Winter getaway to Alt Penedès
Wine tourism in a unique landscape
Wine permeates every nook and cranny of the Alt Penedès: its landscapes, gastronomy and industry all revolve around it and it has become both a way of making a living and a way of life. Nature and wine-tasting are both present in our proposal for a weekend that we hope will help you to discover wineries and take the first steps to becoming a wine connoisseur, or at least being able to tell a good wine from a bad one.
Afternoon day 1: Back to the Middle Ages and discovering wine culture
In the historical centre of Vilafranca there lies a medieval city that is still present in many of its buildings and streets of the Gothic Quarter. Perfect examples of this are the Basilica of Santa Maria, whose construction, over the remains of a Romanesque church, began in 1285. The basilica is considered to be the first parish building to be built in Gothic style in Catalonia. The Middle Ages saw the construction of other sites such as the Palau Reial, Palau Baltà and the Chapel of Sant Joan, all of which are located between Plaça Jaume I, the site of the basilica, and Carrer Marquesos d'Alfarràs, Carrer Hermenegild Clascar and Carrer de la Indústria.
In the middle of the Gothic Quarter, a few metres from the basilica, you will find the town's Vinseum, the Museu de les Cultures del Vi de Catalunya. A visit here allows you to delve into the history of wine, from how it has transformed the region to the setbacks it has had to overcome in order to maintain production. Of special interest are the explanations and exhibits on the phylloxera plague that devastated the vineyards of Europe from 1860, and which reached Catalonia in the late 19th century. The plague harmed farmers everywhere, including the Alt Penedès. The museum has three audio-visual projections that explain the origins of the vineyards and the process of wine and champagne making, and among its exhibits are some curious memorabilia, including an old hail gun that was used to shoot into the sky to prevent the dreaded hailstorms. The visit can be supplemented with audio guides. Admission includes a wine tasting at the bar of the museum, a very nice space where we recommend that you have a bite to eat.
If you should prefer to spend the afternoon in the open air, you could go for a walk to the mountain of Sant Pau, a route that is suitable for everyone and on which you can visit the chapel of the same name, carved out of the rock face in 1366. From the chapel you will enjoy fantastic views of Vilafranca, which is why the mountain has become such an emblematic space in the town.
Morning day 2: Shopping at the market
There's no better way to start the day than by visiting the Saturday market in Vilafranca, with its stalls selling fruit, vegetables, sausages, salted fish, nuts, honey, as well as clothing, home accessories and flowers, between eight in the morning and two in the afternoon. More than a dozen establishments are dedicated to locally sourced, produce, a recent initiative taken by the market to enhance the quality of its products. This long-established street market has a total of 230 stalls and is held along Rambla Sant Francesc, Carrer General Prim adn Carrer de la Cort, and Plaça de la Vila, Plaça Sant Joan, Plaça Constitució, Plaça de la Vall del Castell, Plaça de l'Oli, Plaça de Sant Jaume I and Plaça de Santa Maria. The wide variety of products on offer attracts a large number of people from all over the Alt Pendès and other regions.
Vilafranca is also known for the Fira del gall, a traditional fair that is scheduled to take place in Parc Sant Julià on December 21st and 22nd this year. Black Penedes cocks, ducks, capons, chickens, geese and turkeys are some of the different varieties of birds that can be bought in the market for poultry. The fair will be open on Saturday and Sunday mornings and also provides a slaughterhouse service. Other highlights among the activities on offer are demonstrations of poultry cooking and exhibitions of Penedès red wine.
Afternoon day 2: Human castles and folklore
What was once a poultry and then a fish market, now houses the Casa de la Festa Major de Vilafranca, an exhibition space that provides an introduction to Catalan folklore and festivals through the town's collection of animal figures, its popular dances and its associations, such as the Falcons and the Castellers de Vilafranca. There is also an audiovisual presentation that allows you to feel all the excitement of the town's fiesta, which was declared an event of national cultural interest in 2010, through depictions of events like the Tronada (thunderstorm) and the many processions. You will also witness the celebration of the feast of Saint Felix, which sees the construction of the human towers, called castells, by competing troupes every 30th of August.
The museum is housed in a Catalan modernist style building with industrial airs, designed by local architect Santiago Güell and built in 1911. As well as the exhibits associated with the town festival, the museum contains plenty of items from the world of Catalan folklore. You can visit it on your own or with a guide provided by Serveis Culturals Tríade. Pre-booking is required.
