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Getaway to the Baix Llobregat: Gaudí crypt and the wonders of nature

A few kilometres from Barcelona, the region of Baix Llobregat offers plenty of surprises and charming places to visit

Those who live in and around Barcelona know you can get to Baix Llobregat in a jiffy, whether by public transport or by jumping into their own car, or hiring a car. You might think a place so close to the city isn't worthy of a three-day getaway, but believe us when we say that if you pass up the chance, you won't know what you're missing. Castles, modernista jewels, beaches and fantastic natural spaces are just waiting to be discovered.

IN COLLABORATION WITH BARCELONA ÉS MOLT MÉS AND THE DIPUTACIÓ DE BARCELONA

Afternoon day 1: A World Heritage crypt

Afternoon day 1: A World Heritage crypt

Your visit to the region starts in Santa Coloma de Cervelló – in particular, at a very special industrial colony: the Colònia Güell. Strolling around, you'll see the colony’s modernista buildings, and it’s a good idea to visit the Study Centre, situated in what used to be the consumer cooperative, where you'll find a permanent exhibition explaining the history of the entire colony.

A must-see is the crypt in the church, designed by Antoni Gaudí and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site – yet another marvel from the genius Catalan architect. Note the differences between each of the columns, the rich craftsmanship of the furniture and the pretty pine cone–shaped stained-glass windows, which almost seem to act as a sundial.

Industrialist Eusebi Güell commissioned Gaudí to build an entire church, and the architect worked on the site for a decade, developing the first catenaries using fine brass fishing chains to form the inverted curved arches. But the Güell family’s financial difficulties and the death of the entrepreneur meant that Gaudí could only complete the crypt. Nonetheless, it's hard to express in words the sensation one experiences in a place like this, so you'll just have to see for yourself. We recommend taking the guided tour or using the audio guide so you don’t miss any of the finer details.

Day 2: Awaken your senses in Castelldefels

Day 2: Awaken your senses in Castelldefels

This excursion is best taken in warm weather so you don’t miss out on one of the great attractions of the Baix Llobregat: the beaches. Even though only four towns in the region lie along the coastline – Castelldefels, Gavà, Viladecans and El Prat de Llobregat – we can assure you that they provide plenty of spots to take a dip in the sea along extensive stretches of sand. What's more, many of the spots along the Baix Llobregat shoreline enjoy the distinction of being Blue Flag beaches thanks to their high environmental and quality standards.

Take a day out for yourself with sunbathing and swimming in Castelldefels today, where you'll find nearly five kilometres of beaches. But if you're more one for water sports than relaxing, both the Club Marítim Castelldefels and the Club Nàutic Castelldefels have a long list of activities, so you can spend some memorable hours splashing about in the sea.

And while you're in Castelldefels, take the opportunity to visit one of its icons: the castle. With fantastic views high on a hilltop between the Garraf Massif and the shore, an interior church was erected in the 10th century on the site of Iberian and Roman settlements, and the castle was built in the 16th century. It was purchased by the Castelldefels Ajuntament (City Hall) in 1988, and restoration and reconstruction work began which is still underway today.

Groups of ten or more can request guided tours, and they do have the occasional open day with free entry. For more information or to make a booking, contact the Oficina de Turisme in Castelldefels.

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Day 3: The Delta del Llobregat

Day 3: The Delta del Llobregat

Where there is water, there is life. And, despite its overexploitation, the Llobregat River still reaches the sea with enough force to form a delta in which there are some highly valuable natural environments for very specific ecosystems to thrive in. The natural spaces of the delta are protected and span the municipalities of El Prat de Llobregat, Viladecans, Gavà and Sant Boi de Llobregat.

There are various signposted routes you can explore to enjoy the various natural features, from lagoons and wetlands to coastal pine groves next to virgin beaches with dunes and their accompanying plant species. Birdwatching, especially of aquatic birds, is one of this location’s other great attractions.

As a side note, the delta is also home to one of the country’s few populations of 'Kosteletzkya pentacarpos', an herbaceous plant with large pink flowers in the Malvaceae family, and over 22 different species of orchid have been catalogued here. In summary, this is one of the rare examples of wetlands in the middle of a metropolitan area in the entire Mediterranean and a magnificent spot to end your getaway.

Les Marines

This is a great restaurant in all senses of the word: for the good food on offer, which is based on avant-garde Mediterranean cuisine, and for its spacious dining areas, which make it the ideal venue for large-scale celebrations. It also has gardens, private parking, and fantastic surroundings, since it's set amid pine trees next to the sea. Choose one of the fixed-price menus – tasting or gastronomic – and you’ll discover the variety and quality of the dishes served here.

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Plats

Maximum creativity based on top-quality, locally sourced produce. Dining at Plats, which is located very near Gavarra metro station in Cornellà de Llobregat, is quite an experience. An excellent option is to order the tasting menu with paired wine, but if you prefer something lighter and cheaper, the fixed-price menu also embodies all of the culinary expertise of chef Xavier Llanos.

