In the shadow of the Queralt mountain range, which joins with the Tallat range and the Muntanyes de Prades, Baix Penedès offers a wide range of landscapes (as well as its many vines) all the way down to the sea of the Costa Daurada. Just before the coast, you’ll find the county capital, the town of El Vendrell, which is full of local spirit – a spirit that shows itself in both high culture and activities for all the family. We’ll suggest a variety of ways to discover the very essence of the town over the next 48 hours.
IN COLLABORATION WITH PATRONAT MUNICIPAL DE TURISME DEL VENDRELL
Afternoon day 1: Walks around the city
When you arrive in El Vendrell, leave your car close to the centre, which is where your getaway will start. Among winding streets, you’ll come across Plaça Vella, the heart of the town. Take a look at the façade of the Ajuntament and the buildings that make up the square – you’ll soon spot the Church of Sant Salvador, which dates from the 18th century. Look closely and you’ll see that, the fact that it's still standing today must be down to divine intervention – the belltower bears witness to the bullets fired at it during the Third Carlist War. Inside, a barroque organ is the dominating feature.
Next, cross over the Bisbal River and follow its course heading north. This route will take you round the outskirts of the historical centre, but you can return at any time by taking one of the roads that crosses the river. Make your way back via, for example, C/ de l’Estela, which intersects with C/ de Santa Anna. You should take the time to visit the house where Pau Casals was born, a humble abode that has, since 1998, been the site for a museum dedicated to this musical genius. The museum is a portal into Casals’s childhood and an essential place for understanding him.
When you come out of the Pau Casals house, enjoy a change of pace by heading to the shopping area of C/Montserrat, which starts in Plaça Nova. Whatever else you choose to do while there, this visit to El Vendrell can’t end without a stop by Plaça Nova and C/Muralla, which will bring you back to C/Major and the town hall. The sun sets on Plaça dels Germans Ramon i Vidales and Passatge de Sabaudia.
Morning day 2: Sea and mountain (with a dash of vinegar)
Start the second day of your getaway with two quite different options. The first is especially aimed at those f you who enjoy the sea and/or the sporty types. As it’s likely that you’ll enjoy sun for the whole morning, there’s no better way to start the day than with a session of snorkelling in the marine reserve of Masia Blanca. At this centre, all kinds of activities related to the sea are organised every weekend in July and throughout the month of August. If you go for this option, take your car from El Vendrell to drive the few kilometres to Coma-ruga where, at the Masia Blanca Aquatic Classroom, you can discover the richness of the flora and fauna of the Catalan coast from a very special perspective.
After seeing any number of fish and other sea life, you’ll be refreshed for a pre-lunch walk. On the beach of Coma-ruga, you can set up your parasol and towel for a sunbathing session, or, if you prefer, head to the Estany i Riuet thermal spring, whose water has therapeutic properties, particularly ideal for joint, bone and rheumatic pain. In fact, the spring is what led to the creation of the town of Coma-ruga in the first place. After its discovery in the 19th century, a spa was constructed at the start of the 20th century, and this led to the later development of the town.
As an alternative to a morning at the beach, we suggest an activity that is at the opposite end of the spectrum from snorkelling. Instead of heading into the sea, head inland to enjoy the fruits of the earth with a visit to the prestigious Avgvstvs winery, found on the road from El Vendrell to Sant Vicenç de Calders. What makes Avgvstvs a special destination is not actually its wines, which are aged with great precision in barrels made of different woods and imported from places around the world; it’s not even the care that they take of their vines, expressly planted in an area with little depth so that the grapes get stressed thereby provoking a high concentration of sugars – all of this you’ll discover during a guided tour to the cellars and facilities. No, what really makes this part of the getaway worthwhile is a tasting experience, in a dark, humid room full of mould, of the most select kinds of vinegar, to which Avgvstvs dedicates a good part of its crop.
Exported around the world, the different types of vinegar you can taste and which Avgvstvs produces are the result of the study of and dedication to the technical treatment when developing the product, doubtless the secret behind the winery’s excellence. And you can taste up to four types. The morning at Avgvstvs will end with a second tasting – this time of two wines – in the garden of the country house.
Afternoon day 2: From the museum to the square
Return to El Vendrell to enjoy some local gastronomy for lunch, and then head to the Fundació Apel·les Fenosa, located on C/Major, the one-time summer home that the Barcelona sculptor Fenosa obtained in 1958. The particular spirit of Fenosa is found throughout the building as much as his works, which, alongside those of his contemporaries Pablo Picasso and Pau Casals, helped to transform Catalan arts in the 1920s.
The Deu Museum is, possibly, the best complement to the Fundació Apel·les Fenosa. This institution, located further up C/Santa Anna at the intersection with Plaça Nova, continues the artistic theme, with temporary exhibitions and an agenda of interesting activities, even if you’re just looking to spend an evening listening to music.
Depending on when you take your trip to El Vendrell, there’s any number of cultural events you might come across. The Festa Major (this is the main festival of the town), for example, at the end of July, and the Fair of Santa Teresa, at the start of autumn. During the Turismar Fair, as well as the usual exhibition stands, the beach of Coma-ruga is filled with activities and attractions, and for the grown-ups, there’s the Baix Penedès Cava Show. Perhaps the most unusual one is the Bicycle Festival, an original celebration that began back in 1942 and which includes a night-time ride.
Day 3: By the sea
After all the activity we lined up for your second day, we suggest a calm day next to the sea for a tranquil end to your getaway. No trip to El Vendrell is complete without exploring the life and personality of Pau Casals, and the beach of Sant Salvador – the maritime neighbourhood of El Vendrell – is an excellent place to do this.
Overlooking the Mediterranean, just 3 kilometres from the centre of El Vendrell, is the Pau Casals Museum, which is in the house that the Catalan cellist had built specially, and is now open to the public as a place to appreciate Casals’s legacy. The Pau Casals Museum is aimed at music lovers of all kinds so you can discover interesting details about the life and philosophy of Casals, both at an artistic and political level. Casals and his wife inhabited the house from 1910 to 1939, when they went into exile never to return. Despite this, restoration work carried out first by the musician and later by the Pau Casals Foundation, make it possible to enjoy a fascinating tour through the life and work of one of the most brilliant minds that the 20th century produced.
The visit to the Pau Casals Museum is likely to take up the whole morning until lunchtime, but if not, you always have the choice of laying out your towel on a local beach or taking a stroll in the area. Some time building sandcastles and enjoying a swim in the sea is quite the temptation in the Costa Daurada.
Finally, the best way to cap off your trip is to go to the Pau Casals Festival, which takes place during July and August.
Located in the artist’s summer residence and studio, a restored 16th century building with a beautiful Mediterranean garden, the Foundation’s museum contains an important collection of original sculptures in terracotta and plaster, as well as a selection of monumental bronzes.
This house-museum near the sea is where the musician Pau Casals rested during his breaks between world tours and where visitors can now explore his career and the gardens, sculpture gallery and music room of the house, which was reformed by architect Antoni Puig i Gairalt in the 1930s.
In the centre of Vendrell we can visit the house in which Pau Casals was born and where he spent his childhood and youth. It’s a humble house with furniture dating from the 19th and 20th centuries. The guided visits allow visitors to learn about the human side of Catalonia’s greatest cellist and explore his origins and how his home town greeted the news of his death.