Spring and summer getaway to Maresme
Looking at the sea from the inland towns and villages
We all know that visiting Maresme in the summer means spending hours on the beach. But we'd like to propose an alternative getaway to the region that's ideal when the weather is less than perfect, or for when sunburn obliges you to seek out the shade. We'll be seeing the sea from a distance, since we'll be visiting towns and villages that lie a few kilometres inland. It's the forested Maresme that stretches up to the region's natural parks.
Afternoon day 1: Premià de Dalt: a mosaic of beautiful country farmhouses
© Xavier Amat
We'll make you walk a little on this first afternoon of the getaway, but the small effort will be rewarded by your seeing some of the most beautiful towns in the region, and especially the multitude of historical farmhouses, many of which are well preserved and still inhabited today.
The country house trail in Premià de Dalt will take you to 34 of them, which are scattered around the municipal area. Needless to say, if you have stout legs and enough time and energy, you can visit them all, but we can offer you a shorter alternative that will allow you to explore a number of the area's most beautiful country houses.
We'll set out from a centrally located spot, Can Franquesa, headquarters of the Societat Cultural i Esportiva Sant Jaume. Its location, between two of the town's main roads, and its size and appearance, tell us that the building once belonged to one of Premia's important families. Although the medieval tower it its most striking feature, the whole ensemble is beautiful and it's a pleasure to sit down at a table on its terrace for a cup of coffee. The ensemble is so large, and the grounds of the mansion were so extensive, that there is room inside the complex for a car park and a number of sports fields.
Practically opposite, in Riera de Sant Pere, there is another striking mansion house called Can Pau Cusó, which dates from the 19th century and has a neo-baroque façade. Head up the Riera, which is a covered dry river bed or gully with a large number of houses. Just after passing the municipal market, you'll find Can Tay, an old country mansion house that has been reformed and modified extensively (on the baroque façade you can read the years 1825 and 1985 standing side by side). A case apart is the old town hall (today the headquarters of the local police), which is the second building of interest that we find on our route. It was meant to be a school but was designed in the style of 19th century factories, incorporating various elements of ornamental modernista design. Just behind it is Ca la Cecília, which has some interesting modernist ceramic panels on the gateway, while Can Coromina has an elegant entrance ramp and a façade that was restored in the 19th century following the modernista canon and turned into a summer home.
The fences and gates of some of these country houses may hinder visibility and you may have to get on tiptoe to catch sight of them behind the bars. This is the case of Ca la Maria Puig and Can Cirés, the following houses on our itinerary. In contrast, we can get a good look at Can Riera and its gardens. It's a building with a lot of history, which was first documented in the twelfth century and which takes its name from the dry river bed it stands on.
Once past Can Grau, another interesting house, the going gets a little steeper as we walk up Camí de la Costa. But steep paths have their rewards, in this case in the shape of panoramic views of the town and the sea, as well as some of the houses we passed on our way up here. We'll pass by a number of modern buildings and at the end of Camí de la Costa, we'll head up Carrer del Cant dels Ocells. Where that street enters Torrent de Can Pau Sirés you'll see before you a magnificent scene that includes three more houses: Can Noalart or Can Pau Cirés (named for a butcher in Premià in the 18th century), Can Mus or Cal Comte, and, at the back, Can Pi Sol or Can Godàs.
Head down Torrent de Can Mus and in a few metres you can take Camí de Can Creus on the left in order to see houses like Can Creus and Can Sentmenat - Mas Pi, or you can carry straight on down to see Can Calons - Mas Soler, with its fortified façade crowned in the centre by triangular battlements and La Torreta, a unique and exquisite modernista-style summer house.
With that, we've now completed the route and returned to our original point of departure, but we'd recommend continuing down the Riera to the new town hall building. Just in front of it you'll find Can Batalla, an important house, commissioned by a textile manufacturer in 1886. Take the street that lies right next to it, Carrer Josep M. de Sagarra, leaving it at the intersection with Carrer de Folch i Torres to explore houses like Can Fèlix, which is a more humble-looking house. Going back to Carrer de Josep M. de Sagarra, walk to the end of the street and you'll come out on the road to Premià de Mar. From more or less this point you'll see a defensive tower called Can Moles - Can Botey, which is a country mansion dating from the 14th century that was declared a site of national cultural interest as is an excellent place to finish our route.
