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Getaway to Bages: History, nature and postcard-pretty villages

Explore Manresa’s past and visit other towns, including Rajadell, Mura and Talamanca

Make the most of your time during your getaway to Bages by visiting three villages with interesting historical centres and beautiful natural surroundings, as well as calling in on Manresa, the capital of the region, to explore its medieval past and to follow in the footsteps of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.

Day 1: Rajadell and its surroundings

Day 1: Rajadell and its surroundings

Start your visit to Bages in Rajadell, a pretty village lying close to Manresa that's notable for its castle, which occupies a privileged position next to the Sant Iscle and Santa Victoria church. While not currently open to visitors, it's worth seeing from outside since it's one of the region’s most impressive and best-preserved fortresses. The village church is noteworthy for its 17th-century bell tower and its interior with passion scenes by the Manresa sculptor Ramon Oms, who also sculpted the figure you can see in the church square aptly titled 'The Boy in the Square', depicting a young man offering a seat to a visitor in representation of the village’s sense of hospitality.

After exploring the streets and buildings of Rajadell, it's time to take advantage of the possibilities that the village offers to enter into closer contact with nature. You could, for example, take the Green Way, which connects the village to Manresa, or follow the course of the Rajadell stream. Other options include a route around the local springs and visiting the Roman villa at Sant Amanç, among others. On foot or by bicycle, you have plenty of kilometres to explore.

Morning day 2: The Manresa of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Morning day 2: The Manresa of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

There are plenty of reasons for exploring Manresa, the capital of the Bages region, but its main claim to fame, perhaps even at the international level, is the fact that Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Company of Jesus (Jesuits), stayed here in 1522 while writing his Spiritual Exercises. If you want to find out more, your best option is to join the Saint Ignatius Trail guided tour, which, in the space of a few hours, will take you to the Old School of Saint Ignatius, the Chapel of the Abduction in Carrer del Balç, and most important, the cave in which Saint Ignatius saw his visions, which has splendid views of Montserrat and nowadays hosts a sanctuary and the International Spirituality Centre.

Afternoon day 2: Carrer del Balç

Afternoon day 2: Carrer del Balç

The long and sinuous Carrer del Balç in Manresa has remained practically unchanged since 700 years ago, when Manresa was one of the leading cities in the Kingdom of Aragon and greeted the monarchs who passed through here with all honours. In fact, some people claim that the 14th century was Manresa’s 'Golden Century'. Nowadays, this street/museum is a must-see for all visitors to the town, especially for those interested in the Middle Ages. Call in at the street’s Study Centre, which uses all the latest technology to reveal an abundance of information about medieval Manresa, presented by no less a personage than King Peter III the Ceremonious himself.

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Morning day 3: Montcau Valleys

Morning day 3: Montcau Valleys

Now for a complete change of scenery. You'll spend your last day in Bages in the Valleys of Montcau, a striking landscape that's part of the Sant Llorenç del Munt and L'Obac Natural Park, and home to villages like Mura, which is on your itinerary for this morning, and Talamanca, your destination for the afternoon.

Mura is one of those places that people call 'postcard-pretty', with its stone houses and streets where, though it may sound like a cliché, time really does seem to have stood still. The best thing to do here is to take an unhurried stroll around the streets, poking into hidden corners. The Romanesque Sant Martí church is easy enough to find with its interesting tympanum depicting the adoration of baby Jesus by the Magi. Plaça Àngel Guimerà, Passeig Camil Antonietti and the Mirador are some of the other interesting places you'll come across. If you want to head out of the village, follow the Nespres stream to Gorg del Padre, and make sure you visit Puig de la Balma, with a spectacular country house built inside a cave that features a small museum inside as well as lodging for visitors.

Afternoon day 3: Talamanca

Afternoon day 3: Talamanca

Time is running out and you still have to visit the village of Talamanca. Like Mura, Talamanca is a town of stone houses and streets. The most prominent feature of this town that stands atop a hill is the castle, where the Battle of Talamanca Study Centre has been open since 2012. The castle has a long history, starting in the 10th century and culminating in the War of the Spanish Succession, when it became a focus of resistance for the supporters of the Austrian cause. In revenge, Philip V ordered its demolition, but it was later rebuilt taking advantage of the original material. It is undoubtedly a space haunted by history and symbolism, and a good place to end your visit to Bages.

La Tina de Betlem

Where you stay now when you go to La Tina is where they used to store the wine ages ago, but don't worry, it doesn't smell like a wine cellar anymore. What you will get is an excellent country farmhouse where you can enjoy magnificent countryside and where you'll find a swimming pool, a barbecue, a terrace and a garden. Inside you won't want for much either, and next door is a farmhouse with a farm. The accommodation sleeps up to six, and it is rented out as a whole, plus small pets are welcome.

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Cal Jan Bastardas

The country farmhouse Cal Jan Bastardas dates back to the 18th century and offers magnificent panoramic views of Montserrat mountain. Outside there's a garden, a swimming pool and a terrace, while inside you'll find four bedrooms, a fireplace, and everything you need to spend a few restful days without having to move from the site if you don't want to. However, if you do want to go out and grab some supplies, a few metres away there's a house where they sell organic products and offer food services.

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Ca l’Antonieta

This house is in the greater metropolitan area of Talamanca and sleeps eight to ten guests. The house is divided into to floors: the ground floor is where you'll find the dining room, kitchen, a bathroom, the terrace, two double bedrooms and a single bedroom; upstairs there's a loft-type space with a dining area, kitchen, one double bedroom, a sofabed and a bathroom.

