16 Best Day Trips From Barcelona Spain – Your Complete Guide

Best Day Trips from Barcelona Spain.

Barcelona is a fantastic urban destination, with so much to see and do. But if you limit yourself to staying within the city, you’re missing a lot of what Catalonia has to offer. Within a couple of hours of Barcelona city, there is a myriad of seaside villages, pretty hillside hamlets, stunning secret beaches, beautiful historical towns, cultural and natural attractions, and even giant theme parks! The list goes on. So schedule in a few extra days and get planning with my guide to the best day trips in Barcelona Spain!

Ruins of Empuries

When we first stumbled on the Ruins of Empuries, it was like stepping back into Knossos in Crete. These much less famous Greek and Roman ruins are located near the pretty beachside village of L’Escala. The low key entrance contradicts the size and scale of the treasures within. Founded by the Greeks in the 6th century BC, the ancient town was later occupied by the Romans. It was abandoned in the 3rd century AD and nature took its course. Sand devoured the city and it was only uncovered centuries later, in 1908. Excavation work continues to this day.

It’s a moving experience, walking between the old walls and columns, reflecting on what life was like in ancient times. Take time to admire the Roman mosaic floors and sit in silence in the grand amphitheatre. The onsite Archeology Museum is a must-do while you’re there too.

Ruins of Empuries - A perfect day trip from Barcelona

How to get to the Ruins of Empuries from Barcelona:

The drive to the Ruins of Empuries takes a little over an hour and a half and passes by Girona. Taking the bus to the Ruins of Empuries can be done, but it requires changing buses in Figueres or Girona, and the whole journey will set you back over 3 hours. Alternatively, a tour will get you there – but for a shorter length of time, as it also showcases other highlights of the region. Check the tour options here.


Montserrat mountain is as distinctive as it is imposing – rising up to 1,236 m at it’s highest peak. The mountain lives up to its name (Montserrat translates to “saw mountain” in Catalan) with its jagged rock formations creating the appearance of a giant serrated handsaw. The mountain has been shaped over time by wind and water, creating the unique formations you see today. Montserrat is a popular place for hiking and there are trails for most levels of fitness. Take the funicular and explore the mountain at your leisure.

A little more than halfway up the mountain rests the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey. A sacred place, and home to the Virgin Mary of Montserrat (also known as the Black Madonna). Hoards of pilgrims descend on the monastery every year, but you don’t have to be religious to appreciate the beauty of the buildings.

Montserrat is one of the best day trips from Barcelona Spain.

How to get to Montserrat from Barcelona:

Trains to Montserrat from Barcelona leave from the Espanya rail station. Look for the Line R5 headed towards Manresa. You can buy train tickets at the station, and you also have the option to buy tickets here for the cable car up to the monastery also.

Driving to Montserrat from Barcelona is fairly straightforward and takes around an hour. You can either park at the bottom of the mountain and take the cable car or rack railway up the mountainside, or drive directly to the monastery. There is a large carpark next to both the cable car and the rack railway stations.

Top Tours of Montserrat:

Tossa de Mar

The stunning seaside town of Tossa de Mar is a must-do day trip from Barcelona. Stroll through the charming network of cobbled streets until you find the pièce de résistance, the vast pale sand beach known as Platja Gran. It’s one of many beaches in the area, and where most visitors end up sunning themselves. The other beaches are a little harder to reach but worth the effort. And all the beaches are amazing for swimming and snorkelling.

Platja Gran is framed on one side by La Vila Vella Castle – you can’t miss it! The medieval walled town of Vila Vella is an enchanting place to discover by foot. Walk around the old town walls, and admire the breathtaking view from the top. If you get tired from the walk up, or if you’re travelling with kids, you can take the tourist train back down – and enjoy a short tour of the town while you’re at it!

Tossa de Mar. Best day trips from Barcelona

How to get to Tossa de Mar from Barcelona:

If you’ve got a car, the route to Tossa de Mar is fairly straight-forward, just follow the coast! During peak times this road can get busy though, and you’ll save a bit of time if you take the longer but fast E-15 (tolls apply). For those needing to take public transport, the train doesn’t go all the way into Tossa de Mar, so your best bet is the bus which takes around 2 hours ( as opposed to around 1 hour 20 to drive). Or even simpler, book a tour from Barcelona!

Premià de Mar

One of the most convenient day trips from Barcelona is the beachside town of Premia de Mar. This old seaside town manages to hold onto the charm of yesteryear, while seemingly embracing the grungy culture of today. A short train ride from Barcelona will deposit you right at the beach – a beautiful long stretch of white sand with safe areas for swimming. When it’s time for lunch, just pop up to one of the beach bars or walk a little further to the marina where you’ll find amazing sushi at Offu Sushi Bar.

At night the locals congregate in cafes and bars until late, children play in the squares and music floats in the air. It’s the authentic Catalan experience, that has apparently been overlooked by tourism.

Premia de mar. Beaches near Barcelona Spain

How to get to Premià de Mar from Barcelona:

Getting to Premià de Mar from Barcelona is a piece of cake. You can drive there in under an hour, or take the train which takes a smidge more than half an hour! Trains depart frequently from Barcelona and deposit you right by the beach.


