Day Trip to Sant Cugat del Valles from Barcelona

Sant Cugat del Valles nestles in the hills above Barcelona. Cool and quiet and yet only 20 minutes away by train a day trip to Sant Cugat del Valles from Barcelona is a perfect idea.

DAY TRIP TO SANT CUGAT DEL VALLES FROM BARCELONA

The big draw in Sant Cugat des Valles in the monastery with one of the finest cloisters in the whole of Europe.  Whilst strolling along the streets you can see the exteriors of some fine modernist houses built at the turn of the century.

MONASTERY AND ABBEY OF SANT CUGAT

You’ll have seen monasteries before, but the monastery at Sant Cugat is special.  It has one of the most complete, best-preserved cloisters in Europe.  If you are a fan of Romanesque an Gothic architecture this is the place for you.  The monastery started life in the 5th century as a church dedicated to Sant Cugat, expansion began in the later 11th century and it became the most important monastery in the country of Barcelona.

Cloisers Sant Cugat Manastery

The cloister is stunning. It has 72 pairs of columns, each headed with a different carved corbel.  Each side is thirty metres long, creating the perfect place for monks to stroll and contemplate shaded from the hot sun.  A masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, I confess that I would like to spend an afternoon leaning against one of those pillars, lost in a good book.

Next door the abbey church is Gothic.  You walk in through a great carved arch with a rose window above it.

West Door Sant Cugat Monastery

Once inside, that large (over 8 metres) rose window casts a coloured glow over the interior.

Rose window Sant Cugat

One of the side alters has a fine Gothic altarpiece dating from 1375, known as the Retablos de todos Santos or Altarpiece of All Saints by Pere Serra.

Pere Serra Altarpiece Sant Cugat

If you are lucky your visit will coincide with one of the days when you can climb the bell tower for €8.  We were lucky enough to make the ascent when we visited, it is not for the fainted hearted, involving many steps up an increasingly narrow spiral staircase.  Once you get to the top, the views make everything worthwhile, you can see the cloisters far below and the rolling hills stretching out as far as the eye can see. Details of ascending the bell tower can be found on the monastery website here.

View Sant Cugat Bell Tower

WHO WAS SANT CUGAT?

Sant Cugat is also known as Saint Cucuphas.  He was born into a Christian family in Tunisia and was thought to have been one of the deacons in Carthage before heading over to Barcelona to convert the area to Christianity.  This didn’t go down well with the Roman Emperor Diocletian and Sant Cuga was taken prisoner.  Twelve strong soldiers were tasked with whipping him, tearing his skin with iron nails and letting scorpions sting him.  Once these were undertaken he was roasted alive after being covered in vinegar and pepper.  After all this he was still alive and so was thrown into a cell, in the morning his twelve torturers discovered him sitting up illuminated by a heavenly light.  Unsurprisingly the twelve instantly converted to Christianity but the Roman Prefects still wanted Sant Cugat dead, so they opted for the simpler method of cutting his throat. It is said that the monastery lies on the site of his martyrdom.

MARKETS OF SANT CUGAT DEL VALLES

One of the things that I love doing is meandering round a market.  El Mercat Vell on Plaça St Pere is a covered market open most days, perfect for picnic provisions.  If its an outdoor market that you want, make sure you visit on a Thursday when all manner of stalls from fruit and vegetables to straw hats set up shop on the Plaça d’Octavià just outside the great west door of the Abbey.

MERCANTIC VINTAGE MARKET

If vintage shopping is your thing then head for Mercantic. Housed in an old pottery factory over 200 small shops offer all manner of vintage things that you had no idea you needed until you saw them.

Mercantic Sant Cugat

How I didn’t come home with one of this lamps is a mystery to me and a relief to Mr CW.

Tiffany Vintage lights

If books are your thing, books are very much my thing, then El Siglo is for you.  It has over 150,000 books, the biggest selection in Spain.  Many of the are second hand but the latest literature is on offer to.  Don’t read Spanish?  Don’t fret there is an English language section to.  I could happily spend hours and hours here.