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Càmping Emili Freixa

This campsite is the closest one to the capital of Bages, so it's a good place as a base for visiting Manresa and many other places of interest that are quite nearby. The name of the campground pays tribute to one of the founding members of the Caravaners Union of Catalonia, the organisation that manages the site. Here you'll find open spaces, a sports complex, a swimming pool, a social area, kids' park and more.

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Hotel Els Noguers

This city hotel is located close to the entertainment centre of Manresa. Though it doesn't boast great luxuries, it's got all the comforts you need whether you're visiting for business or pleasure. If you are in town for business, know that there are plenty of convention and meeting rooms available as well. Bedrooms are well equipped and the restaurant is decent, with Catalan and market cuisine. For the last quarter of a century, visitors to the capital of Bages have found the doors open at Hotel Els Noguers.

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Tesi

Although Santpedor is nowhere near the coast, Tesi offers good, well-cooked fish dishes, ranging from seafood soups to monkfish with aubergine puree and sweet tomato. There’s also plenty here for meat eaters: duck breast, shoulder of lamb, wild boar... it all depends on what’s in season. This restaurant gives you good value for money with a good level of expertise in the kitchen.

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Can Ladis

If you closed your eyes while eating you could easily imagine you were in a restaurant on the seafront, but no, you're in Sant Fruitós del Bages, in Can Ladis, a restaurant that focuses on fish and seafood, and where you can enjoy dishes like sautéed squid, monkfish with clams, paella and fish stews. So, if you’re in the Bages region and you love seafood, come to Can Ladis.

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Can Miliu

They may have just celebrated 40 years in the business, but at Can Miliu they're enjoying their work as much as they did the first day, with friendly service and great Catalan dishes using locally sourced products. This restaurant has it all, with rooms for celebrations, business lunches and a terrace that's popular with smokers and with all diners when the weather's good.

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Ospi

At the head of Ospi is Oscar Piedra – hence the name of the restaurant. Piedra is an experienced, award-winning chef who offers two types of culinary experiences: miniature cuisine, served in the bar-café on the one hand, and high-quality dishes based on market cuisine but with signature touches on the other. Also on offer are fixed-price menus, a catering service, and facilities for special celebrations.

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Raviolo

As the name of this restaurant suggests, here you can eat pasta and pizza. But much more besides. Raviolo serves excellent dishes of black rice, cod and duck as well as seasonal produce and top-quality pasta made daily in their own workshop in the centre of the capital of Bages.

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Kursaal – Espai d’arts escèniques Manresa

The Scenic Arts Centre in Manresa has a busy schedule that includes performances in various genres, as well as education in the scenic arts and a bar-restaurant. It’s set in a noucentista-style building from the 1920s that was closed in 1980 and reopened in 2007 as a theatre and concert hall. The main hall has seating for 8,000 spectators, while the smaller one seats 200. It's managed by the Galliner association and attracts some 75,000 spectators every year.

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Casa Museu Rafael Casanova

The hero of the great Catalan defeat of 1714, head councillor Rafael Casanova, was born in this house to a rich family in 1660 and it's changed very little since then. The house already existed in the 16th century, but the Casanova family bought and renovated it in the 17th century. Look out for the Gothic window and the 18th-century Ester Cycle paintings. It also houses an exhibition on Casanova's historical period, the town, his life and his ancestry, as well as the municipal archives and the Moia county museum. The centre belongs to the Museu d’Història de Catalunya network.

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Món Sant Benet

The cultural and recreational complex run by the Fundació Catalunya – La Pedrera near Manresa invites you to savour it slowly: the Romanesque monastery of Sant Benet de Bages, the Alicia Foundation, the ecological market gardens, the hotel with three restaurants, one with a Michelin star, and spaces for events and meetings. In brief: art, cuisine and nature for all ages, tastes, and budget, tied up together in a beautiful ribbon since 2007.

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GeoParc de la Catalunya Central

Something new and difficult to explain. Abstract, but palpable. And very expanisve: it covers a whole region. But what on earth is a geopark? It's a geological and mining park, an outdoor museum that covers almost all the municipalities in Bages, as well as Collbató (Baix Llobregat Nord), with five information points and nine centres: the Salpetre caves, the Toll caves, Montserrat, Sant Llorenç, La Culla, Súria, the Valentí Masachs Geology Museum, Sallent and Cardona. It's covered by two routes: from Moià to Cardona and from Moià to Collbató.

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Cardona Castle

This is the last bit of the Principality that succumbed to the Bourbons in 1714. A refuge for the viscounts, earls, and dukes of Cardona for seven centuries – kings uncrowned by the 'white gold' (salt), the castle is an imposing place with two great treasures: the divine Romanesque collegiate church of Sant Vicenç and the Minyona tower. A Gothic cloister was added, as were 17th-century bulwarks. The castle also boasts an inn, recently made into a museum, all of which make up the monument that is the History Museum of Catalonia, with all that entails.

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Montserrat Museum

This museum never takes a day off. It shows the cream of the crop of the abbey’s heritage, gathered from the Napoleonic devastation. The museum opened in 1963, but its contents date back to 1911, with objects from the monk Bonaventura Ubach’s expedition to the Middle East. The modernista rooms from Puig i Cadalfalch feature, over two floors, both old and contemporary paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries, Byzantine icons, jewellery, archaeological pieces from the biblical world, and Nigra Sum, about the adventures of the Virgin of Montserrat.

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