Spring-Summer Getaway to Vallès Oriental
Nature, modernisme, motorsports and shopping in and around Granollers
On this getaway to Vallès Oriental we won't be straying too far from Granollers, the regional capital. Even so, the activities we aim to propose to you are very diverse, ranging from going shopping at La Roca Village to paying a visit to the Circuït de Catalunya F1 racetrack in Montmeló, without, of course, forgetting culture and art, the medieval legacy in Granollers and the modernista houses of Cardedeu, which is where we'll begin our trip.
Afternoon day 1: Modernista style summer houses
© Manel Cuesta
Many of the region's towns can boast a number of magnificent modernista-style constructions. Vallès Oriental was one of the favourite places for well-to-do people in at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century to spend their summers. The fact that it's well communicated with Barcelona by both railway and road played a part in that and building a summer residence was, at that time, a sign of prestige, especially in the style of the period, which was modernisme or Catalan Modernism. That's why towns like l'Ametlla del Vallès, La Garriga, Figaró-Montmany, Cardedeu and Granollers itself, are full of modernista-style summer houses. On this first afternoon of our getaway to the region we're going to explore some examples in the town of Cardedeu some of which are extremely luxurious.
We can begin our walk at Gran Via de Tomàs Balvey 40, which is the site of Alqueria Cloelia, a magnificent summer house built in 1904 and the first private commission carried out by the architect Manuel Joaquim Raspall, who was born in Barcelona but had strong links with Vallès Oriental since his mother was from La Garriga, where he himself lived (and died). He was the municipal architect for a number of towns, including Cardadeu. Practically all of the modernista-style constructions we can see here were designed by him. Alqueria Cloelia is notable for its viewpoint tower and a number of features that Raspall developed and which would go on to become leitmotifs of his designs including geometrical sgraffito, trencadís (shattered tile mosaics) and medallions with vertical ribbons.
Nearby in Avinguda del Rei En Jaume -which is the name given to highway C-251 when it passes through Cardedeu-, you'll find two other modernista-style buildings, which stand practically side by side but are very different- One of them is Torre Montserrat, the only building by Eduard M. Balcells i Buïgas in Cardedeu, which stands out for the tribune on its main façade with a mosaic and a cast iron crest. The other house, which has a simpler appearance, is by Raspall and consists of two terraced houses built for the townspeople of the time in which the modernista references are reflected mainly in the sgraffito on the façade.
We'll now head for the town's central streets by taking the avenue we're on to Carrer del Montseny, which we'll find to our right, and then turning left into Carrer de l'Hospital. At number 26 you'll recognise another modernista-style house, Golferichs, with its impressive barred windows, balconies and stained glass. It's the result of the reforms carried out on an earlier house built on commission by Raspall, as is the house at number 22, which was built by Raspall some years later when the architect has moved towards a Noucentisme style. This house, known as Casa Masó, therefore has a more sombre appearance.
Now we'll walk to the end of Carrer de l'Hospital, where it joins up with Carrer de Teresa Oller, where we'll find Casa Viader, whose large dimensions are the result of it being the result of the remodelling of three 18th century houses, with Raspall working as the architect and the milk industry magnate Marc Viader, inventor of the popular Cacaolat chocolate milk, as the owner. We'll soon enter Plaça de l'Església, where, apart from the church, you'll see the attractive Casa Arquer, which has examples of sgraffito on the façade, but which stands out particularly for its sinuous apex with two medallions. A short distance away in the same square is Casa Clavell with its tiered crown. Both houses, which stand out among the buildings of more recent construction in the square, are by (yes, that's right!) M. J. Raspall. We can see two other houses designed by him if we take the road to Cànoves. Casa Borràs, a late work dating from 1932, which has more in common stylistically with Noucentisme than with Modernisme, and Casa Balvey, which dates from 1915.
We can finish our tour in a different place, to take a look at something a little different from houses. Els Pinetons is a park, also designed by Raspall, in which he preserved the original pine woods and built an art deco style fountain. To get there all you have to do is turn left into Carrer de Lluís Llibre. When you pass Carrer del Doctor Ferran, you're practically there.
If you have time, there are some other interesting modernista-style houses in Cardedeu, some of which are near the centre, like also interesting, some in the same town like Can Llibre and the Cal Peó warehouse, while others are located a little further away, like Masia Joan Niella, Granja Viader, and the municipal cemetery, which is an interesting ensemble of funerary architecture.
