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Getaway to Garraf: From Charlie Rivel to the wineries

48 intensive hours to discover places in Vilanova i la Geltrú, Sant Pere de Ribes and Cubelles

Parc del Garraf
© Josep Cano / Diputació de Barcelona
By Xavier Amat |

Garraf has always been a region that has lived off the sea. Here fishermen and seamen have earned their living, many indianos embarked to make their fortune in the American continent, and for several decades tourists have been delighted with its beaches. On this trip we will not overlook the appeal of the blue sea but, as it is a getaway designed for autumn or winter, we will make the most of the season to discover the region’s other attractions.


Charlie Rivel

Afternoon day 1: The town of the much loved clown

On the first afternoon we will go to the southernmost town, Cubelles. We especially like the fact that a much loved clown was born and died here, who those of a certain age will certainly remember with his chair, guitar and characteristic howl. We are talking, of course, about Charlie Rivel, otherwise known as Josep Andreu (1896-1983). So one of the first things we'll do is to visit the permanent exhibition dedicated to the clown, located in Marqueses d'Alfarràs Castle. Here you can discover a highly personal collection of his costumes and the objects that accompanied him on stage, as well as the awards he won and pictures of his performances.

After the visit, we recommend a quiet walk through this coastal town of fewer than 13,000 inhabitants. You will easily find the 18th century church of Santa Maria, whose façade resembles stone quilting, and you will also see Can Travé, a large classical style building that had housed a library of classical mythology and a natural history cabinet. But perhaps what you will find most charming about Cubelles is its romantic atmosphere, thanks to the constructions built by the indianos or Americans on their return from America. Palaces, houses, country houses and fountains such as those on Carrer Major and Carrer de Sant Antoni tell us of the decades that straddled the 19th and 20th centuries and transformed the appearance of Cubelles and almost all the towns in Garraf.

Passeig Marítim Vilanova i la Geltrú
© Josep Cano

Day 2: A capital of two

We will spend the whole of the second day in the capital, Vilanova i la Geltrú. A town with lots of attractions, quiet streets, long broad avenues and a colonial air. Several elements remind us that Vilanova i la Geltrú was two different towns and, among the many walks we can take, we recommend one that embraces la Geltrú and la Vila Nova (also known as Vilanova de Cubelles). Will you join us?

We can start the walk at Plaça de la Vila, a charming square boasting arcades and colonial buildings, such as the Town Hall. On one side we take Carrer de la Fruita, leading to Plaça de Miró de Montgròs, dominated by a marble and stone fountain from 1861 that marks the arrival of water in the town. Through Carrer de Santa Eulàlia we'll reach Carrer de la Unió, which was the "border"·between Vilanova de Cubelles and la Geltrú, and it is true that from here, in the middle of la Geltrú, the urban layout changes, with more winding and enchanting streets. We reach Plaça dels Lledoners. If we take Carrer de Bonaire and turn onto Carrer del Ravalet and Carrer dels Arengaders we'll reach the castle of la Geltrú, rebuilt one century ago and that today is home to the Regional History Archive. Here we find the church of Santa Maria de la Geltrú, with a square that retains its medieval character. When we go back along Carrer de la Unió, we follow it upwards until reaching Plaça de la Peixateria, and cross it to get to Carrer de Pàdua and Plaça Llarga, where we will find the 14th century Portal d'en Nin or d'en Negrell, the only one surviving from the early walled area of Vilanova. We will take Carrer de Sant Antoni, which leads to Plaça de Pau Casals, and we can go down Carrer del Comerç, which when it becomes Carrer dels Caputxins finally brings us to the square where we began our walk.

We hope that you have enjoyed this walk through the centre of Vilanova i la Geltrú but, if you prefer, it is also pleasant to stroll along the sea or 'ramblejar'. And we recommend that you visit the Masia d'en Cabanyes Romanticism Interpretation Centre, the Can Papiol Romantic Museum, the Railway Museum and the Víctor Balaguer Library Museum. And also the Espai Far, located in the emblematic Sant Cristòfol Lighthouse, displaying objects related to the world of fishing and the maritime tradition that the Associació del Museu del Mar has received through donations from fishermen and residents of the "barri de Mar" neighbourhood.

So you see you have lots to choose from in the capital of Garraf. And if one day it is not enough, you know you have to return!

Vinyes al Garraf
© Josep Cano

Day 3: A land of wine

On this last day of our trip, we move inland to the indiana Sant Pere de Ribes. The town is also worth a good walk but we want to focus today's visit on a specific subject that will excite wine lovers. There is no DO Garraf but the region has no shortage of vineyards that form part of the DO Penedès. All types of wines are produced, whites, rosés and reds, of exceptional quality thanks to the characteristics of the soil and the climate.

But discovering the wine production in a place such as Sant Pere de Ribes also has an added value: the wineries open to visitors are located in historical buildings. So we will enjoy both wine and architecture.

To do the Wineries Route you must book first at the Tourism Office (telephone 93 896 28 57). You will discover four places: Finca La Masieta, home to Bodegas Artesanales del Penedès; Torre del Veguer, a walled country house in an exceptional setting; Can Ramon, owned by a family producing single-estate wines; and Vega de Ribes, with a century-old winery producing organic wines. You will of course try some wines after an introduction. And if you still want more, or you fancy buying some bottles from other DO Penedès wineries, in Sant Pere de Ribes you can visit the wine shops Can Ferran, Casa del Foie or Bodega de Ribes. Wander around the streets and squares of Sant Pere de Ribes until it's time to return home.