You’ve likely already seen photos of Girona, even if you don’t realise it. The colourful houses that line each side of the Onyar River adorn postcards and photo albums in every corner of the world. The charm of Girona extends beyond this idyllic scene though. The old town centre is rustic and enchanting, with new discoveries at every turn. Be sure to wander the Jewish Quarter, which has been lovingly preserved. Walk the medieval city walls for a fresh perspective, and pay a visit to the Arab baths.

Consider visiting the city in May when the annual flower festival (Temps de Flors) takes place. The week-long festival has been running since 1954 and continues to get bigger and better with every year. It’s a unique and fun way to get to know the city’s attractions as you walk from one installation to another, stopping to take in the incredible displays of floral art.

Girona makes a great day trip from Barcelona.

How to get to Girona from Barcelona:

Getting from Barcelona to Girona is a fairly easy exercise and you have plenty of options also! Driving is the most flexible option. Just take the A7 from Barcelona to Girona. It’ll take you about an hour and 20 minutes to reach Girona by car. Trains run frequently from Barcelona to Girona and it’s a much quicker way to transfer between cities than driving. The train will drop you in Girona in around 40 mins. Buses also do the route to Girona, but are less frequent than trains and take longer.

Colònia Güell

A fascinating place to visit, Colònia Güell is just a quick drive from Barcelona, making it an excellent choice for a short day trip (if you were pushed for time you could even combine it with a trip to Montserrat). The purpose-built industrial village was founded in 1980 by Eusebi Güell who moved his textile mill to the area.

He commissioned Antoni Gaudí to build the colony’s church, but Gaudí only got as far as completing the crypt before the plan became undone. While Gaudí didn’t get to realise his project, it still serves as a working church and it stands as a remarkable insight into the artist’s plan for la Sagrada Família. The crypt became a UNESCO site in 2005. Nearby, you can see the abandoned factory workers’ houses and castle ruins.

Colònia Güell is home to Gaudi's Crypt.

How to get to Colònia Güell from Barcelona:

Driving to Colònia Güell and Gaudí’s Crypt takes around half an hour from Barcelona city centre. Taking the train takes roughly the same amount of time. Take train lines S33, S8 and S4 and get off at Colonia Güell station.


With its proximity to Barcelona and prime seaside position, you’d be forgiven for thinking Sitges was just like any other beachside town running the length of Spain’s northwestern coast. But you’d be wrong. The town’s manicured feel and cosmopolitan vibe aren’t manufactured, they’re the result of Sitges being the top spot for rich Barcelonians’ holiday homes for centuries.

It’s no hidden gem though, during the summer months the population quadruples. And in Autumn, horror and fantasy film lovers flock to Sitges for the International Film Festival. Alongside the traditional charm, you’ll find free-spirited values. There’s an underlying bohemian vibe, and it’s a welcoming haven for the gay population – with several events held throughout the year.

Sitges is a lovely coastal town near Barcelona Spain

How to get to Sitges from Barcelona:

It takes just under an hour to drive to Sitges from Barcelona. Take the C-32 southbound. Or ditch the car in favour of the train which will get you there in around half the time! Trains run frequently from Barcelona to Sitges – look out for the R2S line. Buses also run between Barcelona and Sitges and take around 45 mins to reach their destination. Check the MonBus website for timetables.


Most famous for its Roman remains, Tarragona is a very popular day trip from Barcelona. Founded in 218BC, Tarragona showcases artefacts from throughout its turbulent history. From the waterfront amphitheatre to the Monumento a los Castellers, Tarragona packs a hefty dose of culture.

There are plenty of things to do and see in Tarragona. Explore the old city with its labyrinth of alleyways and discover the city’s own version of La Rambla – a more authentic version of its northern counterpart. The National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona will take you on a journey through time, and when you’re done exploring you can wander through the Parc de l’amphithéatre to the golden sandy shore beyond.

Tarragona, near Barcelona is an excellent day trip to see the city's cultural heritage.

How to get to Tarragona from Barcelona:

To visit Tarragona as a day trip, taking the train is your best bet. Trains run frequently, and the high-speed service will deliver you city to city in only half an hour! Driving, on the other hand, will take you almost three times as long – without the potential traffic holdups! You can also jump on a bus, but I’m not sure why you’d pick this option when it takes around 1.5 hours each way.

Top Tours of Tarragona:


When visiting Begur you may feel as if something is different, there is a unique flavour to this off-the-beaten-track town. I didn’t find out until after our second visit that Begur has ties to Cuba, and many of the colonial houses here were built by Begurencs who had returned from the Caribbean with spare change in their pockets. It’s a lovely place to discover at leisure, as you entertain fantasies of buying our own holiday house.

At the top of the village, you will find the crumbling Begur castle. The Castle dates back to the 11th century, but now only the foundations remain. Nevertheless, it’s a lovely place for a walk and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views in the region. Nearby Begur, you’ll also find plenty of the region’s finest beaches, including all but one (Cala Fonda) of my favourite beaches listed below.

Begur village is located near the coast in Catalonia, Spain. It makes an excellent day trip from Barcelona.

How to get to Begur from Barcelona:

To drive to Begur from Barcelona, take the A7 towards Girona, then merge onto the C35 towards Begur. Driving takes approximately an hour and a half, more if there’s traffic. Alternatively, buses cost around €20 and take 2 and a half hours to reach Begur.

