The organised route to help you discover Catalonia by car
The Grand Tour of Catalonia is an organised route of more than 2,000 km (1,200 miles) of roads that will help you discover the main cities, cultural icons, beaches and landscapes in Catalonia. There are five sections, beginning and ending in the same city, which you can reach by plane or train before collecting your car. Each of the sections provides suggestions of where and what to eat and things to do. Experience the route in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way with electric and hybrid vehicles from SIXT and start easily from one of the numerous SIXT stations in Barcelona.
You can decide which route you like the sound of in the Grand Tour of Catalonia planner, or ask a travel agent to take care of the arrangements for you. You will find a list of agents on the website who can do this for you. Simply pack your bags and enjoy your trip with the SIXT Premium fleet!
- Stage 1: Barcelona, city of art
- Stage 2: The beauty of Modernisme
- Stage 3: Waking up on Montserrat
- Stage 4: Heading to El Penedés
- Stage 5: The sea of Pau Casals
- Stage 6: Silence, peace, and the essence of the Mediterranean landscape
From Barcelona to Tarragona: Section 1 of the Grand Tour of Catalonia
Why not follow Section 1 of the Grand Tour of Catalonia, which starts in Barcelona and ends in Tarragona. Start directly at the airport from the SIXT station Barcelona Aeropuerto or from the SIXT station Barcelona Sants, choosing for example a Tesla Model 3 electric. The SIXT rental car stations Barcelona Fira Hospitalet and Barcelona Diagonal Hilton also offer a wide range of electric and hybrid vehicles.
Along the way, you will discover the sacred mountain of Montserrat, the vineyards and wines of El Penedés, the highly cultural coastline of Sitges, and the Cistercian Route, which joins the three most important Cistercian monasteries of Catalonia. This section is intended as six stages of one day each, although ultimately, you can decide how many days you take.
Stage 1: Barcelona, city of art
Spend the first day wandering the streets of the Catalan capital discovering the Barcelona that welcomed Picasso in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Visit the school where he studied, the first bar to exhibit his work, and the museum in honour of the artist, which is key to learning about and understanding the early years of his training and development. Explore with sustainable electric and hybrid cars from our premium fleet at the SIXT stations Barcelona Rambla Catalunya or Barcelona Passeig de Gràcia.
When lunchtime comes, enjoy the city’s cuisine on a culinary route through the taverns of the Born neighbourhood. And, to round off the day, discover the network of streets and shops in the Barri Gòtic, one of the most iconic neighbourhoods in the city. Don’t miss Santa Maria del Mar church, Barcelona Cathedral, and Plaça de Sant Felip Neri square. The walls of the square still bear the marks of the bombing that took place during the Spanish Civil War.
Stage 2: The beauty of Modernisme
The Eixample district was constructed to expand the city of Barcelona, connecting the older part of the city, now the old town, with the municipalities on the outskirts. The streets of the Eixample district are where the city’s most famous modernista buildings are to be found: La Pedrera, the Casa Batlló, the Casa de les Punxes, and more. Electric and hybrid vehicles such as the BMW iX electric or the BMW 745 hybrid are available at the SIXT station Barcelona Centro Eixample.
You can also go and see the church at the Colònia Güell, half an hour outside Barcelona in Santa Coloma de Cervelló. It was in this building that Gaudí tested all of the techniques he would later use in the Sagrada Familia, and it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Round off the day by making for the sacred mountain of Montserrat, one of Catalonia’s best-known landscapes. On the mountainside, you will find a Benedictine monastery and the shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Montserrat, the patron saint of Catalonia. Our Lady of Montserrat is commonly known as La Moreneta, the Black Madonna, because of the dark colour of the statue. You can also enjoy mountain tours in extreme comfort in a spacious SUV like the BMW X2 hybrid.