Restaurants, Mediterranean

Iris Gallery

This is the Hotel Estela restaurant, also known as the Hotel de l'Art, and it shares its passion for culture and especially Catalan painters. In the cafeteria there are works by Tàpies, Miró and Dalí, while around the tables there are usually temporary exhibitions with pieces by Josep M. Subirachs. Selected Mediterranean cuisine with fresh quality products.  

Restaurants, Catalan

El Dinou

Restaurant using local products located in Can Cabanyes, the very elegant birthplace of the poet Manel de Cabanyes. It serves local cuisine that, according to its owners, seeks to rediscover traditional flavours, together with an excellent range of Catalan wines.  

Restaurants, Mediterranean

El Creuer

Although it is an ideal restaurant for big celebrations, you can also go to El Creuer any day for lunch. It is located in a beautiful setting, the Racó de Santa Llúcia, and has gorgeous gardens and a swimming pool. It specialises in seafood and local cuisine but also serves vegetarian dishes and grilled meat.  

Restaurants, Mediterranean

El Mascaron

Everything here smells like the sea. Outside, you feel like you can almost touch the blueness; on the table, you can enjoy the Mediterranean and seafood cuisine, with excellent paellas and delicious seafood starters. A good place for lunch or dinner after you have enjoyed the many attractions of a town such as Sitges.  

Restaurants, Catalan

La Torrada

Beautiful restaurant in an old reformed house in the centre of Sant Pere de Ribes. You can enjoy a wide range of dishes, such as escargots 'a la llauna' or grilled meat, and, of course, toasts with a range of toppings. Quality Catalan and Mediterranean cuisine since 1992.


Best Western Subur Marítim

In the residential area of El Vinyet and very near the waves, the Best Western is a hotel with all the conveniences, a wide range of rooms, swimming pool, gardens, spacious lounges, meeting rooms, and a good restaurant in the tower adjoining the hotel, El Cau del Vinyet, with a menu based on local products. The four stars reflect the quality of the establishment.

Hotels, Luxury hotels

Dolce Sitges

If you’d like to stay near the seaside promenade in Stiges, only a few minutes from the town centre, you could opt for Hotel Calípolis, which offers spectacular views of the beach. It’s a four star establishment that was refurbished recently and offers the advantage of its proximity to both the beach and the bars and restaurants of the town. It has a its own bar and restaurant on the ground floor, which are usually quite lively. 


Hotel Desitges

This new hotel is located in a quiet suburb of the town of Sant Pere de Ribes. It’s a very functional, though welcoming and elegant, hotel for both leisure and business travellers. It’s ideally located for exploring the coast and the inland areas of Garraf.


Estela Barcelona Sitges

Right next to the sea in the port of Aiguadolç, we will find Hotel Estela Barcelona Sitges, an elegant four star establishment with an artistic leaning – as you walk along its halls and corridors you can admire original works by artists like Subirachs, Dalí, Tàpies, and Miró. Some of the rooms also feature artwork by other painters who have recreated their creative universes inside. If you like paintings and sculptures we recommend this unique hotel.

Hotels, Chain hotels

Melià Sitges

This four star hotel, located just next to Port d'Aiguadolç in Sitges, is synonymous with elegance and glamour. It’s one of the venues of the Sitges Fantasy Film Festival, which is held every October and brings Spanish and international actors and actresses to the hotel. It has an outdoor pool and a heated indoor pool, a sauna, gardens and terraces, as well as luxurious and spacious rooms.

Museums, History

Museu Romàntic Can Llopis

Located in the centre of Sitges, the Romantic Museum is set in the Llopis family home, built in 1793 outside the Medieval walled town. For many years it was one of the noblest houses in the new town area of Sitges and was inhabited by various generations of Llopis, a Sitges family of maritime origins who ascended the social scale thanks to accumulating land and trading in wine and spirits. As well as having the opportunity to explore a wealthy 19th century family home, visitors here can see the curious collection of dolls belong to Barcelona writer and illustrator Lola Anglada.

Can Papiol
Anton Brianso
Museums, History

Museu Romàntic Can Papiol

This Romantic Museum is set in the old Papiol family home; this was an influential family that moved to Vilanova in the middle of the 17th century and whose wealth was acquired through buying properties and marriage. The house conserves the original structure, layout and decoration. Its exteriors are in line with the austere style of the time with a neoclassical façade and painted architectural motifs. The inside, in contrast, is remarkable for its fastidious elegance. The tour of the building takes in the family quarters the servants’ quarters and the garden.

Museums, History

Biblioteca-Museu Víctor Balaguer

Founded in 1884 by politician and writer Victor Balaguer i Cirera, the original nucleus of the Balaguer Library-Museum consists of the books and artworks that he gathered throughout his life, alongside the many donations received from prominent personalities. The museums’ art collection consists of over eight thousand pieces. In the permanent collection special attention is paid to the examples of art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the quality of which led to the museum becoming a section of the National Museum of Art of Catalonia.

Museums, History

Museu del Ferrocarril de Catalunya

Located right next to the train station, the Vilanova Railway Museum has one of the world’s largest collection of railway related items in the world, including more than sixty vehicles from all eras, countries and technologies, with 28 steam locomotives dating from the late nineteenth century, including the oldest in Spain and the last one that was in active service in the country . Also on exhibition are wagons, diesel and electric engines and other curious vehicles.

Museums, History

Museu Monjos Budistes Sakya Tashi Ling

An old house belonging to indianos, set in the heart of the Garraf Natural Park,Palau Novella has become the site of Catalonia’s first Buddhist monastery. You can explore it on a guided tour that will introduce you to the religion’s art and sacred objects. The monastery also holds meditation workshops that are open to everybody. It is located in privileged surroundings that are also worth visiting.

More to explore