PortAventura Park

This one is for anyone with kids or anyone who loves behaving like one! PortAventura is actually made up of three different theme parks, earning it the title of the largest theme park in Spain. There’s PortAventura Park with its thrilling rides, entertaining shows and even world’s within a world. You can visit Polynesia, China and Mexico without stepping foot outside of the park! Then there’s the aquatic park – perfect for cooling off in summer or indulging your love of water slides. It even has its own beach, complete with lapping waves. Ferrari Land is the latest addition and adds an Italian thrill to the park, complete with a replica Colosseum! Ferrari Land is for lovers of speed and is home to Europe’s highest and fastest rollercoaster.

PortAventura Theme Park in Spain is a great day trip from Barcelona

How to get to PortAventura Park from Barcelona:

Drive, bus, train – all roads lead to PortAventura. It’s an easy hour and a half drive from Barcelona, or take a leisurely ride on the train for roughly the same length of time. See the train information here. The bus takes slightly longer, at around 1 hour 45 mins. See the bus timetable here.

Buy Your Transfers and Tickets to PortAventura Here:


A town of museums, Figueres has a lot to offer the visitor who wants to explore Catalonia beyond the beaches. The most famous attraction in Figueres is the Dalí Theatre and Museum. A museum dedicated to, and created by, Salvador Dalí in the town where he was born. The Dalí Theatre and Museum is a truly unique space, with the works on display carefully curated by the artist himself. Dalí himself was even buried in the museum in 1989, his body lays in a crypt below the stage floor.

Other museums include the kids favourite Museu del Joguet de Catalunya (toy museum), the Museu de la Tecnica de l’Emporda (technology museum) and the Emporda Museum (cultural museum). The town’s 18th-century fortress, Castell de Sant Ferran is also worth a spot on your itinerary.

Consider taking a visit to Figueres and the Dali museum as a day trip from Barcelona

How to get to Figueres from Barcelona:

Once again, taking the train or driving are your two best bets for visiting Figueres as a day trip from Barcelona. Both take about the same length of time, but driving could end up costing you more when you factor in tolls and petrol costs.

Best Beach Day Trips from Barcelona


Aiguablava is a picture-perfect beach located near Begur on the Costa Brava. The turquoise water is shallow and calm, making it a great beach for younger swimmers. You can even watch older kids splash around on the shore while enjoying a cool drink at one of the beach bars. It’s a popular spot in summer for anyone wanting a cool dip in the sea, or to go kayaking and paddleboarding.


The beach at Tamariu is one of my favourite on the Costa Brava. Another family-friendly beach, it’s popular, but not yet overridden by tourism. It used to be a fishing village, and colourful dinghies can still be found resting in the sand. It’s large enough not to be crowded, and because it’s not reliant on tourism, you can still dine the beachside cafe’s in the heart of winter.

Tamariu Beach near Barcelona, Spain

Platja Fonda

Platja Fonda is one of those beaches the locals would rather you didn’t know about. Tucked between rocky cliffs, it’s the perfect place to find a little tranquillity during the busiest months. The sand is darker and grittier than other beaches nearby, but with that comes the advantage of not getting it stuck to everything! The darker shade of sand also gives the water a unique teal colour, making it even more inviting. This beach is not ideal for families, as you must walk down around 100 steps to access it.

Sa Tuna

Sa Tuna is a hidden oasis near Begur. It still has the lovely, authentic village feeling that is missing from some other beach resorts on this stretch of coast. The steep hillside that surrounds it doesn’t allow for overdevelopment. It’s a lovely place to visit in any season. In summer, it has a more lived in feeling, but come winter you can wander the charming laneways entirely undisturbed. The beach is small and picturesque, and you can walk the coastal pathway, past the candy-coloured houses, to nearby Cala de Aiguafreda.

Sa Tuna Beach near Begur in Catalonia

Cala Fonda

Known as Waikiki beach to the locals, Cala Fonda is a stunning white sand oasis among the lush green bush and burnt orange cliffs that surround it. It’s located near Tarragona and is a little tricky to get to, but that makes the reward all the more enjoyable! And it’s this remoteness that means it can be a lot quieter than some other beaches along the Costa Brava.

There are no facilities at Cala Fonda, which adds to its charm, but also means you need to come prepared. Bring water & food, sunscreen & towels, and a good book – then you’re set for the day! Relax into the serene scenery and experience the true magic of the Meditteranean.

Wow, so there you have it! When I started writing this post it was going to be the ten best day trips from Barcelona but that number quickly grew as I realised how many great places we’ve visited in close proximity to the city. Catalonia is so rich in natural beauty, colourful culture and fascinating heritage, it’d be a shame to only see a small part of it. I hope you find this guide helpful in planning your next Barcelona holiday!

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5 Unique Places for a Winter Break in Spain

Five unique destinations for a winter break in Spain.

While many may think of Spain as a summer destination, there are plenty of places ideal for a winter getaway too. Some of the more obvious choices include well-known winter hotspots like Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Mallorca, but I’ve set out to find five unique destinations you may not have thought of for a winter break in Spain.

Whether you’re after a serene seaside retreat, a cosy winter hideaway, or a city break with a twist, we’ve got you covered with our list of five unique places for winter holidays in Spain!