Morning day 2: The smell of asphalt
© Miquel Rovira / Circuït de Catalunya
This morning we're going to have a complete change of activity, but we won't have to go very far. We're heading for Montmeló, and its famous Circuit de Catalunya racetrack. If you're petrolheads you're going to have a great morning out. You can explore the track on a guided tour, visiting the areas that are normally restricted to drivers and mechanics or that you're seen so many times on television like the paddock, the boxes, the press room, the VIP room... and you can even stand on the podium! You'll learn a little more about how a race is organised, whether it's a motorbike race or a F1 competition, how the mechanics work and how the competition is controlled.
Check out the website, to find out when the guided tours are operating since they're conditioned by the calendar of competitions and be sure to book ahead to secure a place!
Afternoon day 2: Shopping at La Roca Village
© La Roca Village
Perhaps you feel like taking advantage of your visit to Vallès Oriental to do some shopping. Have you been waiting for the chance to seek out a new pair of trousers or a new shirt for a long time? No problem! Located within the municipal area of La Roca del Vallès La Roca Village, is one of the ten "villages" that Chic Outlet Shopping by Value Retail has around the world. You'll find more than a hundred shops here, especially clothes shops, though you'll also find perfumes and some delicious chocolate, with the top brands (all you can imagine, we're not going to name any because we can't do publicity), most of which are selling at outlet prices, meaning up to 60% off. So, it's no surprise that this is a popular place to go, especially at weekends. But don't worry too much, there's plenty of (free) parking.
Once you've parked your car, you'll find that the place is laid out like a long pedestrian street, lined with shops, with a Mediterranean air and even some modernista-style houses. There are even some Gaudí-style benches that are reminiscent of those in Parc Güell. So, kids can walk here safely, and there are also some kids' parks where they can play. If you're feeling thirsty there are some terraces where you can sit and recover from your exertions, as well as stalls selling ice-creams and crepes. When we visited Roca Village it was undergoing expansion work so you'll soon have even more shops to browse in. In summary, tt's a place where, apart from doing some shopping, you can spend a pleasant afternoon.
Morning day 3: Medieval Granollers
© Ajuntament de Granollers
Today we've woken up looking forward to exploring the origins of Granollers, the regional capital. It's true that archaeologists claim that this site was inhabited in Roman times, but it could be said that the town that is now Granollers came into being in the Middle Ages.
So let's go and explore what remains of that period. You can go on one of the guided tours that set out from the Museu de Granollers. But if you prefer to explore the town on your own you can follow the route we propose here and discover medieval Granollers.
We strongly recommend that you visit the Adoberia Historical Interpretation Centre, at Plaça de l'Església number 7. Here you can see reconstructions of the medieval town that will give you a better idea of the route you're going to follow. You can also see a number of items found here like coins, earrings, buckles and some capitals. But the biggest attraction here is located in the middle of the museum - the excavated tannery known as the Ginebreda. You can still make out burner, a well, a number of holes and pools that were used in the process of soaking, blanching and seasoning the leather. And even if you don't feel the need, you should pay a visit to the toilets, where you'll see a magnificent section of the medieval walls.
Once outside, just in front of the interpretation centre, you'll see the majestic church of Sant Esteve. Pay special attention to its bell tower, which is 34 metres high and the only part remaining of the original 15th century Gothic building. We'll now make our way to the nearby Plaça de la Porxada, where we'll find plenty of medieval remains. First of all, there's La Porxada, the construction that gives the square its name and is an icon of the town. It dates from the years between 1586 and 1587, when the town council commissioned the master builder Martomeu Brufalt of Barcelona the construction of a grain market Since that time it has witnessed the passing of generations of inhabitants of Granollers and a number of important historical events, and although it has undergone several reformation projects, especially to the roof, it retains its original structure, with its 15 Tuscan columns. Take a closer look at the column that is nearest to the modernista-style town hall; at its feet is the so-called Stone of Enchantment, which the auction master would stand up on to conduct the auction.
