Getaway to Bages: Treasures of Cardona and Súria

A trip to explore the two towns full of natural and heritage attractions
© Oscar Rodbag
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We are heading to an extensive area in the heart of Catalonia, full of places of interest. But we want to focus on two towns: Cardona and Súria. In fact, they offer enough attractions to keep us going for 48 hours, and we’ll probably still have things left to see.

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

Parc Sal Cardona

Afternoon day 1: The Salt Mountain

First we are going to Cardona, a town with a long history and an imposing castle that dominates the region. However, we will visit the castle tomorrow. Today we will discover a mountain that for almost the whole of the 20th century was the main source of work for the people. This is the Salt Mountain, today known as the Salt Mountain Cultural Park, and that from 1929 to 1990 was the Mina Nieves, one of the most important potassium salt mines in the world. The white colour is everywhere and there is something magical about this place where, on a guided tour – including the option of a dramatised tour –, they will explain the exceptional geological features of the site and the importance of salt for humanity over the centuries. A tour that will interest both adults and children, bearing in mind that, wearing a miner’s helmet, we will cover half a kilometre of galleries, with stalactites and stalagmites of impossible shapes that have taken centuries to form drop by drop awaiting our arrival.

Castell de Cardona

Morning day 2: An emblematic castle

From the beauty that nature can create we move on to the beauty that human beings can build. Not far from the Salt Mountain, on a hill top, stands Cardona Castle, much of it now used as the national tourist hotel but with many other parts that can be visited, such as the ducal courtyard, the cloister or the round Minyona tower. We recommend that you join a guided tour to explore the interiors of the castle and the adjacent canonical church of Sant Vicenç. You will see a site of unquestionable historical, strategic and cultural importance (the canonical church of Sant Vicenç is considered a masterpiece of early Catalan Romanesque), and also religious significance, as Saint Raymond Nonnatus died here in 1240.

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Cardona

Afternoon day 2: Through the town centre streets

This afternoon we will stay in Cardona. Everything we have seen so far is on the outskirts of the town but the historic centre of Cardona really deserves a long visit. Quite rightly these medieval streets and squares have been declared Cultural Asset of National Interest.

We recommend that you go to Cardona Medieval Centre, in Plaça de la Fira, and join a guided tour. If you prefer to explore alone, we suggest you take Carrer de la Fira, which leads to the square and the chapel of Santa Eulàlia, with a beautiful Gothic front door. There, under an arcade, is the Josep Arnau Salt Museum, which exhibits the work made from salt by this Cardona craftsman. Next we are going take Avinguda del Rastrillo, just in front of the Tourist Office and opposite the castle, but we will go back into the historic centre through Carrer dels Escasany, above and in parallel to Carrer de la Fira. Several half-hidden alleyways link these streets, while the Gothic windows and plaques on the façades of some houses tell us that they have been here for half a millennium. We reach the porticoed Plaça del Mercat, where traders have set out their stalls since the 10th century, and right there is the temple of Sant Miquel, a notable Gothic church with a single nave, and which in the 14th century replaced the old Romanesque building.

Let’s take Carrer del Convent towards the Mirador de les Hortes, where we have a fantastic view of Cardona Castle, some of the town roofs and the surroundings. We are going to the Forn de la Munició park and from here we can take Carrer de Francesc Moragas, and appearing before us in Carrer Major is a magnificent Gothic palace. A little further down, we turn right on Carrer del Teatre and reach Plaça del Vall.

Súria

Morning day 3: The Poble Vell in Súria

We will spend our last morning in Súria, specifically in the oldest part, the Poble Vell, which we reach it through an arcade. In this medieval Súria, the streets are cobbled and the houses still bear the names they have had for centuries. Wander at leisure along Carrer de Mura, de Sant Climent, Carrer Major... The latter boasts El Casinet, one of the most outstanding buildings, parts of which are on the old wall. You will reach Plaça Major, the centre of the village and site of the old Town Hall, where during the First Carlist War the pretender Carlos V stayed in 1837. Finally, you will come to the church, attached to the castle, the high point of Súria and the origin of everything.