Costa Brava

The sun-soaked corner of Catalonia’s Costa Brava is no hidden gem. Incredibly popular with visitors and locals during the summer season, it’s high on the list of anyone searching for an easy getaway for many months of the year. But come winter it’s a whole other story. Many would assume that the resort towns hugging the picturesque coast would be deserted during the cooler months. And to some extent, you’d be right. But while many of the stunning Spanish villas stand empty at this time of year, there’s still plenty to do and see in the area after the tourists have gone home.

We’ve visited the Costa Brava in every season now, and although we enjoy the long lazy days of summer and the sultry light of spring, it’s in the cooler months that you get to appreciate the beauty of the region at its finest. Bright days, fresh air, and the feeling of discovery as you navigate coastal pathways to the soundtrack of the sea.

Costa Brava in Winter. Winter sun Spain

Tamariu beach in December.

Getting to Costa Brava

The Costa Brava is just a short drive from Barcelona, making it easily accessible to pop over for a long weekend in Spain. Direct flights from London leave multiple times a day – even through winter – and are very affordable. You can also hop on a direct flight from main centres throughout the Northern Hemisphere (there were too many possibilities to list)!

Where to Stay in the Costa Brava

While a lot of beachside resorts do close up shop over winter, it’s still easy enough to find apartments and holiday houses in the area. And in the bigger towns like Girona and Figueres, it’s business as usual with hotels and restaurants in full swing.

For an authentic village experience, you can’t go past Can Bassa. Set in the picturesque historical village of Madremanya, Can Bassa offers hotel rooms and self-contained apartments inside a beautifully restored fourteenth-century farmhouse. Enjoy views over the countryside as you relax on the front lawn, borrow a bike to go exploring, or use it as the ideal base for discovering the coast on one side, and Girona on the other. Check prices and availability here.

What to do in Costa Brava in Winter

The scenery of the Costa Brava is best appreciated in the cooler months. Take your time to wander the sleepy seaside villages and uncover secret beaches, discover the intriguing Ruins of Empuries, visit the Dalí Theatre-Museum in the artist’s hometown of Figueres, walk the walls of Girona, and weave through the ramparts of Tossa de Mar’s medieval castle.


Located in the northwestern reaches of the country, this Galician town may just be one of Spain’s best-kept secrets. And while it doesn’t benefit from balmy winter temperatures like some others on this list, its secret weapon is the natural hot springs that bubble up from an underground ocean.

With its thermal baths and ancient architecture that could rival Bath, why not soak up the atmosphere a little further south this winter? The fun addition of a “spa train” lets you explore the various thermal baths in the city for less than €1. And many of the hot springs are completely free of charge!

Winter holiday in Spain. Winter in Ourense.

Canyon de Rio Sil, near Ourense

Getting to Ourense

The closest large airport to Ourense is Santiago de Compostela, located just over an hour’s drive away to the northwest. Direct flights to Santiago de Compostela run from London, Paris, Geneva, Basel, Frankfurt, Milan, and many centres throughout Spain. Throughout winter, international flights are reduced, but many still depart several times a week.

Where to Stay in Ourense

One of the major drawcards of visiting Ourense is the affordable accommodation options. Stay in the centrally located NH Ourense to explore Ourense’s Casco Vello (old town) by foot and soak up the view from the rooftop terrace. Check prices and availability here.

For a more rural stay, check into nearby Vilamoure Hotel de Naturaleza where you can relax in nature, swim in the indoor pool, play golf and discover the fortified village of Castro de San Cibrao de Las. Check out prices and availability here.

What to do in Ourense in Winter

You may have guessed by now that the main attraction in Ourense is undoubtedly the thermal baths, and while the therapeutic benefits of soaking in this mineral-rich water are reason enough to visit, Ourense gives you many more reasons to make the journey.

Wander the labyrinthine of laneways in the old town and follow your nose into the tabernas to sample traditional tapas, climb (by car) to the lookout point of the Sil Canyon, visit the area’s vineyards and take a tour of the Catedral de San Martiño.


The island synonymous with boozy bars, dancing till dawn and clubbing to the tunes of the best DJ’s in the business – Ibiza may be an unlikely addition to this list. But Mallorca’s hip little sister shows its softer side in the winter months. When the clubs shut their doors and the revellers return home, the locals reclaim their island. It’s the perfect time to see the real Ibiza, in all her glory.

With over 300 days of sunshine a year, Ibiza doesn’t let winter stand in the way of having a good time. The days are still warm enough to banish the winter blues and you’ll leave with a real sense of wellbeing.

Ibiza in Winter. Winter breaks in Spain.

The stunning waters of Ibiza.

Getting to Ibiza

During the winter months, direct flights leave from London, Amsterdam and Maastricht (Netherlands). Come February Paris is also an option, and in March you have a lot more choice with airlines throughout Europe offering the route. Alternatively, you can fly to Valencia and take a short flight or ferry across to the island.

Where to stay in Ibiza

Enjoy the best of both worlds at THB Los Molinos Class Hotel. Located right on the beachfront, this luxury hotel is in the heart of Ibiza town. Stroll the streets of the old town by day, before challenging yourself to a few laps in the indoor heated pool, or relaxing into a jacuzzi. Check prices and availability here.

