Coastal Resorts, Wine Regions, Mountains and More!
Barcelona Province is clearly dominated by the City of Barcelona and the Barcelonès comarca or county, which can be loosely described as Greater Barcelona.
However, the Province of Barcelona is full of interesting visits – beach towns, wine regions, mountains and more – all with the added advantage of being within easy reach of the capital either by hiring a car or using the Barcelona local train service.
To the north, you’ll find the under-rated Costa del Maresme with its charming ports and long sandy beaches.
The rugged Costa de Garraf and Sitges, to the south, are definitely worth a visit, as is the Penedès wine region inland from here.
The emblematic mountain of Montserrat is an almost obligatory visit for anyone coming to Catalonia.
The mountains of Montseny in El Vallès, though, are just as impressive and the inland comarques of Osona and El Berguedà both reach into the foothills of The Pyrenees.
So Barcelona Province is incredibly varied and definitely well worth exploring.
I’ve made specific recommendations about what’s worth visiting in the area on the separate comarca pages but you may also be interested in browsing a selection of Day Trips and Tours in Barcelona City and Province.
Barcelona Province Comarques
In total there are 11 comarques or counties in the Province of Barcelona.
Apart from El Barcelonès, which is basically Greater Barcelona, the comarques that make up the province are:
- L’Alt Penedès
- El Bages
- El Berguedà
- El Baix Llobregat
- El Garraf
- El Maresme
- El Vallès Occidental
- El Vallès Oriental
Barcelona and El Barcelonès
I don’t want to get too obsessive about statistics but Catalonia has a population of around 7.5 million of which 5.5 million live in Barcelona Province.
With 2.25 million inhabitants, El Barcelonès is the most densely populated comarca and to all effects is Greater Barcelona.
The population statistics make this extremely clear: Barcelona (1.6 million), l’Hospitalet de Llobregat (260,000), Badalona (220,000), Santa Coloma de Gramenet (120,000) and Sant Adrià de Besós (35,000).
Obviously, El Barcelonès is dominated by Barcelona but L’Hospitalet and Badalona are Catalonia’s second and third largest cities respectively.
If you live here, it’s very easy to distinguish one municipality from another and in fact, we locals are fiercely proud of our districts and neighbourhoods.
However, for the tourist or casual visitor, it all seems like Barcelona and it’s quite difficult to tell the difference.
This is particularly true as the whole area is now connected by the Barcelona metro system as well as buses and tram lines all of which can be accessed using the Barcelona Travel Card.
North of Barcelona
Just after Badalona as you go up the coast, you leave El Barcelonès and come to the comarca of El Maresme.
The beaches on the Costa del Maresme before Mataró are very convenient for the city but a little too urban for my liking.
However, the northern stretch after Mataró has some lovely resorts – Caldes d’Estrac and Sant Pol are two of my favourites and further north, Calella is one of the most popular package resorts on this section of coast.
Inland from here is the Vallès Oriental with its charming capital, Granollers and the nearby Montmeló Motor Racing Track – Circuit de Catalunya, which draws thousands of visitors for the main Formula One and Motorbike events.
Walkers and climbers will love the magnificent Montseny Mountains, which are almost as significant to Catalan identity as Montserrat and the Pyrenees, and are easily accessible from Barcelona by car or public transport.
South of Barcelona
Going south, the Port of Barcelona provides a break in the coastline but this continues at El Prat in El Baix Llobregat better known as the home of Barcelona El Prat Airport.
Football supporters might also be drawn here as Barcelona Liga side, RCD Espanyol, play in nearby Cornellà del Prat.
On the coast, the lovely Delta del Llobregat is an under-rated area but as far as the tourist is concerned, the main interest in the first section of coastline south of Barcelona is the beach resort of Castelldefels with its long golden sandy beaches and great nightlife.
Home to the fine coastal town of Sitges and the craggy Garraf Nature Reserve, the next comarca south – El Garraf – is where things get really interesting.
Famous for its carnival and gay community, Sitges is one of the most popular and chic resorts on the Mediterranean and is a great place to stay as well as being perfect for day trips, given its proximity to Barcelona.
Inland from here we have the wine producing comarca of l’Alt Penedès and further inland the slightly non-descript L’Anoia.
The Inland Comarques
Once over the Collserola Ridge, you come to the first towns of El Vallès Occidental – Sant Cugat and Cerdanyola, home to the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
The comarca is dominated, though, by the industrial towns of Sabadell and Terrassa.
Inland from here the scenery becomes truly spectacular, and a required stop is the emblematic mountain and monastery of Montserrat at the meeting point of the Anoia, Bages and Baix Llobregat comarques.
El Bages is littered with medieval castles and centred on the historic town of Manresa, where founder of the Jesuits Ignatius de Loyola esperience his revelations.
Osona and its capital Vic is equally, if not more, historic and the lush green foothills of the Pyrenees begin just to the north of here.
The Pyrenees proper start in El Berguedà, where the pitchfork-shaped mountain of Pedraforca and the Patum Festival in Berga are definite highlights.
So all in all, there’s a great deal to visit and enjoy out in the Province of Barcelona, so you are definitely missing out if you don’t get our and make at least a few excursions beyond the city limits!
If you understand some Catalan, you can find up to date news about Barcelona Province on the Diputació de Barcelona Website.