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Getaway to Baix Llobregat: Natural parks and fairytale caves

A 48-hour trip to discover some of the most unique parts of the Baix Llobregat region

© Marc Vila

The Baix Llobregat region is one of the most populated in Catalonia, with high-density cities and many important communication routes running through it. Thankfully, it also contains plenty of valuable conservation areas, some quite peculiar like the Llobregat Delta or the Saltpetre Caves (Coves de Salnitre), whereas the Agricultural Park (Parc Agrari), has one of the most fertile soils in the country. Enjoy this natural ride around Baix Llobregat.

Afternoon day 1: The riches of the delta

Afternoon day 1: The riches of the delta

Where there's water, there's life. The Llobretgat river is an essential resource all along its course and still reaches the sea with enough force left to form a delta, and with it, natural surroundings of high biological value. The natural areas of the Llobregat delta are protected and spread across the following towns: El Prat de Llobregat, Viladecans, Gavà and Sant Boi de Llobregat. You can follow various signposted paths, along which you'll enjoy different natural settings, from lagoons and wetlands to coastal pinewoods on sand dunes and virgin beaches. Birdwatching, particularly of aquatic birds, is another popular activity in the area. The delta is home to a dwindling species of herbaceous plants called 'trencadalla' from the malvaceae family, which produce large pink flowers, and is also home to 22 catalogued species of orchid. In short, this is one of the few remaining examples of wetlands in the middle of a metropolitan area in the Mediterranean basin, and it's a magnificent place to start your trip.

Day 2: Montserrat from the inside

Day 2: Montserrat from the inside

Yesterday you must have been wowed by the outdoor landscape, and today you'll be pleasantly surprised by an indoor one, and without leaving the world nature. The Saltpetre Caves (Coves de Salnitre) in Collbató are one of those places that could be defined as magical. Perhaps it's a product of our imagination, but amazingly, during this 500m journey through the insides of the sacred mountain, elements of Antoni Gaudí's architecture, tubes, organs, and even a sculpture of La Moreneta (the Black Madonna) will leave you awestruck. Did Gaudí really come here, and was his work actually inspired by what he saw? It's still unknown, but one thing for sure is that other well-known local artists such as Santiago Rusiñol, Ramon Casas and Jacint Verdaguer were. 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.

And since you're in the area, in the afternoon why not visit Collbató? You can of course go for a wander on your own, but you can also choose a guided tour through the medieval town centre, which lies at the foothills of Montserrat, offering spectacular views of the mountain from any of its streets. Another fun option is to go and visit the Blancafort Organs Workshop. The company is located in an old theatre and dance hall, and during your visit you'll learn about the secrets of this fascinating musical instrument. Or you can choose different routes just outside of the town centre, and walk among the olive groves and check out the ancient dry stone huts. To do any of these activities accompanied by an expert, book in advance by calling 93 777 90 76.

Day 3: Parc Agrari (Baix Llobregat Agricultural Park)

Day 3: Parc Agrari (Baix Llobregat Agricultural Park)

If you've never tried the delicious artichokes from El Prat, now's your chance, as these are the star product of the Baix Llobregat Agricultural Park. But they're just one of many high-quality fruits and vegetables farmed and harvested across the park's 3,000 acres and then sold in local markets. You'll spend the last day of your trip discovering this rich, agricultural heritage by starting your day in Masia de Can Comes, the park's information centre. With plenty to offer, from exhibitions to an arboretum containing 62 different fruit trees from the region, you'll probably want to spend some time there. From the information centre, you can embark on a completely flat, circular walking route of around 7.5km, where you'll discover the land's agricultural activity and fluvial ecosystems throughout its history, which date back 200 years. Today, these still remain very much alive, as you'll find out at the end of this excellent trip in Baix Llobregat.

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Les Marines

This is a great restaurant in all senses of the word: for the good food on offer, which is based on avant-garde Mediterranean cuisine, and for its spacious dining areas, which make it the ideal venue for large-scale celebrations. It also has gardens, private parking, and fantastic surroundings, since it's set amid pine trees next to the sea. Choose one of the fixed-price menus – tasting or gastronomic – and you’ll discover the variety and quality of the dishes served here.

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Plats

Maximum creativity based on top-quality, locally sourced produce. Dining at Plats, which is located very near Gavarra metro station in Cornellà de Llobregat, is quite an experience. An excellent option is to order the tasting menu with paired wine, but if you prefer something lighter and cheaper, the fixed-price menu also embodies all of the culinary expertise of chef Xavier Llanos.

