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Espai Natural del delta del Llobregat
© Albert Miró

Baix Llobregat, a visit to three unmissable places

Collbató caves, the natural areas of the delta and the Güell Colony will occupy your time in this region

By Xavier Amat
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On this getaway to Baix Llobregat you’ll visit three very different places but all of great beauty, and probably the best known in the region. These are the Güell Colony, with a crypt designed by Antoni Gaudi, the natural areas of the Llobregat Delta and the Coves de Salnitre de Collbató (Saltpetre Caves).

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

Coves de Salnitre Collbató
Coves de Salnitre Collbató

The bowels of Montserrat

Your trip begins in a magical place. If the mountain of Montserrat is spectacular on the outside, it is no less beautiful inside. Its rocks conceal a unique underground world, and the best place to observe and enjoy it is in the Coves de Salnitre de Collbató. Maybe it is fruit of human imagination, but on this route of half a kilometre through the bowels of the sacred mountain you feel like you’re looking at the architecture of Gaudí, organ pipes, and even a sculpture of La Moreneta (the Black Madonna), leaving you awestruck. Did Gaudí really come here, and was his work actually inspired by what he saw? We still don’t know, but one thing for sure is that other well-known local artists such as Santiago Rusiñol and Ramon Casas and the poet Jacint Verdaguer did come here. But that was a long time ago, and now it's your turn to admire the evocative interior scenery that stone and water have patiently sculpted over thousands of years.

Espais Naturals del delta del Llobregat
Espais Naturals del delta del Llobregat
© Albert Miró

The wealth of the Delta

Where there’s water, there’s life. And the Llobregat River, although all along its path it is heavily exploited, still reaches the sea with sufficient force to form a delta and, with it, some natural surroundings of great biological value. The delta natural areas are protected and shared between the towns of El Prat de Llobregat, Viladecans, Gavà and Sant Boi de Llobregat. You can follow different signposted routes, where you’ll enjoy distinct natural settings: from lagoons and wetlands to pine woods on dunes and unspoilt beaches with rear dune vegetation. Observing the fauna, especially the waterfowl, is one of the great attractions of the place. Moreover, the delta is one of the few places in Catalonia where you can see ‘trencadalla’ (Asper squamatus), a herbaceous plant of the Malvaceae family that produces large pink flowers; and also 22 different species of orchids have been catalogued. In short, one of the few examples of wetlands that exists in the middle of a metropolitan area in the whole of the Mediterranean arc.

Book a table for lunch at Fosbury Cafè, in the Passeig Marítim de Castelldefels. The restaurant is part of the ‘Flavours of the Vegetable Garden’ campaign, with a modern design, spacious terrace and rooms for different kinds of events.

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Cripta Gaudí, a la Colònia Güell
Cripta Gaudí, a la Colònia Güell

Gaudí’s crypt

In the afternoon you’ll head to Santa Coloma de Cervelló to a very special industrial site, the Güell Colony. Strolling around you’ll see its modernista buildings, and it’s a good idea to visit the Interpretation Centre, located 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. Undoubtedly, yet another marvel from the great 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 catenary model using thin brass 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.

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