BOASTING pleasant temperatures, a famous street and one of the largest football stadiums in the world, it’s clear to see why Barcelona attracts millions of tourists every year.
But any holidaymakers wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of Spain’s second largest city for some much needed relaxation should consider venturing outside the city centre for a stay in the Catalonian town of La Garriga.
La Garriga, renowned for more than 1000 years for the properties of its thermal waters, is just a one-hour trip from Barcelona airport – a two-train journey that costs a mere seven euros. The mild climate, unique mineral-medicinal waters and the opening of the railway in 1875 all gave impetus to La Garriga as a tourist resort and prestigious residential area, and were determining factors in the design of numerous houses of architectural interest.
Since it opened in 1840, the Blancafort Spa has been a place of prestige visited by important figures of Barcelona society. In 2002, the Blancafort health resort was completely revamped and opened its doors once again in early 2005 as the Gran Hotel Balneario Blancafort, which is enveloped in luxurious gardens.
Surrounded by the low modernist houses that define the architecture of La Garriga, the hotel offers 156 rooms including 128 deluxe and 28 suites, several of which have outdoor Jacuzzis. The standard rooms are comfortable and spacious, and cleaned daily by pleasant and friendly staff.
The hotel’s piece de resistance is undoubtedly its first-class spa facilities. The Thermal Centre has a team of experts in areas including chiromassage, physiotherapy and acupuncture, and provides two zones and two thermal circuits.
Visitors can enjoy treatments of the Roman era in the Templarium, which boasts an exact architectural replica of particular Roman scenes, or relax in the Natatorium – a thermal hydrotherapy pool with mineral-medicinal water.
There is also an area with 12 separate rooms, each with a hydro-massage bath where guests can indulge in hydrothermal treatments and aroma hydrotherapy, as well as an area for mud therapies.
During our stay, we enjoyed two relaxing massages and a full body wrap – the perfect trio of treatments if unwinding is the aim of your holiday.
The Oriental Zone is the most exclusive area of the thermal complex and offers guests a range of international treatments from Bali, China, Thailand and Japan.
Keen swimmers are spoilt for choice as the hotel has two outdoor pools and four indoor thermal pools set at different temperatures, one of which is built under a stunning glass roof.
The properties of the spring waters of La Garriga have been well known since the Bronze Age when they were the object of ritual worship. Since the Roman era, these waters have been used for an array of purposes including treatments for arthritis, joint pains and stress.
The waters of the Gran Hotel Balneario Blancafort Thermal Centre, which flow at a temperature of 60°C, are alkaline and hyperthermal, as well as being replete with sulphate and chloride – the reason for which they are credited with treating skin problems and improving the immune system.
After being well and truly pampered in the spa, guests looking to do something a little more energetic can set off on a shopping spree to La Roca Village, which is located just 15 minutes by car from the hotel and boasts more than 100 luxury outlet boutiques offering discounts of up to 60 per cent throughout the year.
For the more adventurous visitors, the Circuit de Catalunya at Montmeló – the racetrack for international motor racing competitions in Barcelona – is just a ten-minute drive from the Gran Hotel Balneario Blancafort.
The biggest events are the annual Formula One Spanish Grand Prix in May and Catalunya MotoGP in June. The sporting calendar of the Circuit de Catalunya also includes several competitions of the Catalan and Spanish Motorcycling and Car Championships, and 24 hour endurance races, among others.
After a busy day exploring, hotel guests can dine in D’Ors Gourmet, which provides traditional Mediterranean cuisine. Alternatively El Rincon de Lola – an outdoor restaurant – is open in the spring and summertime, providing visitors with another dining option.
The D’Ors Gourmet menu offers plenty of options for fish lovers but was not changed during our four-night stay and could perhaps benefit from more variety, particularly for those who may not be fond of fish dishes.
A comprehensive buffet breakfast is served in El Olivo restaurant, with everything from cereals, fruit and pastries, to bacon, sausages and eggs on offer. The Lobby Bar serves tapas dishes throughout the day, with a favourite of mine being the mini beef burger – an excellent choice if you’re looking for a light bite.
Guests wishing to burn off any weight gained during their trip before returning home can make the most of the hotel gym. There is also a hairdressers, beauty shop and library on site, and a free car park with 185 spaces – ideal for any travellers who choose to drive the 52km to the hotel from Barcelona airport.
If you’re looking for a few days of refreshing rest in a popular European city, then the four-star Gran Hotel Balneario Blancafort in La Garriga may be just the place for you.
Tel: 00 34 666 29 03 07