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Gaudí treasures close to the source of the Llobregat river

Take 48 hours to get to know Berguedà, a county of unique landscapes and an interesting artistic heritage
Pedraforca i Cadí
By Xavier Amat |

Berguedà is a large county near the Pyrenees, full of charm and emblematic natural places, such as the mountain of Pedraforca and the origin of the Llobregat river, the place where this ‘working river’ begins. Industrial settlements, lovely villages, Romanesque architecture… everywhere is worth visiting. But you’ve only got 48 hours. We hope you enjoy what we’ve chosen for you.

Sant Jaume de Frontanyà
© Josep Cano / Diputació de Barcelona

Day 1 – afternoon: a little village with a big heritage

It might be Catalonia’s smallest village but Sant Jaume de Frontanyà has at least one landmark that makes it worth visiting, the magnificent Augustine monastery. It’s true that today little remains of the original religious building except the cemetery and church, but it’s a church that is a prodigious example of the Lombard Romanesque style, with a photogenic apse, attractive apsidoles and a dome that is renowned for having 12 sides. To get all the details and the chance to get inside, you need to ask for the audio guide either at the Fonda Marxandó, the rural tourism house Casa Blanca or the new rectory. In Sant Jaume de Frontanyà, it’s also interesting to see the hermitage of Sant Esteve de Tubau, with pre-Romanesque roots, and the 18th-century sanctuary of Santa Maria dels Oms.

Jardins Artigas
© Agència Desenvolupament Berguedà

Day 2 – the valley of Lillet

Spend your only whole day in Berguedà getting to know the Valley of Lillet, where you’ll discover a range of attractions as well diverse nature even though some of it is closely related. 

We suggest you start at the train station of La Pobla de Lillet, where you can enjoy an exhibition of trains, then get on board the Cement Train, with which you can take a trip to Catalonia’s industrial past. First stop: the Asland Cement Museum. It was a century ago that the spectacular cement factory instigated by Eusebi Güell started operating; 40 years ago, it closed its doors. However, today it’s possible to visit the interior of this unique construction that has modernista elements as well as steps that follow the incline of the mountain, to be able to take advantage of the force of gravity during the cement manufacture process. The visits include an exterior itinerary through the industrial ruins, and an interior one that will help you better understand the working of the factory.

Get back on board the train, which now will take you to the Artigas Gardens, an Antoni Gaudí creation from the start of the 20th century, in thanks to the Artigas family for the hospitality received when the architect spent time in Pobla while designing the house of Catllaràs. The imagination of the great architect often appears to have had no limits, and in this lovely place it shows itself once more. Stones, water and vegetation play and combine elegantly, while also creating atmospheres and diverse elements, from bridges to sculptures and artificial caves.

When lunchtime arrives, we suggest trying local products used to make recipes that have been maintained from generation to generation, in any restaurant of La Pobla. To get to them, get off the train at La Pobla Centre station and head for the old town. Walking through the streets, you’ll experience the magic of the epoch in which the family of the Mataplanas inhabited the nearby castle (which is located along the path to Gombrèn, in the county of Ripollès). In the parish church, you can see ‘Christ the Majesty’, a large-scale Romanesque painting on polychrome wood that dates from the 12th century.

Once lunch is over, we recommend heading towards Guardiola de Berguedà and taking the turning to the sanctuary of the Mother of God de Falgars, patron saint of the town with an image from the 15th century sculpted in alabaster. From the Joan Casanova viewing-point, you’ll enjoy some impressive views of the valley with Pedraforca in the background. This is an excellent place to finish your day.
Les Fonts del Llobregat
© Josep Cano / Diputació de Barcelona

Day 3 – spectacular part of the Llobregat river

Castellar de n’Hug is close to the counties of Ripollès and la Cerdanya. It’s a picturesque village and we suggest that you spend some time there (go into a bakery and buy delicious bread cooked over wood, or try the giant croissants, if you dare!), to discover its heritage, such as the church of Santa Maria or the Romanesque Sant Vicenç de Ruus, and enter the Shepherd’s Museum – at the end of August the village hosts the well-attended International Sheepdog Competition. In addition, this is the place where the river Llobregat starts, a spectacular sight of great force and beauty, as the water gushes out of the heart of the mountain. To get to the source, you don’t have to walk far – go down some steps and… there you’ll find the watery show right in front of you!

The river that starts here has been key to the development of this part of Catalonia, and as such it’s a good plan to get to know one of the industrial settlements that were built all along the Llobregat to take advantage of its current and power. There are a few settlements that are still inhabited and in fact function just like any village, with all the usual everyday activities and special festivities. L’Ametlla de Merola, where you’ll head this morning, is a clear example of this. The doors closed on its big factory in 1998, but today it has 300 inhabitants and celebrates its festa major in September, the Sunday closest to Sant Mateu, as well as many other cultural events and activities throughout the year. We’ve chosen this place because perhaps it is the one that most looks like a village: its white houses are striking and have a seaside ambience that contrasts with the grey of the church and the factory. The founder of the settlement, Mateu Serra, came from Vilassar in Maresme county, and doubtlessly he took his model from what he knew the best, the Maresme coast.

Finally, you shouldn’t leave Berguedà without seeing its capital, Berga. If you go around the time of Corpus Christi (in 2015, it’s celebrated on June 4), you will be able to experience all the magic and noise of the Patum, declared by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage. But if your trip doesn’t coincide with this event, Berga still deserves a good exploration, especially along C/Major. If you go into a patisserie to try the excellent sweet products they make, you’ll also take home a good taste in your mouth.

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