One hour from Barcelona: A cable car to a monastery

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The Independent Travel

After ambling along La Rambla and overdosing on Gaudi, get out and about to discover the delights beyond the Catalan capital.

After ambling along La Rambla and overdosing on Gaudi, get out and about to discover the delights beyond the Catalan capital.

Sitges

A former fishing village, this small, hip coastal resort is packed with brilliant white buildings and narrow winding lanes, leading down to a picture-perfect, palm-fringed corniche. Sitges enjoys a unique microclimate, with hot, sunny days from February to November, so it's small wonder it is a favourite weekend haunt of cool Barcelonans and those in the know. Expect sun-drenched beaches, a cosmopolitan and international gay crowd, top-notch nightclubs, bars and restaurants.

By car: follow the C-32 south; journey time about 45 mins. By train: four trains hourly from Barcelona Sants; journey time about 30 mins.

Vilafranca del Penedes

The town of Vilafranca del Penedes is situated at the heart of the Penedes region, which produces excellent still white wines, while neighbouring Sant Sadurni is the home of cava, the Spanish version of Champagne. Numerous local wineries – including the familiar Freixenet, Codorniu and Torres labels – are open to the public, offering tours, tastings and sales. Check out the tourist information office in Vilafranca for details.

By car: take the A-2, followed by the A-7; journey time about 50 mins. By train: three trains hourly from Barcelona Sants; journey time about 40-50 mins.

Montserrat

The famous Benedictine monastery of Montserrat perches halfway up the "saw-tooth mountain" from which it takes its name. Founded in 1025, it is home to around 80 monks, the Black Virgin icon, the heavenly Montserrat boys' choir and an excellent museum, which has an art collection that includes works by Caravaggio and Picasso. The most dramatic approach is by cable car, and on a clear day you can see the Pyrenees and the island of Majorca.

By car: follow the C-58; journey time about one hour. By train: frequent trains from Placa d'Espanya station, then cable car from Montserrat Aeri station; journey time about one hour.

Terrassa

You can travel through the centuries in Terrassa, a town best known for its trio of outstanding churches, Sant Pere, Sant Miquel and Santa Maria. Sant Pere is the largest of the three and the only one in use today, but all have stunning Visigothic and Romanesque features dating from the 8th to 10th centuries. Nor should you miss the 12th-century Castell de Vallparadis, the 17th-century Pont de Sant Pere, or the Casa Alegre de Sagrera, a late-18th-century mansion given a modernista makeover.

By car: follow the C-58; journey time about 45 mins. By train: frequent trains from Barcelona Sants; journey time about 40 mins.

Parc Natural del Montseny

A walkers' paradise, this stunning wilderness has towering peaks and dense forests of pine and oak. Trails include the GR5 long-distance path as well as numerous mountain-bike routes. Great views of the Pyrenees can be had from the various summits.

By car: take the A-7 to Sant Celoni and follow signs to Montseny; journey time about one hour plus. By train: frequent trains from Barcelona Sants; journey time about one hour plus.

Tarragona

In the days of the Roman empire, the city of Tarraco was the capital of the Iberian peninsula, and the Roman remains here are the finest in Spain. Must-see sights include the necropolis, the forum, the circus and the well-preserved amphitheatre. Modern-day Tarragona's main avenue, the Rambla Nova, is packed with alfresco cafés and restaurants, and there are some fine beaches, notably Platja Llarga, just out of town.

By car: follow the A-7 to Tarragona; journey time one hour plus. By train: frequent trains from Barcelona Sants; journey time one hour plus.

Cresta Holidays (0870 161 0950) offers two nights at the two-star Hotel Meson Castilla in Barcelona from £256 per person, including return flights from Gatwick with British Airways. Hertz (0870 848 4848; www.hertz.co.uk) offers three days' car hire in Barcelona from £75.

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