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From sea to mountain in the blink of an eye

Head to Baix Llobregat, where sea, sand and sun are found just a few kilometres from the Serralada Litoral mountain range

Written by
Albert Tomàs

For a fantastic summer morning, what could be better than a trip to Castelldefels beach? And what could be better for a spring afternoon than open-air activities whether at the nearby Olympic Canal or on a hike through the Garrif massif? All this, and a helping of history, is found in this getaway, which takes you from the Castle of Casteldefells to Begues, with a stop at the sea.

Day 1 – afternoon: crossing the gateways of history
© Consorci de Turisme del Baix Llobregat

Day 1 – afternoon: crossing the gateways of history

To get your trip off on the right foot, start with a visit to the Castle of Castelldefels, found in the heart of the old town. Leave your car in the nearby car park, in C/Arcadi Balaguer, and you’ll soon be at the fortification. If you have time, the streets around the castle deserve a good look as a way to get to know this town where you’ll be spending much of the next two days. Take a walk around the base of the castle to find traces of the social activity carried out there and how it related to other places in the area. A good example is the country house (masia) of Can Gomar, on C/Bisbe Urqinaona, which today houses the local cultural centre. The most practical thing would be to start your tour here, because the entrance to the castle is just opposite. Wander to the left or right, along the outskirts of the walls and eventually you’ll reach Plaça del Castell, where the entrance is. You’ll see an impressive gateway – it marks the place where you’ll leave the present behind to go back many centuries in time. Everything’s ready for crossing the doorway of history.

If the weather is good, linger a while in the Castle Park, an unusual garden with exotic plants and few paths, which will take you to the threshold of the castle itself. The first thing that will doubtless catch your attention is the privileged position it occupies, overlooking the Delta of the Llobregat river and the plain of Barcelona, from Garraf to Collserola. But this position shouldn’t be a total surprise. The strategic location was key for its construction, especially as it was an excellent spot for keeping an eye on ships arriving on the coast. This was not something that was ignored in medieval times, nor indeed, by the older civilisations that inhabited Castelldefels even earlier – on the site of the castle, Paleolithic remains have been found, along with some from an Iberian village and a Roman villa. It’s no surprise, then, that the troops of Charlemagne who came from the north to regain this area from the caliphate of Cordova, fixed their attention on it. Where you’re standing now, in the 10th century, these conquerors constructed a small chapel in the Romanesque style.

Start the tour in this thousand-year-old chapel. The interior has been renovated and you can see some of the original colours and neoclassic frescos, which couldn’t be appreciated until just a few years ago, due to the effects of the Civil War. From the 10th to 15th centuries, with the expansion of Barcelona’s power across the Mediterranean, commerce grew in the area, and this made it necessary, first, to fortify the chapel during the 14th and 15th centuries and, eventually, to construct a castle to ensure the security of the region, a process that was completed in the mid-16th century. Its interest and significance are notable and surrounding it are 12 watchtowers, which assisted in the military role of the castle. You can visit the interior on the second Sunday of every month. Once you’re done, take a relaxed stroll back through the gardens to bring your afternoon to an end.
Day 2 – morning: Sea, sun and sand
© Josep Cano / Diputació de Barcelona

Day 2 – morning: Sea, sun and sand

If you think that a morning at the beach means getting up late, arriving some time after 11am, relaxing on your towel and generally taking it easy, well, that’s exactly what we recommend for the first half of your second day. On the beach of Castelldefels, there are almost five kilometres of sand (500,000 square metres!) where you can choose your perfect spot – set down your parasol, buckets and spades and let the Mediterranean breeze caress you until lunchtime.

Of course, you don’t have to stay rooted to your towel for the whole morning. You could take a walk along the beach, perhaps in the direction of the Delta of the Llobregat river, to see the marshes and reeds that run alongside the beach, or simply to stretch your legs. However, as you walk along with the sand between your toes, make sure you don’t get distracted and end up crashing into a learner windsurfer. This could happen as you pass by the Club Marítim de Castelldefels, where they organise not only windsurfing but also sailing, jet skis and catamarans.

The Club Marítim de Castelldefels is just one of two activity centres on the beach. The second, more to the south, is the Club Nàutic de Castelldefels. As you approach, you’ll spot people learning how to kitesurf in the Escola Nàutica Garbí, located just before the Club Nàutic. In these historical facilities, created by locals around 40 years ago, they also organise water-ski courses, windsurfing and sailing.
Day 2 – afternoon: Olympic calm
© Canal Olímpic de Catalunya

Day 2 – afternoon: Olympic calm

After lunch, an ideal way to continue the day is by getting active at the Olympic Canal (Canal Olímpic). Around halfway along the Passeig Marítim, head down C/Disset and it will take you directly there. This facility, which was created for the 1992 Olympic Games, has undergone a re-think regarding its purpose and today is open to anyone who wants to get in shape, or even just wants to have a good time while moving around. Among the activities you can choose from are rowing, canoeing and kayaking, all ideal for children or for spending a relatively quiet afternoon. But if you arrive interested in something more exciting, you could give water skiing or windsurfing a go. You can rent all material, the entry-fee is €2 and it’s open until 10pm. If you’ve had enough of water after your morning at the beach, or if you not a sea person, don’t worry: at the Olympic Canal you can also find more earthly  activities such as archery and pitch and putt.

If that doesn’t sound quite your cup of tea, and what you’re really in the mood for is a spot of zumba or you’re missing your spinning class, no problem: the Canal has its own gym and swimming pool available. Any of these activities would be ideal for relaxing after a morning at the beach, while maybe also letting you discover a new pastime. When you’re ready, in the evening head back for a last stroll by the beach to bring this full day to a relaxed end.

Day 3 – in the shade of the coast

The Catalan coast also has a mountainous side. You can discover it by taking the road that runs between Castelldefels and Begues, the BV-2411. Just over 10 kilometres separate the two towns, even if, as you’re about to find out, they have nothing to do with each other.

Start the morning by leaving your car in the area of Begues Parc and heading to the Study Centre. There you’ll find something key for your visit: ‘Itineraries of Begues’, a collection of routes around the village, available as leaflets and organised to interconnect. Each route should take less than an hour and the majority are within the Parc Natural del Garraf.

Take, for example, the route that leaves from Can Rigol going south and heads to the view-point of Penya Ferris, an ideal place from where to enjoy unique views of the massif. Forty-five minutes of a tranquil walk in nature will take you to Can Térmens, the plain of Issula and the communications towers of Bassa Llacuna. You can continue the outing by connecting to the itinerary that goes from the communications towers to Les Solius, another view-point incorporated into the mountains. From here you can once more enjoy the greenery of the Natural Park. The possibilities are infinite: the morning can continue with a route to, for instance, the Creu de Montau or the hermitage of Santa Eulàlia via Turó de Can Pasqual - more than 30 options await you.

Following a morning of walking, for the final hours of your getaway, why not visit the centre of Begues? A good starting-point is the Rectory, originally from the 13th century. Nearby is the Old Church of Sant Cristòfol (Església Vella), which dates from the 16th century, in the late gothic style. Carry on until Plaça de la Bassa Blanca and from there take C/Creu del Joncar, then Avinguda Torres Vilaró, which will take you to the winding streets of the Raval de Sant Martí.
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