore its permanent and temporary exhibitions which will help you to learn more about past and present of Granollers and its surroundings. And for lovers of contemporary art, there is a good exhibition on the third floor of the building.
- Anselm Clavé, 40, 08401
Opened a decade ago, the building was designed by local architect Josep M. Botey, and consists of two halls: the larger one with a capacity for 700 spectators and the smaller one for 221. The number of shows that are scheduled throughout the year is remarkable; they include music, theatre and dance, but if you just want to explore the building, nothing better than to ask for a guided tour (for groups with a minimum of 15 people), on which you will be able to walk around the stage, the dressing rooms and the stalls.
- Torras i Bages, 50, 08401