If travelling with family or a larger group, booking a villa might be more the way to go. Live like a local at the 4-bedroomed Sun Door villa. Located in the north of Ibiza, it’s the perfect place to unwind and relax. Explore the pirate caves at C’an Marça or take part in the annual full moon walk through the almond blossoms. Check prices and availability here.

What to do in Ibiza in Winter

The island is known for its bohemian vibe, a trait that carries through to its many weekly markets including the Las Dalias Hippy Market in San Carlos. And be sure not to miss the drumming ritual that takes place every Sunday at Benirrás.

Harness the healing nature of the winter sun and take time to wander the island’s walkways, explore hidden coves and feast on local cuisine. With an undercurrent of wellness, yoga is a popular pastime in Ibiza, and there are a number of studios and retreats available year-round to leave you feeling refreshed.


One of the Canaries had to make this list! These Spanish islands are in the prime position for winter sun, while only being a 4-hour flight from the UK. And while Lanzarote may not be the most surprising addition to this list, it’s what you can do there in winter that makes it unique!

The entire island of Lanzarote is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve which means unlike the other Canary Islands, Lanzarote remains a natural wonder, untarnished by hoards of resorts and high rises. Its crude volcanic landscape has been embellished with the works of local artist and environmentalist, César Manrique.

Lanzarote in winter. Winter break in Spain.

Green lagoon in Lanzarote.

Getting to Lanzarote

It’s super easy to get to Lanzarote throughout winter, with direct flights offered from main centres in 17 different countries across Europe and the UK. And the best part is that flights are dirt cheap in the winter months.

Where to stay in Lanzarote

If you need a bit of pampering this winter, then look no further than Lani’s Suites de Luxe Hotel situated in Puerto del Carmen. This luxury beachfront property will soothe the senses while allowing you to explore Lanzarote’s most popular resort town and nearby attractions. Check prices and availability here.

For a more budget-friendly option, chose Hotel Lanzarote Village. This 4-star hotel is an excellent choice for families with its larger rooms, playgrounds, swimming pool and entertainment. Everyone will enjoy the sea views and proximity to Puerto del Carmen – grab a bike and go discover this portside town! Check prices and availability here.

What to do in Lanzarote in Winter

Unlike some of the other destinations in this list, Lanzarote doesn’t slow down over the winter months. Its constant year-round temperatures of 20-29 degrees make it a popular place for anyone wanting to escape the wet and windy weather elsewhere in Europe. However, being at the lower end of the temperature scale over the winter months means it’s the ideal time to tackle the islands walking trails, visit the network of lava caves at Jameos del Agua, or visit the island’s wineries where vines grow untamed in the volcanic ash.

Diving is an increasingly popular pastime in Lanzarote and should you wish to learn to dive, I can’t think of a better place to take the plunge! The islands natural underwater landscape has been further enhanced by the addition of Europe’s first underwater museum – Museo Atlántico. This mystical underwater exhibit consists of over 300 life-sized human figures and can be toured by both snorkellers and scuba divers. As one of the world’s most unique attractions, it’s not to be missed!

Camino de Santiago

The final place on our list of unusual destinations for a winter break in Spain is not actually a destination at all! The Camino de Santiago (or The Way of Saint James) is a network of pilgrimage routes stretching across Europe and coming to an end at Santiago de Compostela. While summer is by far the most popular season to undertake the walk, with the winter months come benefits such as far fewer crowds, cooler weather, magical light and the opportunity to really escape and reflect while undertaking the route.

The most popular route, Camino Francés (The French Way), spans 790km over two countries and takes roughly a month to complete. I like a good hike, but dedicating a month to walking is not high on my to-do list at the moment! If like me, you like the sound of a shorter version, you can start at the town of Sarria, which makes the walk a much more manageable 111km. Completing more than 100kms means you’ll still be awarded the Compostela certificate once you arrive in Santiago.

Camino de Santiago. Winter breaks in Spain.

The Camino de Santiago.

Getting to Sarria

To get to Sarria, the closest large airport is again Santiago de Compostela. See directions for Ourense above to get an idea of flight schedules. Once in Santiago, you can take the bus, train, or drive to Sarria. Check out Rome2Rio for detailed instructions.

Where to Stay in on the Camino de Santiago

Due to the popularity of the Camino Francés, there is a wide range of accommodation options en route – from hostels to hotels. Hostels are a very affordable option, with most costing between €6-12 a night. But do keep in mind that not all will be open throughout the winter season due to decreased demand. In the quieter months, it’s better to plan out your route in advance to ensure you call it a day in the villages where accommodation is open and available. If you’re not comfortable organising this on your own, there are many tour companies that will assist you.

At the end of the route, it’s time to pat yourself on the back and reward tired bodies with a decent sleep in Santiago. Treat yourself to some R&R at the luxurious A Quinta Da Auga Hotel Spa Relais & Chateaux. With its sauna, Turkish bath and a hydrotherapy pool, it’s the ideal spot to recover after a gruelling walk. Check prices and availability here.

If you’re travelling with a group, a more cost-effective option is to book a Spanish villa, such as the Chalet de Arines. Here you can unwind and explore the Santiago de Compostela at your own pace. Check prices and availability here.

How to Prepare for the Camino de Santiago During Winter

Walking the Camino during winter requires a bit more forward planning than walking it during the summer months. It’s important to be prepared for bad weather – especially if you’re choosing to walk the entire Camino Francés route. Also, note that part of the route (the Route Napoleón) is closed entirely during the winter season due to safety concerns. From November to March, you’ll need to take the alternative Valcarlos route instead.

