Getaway to Vallès Oriental: Autumn colours in Montseny

Take a trip around the Montseny Natural Park, and visit a selection of villages at its foothills
Parc Natural del Montseny
© Oriol Clavera
By Xavier Amat |
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Likely the best time to visit the Montseny Biosphere Reserve (as declared by UNESCO) and Natural Park is in autumn, when the forest shows off its colour palette and the mushrooms and chestnuts are in bloom. This 48-hour getaway in Vallès Oriental focuses on this land that's great for walking, whether it's a nature hike or a stroll through some of the nearby towns.

Gualba

Afternoon day 1: Routes around Gualba

First you'll head to Gualba, a municipality in Baix Montseny where you'll find a series of signposted routes bursting with natural heritage. Practically all of them are easy – perfect for kids if you decide to take them with you – and only in some cases are they a bit long. Since it gets dark early in autumn and winter, we recommend the Can Puig route, which is 7.5km long and circular, and can be completed in approximately an hour and a half. We particularly love the magnificent views of Montseny that it offers, as well as the variety of plants and trees along the way. They also say it's a great place for mushroom spotting, so see if you have more luck than we did, as we finished the route with our basket as empty as when we started it.

Centre de Manipulació de la Castanya Viladrau

Day 2: The highest peak

Reaching a heady 1,705.80 metres, the Turó de l'Home is the highest point in the Montseny massif. But if you're not used to walking or peddling, don't worry: you can almost reach the top by car. However, we're going to recommend you do a little exercise and get there either on foot or two wheels via one of the routes that take you there, as this way you'll fully enjoy the natural surroundings. At the top, as you can imagine, a magnificent panoramic, 360-degree view awaits (mist permitting), reaching all the way to the coast and the Pyrenees. There's also a meteorological observatory up there, which opened in 1932 and now brandishes a plaque dedicated the creator and founder of the Meteorological Service of Catalonia, Eduard Fontserè. Unfortunately, the observatory has been out of use for years.

After stopping to take in the views and catch your breath, we suggest you visit the Centre de Manipulació de la Castanya, a space dedicated to the humble chestnut. Open all year (although the best time to go is in autumn) and managed by the local company Castanya de Viladrau, it was created with the aim of restoring chestnut production in Montseny – a deeply rooted product of the area. Here, you'll learn everything about the fruit as well as how it's used to make different ingredients and products such as flour, honey, bread and even beer. If you still have some time left over, the same company offers excursions to surrounding areas, and, since we're on the subject of chestnuts, we recommend you go and visit the spectacular 'Chestnut with Nine Branches', a symbolic icon of Viladrau.

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Arboretum Santa Maria de Palautordera
© Ajuntament de Santa Maria de Palautordera

Day 3: The home of King Alfons I

Reserve the morning of your last day in Vallès Oriental to discover Sant Pere de Vilamajor. Explore the historic town centre, La Força, declared a National Heritage Site, and the old fortified quarter around Vilamajor Castle. What's left of the castle – which was once home of the Counts of Barcelona when they were passing through and where King Alfons I of Catalonia (son of Petronila of Aragón and the Count Ramón Berenguer IV) is believed to have been born – is known as the Red Tower, converted into the bell tower of the adjacent Sant Pere church. There, you'll find the Information Centre La Mongia, where you might want to be informed about what not to miss in the historic centre. For example, the well-preserved walls and moats, or Can Vila, the old defensive castle tower, or the so-called Black Tower or Torreta, the highest point in the church grounds.

Jumping forward a few years, but not straying too far, is La Vicaria, a farmhouse from the year 1639, which is now an artist residence, where many artists have passed through. In the esplanade in front, you'll find various works of modern art.

In the afternoon, head to Santa Maria de Palautordera. Montseny has always been well-known for the richness of its vegetation, for its collage of landscapes that range from Mediterranean to Central European. So what better place to set up an arboretum than at the foothills of this massif? Containing over 80 different tree species, all of which can be found in Montseny, this place is perfect for the whole family, and includes picnic areas, a playground and a duck pond.

If you still have some time left on your the trip, we recommend a visit around Santa Maria de Palautordera's heritage sites. Start with the church, a gothic building with a bell tower, which was originally the tower of a 13th-century castle. Walk along Carrer Major and on to Passeig del Remei where you'll come across a selection of modernisme houses. At the top, the neoclassical Remei shrine awaits, next to what was once the Sant Sebastià chapel, today a privately owned home. Other interesting buildings dotted around the town include summer mansions, farmhouses, and the curiously broken bridge that crosses the Tordera river, half in Santa Maria de Palautordera (which preserves its original shape), and the other half in Sant Celoni (rebuilt in 2005 in a modern style) – a great place to say farewell to Montseny.

Restaurants, Catalan

Can Parpers

Located in the Serralada Litoral Park, in the part that separates Maresme from Vallès Oriental, Can Parpers is an ideal restaurant for groups or families since it has a large garden where children can play before or after eating, allowing their parents to relax and chat over an aperitif or a coffee. Foodwise, expect Catalan market-style cuisine with grilled meat dishes as highlights.

Restaurants, Haute cuisine

La Font de Can Moreu

Offering creative cuisine made with passion and top-quality ingredients, this restaurant in the Montnegre i Corredor Natural Park also takes care with the presentation of all of its dishes, from starters to desserts. You'll also find a good wine list, and concerts are staged here in the summer – all good reasons for coming to La Font de Can Moreu.

