The Bages, in the heart of Catalonia, is an area with many points of interest. Well aware that we cannot see everything in just a couple of days, we are going to focus on three main sights: Manresa, the county town, which we are saving until last; the wineries of the Pla de Bages DO; and Cardona, with its spectacular castle, which is where we are starting our adventure.
Day 1, Afternoon: An Impregnable Castle
Our first stop in the county of Bages is one of its most emblematic and majestic historical sites: Cardona Castle. They say that construction on it started no less than 2500 years ago, but even today it dominates the land impressively. Much of it is dedicated to tourism, with many spaces open to visitors, including the ducal patio, the cloister or the round Minyona Tower, from which the views are simply breathtaking. We recommend you sign up for a guided tour to discover the castle’s interior and the adjacent Collegiate Church of Sant Vicenç. You will learn how the buildings were of vital historic and strategic importance as well as having special religious significance, as Sant Ramon Nonat died here in 1240. It is also a notable heritage site: the Sant Vicenç Church is one of the finest examples of Catalan First Romanesque architecture.
Day 2: Winegrowing Country
Some say that the name of the county comes from Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. Whether this is true or not, what we do know for certain is that wine has been made in this region since Roman times and that the Pla de Bages Designation of Origin is gaining new fans with every passing day. There are a dozen wineries in the DO and we have lined up visits to a few of them today so we can learn some of their secrets.
Whichever winery you choose, each of them has their own particular charm. For instance, some of them have ancient stone vats which testify to the long-standing passion for winemaking in Bages. This is the case of Abadal in Santa Maria d’Horta d’Avinyó, set in a beautiful landscape. As well as taking you to this winery, we are also off to the Wine Museum, located in a 12 th -century country house, to see some of the aforementioned vats. There, they are sure to speak of the picapoll, a variety native to the Pla de Bages, which grows a small green oval grape with very thin, tender skin and the emblem of the DO. Once the tour is completed, we enjoy a wine tasting, an act that is repeated when we reach Mas de Sant Iscle, within the boundaries of Sant Fruitós de Bages, where they have been making wine since the early 19 th century. The farmhouse, which dates back to 950 AD, is close to the vineyards, so visits always start on the land and you are bound to see the labourers hard at work on some seasonal task. Then you can head to the winery, where you can have lunch and which holds jazz and classical music concerts throughout the year.
When you have had your fill of food and wine, you can set off to Castellar Castle in the municipality of Aguilar de Segarra. On a guided visit, you will discover this surprising Gothic site, which comprises the spectacular castle, the Sant Miquel Church, a rectory, and a mill. It is one of the few fortifications in Catalonia to have been both a military stronghold and home to tenant farmers.
Day 3: Manresa from Various Perspectives
As we said, our last day is going to be spent in Manresa. The county town can be explored from several angles, all of which are attractive. If you are the sort who likes having things explained to them, we suggest you look up the list of guided tours on offer and choose one that matches your interests. We opted for a walk around the old city, the part that lies within the medieval wall; in other words, the historic centre. We discover delightful spots such as the Plaça Major, the Plana de l’Om, Carrer de Sant Miquel and Carrer d’en Botí. Special mention goes to Carrer del Balç, which retains the same structure it had 700 years ago, when Manresa was one of the most important cities in the territory of the Crown of Aragon and received the monarchs with full honours. In the Interpretation Centre on the same street, the latest technology brings Peter IV the Ceremonious (known as Pere III in Catalonia) back to life to explain the details of medieval Manresa.
A detour to the Santa Maria Basilica (La Seu) is essential. This Gothic construction marks the profile of the top of Puigcardener, the city’s iconic hill. You can also follow in the footsteps of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who spent eleven months here in 1522 and wrote his Spiritual Exercises in a cave called the Santa Cova. This site, possibly Manresa’s most internationally famous spot, is where we bid farewell to the county town and the comarca of Bages.