Morning day 2: From Teià to Vilassar
© Josep Cano / Diputació de Barcelona
Yesterday we explored the country houses of Premiá but today, we're heading for Teià where we'll be able to see plenty of other beautiful examples. The town's growth, like many others, has had its church as its centre, but unlike many of those other places, the first houses still remain, although, of course, they have been rehabilitated and restructured the over the centuries. With the Serralada Litoral natural park as a backdrop, and magnificent coastal views available from a number of spots in the town, you won't have to stary very far from the centre to discover Gothic mansions like Can Pol, Can Torrents and Can Barrera. Casa Bru has a watchtower that dates from the 10th century, and while the present day appearance of Can Godó dates from the 19th century, it was once home to Sebastià Dalmau, an outstanding military leader during the War of the Spanish Succession. Your attention will also be drawn to the 16th century late-Gothic parish church of Sant Martí, that has been christened the "Cathedral of Maresme".
You'll also discover that Teià has been a wine producing town (DO Alella) for a very long time. At Parc Arqueològic Cella Vinaria Archeological Park you'll be able to visit an excavation with a number of wine cellars dating from the Roman era, two presses that have been rebuilt, as well as cisterns and ovens used in the manufacture of amphorae. It's a visit that's suitable for the whole family, and, in the same place, you'll find the Centre d'Acollida Turística (CAT) an information centre for anyone wishing to learn more about the legacy left by the Romans in Catalonia. As well as museum exhibits and audiovisual presentations, the centre offers tasting sessions of dishes dating from the Roman era.
We'll now head for Vilassar de Dalt. The town's private castle, Castell de Vilassar, is only open for visits eleven days a year. It's worthwhile finding out which days it's open and , of course, pre-booking your visit. The origins of the castle go back to the 10th century, when the first tower was built, and its current appearance dates from four or five centuries after that, though it also experienced periods of decadence. Here, nobles and marquees have lived and the castle still has an important archive. The visit lasts around 90 minutes and allows you to explore its courtyards, chapel and the main porch.
Afternoon day 2: Three towns near the capital
© Josep Cano / Diputació de Barcelona
A short distance from Vilassar de Dalt there lies the town of Cabrils. There are dozens of fine restaurants in Maresme, and Cabrils, which is considered to be a gastronomic centre, has a number of top quality examples. So, it's a good place to stop off for lunch before taking a stroll around the village's streets. You should make sure you see two especially interesting buildings that have been declared sites of national cultural interest: the 16th century tower of Can Vehils and the 14th century mansion house Ca n'Amat. Your attention will also be drawn to a castle built less than a century ago, Can Jaumar.
For the afternoon, we have prepared a visit to two other villages: Cabrera de Mar and Argentona. Though just a few kilometres from Mataró, they have little in common with the regional capital, at least in terms of lifestyle and appearance, since Cabrera has around 5,000 inhabitants and Argentona has 12,000 (Mataró, in contrast, has a population of 125,000), and most of the buildings in the villages are family houses rather than blocks of flats. The Castle of Burriac is a constant presence on the skyline in both villages (it lies within the municipal boundaries of Cabrera, but is easily accessible from Argentona), while you can find a number of old buildings on the streets, some of which are now restaurants or public buildings. Despite its name, the urban centre of Cabrera de Mar is some distance from the sea (though the neighbourhood of Pla de l'Avellà does lie on the coast), and the people here are proud of their town's history (it was called Ilturo in Roman times and predates the town of luro, which would later become Mataró). The original Iberian village is on the migdia slope of the hillside of Burriac, where you can see the uncovered archaeological site. Talking of excavations, we recommend that you also go to Can Modolell, which has archaeological remains dating from Iberian times to the Lower Middle Ages, with those from Roman times being, perhaps, the most interesting.
In Argentona you must visit the Museu del Càntir, located in Plaça de l'Església, which has an impressive display of water jugs and organises its own Pottery Fair and Festivals which attract thousands of visitors every August. The museum was thoroughly reformed in the year 2000 and is divided into six thematic areas, which display around 2,300 pieces of diverse origin dating from the Bronze Age until now.