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Restaurants, Pizza

Ventidue

This pizzeria in Sant Celoni uses quality produce to make top-notch pizzas and pasta dishes at reasonable prices, along with home-made desserts to end your meal on a perfect note. A careful selection of raw materials and baking in a wood-fired oven ensure that few pizzerias can offer such as unforgettable experience as Ventidue.

Restaurants, Catalan

La Taverna d’en Grivé

Their use of local and seasonal produce, the mastery with which they cook and serve it, the warm atmosphere of the dining rooms, and the more than 300 wines in the cellar all make La Taverna d'en Grivé one of the top restaurants in Granollers and the wider region. The menu here is varied, but the people in charge point to eggs with foie gras and black truffles, crispy pig's trotters with shellfish, and rice with rabbit as standout dishes. And don’t miss the dishes featuring white 'ganxet' beans.

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Restaurants, Catalan

Can Pedragosa

Home-made, traditional food is on offer at this country house on the outskirts of Llinars, where, among many other dishes, you can order cannelloni, paella, onion soup, grilled meat and traditional local desserts, including crema Catalana. Don’t come looking for sophisticated dishes, but the quality of the products and value for money here are unparalleled.

Hotels

Hotel Suís

Practically a landmark in the town, due to its location facing the town hall of Sant Celoni and its long history, dating from 1920, this refurbished, three-star hotel is accessible for disabled guests and offers satellite TV, internet and en-suite rooms. Fans of retro styling should know that a number of rooms here maintain their classical decoration.

Hotels

Hotel Mercure Augusta Vallès

This hotel is strategically located near a motorway exit, a five-minutes drive from the Circuït de Barcelona–Catalunya racetrack, 15 minutes from La Roca Village shopping centre and only 20 minutes from Barcelona. All of its 101 rooms are soundproofed, and the hotel has meeting rooms and a restaurant, Transit, which specialises in Mediterranean cuisine. There is also a swimming pool and a solarium.

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Hotels, Spa hotels

Vila de Caldes Balneari

In the spa town of Caldes de Montbui it’s a good idea to stay in an establishment that offers spa and thermal treatments, and Vila de Caldes Balneari does all of that, and under medical supervision. Its recently refurbished rooms are all elegant and have views. If you want to dine on the premises, Burg & Gintònic is a contemporary-style lounge/burger restaurant.

Hotels

Ca l’Agnès

This country house in the Montseny Natural Park is off-grid and uses only renewable energy and waste resources. With a capacity to sleep eight guests, this eco-friendly lodging is bookable as a unit, and if you decide to stay here we recommend that you give the car a rest and head into the woods, where the only sound is that of your walking boots.

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Hotels

Can Mateuet

This 18th-century country house is now a rural lodge surrounded by farmland with five en-suite double bedrooms that is bookable as a single unit. Here you’ll find a swimming pool and a restaurant that serves only the country house guests. And consider this if you’re getting married: Can Mateuet is specialised in holding open-air weddings.

Things to do, Event spaces

Fàbrica de les Arts Roca Umbert

Over the last decade, the old Roca Umbert textile factory has become the centre of cultural life in the capital of Vallès Oriental. The building contains different spaces including the municipal library, opened in 2005; the Centre Tecnològic i Universitari; the Espai d'Arts, which provides services and resources to the region’s artistic community with the aim of promoting contemporary creation; and cub, a space given over to rehearsals and musical production. Special mention must be made of La Troca, a unique space that hosts a dozen entities related to the world of popular and traditional culture.

Theatre, Public and national theatres

Teatre Municipal Can Gomà

Not many places can claim to have been wine- and cava-production facilities before becoming a theatre with a programme of dance and children’s and professional drama. The building is striking inside and out, and retains its original cellars. What was once the wine vat is now the sound and light booth. It's a space that offers added value when you're attending a show, and it's a good example of how to convert old buildings for other uses.

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Museums, Art and design

Thermalia

On the ground floor here you'll find the tourism office of Caldes de Montbui, an obligatory stop to find out everything you need to visit the town. You can also take advantage of your visit to see everything that Thermalia has to offer, from the history of the town’s spas to an important selection of works by the sculptor Manolo Hugue, who lived in the village for many years, and a number of pieces by his friend Pablo Picasso. The temporary exhibition room also features interesting works.

Museu de Granollers
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Museums, Art and design

Museu de Granollers

The museum’s collection covers various fields, including archeology, art, decorative arts, ethnography and numismatics. The natural sciences have also been studied here since 1987, when an extension was built. The museum is multidisciplinary, as you'll discover when you explore its permanent and temporary exhibitions that help you to learn more about past and present of Granollers and its surroundings. And for lovers of contemporary art, there's a good exhibition on the third floor of the building.

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Theatre, Public and national theatres

Teatre Auditori de Granollers

Opened in 2003, the theatre's building was designed by local architect Josep M. Botey and consists of two halls: the larger one with a capacity for 700 spectators and the smaller one for 221. The number of shows scheduled throughout the year is remarkable; they include music, theatre and dance. But if you just want to explore the building, the best way is to ask for a guided tour (for groups with a minimum of 15 people), during which you'll be able to walk around the stage, the dressing rooms and the stalls.

Museums, History

Casa Museu Prat de la Riba

Head for Castelltercol to discover the house where Enric Prat de la Riba, one of the greatest 20th-century Catalan politicians, lived. Prat de la Riba was the creator and first president of the Mancomunitat (Commonwealth), and whether you agree with his politics or not, the house is worth a visit because it retains the decor and atmosphere of an early-20th-century townhouse. We particularly like the bedroom, with its 19th-century furniture, and the ambience of the office, which was transferred here from Barcelona.

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