As we mentioned, the square has made other buildings that remind us of Granoller's medieval past, which have either maintained their original structure or, at least, some Gothic elements on their façades. For example, have a look at the corner house at number 28, or at Can Cunillera at number 28, or the mansion house at number 30, or Casal Masferrer-Perpinyà, which occupies numbers 21 to 23. We'll now head for Plaça de l'Oli, which adjoins Plaça Cabrits, which in turn adjoins Plaça de les Olles. Here, as in Plaça de la Porxada, stalls were set up to sell foodstuffs. The commercial spirit of the neighbourhood is still intact; in fact the whole route we're following takes in the commercial attractions of Granollers as well as its medieval heritage. If you look above the shop windows, you'll often see beautiful Gothic windows and, in some cases, if you look carefully at the doors, you'll see some fine examples of old doorways and porches. That's the case in Carrer de Santa Anna, which we'll take now and which dates from between the 14th and the 16th centuries. As you can imagine, the gateway was once part of the medieval walls. If you want to see more fragments of the walls, apart from the section we saw at the interpretation centre, take the long and narrow Corredor de la Constància, to the intersection with Carrer del Corró. Cross it and enter Corredor de Jaume Camp i Lloreda to explore another section of the wall, which is quite well preserved, and the remains of a tower. If we continue along Carrer de Tomàs Alba Edison and Carrer de Sant Roc, we'll come out on the wide Carrer d'Anselm Clavé, having come across the Portal de Bell-lloc and the Chapel of Sant Roc. We'll turn right into the street and then right again, into Carrer de Santa Esperança, and then we'll take Carrer de Sant Cristòfol, which has more remains of the walls, which were used for the construction of new houses. We can now take Carrer de Barcelona to see a couple of other houses with medieval elements and then return to either Plaça de l'Església, if we turn left and to Plaça de la Porxada, if we turn right.
Afternoon day 3: Nature in Granollers
© Manel Cuesta
After walking so much in the town, it might be the right time to explore its natural surroundings, and to take it easy on the last day of our getaway. You could go, for example to Can Cabanyes, to the south of the town, between the right bank of the River Congost and the road to Montmeló. It's a wooded area of eight hectares which has an environmental education centre and which stands out for its marshlands, which are artificial but very important for the local wildlife. Sightings of 35 species of birds have been reported here, and there are also amphibians and fish species. You can take advantage of the picnic area to have a bite to eat here too.
Smaller but also attractive, Can Gili is an wood of around one hectare in extension. It's located between the neighbourhoods of Terra Alta and Can Gili, and is made up of elm, aspen, poplar and plane trees. However, the third space we propose, Font del Ràdium, occupies 18 hectares and is an area that was reclaimed at the beginning of the century. The most iconic site is one of the three springs you can find there, which gives its name to the place, and is made in the image and likeness of the original spring, with two stone terraces in a semi-circle. It was thought that radium was present in the water of the spring, and that this gave it special digestive properties. Hence it was called the Spring of Radium, and is still popular among locals. Today, as we mentioned, the spring has been rebuilt, and whether the water has healing properties or not, this is certainly a good place to leave and put an end to our visit to Vallès Oriental.
Where to stay and where to eat
Cultural venues in Vallès Oriental
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.
- Prat de la Riba, 77, 08401
Not many places can claim to have been wine and champagne production facilities before becoming a theatre with a program of dance and children’s and professional drama. The building is very beautiful both inside and out, and retains its original cellars. What was once the wine vat is now the sound and light booth. A place, then, that offers some added value when attending a show, and a good example of how to convert old buildings to other uses.
- Castelao, 2, 08100
On the ground floor here there is the tourism office of Caldes de Montbui, an obligatory stop-off 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 exhibits.
- Plaça de la Font del Lleó, 20, 08140
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 town house. We particularly like the bedroom, with its 19th century furniture, and the atmosphere of the office, which was transferred here from Barcelona.
- Plaça de Prat de la Riba, 7, 08183
The museum’s collection covers various fields, including archeology, art, decorative arts, ethnography and numismatics. The Natural Sciences are also studied here since an extension was built in 1987. The museum is therefore multidisciplinary, as you will discover when you explore its permanent and temporary exhibitions which will help you to learn more about past and present of Granollers and its surroundings. And for lovers of contemporary art, there is a good exhibition on the third floor of the building.
- Anselm Clavé, 40, 08401
Opened a decade ago, the 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 that are scheduled throughout the year is remarkable; they include music, theatre and dance, but if you just want to explore the building, nothing better than to ask for a guided tour (for groups with a minimum of 15 people), on which you will be able to walk around the stage, the dressing rooms and the stalls.
- Torras i Bages, 50, 08401