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Getaway to Berguedà: Exploring a working river

Follow the trail of the textile colonies on the River Llobregat and call in at other iconic sites in the region like the Sanctuary of Queralt

Berguedà is the region of the Patum festival, but also of the textile colonies that dot the Llobregat River and of once-working mines that are now open to visitors. It's an extensive region with plenty of attractions, and with only 48 hours to explore it, we've had to make a strict selection that we hope you'll thoroughly enjoy.

Day 1: The hard working life of a miner

Day 1: The hard working life of a miner

Your first destination today is Sant Corneli de Cercs. Here, at 920 metres above sea level, the mining company Carbones de Berga, SA brought life to the town for 140 years. But with that life came death as well: as you can imagine, the miners’ working conditions were difficult and dangerous, and unfortunately, many lives were lost underground. Visiting the Cercs Mines is a good way of remembering and paying tribute to them, while at the same time, learning a lot about coal mining and life in a mining town. This was one of the most important mining towns in Catalonia, with a peak population of 3,000, though nowadays that number has dwindled to barely 100.

But before going down the mine, check out the museum, which will provide you with a comprehensive and informative insight into the town, complete with reproductions of a school classroom and a dispensary, as well as audiovisual presentations on the two most important miners’ protests that took place in the area in 1932 and 1977. You can also visit a re-creation of a miner’s cottage from the 1940s and watch an audiovisual presentation on the Alt Berguedà mining region. Some years ago, the museum’s permanent exhibitions were expanded by the incorporation of The Spectacle of the Mine, showing the two mining systems currently in use – underground and open-pit mining – explained by archaeologists from the future using holograms and innovative sound and image effects including 3D resources and a role play with interactive projections.

Then it's time to leave virtual reality behind, put on your hard hats and board the train to descend to the real coal mine.

Day 2: In and around Berga

Day 2: In and around Berga

Berga is known for its Patum festival, but it's a great place to take the time to explore in depth. The capital of the Berguedà region has experienced plenty of hard times since it was founded in the 12th century. It was damaged in the Reapers’ War, the War of the Spanish Succession and in the Carlist Wars, but it's always managed to bounce back, especially after industrialization began in the late 19th century, when it became the dynamic centre of the region – a role it preserves today. Visitors can follow a walking route called Un tomb per Berga, which will take you around the city’s main sights. You can download a fact sheet or pick one up from the Tourist Information Office located in Carrer dels Àngels. The walking route starts there and then calls in at the medieval Plaça de Sant Pere, the old Sant Bernabé Hospital, the remains of the town walls, the Torre de les Hores, the Sant Francesc Convent and the Carrer Major, among many other places.

And if you want to find out more about the history of Berga, go back to Carrer del Àngels and call in at number 7, where you’ll find the Berga Study Space, which is open every day from 6pm to 8pm. For fans of the Patum festival, which has UNESCO immaterial cultural heritage status, you can soak up a little of the atmosphere of the event, even when it isn’t Corpus Christi, by visiting the Casa de la Patum, located in Plaça del Dr. Salón, where you can see the costumes and figures used in the traditional dances.

And since it doesn't get dark until late at this time of the year, you can now head up to get a bird’s-eye view of the city and the region from a place known as The Balcony of Catalonia, the Sanctuary of Santa Maria de Queralt, which as well as fantastic views can boast a long history and a wealth of heritage. The sanctuary houses an iconic image of the Virgin Mary called the Mare de Déu de Queralt, while an adjacent building, which was once an inn, is now a restaurant. La Cova church is, according to legend, where the image of the Virgin was first discovered. The short funicular trip that takes you from the car park to the sanctuary is another of the place’s attractions.

Day 3: Industrial Colonies

Day 3: Industrial Colonies

From the mid-19th century on, a series of industrial colonies – factory or company towns established to exploit the power of the Llobregat River – were founded in the Berguedà region. Dotted all along the 'working river', most of these factory towns were devoted to textile production, were made up of the workers’ houses, and offered all the basic services such as schools, churches, cafés and shops. They are now a living reminder of Catalonia’s industrial past and many have been preserved in excellent condition and can be visited.

A good way to explore them is by following the Ruta de les Colònies on a mountain bike (the route can also be done on foot, though it will take longer, of course). The 32km route starts at Cal Rosal, which is located between Gironella and Berga, and then heads south to finish at Balsareny, taking in along the way a total of 16 textile colonies. It's an excellent way to get to know more about the lives and conditions of the workers of that time while getting plenty of exercise.

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Restaurant Cal Nen

This mountain-style inn has a restaurant that serves dishes like stewed veal with wild mushrooms, potatoes mashed with black sausage, prawns with oyster mushrooms and stewed black peas. This is seasonal home-style fare that relies heavily on locally sourced products. Plus there's a garden that comes in very handy in good weather.