El Siglo Bookshop

Shopping can be hungry work at the weekends many street food stall pop up, if you visit during the week as I did than La Gula offers very tasty food.  I ate at La Gula and tried their Gazpacho: this cold tomato soup is found all over Spain but has its origins in Catalonia.

Gazpacho

SANT CUGAT FESTIVALS AND EVENTS

Procession to Sant Medir Hermitage

A little way outside Sant Cugat lies the Sant Medir Hermitage and every year on March 3 people process from the Abbey of Sant Cugat to the hermitage.  Why?  I hear you cry. In the 19th century a baker ravaged by disease prayed to Sant Medir.  He promised that if he was cured then he would worship at the hermitage.  A cure followed swiftly and he kept his word.   This is not a solemn gathering.  The Gegants (huge paper mâché figures) and Capgrossos (big headed paper mâché figures) are paraded along. When everybody gets to the hermitage the fun really begins.  With the building of castellers, dancing and a mass.  What are castellers?  They are human towers, community groups spend all year practicing building these towers.  So unique are they to Catalonia that they have UNESCO status.  We were lucky enough to see some castellers at work when we visited Costa Brcelona.

Casteller Human Tower

Festa Major

Is the BIG festival it starts around June 29 and lasts for four days.  It has the lot: parades, fireworks and the Paga-li Joan dance.   What is the Paga-li Joan dance?  Well it dates from the 18th century and is also known as the dance of Vano and Ram, inspired by a song that Sant Cugatens used to sing when working.  Joan and Marieta, the huge Gegants lead the dance and are followed by children and grown ups all following the same steps.

Gegants of Sant Cugat Joan and Marieta

Christmas

You’d expect a Christian Monastery to be big on Christmas, but Sant Cugat’s celebration is a little different. The Christmas Eve mass is called the Missa del Gall, or Rooster’s Mass.  Whilst the cock crowing does feature heavily in the story Jesus’s life it isn’t usually associated with Christmas.  Well in Sant Cugat it is.  In 1350 one Ramon Berenguer de Saltells murdered the Abbot Biure in the middle of the mass over a problem with inheritance.  So horrified was the metal rooster on the weather vane that it sang loudly but has never done so since.  The self same rooster presides over the Christmas Eve mass.  You can see the play Pedra I Sang, based on the events performed in the Chapter House off the Cloisters.  Celebrations run from 24 December – 6 January.

SANT CUGAT HOTELS

If the idea of staying for longer appeals, or even using Sant Cugat del Valles as an alternative base for Barcelona there are many hotels.

AC Hotel Sant Cugat – 150 metres from the train station and part of the Marriot chain.  During my visit to Costa Barcelona I stayed in the sister hotel of AC Gava Mar, by the seaside, and found it to be very comfortable with good breakfasts and a cooling swimming pool.

Residencia Universitaria Roberto di NobiliHalls of Residence – further away from the station and available only outside University term time.  I haven’t stayed there but the CW family have stayed in University Halls of Residence elsewhere and always found them to offer good well priced accommodation.

Click here for a fuller list of Accommodation in Sant Cugat.

GETTING TO SANT CUGAT DEL VALLES

Train:  Commuter trains (known as FGC) leave central Barcelona often.  Routes S1, S5 and S55 all get you to Sant Cugat.  The journey takes around 20 minutes and costs €3.10.

Road:  Driving up the C16 is probably the fastest but the road does have tolls, depending on the time of day the journey should take 20-30 minutes.

MAP OF SANT CUGAT DEL VALLES

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The area just outside Barcelona has so much to see and do, read how I fell for fast cars at the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya“UntoldMummyTravelsTin Box Traveller

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I visited Costa Barcelona as a guest of Barcelona Province Counci, all opinions are my own.

23 Comments

  1. June 7, 2018 / 8:32 am

    what a beautiful town! Love the antique shopping and how awesome you got to be there to see a casteller! #FarawayFiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      June 7, 2018 / 9:41 am

      The Castellers were amazing and it is the tiniest children that clamber to the top!