So there we have it. Five unique and slightly unusual destinations for a winter break in Spain. Which will you pick for your winter getaway?

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Best Places to Stay in Provence, France – The Ultimate Provence Guide!

Best places to stay in Provence, France

Oh, Provence. This sun-soaked corner of France has lured visitors for centuries with its unique and captivating charm. I mean, who wouldn’t be seduced by strolling through fields of fragrant lavender, taking in the stunning natural vistas, exploring crumbling châteaux and walking in the footsteps of illustrious artists? Provence is, after all, the perfect natural canvas. But with so many things to see and do, how on earth do you choose the best place to stay in Provence?

With something to offer everyone, there really isn’t any one-size-fits-all approach to choosing where to stay in Provence. I’ve gotten to know the region and its diverse offerings during our time living here, so I’ve put together this guide to help you chose the best places to stay in Provence!

Where to Stay in Provence, France

Whether you’re after a romantic escapea beach retreat, or an action-filled adventure holiday, Provence has you covered. Read on to find out where to stay in Provence, to make the most of your time in the region.Best place to stay in Provence region. Where to stay in Provence, France

Best Villages to Stay in Provence

As a general rule, head away from the coast to find the pretty hillside villages synonymous with this part of France. The Luberon Valley is a sure bet. Brimming with charisma, the Luberon is where you can step back in time and enjoy the authentic Provençal way of life. There are many amazing villages to enjoy in the Luberon – including some of France’s most beautifulDespite their seeming similarities, they are all unique in some way. Pick your favourite as a base and rent a car to explore the bucolic landscape that spills forth in front of you.

Roussillon is famed for its unique colour palette – taken from the very ground it’s built on. Ochre deposits in the earth make this area of the Luberon glow a deep amber colour. The village houses are coated with a traditional ochre rendering, providing resistance against the harsh sun. The result creates a vibrant contrast to the deep green vegetation surrounding the village.

Gordes is possibly the most famous village in the Luberon, largely thanks to its starring role in the movie A Good Year. One of the few villages that are left with its striking château intact, it makes an attractive and impressive sight when viewed from afar.

My other favourites are Bonnieux, Lacoste, Ménerbes and the village of Cadenet for its enchanting ruined château.

Don’t miss: The Ochre Trail near Roussillon is a short walk through a former ochre mine. The landscapes are incredible! And how Roussillon got its nickname “little Colorado”. Nearby, Rustrel also has ochre coloured landscapes and is a lovely spot for a longer walk through the forest.

Top Hotels in the Luberon

Best Area to Stay in Provence for Lavender Fields

From June to August Provence becomes a patchwork of purple fields as the famed lavender fields come into bloom. And while you can find violet visions throughout the region there are two spots that stand out from the crowd.

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque is a sacred place at all times of the year. But come summer, it’s doubly impressive as the flowering lavender fields frame the 12th-century monastery. Meanwhile, further east at the Plateau de Valensole, lavender fields fan out as far as the eye can see.

Don’t miss: If you’re a fan of lavender, a visit to Provence’s lavender museum is a must-do while you’re in the area! Here you’ll learn about what makes the plant so special and how it has been a vital part of Provençal living for centuries.

Best Places to Stay Near the Lavender Fields in Provence

Best Place to go for Wildlife

For wildlife in Provence, there’s no better place to go than the Camargue. This river delta plays host to over 400 species of birds including the pink-billed greater flamingos. The 930 km2  area of wetlands and marshes is also home to herds of white Camargue horses who graze freely, and the much revered Camargue cattle.

Don’t miss: If you’re short on time in the Camargue and want to make the most of your visit, head straight to the Parc Ornithologique where you’ll have flocks of flamingos at your fingertips (almost).

Best places to stay in the Camargue

Best Places for Beaches

If there’s one thing Provence knows how to do well – it’s coastlines. From the dazzling shorelines of the Côte d’Azur to the secret swimming holes of Porquerolles, life’s a beach in Provence! My two favourite swimming spots are located either side (but seemingly a world away) of Marseille.

Cassis is a lovely little portside town that makes the ideal base for a beach holiday. The Plage de la Grande Mer is a family-friendly beach located right next to the village centre. But if you’re up for a walk, Cassis is also the starting point for the Calanques de Cassis where you’ll find seductively secluded coves tucked between towering stone promontories.

Best town to stay in Provence, France.

Alternatively, head to the beachside village of Sainte Croix to find the iconic Mediterranean beach experience. The petite Plage de Sainte-Croix is a popular spot in the summer months but outside of the school holidays, it’s a true oasis.

Don’t miss: If you’re up for a bit of a hike, continue along the Calanques of cassis walkway right down to Calanque d’En-Vau where you’ll be rewarded with the most amazing secluded beach and stunning views!

Best Hotels in Cassis

Best Place for Walking in Provence

The rugged landscape of the Alpilles makes the perfect backdrop for walking in Provence. Wander between the olive groves, cypress trees, hills and valleys that inspired many a Van Gogh painting. Take in the magnificent views, find hidden waterfalls, climb through forgotten caves and discover the famous rock with two holes.