Stage 3: Waking up on Montserrat
The best way to start the third day is to enjoy an unforgettable sunrise and take a gentle walk in Montserrat Natural Park. Before you leave, stop off in one of the little shops around the shrine to buy some traditional mató. This is cottage cheese made with goat’s or sheep’s milk and is served with honey as a typical dessert in the area.
Heading in the direction of Bages, cross Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac Natural Park. There are all sorts of activities to do in the park. You can visit the tines (vats) in the Vall de Montcau valley. These were enormous stone constructions used in the wine-making process. Take a walk through Mura, one of the charming towns with a well-preserved mediaeval centre, or head for Sant Benet de Bages Monastery, which is a perfectly conserved mediaeval monastic site.
Stage 4: Heading to El Penedés
The fourth day begins in Solsona, one of the Catalan Tourism Agency’s “Cities with Character”. Solsona has considerable baroque heritage and a very interesting collection of giants. They are the stars of Solsona’s carnival, one of the most famous in Catalonia, when they dance through the streets.
Continue your day in Cardona, visiting what was one of the largest potassium salt mines in the world, a unique natural phenomenon that keeps growing with the erosion caused by precipitation. Don’t miss Manresa, the city to which Saint Ignatius of Loyola withdrew to meditate and write his Spiritual Exercises. It is considered the birthplace of the Jesuit order.
On the way to the Penedés area, which is the last destination for this stage of the route, visit Sant Sadurní d’Anoia and the Cava Interpretation Centre (cava is Catalan sparkling wine). Follow the route towards the vineyards of El Penedés and make the most of the viewpoints along the Miravinya trail to really take in the largest wine-producing area in Catalonia. What better way to end the day than with a tasting of some of the region’s best wines? Maybe finding electric and hybrid cars in the SIXT stations Tarragona Downtown, Tarragona AVE (Meet&Greet), Salou (Meet&Greet) and Reus Aeropuerto (Meet&Greet).
Stage 5: The sea of Pau Casals
From the SIXT stations Barcelona Barceloneta and Barcelona Paral.lel Port you start your journey directly at the sea. Vilafranca del Penedés is the first destination for this stage. Why not take a trip through the history of wine at Vinseum, the Museum of the Wine Cultures of Catalonia? For lunch, we suggest a pairing of wines and cheeses, finishing with a typical sweet from the area: catànies, which are toasted caramelised almonds covered with a layer of almond paste and dark chocolate.
To make the most of the Mediterranean coast, head for Sitges. Take a walk through the old town and visit the Cau Ferrat Museum and the Maricel Museum to see their major collections of artworks and the views of the sea from the galleries and terraces.
End the day in El Vendrell, home of the famous Catalan musician Pau Casals, who was a strong defender of peace in a range of forums, including the United Nations. El Vendrell has a museum in his honour, housed in the artist’s summer residence.
Stage 6: Silence, peace, and the essence of the Mediterranean landscape
The star of the show today is Santes Creus, one of the major Cistercian monasteries of Catalonia. It is on the Cistercian Route, and is currently empty. In its day, it was the place where Catalan kings chose to be buried. You can get your environmentally friendly electric car very close by, for example at the SIXT station Francesc Maciá. Enjoy premium service and a selection of electric and hybrid vehicles such as the Tesla Model 3 electric or the SUV BMW X2 hybrid that will take you to Tarragona in comfort.
Now get into the car and drive towards the sea until you reach Altafulla. Visit the Botigues de Mar neighbourhood, which still emanates the seafaring flavour of the past. Our suggestion is that you finish this stage, and with it Section 1 of the Grand Tour of Catalonia, in Tarragona. Don’t miss the city’s cathedral, its Roman heritage, and its cuisine, paired with the best wines with the Tarragona Designation of Origin. The city as a whole serves as a balcony above the Mediterranean, providing spectacular views of the sea that will fill you with inspiration.
Go to the Grand Tour of Catalonia website and download the track for Section 1 of the route to your browser. Listen to the playlist we have put together to liven up your journey.
Ready to embark on the Grand Tour of Catalonia?