  2. June 7, 2018 / 4:22 pm

    I’d go there for the bookshop alone, amazing. The view from the top looks well worth the climb, although I’d probably be panicking at the lack of space by then. Great post!

  3. June 7, 2018 / 11:06 pm

    What a wonderful find. It’s always a good idea to get out of the big cities and explore a bit more in Spain. Putting Sant Cugar del Valles on the list for when we next visit Barcelona – I really like the look of El Mercat Vell #farawayfiles

  4. Clare Thomson
    June 8, 2018 / 2:13 pm

    I can’t believe this fabulous place is only 20 minutes away from Barcelona. I love cloisters and those statues are just gorgeous. I’d really like to explore the market too. Definitely adding this to my wish list. #FarawayFiles

  5. June 9, 2018 / 9:49 am

    What I find amazing is that you were able to take those photos with a broken wrist! Costa Barcelona is lovely – so much to do and eat and drink!

    • Catherine
      Author
      June 9, 2018 / 10:56 am

      Just think how much better they would be if a) I had the use of both hands and b) I knew how to work the camera properly!

  6. June 9, 2018 / 6:30 pm

    That rose window is stunning!! This looks exactly the kin d of place I’d like to explore when I visit Barcelona, so I’ll definitely be keeping this in mind – thanks for sharing!

    • Catherine
      Author
      June 9, 2018 / 6:33 pm

      Well worth while getting on a train for!

  7. June 12, 2018 / 8:57 am

    I’ve been to Barcelona but somehow missed Sant Cugar del Valles. I definitely have to check it out next time I’m in that area – it looks lovely.
    #CityTripping

  8. June 12, 2018 / 9:33 am

    I need those lamps in my life!
    #citytripping

  9. June 12, 2018 / 5:40 pm

    I love that there’s somewhere with such history and so much to see just 20 minutes from somewhere as well known as Barcelona – it is amazing what there is to discover. The towers of people, those fabulous views, and all the stories are fascinating. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  10. June 13, 2018 / 9:39 pm

    We saw castellers the last time we were in Barcelona and I can’t help but feeling like the helmet won’t do much in the way of protection if that little guy at the top should happen to fall… I’ll have to put this place on my “next time I’m in Barcelona list…” #citytripping

    • Catherine
      Author
      June 13, 2018 / 9:47 pm

      Extreme padding would help!

  11. June 14, 2018 / 1:11 am

    That cathedral is stunning!!!! I wouldn’t have expected such a gothic cathedral in Spain! I love the stained glass too. We’re going to Barcelona in November, so I’ll put this on my list. Hopefully we can make it there so I can see it for myself! #citytripping

  12. June 14, 2018 / 12:05 pm

    Oh! I’ve always wanted to see the human towers – so impressive! And I’m a sucker for a vintage market – would love strolling through there. Thanks for sharing this gem with #FarawayFiles, Erin

    • Catherine
      Author
      June 14, 2018 / 7:25 pm

      The human towers were incredible!

  13. June 21, 2018 / 9:53 pm

    I was so looking forward to reading this Catherine. What fabulous memories. The stairs up the tower were incredibly narrow!!! I wish we’d had longer to browse the treasures of Mercantic too. Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

    • Catherine
      Author
      June 21, 2018 / 11:02 pm

      I wish that I had bought one of the baskets

  14. Anisa
    September 15, 2018 / 10:56 pm

    Sounds like a great day trip. The Monastery sounds like a must, the Cloisters look very impressive. I could spend a lot of time in that bookstore too. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

  15. September 16, 2018 / 3:27 pm

    Sant Cugat is a very nice town really close to Barcelona. In fact, in a few weeks we’ll move from Barcelona to Sant Cugat looking for a more quiet environment. Thanks for spreading the word in this beautiful post. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Catherine
      Author
      September 16, 2018 / 4:17 pm

      Pleasure, lucky you and beautiful town surrounded by stunning countryside too

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