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Sant Cristòfol

This small and cosy inn has four rooms and a restaurant that specialises in game dishes. A popular choice here is the wild boar stew, along with stewed roe deer and duck with pears. In autumn, locally picked wild mushrooms are another well-cooked house speciality. For breakfast they serve big, hearty breakfasts you can really dig into: an excellent way to start the day.

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Ca l'Amagat

With a long history in the town of Bagà, this hotel once did its name justice ('amagat' means hidden) with its location outside the town. But Bagà has grown so much that the restaurant is less hidden nowadays though it’s still a quiet place. They serve classic Catalan cuisine, but with incursions into more modern styles.

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El Forn

At restaurant El Forn, in the pretty village of Gósol, they like to claim that they pamper their dishes until the last possible moment. They certainly are good at taking care of the details, with dishes that please both the eye and the palate. The restaurant was founded over a decade ago by a couple from Molins de Rei and has since become a major benchmark of quality cuisine in the region. The tasting menu, which is satisfying and varies with the seasons, is a very worthwhile option here.

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La Nau

The name of this restaurant ('Nau' means warehouse) comes from its location near the old Guixaró textile colony, which was founded in 1885. Its culinary style could perhaps best be described as signature cuisine based on locally sourced produce. We recommend any of the meat dishes, including the veal fillet, pigs’ trotters and duck breast, as well as the fish dishes, especially the cod. The desserts are also particularly delicious.

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Masia Sarga

This country house is located in natural surroundings in the Vall de Lillet and sleeps around a dozen people. You can book it as a unit, and it boasts a garden, a barbecue area, a swimming pool, internet access, music, television, a fireplace, kids’ games and a fully equipped kitchen, offering a thousand square metres to be enjoyed by groups of family and friends. Your pet is also welcome.

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Cal Xocolater

Though located outside the village itself, this is a village house, and it sleeps up to 25 people. It was refurbished in 2008 and offers all the commodities you need for a relaxing stay. Its name arose from the profession of its first owner, Josep Picas, who was a cake and chocolate maker. It has a garden, a barbecue area and laundry facilities. Pets are welcome. It is rented out to groups of between 9 and 25 people.

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Hostal La Roda

Located in Avià, just three kilometres from the capital of the Berguedà region, this small mountain hotel sleeps 16 people and has a living room with a television set, games, a garden, a swimming pool, a café/bar and a restaurant that serves good home-made dishes typical of the region, where you can start the day with an excellent full breakfast. Its location makes it ideal if you want to explore the Berguedà region, and the boarding options here run from bed and breakfast to full board.

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Càmping Berga Resort

This is a campsite with all the facilities and services guests need to enjoy a pleasant and fun stay. Though designed with families in mind, adults staying here alone or with a partner will also find loads of things to do, starting with a wellness centre with a spa circuit, swimming pools, and tennis and paddle tennis courts. And if you don’t like the idea of sharing a bathroom, we should point out that Berga Resort has recently introduced luxury plots with private bathroom facilities.

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Cal Xiu

This 300-year-old farmhouse stands in a privileged natural setting in the foothills of the Catllaràs range, near the Baells reservoir, where there are plenty of water sports on offer. It has been awarded a distinction by the Sicted project for quality in tourism and is fully equipped both inside and out to ensure a comfortable stay.

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Museu del Ciment Asland

The spectacular cement factory built on the orders of Eusebi Güell on the outskirts of Castellar de n'Hug started production some 100 years ago, before closing down 40 years ago. Fortunately, today you can still visit this unique modernista-style building that's built in a staggered layout down the slope of the hillside in order to take advantage of gravity in the cement-manufacturing process. The visits include a tour outside among the industrial remains; while, on the inside, the study centre will help you get a better understand of how the factory was run.

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Museu de les Mines de Cercs

One of the most unique and attractive tourist sites in the region, and one that's fun for adults and kids alike, since you’ll enter into a real coal mine aboard a mine train to go on a 450-metre trip through the Sant Romà gallery, gaining an understanding of what it was like to work in these mines. But first you can learn a little about the uses of coal and the lives of the miners in the permanent exhibition rooms located inside a building that was originally a convent. This is definitely a must-do in Berguedá.

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Casa de la Patum

The spirit of La Patum, the local summer festival, is always present in the town of Berga, even though the fiesta itself takes place only once a year, on the feast of Corpus Christi. If you’re unable to go to the town for the main fiesta, you can always call in at the Casa de la Patum and get a taste of what it’s like to experience the real deal. On display are the costumes and figures that take part in the processions, while the study centre gives you all the information you need on what the fiesta is all about.

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Centre Medieval i dels Càtars

The Cathars played an important role in the history of the Berguedà region, where many Cathars fled to escape persecution. That's why the Palau de Pinós in Bagà hosts a permanent exhibition in which different historical characters, such as William of Berguedà and the Mataplana family, tell you all about the Cathars and their links to the Alt Berguedà, and especially with the village of Bagà. You can also find out what life was like here in the seventh and eighth centuries.

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