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Andalucía

With a name that gives a clue as to the provenance of its owners, good value for money, excellent stone-grilled steaks, soupy rice, carpaccios and seafood, facilities for celebrations, elegant decoration, and a good location in the centre of Castelldefels, it’s certainly worthwhile going to eat at this restaurant, which has been offering friendly service to its customers for decades.

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El Diván de los Sentidos

Slow food, market cuisine, locally sourced produce bought from Fair Trade establishments, healthy recipes, and the aim is to give a sense to gastronomy that goes far beyond eating just for the sake of eating. Here they seek to nourish the spirit through employing good and fair working practices. The restaurant’s cosy dining room provides the right setting for putting this approach into practice.

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Torreón

Highlights of Torreón: it's been in business for four decades (always a good sign); it's set in a piney location next to the sea; it's recently been redecorated; it has a deli-style shop where you can buy dishes to take home, along with a wide selection of wine, oil and liqueurs; the wine list is very competitive; and you can order half-sized portions of all the dishes. All of these factors make it a worthy option to consider when travelling in this region.

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Flora Parc

Located in Castelldefels, this hotel is a great choice for beach lovers, with the sea only a three-minute drive away. It’s great for families, with its spacious rooms, a modest-size swimming pool and a total of 68 rooms of different categories. It’s also located near the Olympic Canal and is therefore great for anyone who wants to practise sports, and not just water sports either.

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Hotel Esplugues

While it has few luxuries, this recently refurbished hotel is located near Barcelona and the most interesting attractions in the Baix Llobregat region and is very well connected to public transport. It’s a modern, pleasant establishment with single, double and triple rooms and serves generous breakfasts. It’s handy for visiting the nearby Rajoleta factory where the ceramic tiles for La Pedrera were made.

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Catalonia Bristol

This cosy three-star hotel is located in the shopping area of Sant Andreu de la Barca and has an outstanding restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine using locally sourced products. At breakfast time, guests can choose between three types of buffet.

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Hotel Pitort

The recently constructed Hotel Pitort is a functional two-star establishment that's nicely decorated and located in a quiet residential area, halfway between the coast and the commercial centre of Castelldefels. It has a bar/café with outside seating where you can enjoy a buffet breakfast, WiFi, and free parking for guests. All of its rooms are different.

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NH Cornellà

This NH chain hotel is located in the very centre of Cornellà, just a ten-minutes walk from train, metro and bus links, so visitors who want to can visit Barcelona and the Baix Llobregat region while leaving the car behind for a few days, moving around easily with public transport. This is a well-equipped three-star establishment with cosy rooms and a magnificent swimming pool that's ideal for relaxing.

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Parc Arqueològic Mines de Gavà

The Study Centre at the Gavà prehistoric mine site brings back what life here was like 6,000 years ago, when the local Neolithic community began to work the local variscite mines. As well as offering visits to a small part of the mine, the centre features audiovisual and explanatory modules and a scale reproduction of the mines. Many of the items discovered here can be found in the Gavà Museum.

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Beyond Barcelona

Teatre de la Passió d'Esparreguera

With more than 1,700 seats and a stage measuring 375 square metres, the Teatre de la Passió d'Esparreguera is one of the largest theatres in Catalonia. Although the performances of the Passion Play are the theatre’s true raison d’être, it also has a varied programme of theatrical performances throughout the year, as well as concerts, and a drama school dedicated to the performance of the Passion Play.

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Conjunt històric de la colònia Güell

The Colònia Güell complex dates from 1890, when the textile industrialist Eusebi Güell decided to move his El Vapor Vell cotton factory from the neighbourhood of Sants in Barcelona to the village of Santa Coloma de Cervelló. It's made up of the factory colony itself, a study centre, and the Gaudí-designed crypt. You can carry out your visit with the help of audio guides or, if you prefer, there are guided tours at noon on Sundays and public holidays. On Saturday mornings, you'll find a farmers' market, where local produce is sold.

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Llobregat Delta and Agricultural Park

The Llobregat delta has plenty of places open to visitors. You can explore its marshes, ponds, pools and beaches on foot or by bicycle. The protected area includes the Baix Llobregat Agricultural Park, one of the most fertile agricultural areas in the country. Another interesting feature of your visit to the Baix Llobregat is the possibility of acquiring products from local farmers who sell their produce directly to the public.

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Castell de Castelldefels

The Castle of Castelldefels, which first appears in documents dating from the 10th century and which is located on top of a hill, has largely been restored and can be visited on the second Sunday of every month. Among the spaces open to the public are the courtyard, the fencing hall, the Santa Maria church and the stables. The castle also offers views of the Garraf Massif, Collserola, the plain of Barcelona, Montjuïc, the Llobregat Delta and the coastline.

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