Morning day 3: Around Vallalta
© Diputació de Barcelona
Let's change area. A winding road will take us to Sant Iscle de Vallalta, one of the region's quietest, smallest and most hidden away villages (at least in terms of its urban centre, since the municipal territory spreads out wide into the Montnegre i el Corredor natural park). Since we're surrounded by woods, it's a good idea to take a walk around and explore them. A walk that's beautiful and suitable for the whole family is one that takes you from the centre of Sant Iscle to the Dones d'Aigua waterfall. The path is shaded and it's easy to understand how the lush vegetation all around and the small streams we have to cross have given rise to a number of legends and stories, especially our destination, the Dones d'Aigua waterfall, which has a mystical, magical atmosphere. If you want, you can carry on along the trail to the mansion house Ca n'Oller and Can Maresme, a magnificent house built with fortunes made in America, which has gardens and an artificial lake.
But make sure you set aside part of the morning to explore the other village that bears the place name "de Vallalta", Sant Cebrià, which is also located in the foothills of the Montnegre range. We recommend that you follow the itinerary planned by the town council together with the Centre d'Estudis Sant Cebrià, which will take you around the village's most iconic and historically relevant buildings and among woods and fields, many of which are given over to strawberry farms. In fact, the strawberries from here are considered to be the finest in the whole Mareseme region.
Afternoon day 3: By the seaside
© Pisto Estol
After visiting these inland villages and towns and getting glimpses of the sea down below, it's time to head for the beaches and coastal towns. We've chosen Sant Pol de Mar as our destination. It is, perhaps, the town in the region that is most similar to those further north, in the Empurdà, thanks in part to its white coloured houses. We can stroll around its quiet streets and see fishermen's houses, which tell us that this place has always had a strong connection to the sea. We'll see that it's a town that has not renounced tourism, but is far from being overwhelmed by it, unlike other, not too distant coastal towns. Make your way up to the chapel of Sant Pau, from where you'll have fine panoramic views and, at dusk, is an excellent end point for our getaway.
Where to stay and where to eat
Cultural venues in Maresme
Set in the centrally located Plaça de l'Església, this museum has an excellent collection of pitchers, some of which are very original and funny. The collection is the result of the donations and acquisitions made since 1975. The explanations on the history and manufacturing process of these objects make for an educational experience that’s suitable for all ages. The museum also stages major temporary exhibitions.
- Plaça de l'Església, 9, 08310
Essayist, poet and writer Josep Palau i Fabre maintained a close friendship with Pablo Ruiz Picasso. His Foundation in Caldes d’Estrac contains work by Picasso from his private collection as well as works by other artists like Miro and Gargallo. Aside from the permanent exhibitions, the centre has rooms for temporary exhibits and hosts many other activities throughout the year, such as the Festival Poesia i +, roundtables, conferences and workshops.
- C/ Riera, 54, 08393
Lluís Domènech i Montaner is one of the most important names in the history of Catalan modernism and he left behind a rich legacy, both in architectural and personal terms, in his home town of Canet de Mar. The museum that bears his name is made up of two buildings: Masia Rocosa and Casa Domènech. The first building was his workshop and offers insights into his professional life; while the second is a building he designed for his family and offers a more personal vision of the man. The museum also has spaces for a permanent exhibition on the history of the town and for temporary exhibitions.
- Xamfrà rieres Buscarons i Gavarra, 08360
In Arenys de Mar lace-making has a long history. So a Lace Museum makes perfect sense here. The Marès Museum has several valuable collections, starting with that of Frederic Marès, who acquired pieces from the Marquis de Valverde, among others. Other highlights include the collection that once belonged to the dancer Carmen Tórtola Valencia, who designed her own costumes, the Castells collection, with laces, patterns and frames from one of the lace manufacturers in Arenys.
- Església, 43, 08350
The building that houses the Museum-Archive has a number of different sections, but the Gallart Gallery on the first floor is a real stand-out. It contains more than 200 works, mostly figurative oil paintings and drawings by local artist Lluís Gallart i Garcia which are exposed on a rotating basis. But since you’re here, you should also go up to the second floor and visit the modernista-style Barri pharmacy. The other exhibition spaces in this multi-disciplinary museum are given over to dresses and embroidery.
- Escoles Pies, 36, 08370
Set in a renaissance-style building in Plaça de l'Ajuntament, the first floor of the museum is reserved for temporary exhibitions. The first and second floors take you on a chronological trip through the history of Mataró from the Roman era to the present, with special attention given to the industrial development of the city as a textile manufacturing centre. The museum has other sections in a number of building around the town, such as Ca l'Arenas (C/ Argentona 64), which hosts an art collection.
- El Carreró, 17, 08301