Morning day 3: Immerse yourself in the world of cava
Known as the capital of cava, Sant Sadurní d'Anoia is the ideal place to learn how cava, a sparkling wine made here since 1868, is produced. To find out all the details, head for the Centre d'Interpretació del Cava, the Cava Welcome Centre, which was opened last year in an old distillery dating from 19th century. The museum offers a journey to the world of cava, from its origins and process of elaboration to the culture, art and celebrations surrounding it. On the route around the museum you will find interactive displays which will allow you to experience firsthand the Phylloxera Festival, which commemorates the plague that did so much damage to the Penedès region.
The centre also offers combined visits to Freixenet. At this leading cava house, which was built in 1922, you will learn in detail how cava is produced and explore the old underground mines and the new enlargements of the cellar on board a comfortable mini train. The visits finish with a cava tasting.
You can also get tickets for the Simón Coll Chocolate Experience, where you can delve into the world chocolate maker Simón Coll, a company that has been making chcoclate in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia since 1840. This is the best place for chocolate lovers to learn how chocolate is made and experiment with different flavours and moulds.
If you're more interested in visiting cava facilities you have plenty to choose from: from Codorniu, housed in a impressive modernista style building, to Canals & Munné, Caves Mestres, Gramona, Llopart, Caves Pere Ventura... and many others who will show you all the secrets of cava making. Pre-booking is advised to ensure a place on these visits.
Afternoon day 3: Ziplines and lakes
You're nearly experts in the world of cava and phrases like full-bodied, fruity aromas and floral scents come tripping off your tongue. Now it's time to enjoy nature, and add a dash of adrenalin, with a visit to Les Deus aventura, an acrobatic park located in Sant Quintí de Mediona. Here, the daring can dive down ziplines and follow circuits around the treetops, while the less brave can choose from a variety of walking routes and explore the park's array of lakes and caves. The interesting thing is that you can choose between different routes that can be both aerial and aquatic or among the rocks, depending on your experience and fitness level. The park also features a children's area where kids from three-years-old can make their way around a maze created especially for them. Bear in mind that each circuit takes about an hour and a half, and is always accompanied by an instructor who will explain all the safety measures to be followed. The park, which is open weekends, mornings and afternoons, will allow you to round off a day full of thrills in the outdoors.
Where to stay and where to eat
Cultural venues in Alt Penedès
The mountain of Olèrdola has been a strategic enclave with different degrees of settlement since the Bronze Age (a little over 4,000 years ago). You can visit both the archaeological site and the interpretation centre, which stands in a modern building. The museum offers visitors guided and dramatized visits that allow you to discover, among other things, anthropomorphic tombs and the Medieval city, which was when the castle and the walled city were built.
- Castell d'Olèrdola, s/n, 08734
This is actually a group of buildings made up of the former fortified Penyafort manor, a convent and a church. The castle was built around the eleventh century. Tradition says it is the birth place of San Ramon Penyafort (1185 - 1275), a Dominican monk and canon lawyer and councilor to King Jaume I, who was canonized in 1601. Guided tours are conducted on the second Sunday of every month, for which preregistration is required. The castle is also the start of the visit to bomb shelters route, which take place on the fourth Sunday of each month, since this site is also part of a group of exhibition spaces related to aviation and the Spanish Civil War.
- Castell de Penyafort, s/n
Vilafranca’s wine museum has an extraordinary collection of diverse items relating to the history of wine making. These 17,000 items are fundamental to reaching a complete understanding of a territory that has always been marked by wine and vines. The museum’s different exhibitions and audiovisual presentations will help you to understand how wine is made and its historical and economic impact on the territory.
- Plaça de Jaume I, 5, 08720
Also known as the Conjunt monumental de la Roca, this complex of buildings includes the Romanesque church of Santa Maria, dating from the 12th century, the Castell de Sant Martí, which was built in the 10th century, and the museum, which houses a number of archeological and ethnographical collections that include an Iberian funerary monument (3rd – 2nd century BC), a woman’s head in stone (1st century BC) known as the Venus of Pendedès, Roman tombstones and a 15th century Moorish soup bowl from Manisses, a piece that is decorated both on the inside and outside and which is considered to be a unique piece, discovered during the restoration of the church.
- Conjunt Monumental de la Roca, s/n, 08731
Located in a distillery dating from 1814, the Cava Interpretation Centre consists of 1,200 square metres that allow you to explore the world of cava from its origins and history to the manufacturing process and its role in culture and in celebrations. On your visit you’ll enjoy Sant Sadurní d'Anoia in 3D, get to know the towns architectural heritage in an interactive way and experience the phylloxera festival in large format, among other proposals.
- C/ de l'Hospital, 23, 08770