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Andalucía

With a name that gives a clue as to the provenance of its owners, good value for money, excellent stone-grilled steaks, soupy rice, carpaccios and seafood, facilities for celebrations, elegant decoration, and a good location in the centre of Castelldefels, it’s certainly worthwhile going to eat at this restaurant, which has been offering friendly service to its customers for decades.

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El Diván de los Sentidos

Slow food, market cuisine, locally sourced produce bought from Fair Trade establishments, healthy recipes, and the aim is to give a sense to gastronomy that goes far beyond eating just for the sake of eating. Here they seek to nourish the spirit through employing good and fair working practices. The restaurant’s cosy dining room provides the right setting for putting this approach into practice.

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Torreón

Highlights of Torreón: it's been in business for four decades (always a good sign); it's set in a piney location next to the sea; it's recently been redecorated; it has a deli-style shop where you can buy dishes to take home, along with a wide selection of wine, oil and liqueurs; the wine list is very competitive; and you can order half-sized portions of all the dishes. All of these factors make it a worthy option to consider when travelling in this region.

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Flora Parc

Located in Castelldefels, this hotel is a great choice for beach lovers, with the sea only a three-minute drive away. It’s great for families, with its spacious rooms, a modest-size swimming pool and a total of 68 rooms of different categories. It’s also located near the Olympic Canal and is therefore great for anyone who wants to practise sports, and not just water sports either.

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Hotel Esplugues

While it has few luxuries, this recently refurbished hotel is located near Barcelona and the most interesting attractions in the Baix Llobregat region and is very well connected to public transport. It’s a modern, pleasant establishment with single, double and triple rooms and serves generous breakfasts. It’s handy for visiting the nearby Rajoleta factory where the ceramic tiles for La Pedrera were made.

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Catalonia Bristol

This cosy three-star hotel is located in the shopping area of Sant Andreu de la Barca and has an outstanding restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine using locally sourced products. At breakfast time, guests can choose between three types of buffet.

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Hotel Pitort

The recently constructed Hotel Pitort is a functional two-star establishment that's nicely decorated and located in a quiet residential area, halfway between the coast and the commercial centre of Castelldefels. It has a bar/café with outside seating where you can enjoy a buffet breakfast, WiFi, and free parking for guests. All of its rooms are different.

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NH Cornellà

This NH chain hotel is located in the very centre of Cornellà, just a ten-minutes walk from train, metro and bus links, so visitors who want to can visit Barcelona and the Baix Llobregat region while leaving the car behind for a few days, moving around easily with public transport. This is a well-equipped three-star establishment with cosy rooms and a magnificent swimming pool that's ideal for relaxing.

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Parc Arqueològic Mines de Gavà

The Study Centre at the Gavà prehistoric mine site brings back what life here was like 6,000 years ago, when the local Neolithic community began to work the local variscite mines. As well as offering visits to a small part of the mine, the centre features audiovisual and explanatory modules and a scale reproduction of the mines. Many of the items discovered here can be found in the Gavà Museum.

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Beyond Barcelona

Teatre de la Passió d'Esparreguera

With more than 1,700 seats and a stage measuring 375 square metres, the Teatre de la Passió d'Esparreguera is one of the largest theatres in Catalonia. Although the performances of the Passion Play are the theatre’s true raison d’être, it also has a varied programme of theatrical performances throughout the year, as well as concerts, and a drama school dedicated to the performance of the Passion Play.

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Conjunt històric de la colònia Güell

The Colònia Güell complex dates from 1890, when the textile industrialist Eusebi Güell decided to move his El Vapor Vell cotton factory from the neighbourhood of Sants in Barcelona to the village of Santa Coloma de Cervelló. It's made up of the factory colony itself, a study centre, and the Gaudí-designed crypt. You can carry out your visit with the help of audio guides or, if you prefer, there are guided tours at noon on Sundays and public holidays. On Saturday mornings, you'll find a farmers' market, where local produce is sold.

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Llobregat Delta and Agricultural Park

The Llobregat delta has plenty of places open to visitors. You can explore its marshes, ponds, pools and beaches on foot or by bicycle. The protected area includes the Baix Llobregat Agricultural Park, one of the most fertile agricultural areas in the country. Another interesting feature of your visit to the Baix Llobregat is the possibility of acquiring products from local farmers who sell their produce directly to the public.

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Castell de Castelldefels

The Castle of Castelldefels, which first appears in documents dating from the 10th century and which is located on top of a hill, has largely been restored and can be visited on the second Sunday of every month. Among the spaces open to the public are the courtyard, the fencing hall, the Santa Maria church and the stables. The castle also offers views of the Garraf Massif, Collserola, the plain of Barcelona, Montjuïc, the Llobregat Delta and the coastline.

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