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is the perfect base for exploring the Alpilles region and its walks. This typically Provençal town has been beautifully restored and its a pleasure to stroll its attractive town centre brimming with craft shops, cafes and boutiques.

Don’t miss: The Alpilles were brought to life with Van Gogh’s paintings. Get an insight into the life of Saint-Rémy’s most famous artist at the Musée Estrine.

Best Hotels in Saint-Remy-de-Provence

Best Places to Stay in Provence for Adventure

If you’re after adventure, there’s one place you’ll find it in spades – the Verdon Gorge. Famous for its striking turquoise coloured water, the Gorges du Verdon also earns the title of the deepest canyon in Europe. It’s the ideal place to indulge in watersports such as kayaking, rafting and sailing. But if you’re after more adrenaline, you can also try your hand at canyoning, rock climbing and even bungy jumping!

Don’t miss: Depending on which vantage point you’re after, both walking the kayaking the Verdon Gorge allow you to experience the canyon at its finest.

Best Hotels near the Verdon Gorge

Best Town to Stay in Provence for Antiques

There’s one village in Provence whose name is synonymous with antique shopping. It is L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. This picturesque village of the Luberon Valley is the third largest centre for antiques in Europe. Here you’ll find antique and bric-a-brac stores galore, plus a weekly market held on a Sunday. The two major antique fairs of the year take place over Easter and mid-August – so pop them on your calendar!

Apart from antiques, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is famous for the canals that flow throughout the town. The moss covered water wheels that pepper the village are the only remnant of what was once a booming textile industry in the area.

Don’t miss: 10 minutes from L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue you’ll find Fontaine de Vaucluse – which is the name of both the charming village and its famous spring. The spring feeds the river Sorgue and is the biggest in France. It’s an excellent day trip to the village and a short walk to see the spring.

Best Places to Stay in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

Best Place for Ancient sites

There’s no shortage of historical attractions in Provence, but some of the most impressive sites are situated near the southern city of Arles. Discover the Roman Amphitheatre that dates back to 90 AD. Visit the iconic Church of St. Trophime, and make the journey out to the Barbegal aqueduct and mill. You can also use Arles as a base to explore the ancient city of Glanum, located near Saint Remy de Provence, the medieval castle of Les Baux de Provence (named one of the finest historical sites in France) and the Pont du Gard near Nîmes.

Les-baux-de-Provence. Best place to stay in Provence, France

Don’t miss: Catch a live concert at the Théâtre Antique. Located next to the Amphitheatre, this 1st-century Roman theatre makes a breathtaking venue for an evening out.

Top Hotels in Arles

Best Place to Stay in Provence to be Centrally Located

Aix-en-Provence is my favourite city in Provence and one which is deservingly very popular with visitors. The old capital of Provence has so much going for it. Not least the historic old town centre with its wonderfully curved and cobbled streets, the many cultural events held throughout the year, the secret gardens, the almost daily markets, and the masses of museums and art galleries!

It’s not only a fantastic destination in its own right, it also has the advantage of being centrally located. If you want to see everything Provence has to offer without having to change accommodation as you go, then Aix is the best city to stay in Provence. It’s only around an hour’s drive to the Camargue, Avignon, the Luberon and the Verdon Gorge. Meaning you can explore by day and wine & dine in Aix by night.

Don’t miss: During the summer months, the streets of Aix-en-Provence set the stage for the annual Festival d’Aix. Don’t miss the chance to catch an Opera or two during this world-renowned music festival in July.

Best Places to Stay in Aix en Provence

Best Place to Stay in Provence for Culture

Avignon is the place to be for a hefty dose of culture. Set within medieval ramparts, the old town centre is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s home to some of the most impressive sites in Provence, including the amazing Palais des Papes, the Roman Avignon Cathedral and the famous four arches of the Pont Saint-Bénézet.

Every summer, Avignon hosts an arts festival aptly named the Festival d’Avignon. The 70-year-old festival showcases theatre productions throughout Avignon during a jam-packed 4-week schedule. But the fun doesn’t all take place in Summer, cultural events are scheduled in all year round, with another large dance Festival taking centre stage in February.

Where to stay in Provence. Which town to stay in Provence.

Don’t miss: Les Halles Market is a covered food market in the heart of the city. It’s a popular meeting spot and an absolute must do while visiting Avignon. Sample the delicacies of Provençal cuisine while mingling with the locals.

Best Hotels in Avignon

Best Place to Stay in Provence for City Living

Marseille is a bustling metropolitan city with an upbeat vibe. It’s also a city of contrast. While the Vieux-Port has been refreshed in recent years with an ultra-modern makeover, a few streets back you’ll find the grungy bars and true character the city is renowned for. A great place to shop, sightsee, or simply sit in a waterfront cafe and people-watch. Marseille ticks all the boxes for a city fix while still being a great base to explore the wider Bouches-du-Rhone area.

Don’t miss: A walk up to the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde is an essential part of your visit to Marseille. Rising above the city skyline, the Roman-Byzantine style, 19th-century church is a sight to behold. And needless to say, you’ll have the best view in the city!

