After a busy few days in bustling Barcelona a bit of rest and relaxation was definitely required. Enter Vilanova i la Geltrú, a coastal Catalan city just a 45 minute train ride away with a wide sandy beach, an interesting old town and lots of very reasonably priced accommodation.
I visited Vilanova with a friend in mid September, which was perfect for what we wanted after a lively long weekend in Barcelona with a group of girlfriends. But it was right at the end of the Vilanova season, so if you want more going on it’s probably better to go earlier in the summer, or stick to Sitges which is just along the coast but considerably more expensive.
Vilanova is an interesting town of two almost separate parts. Down at the seafront the sandy beach is flanked by a palm fringed promenade and a marina filled with very nice looking boats. Across the road is a string of restaurants and bars, all with plenty of outside seating and a good variety of food and drink options including an array of colourful cocktails at bars like Sa Caleta and The Dry Law.
As the restaurants start to fade out they’re replaced by hotels and apartments, many also facing the seafront, some just a block away. That was the case with Atenea Park Suites where we stayed in a really quite large apartment overlooking the pool for the bargain price of £48 a night.
Back at the beach we discovered that the pier was home to a pretty trendy beach club La Daurada which started as a pop up but seemed to now be a pretty permanent fixture. White sails and leather are the order of the day and it was the perfect spot for a very nice Menu del Dia lunch. It also looked to be a key focus of the night-time party scene in high season.
Heading away from the beach the main street Rambla de la Pau isn’t especially inspiring, just a few local market stalls and not particularly nice looking shops. Then you walk through a tunnel under the railway line and it becomes Rambla Principal and things start to get more interesting.
The shops improve, the road is pedestrianised and there are restaurants and cafés with outside seats where you can sit and watch the world go by. And it’s an interesting world because it’s where the locals live and work.
One afternoon we found ourselves having a glass of wine outside the La Penya cafe bar at around 5.30pm and were surprised by how many local people were doing the same or having coffees, cakes and other after school snacks. No-one seemed in any great rush to get home.
Striking off to the right of here was where we found the most interesting part of town. First the large Plaça de la Villa, essentially the town hall square. Then the smaller squares and narrow paved streets of the old town, where the shops were more enticing and there were lots of good bars and restaurants but not many tourists.
Although it was probably a good 20 minute walk up from where we were staying near the seafront we preferred the old town in the evenings and had a really great meal at La Treva sitting outside in Plaça Lledoners, a tiny square strung with fairy lights. It’s speciality is meat so not the obvious choice as neither of us eat the stuff, but we had some the best fish of the trip, including in Barcelona.
Afterwards we popped into an interesting looking wine bar, Willy Vins Cellar in Llibertat, that we’d spotted on the way up and what a great find. Excellent selection of wine, tapas and cheeses and again almost entirely populated by locals which is always a very good sign.
So all in all while I probably wouldn’t choose Vilanova as a destination in its own right as I generally need more than a beach and didn’t find much in the way of culture and sightseeing, it’s a really rather nice spot for a few days of post Barcelona R&R.
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