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Coaner

Afternoon day 3: The village of Coaner

If you still have time and energy, we suggest a nature route to the small village of Coaner. The route is simple, barely six kilometres and can be done in just over 75 minutes. You have to take the Súria Path (PR-C 134) and, following the white and yellow signs, after the 2.60 kilometre point you will find the diversion to Coaner (PR-C 134-1). You will pass by the Font del Ferro spring and along the way you will enjoy leafy pine forests and magnificent views of Rasos de Peguera and Port del Comte. The crowning point of the path is the arrival in Coaner, in the municipal area of Sant Mateu de Bages. It is a beautiful place and of particular architectural interest: the small village still has the Romanesque church of Sant Julià and the sanctuary of the Virgin del Coaner, with a baroque altarpiece. You will also see a round tower that formed part of a medieval castle. Leaving Coaner behind, follow the stream and soon you will rejoin the PR-C 134, at the 3.40 kilometre point, from where you can reach Súria.

Restaurants, Catalan

Cal Jaume

There’s a lot of mató, the local version of curd cheese, on the menu here. It’s served with honey, with chocolate, and with cream caramel pudding. It’s also included in the tomato salad along with olive paste. This now emblematic restaurant in this renowned mató producing village lies almost within touching distance of the sacred mountain of Montserrat. Roger Costa, the owner’s brother, is one of the four craftsmen in the village who make mató, which is sold under the Can Florí brand name. The restaurant offers home-style cooking with an oak charcoal grill. For Barça fans there is El racó del culer. Also serving hearty cooked breakfasts and calçotades (grilled scallions).

Restaurants, Catalan

Golden

The owners of this Manresa-based restaurant say that what they want is to offer quality dishes at reasonable prices with good service. To do so, they have a young but well-trained team, and a dining room with waiter service and a buffet (every lunchtime, including public holidays, and Friday and Saturday evening). If you prefer to choose from the menu, you will find excellent meat and fish dishes made with local ingredients.  

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Restaurants, Catalan

Les Voltes de Talamanca

At the gates of Sant Llorenç de Munt Natural Park, Les Voltes de Talamanca restaurant has excellent views from its terrace – a great place for breakfast or an aperitif ‒ and an intimate and cosy dining room. It offers daily and weekend set menus, with quality traditional dishes. You can order the roast rabbit, cod with 'samfaina' vegetable sauce or grilled chicken leg, to mention just a few of the main courses.  

Restaurants, Creative contemporary

La Premsa

This tavern is one of the traditional meeting places in Ribes and a place with plenty of history (the building dates from the 19th century). It has served plenty of good food and drink over the years and has been closely associated with the cultural and associative life of the town. It’s an informal place where you can order tapas and open toasted sandwiches, which are the speciality of the house, as well as a fine selection of local wines. La Premsa also holds dinners featuring wine matching and art exhibitions.

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Restaurants, Pizza

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 center of the capital of Bages.

Hotels

Ca l'Arturo

Since the 19th century, Ca l'Arturo has been home to all kinds of agricultural activities typical of its rural area. In fact, it is still surrounded by forests, orchards and fields. Although it is part of the Can Carné farm, years ago it was restored and today is a country house with accommodation for about ten people with a games room, swimming pool, garden and barbecue. This is what you need if you are looking for a spacious and comfortable place to spend the weekend in good company.

Hotels

Masia l'Abadal

The old barnyard of a 500-year-old manor house, which was renovated from top to bottom, is now a phenomenal rural lodge, available to rent in its entirety or by rooms. And it offers a number of additional features​​, such as the fact that you have a traditional Catalan restaurant in the same building, allowing you, if you wish, to stay on a half board or full board basis. You can also visit the wine cellar where there are new wine vats and old oak barrels from the fourteenth century. The house has five bedrooms, three doubles and two quadruple rooms.

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Hotels

Guilleumes

A simple, family guesthouse in the middle of Montserrat Natural Park. Ideal for excursions through the holy mountain and, also, to switch off for a few days spellbound by the panoramic views. The restaurant serves modern and seasonal Catalan cuisine, particularly using local products.  

Hotels

Mas de la Sala

Known for many years as the Hostal del Camp, today it is a four-star hotel with a restaurant serving traditional and local cuisine. It has swimming pools and gardens, ideal whether you go with children or if you want to organise a special celebration. In peaceful surroundings and offering many possibilities for active tourism nearby.  

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Hotels, Rental apartments

Bremon

This beautiful hotel in Cardona is the result of the conversion of a convent school, occupying a building dating from the 19th century and run by the Vedrunes Carmelites. Carefully decorated in clear and pastel colours, Bremon is an oasis of calm, with 19 comfortable rooms and a number of apartments. Its cosy café serves crepes, sandwiches and cheese boards.

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.

Museums, History

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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Museums, Historic home

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.

Museums, Science and technology

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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Museums, Military and maritime

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.

Museums, Art and design

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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