Top Hotels in Marseille

Best Places to Stay in Provence for Families

With so many things to do with kids in Provence, I couldn’t pick just one best spot to enjoy a family holiday. The cities of Aix and Marseille cater very well for younger visitors, but outside these main centres, you’ll find plenty of family-friendly attractions also. The Village des Automates near Saint-Cannat is a favourite, as is the Parc des Labyrinthes Géants near La Roque-d’Anthéron. Kids will also love the many castles to explore and the abundant lakes and playgrounds throughout the region.

Best hotels in Provence for kids. Where to stay in Provence, France.

Don’t miss: As well as all the great kids attractions in the area, during the school holidays Aix-en-Provence run several workshops and shows just for the city’s youngest visitors. Pop into the tourism office right next to La Rotonde to find out what’s going on during your stay.

Best Family-Friendly Accommodation in Provence

Provence is such an incredible holiday destination that you’re bound to have a memorable stay. Whether you chose to stay in a historical village, among the lavender fields, or in a vibrant city, I hope this guide has helped you chose the best place to stay in Provence!

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Looking for the best places to stay in Provence, France? Provence is an incredible destination with so much to offer every visitor. Find the best place to stay in Provence - in our ultimate guide to Provence

Looking for the best places to stay in Provence, France? Provence is an incredible destination with so much to offer every visitor. Find the best place to stay in Provence - for every kind of holiday!

2017 in Review – Adventures Abroad and Life in France

I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking 2017 has absolutely flown by. I mean here I am sitting at the same desk, in the same room, in the same house as this time last year. And yet so much has happened in the last 12 months that it’s actually quite mind-boggling to think about. From swimming with dolphins in Akaroa, to four-wheel-driving through the Corsican desert, to being chased by elephant seals in the Falklands. It’s been a year of adventure.

This year saw me take 18 flights, 6 long distance train journeys, 4 overnight ferries, and more hours in the car driving across France and Spain than I care to admit! I’ve visited 8 countries (including two new-to-me ones), we’ve moved house five times, had some once-in-a-lifetime experiences, gone home to New Zealand, bought another house in France, and completed two home exchanges! Read on to find out what we’ve been up to both at home in France, and abroad…

January – Charente-Maritime

I like to refer to January as the calm before the storm. The year started without much ado. We were just getting into the groove of living in France after the initial frustrations of setting up two businesses, buying our house and getting Arthur settled into school. We’d been in our country house just outside of Saintes for about 5 months and had almost finished decorating and furnishing it.

Little did we know then that life was just about to turn on its head once again!

February – Edinburgh, Lake District and Provence

In February my husband Julien, who is also self-employed, got a 3-month job contract in Provence. Rather than commit to commuting 6.5hrs each way, every week, we made the decision to temporarily (or so we thought at the time) relocate our lives to Provence. We found a long-term holiday rental in Pelissanne on Airbnb and proceeded to pack up.

Shortly before we moved, we had a quick getaway booked for Edinburgh and the Lake District. With just one night in Edinburgh, we stayed at the centrally located Old Town Chambers – a beautiful apartment located right in the old town. Arthur was tired after a very early flight, so our exploring was limited but we enjoyed walking around the city, visiting the amazing National Museum of Scotland and eating delicious food.

The next day we bundled into our rental Mini Clubman (hired for the sole purpose of living out my childhood fantasy) and headed down to the Lake District for a few days. We stayed at a luxury B&B just outside of Cockermouth and spent our days exploring the beautiful villages, lakes and walks of the region.

Family-freindly accommodation in the Lake District, UK

March – Falkland Islands

Not long after we’d arrived in Provence, I got the opportunity to travel to the Falkland Islands for a ten-day famil. To be honest, I had no idea about the Falklands when it was proposed, but I’m never one to turn down an opportunity to travel! It ended up being quite the adventure – starting with the flight. The quickest way to get to the Falkland Islands from the UK is via an RAF chartered flight. I had visions of being strapped down to steel seats on a military-style aircraft, but the reality was much more comfortable. Just like a regular flight – minus the wine!

While in the Falklands I visited the main island, East Falkland before flitting around four of the smaller outer islands with the help of the national carrier – FIGAS. I was totally in my element in the Falklands. Hours and hours were spent walking the wild, untamed land, watching the wildlife, and taking more photos than any sane person should admit to. It was such an incredible experience, and the sheer remoteness of the islands means it would be hard to replicate such an experience anywhere else in the world. As I was on this trip through my guest writing gig for Exploring Kiwis, you can find more of my blog posts about the Falklands here.

Visiting the Falkland Islands. Le Long Weekend - 2017 in Review

April – London

I had a few weeks to settle back into life in Provence and spend time exploring the breathtaking region that surrounded us. We visited the villages of the Luberon, hiked the calanques of Cassis, visited many of the castles, including the amazing Château des Baux de Provence, and spent weekends rummaging through vide greniers.

I did take a couple of trips in April. First was a quick trip to Cantal to celebrate Arthur’s birthday with his grandparents, before heading up to La Rochelle to get my visa renewed for another year – never fun, but a necessary evil. And later on in the month, I travelled to London for 3 days to attend Traverse – a travel blogging conference. The conference took place next to the O2, but due to my usual last-minute planning, I had to book an Airbnb a fair way away, in Angel. That turned out to be a bit of a blessing, as I got to rediscover one of my favourite neighbourhoods from when I was a London local.

May – Corsica and Sardinia

May was a great travel month, but we had a few curveballs thrown our way too. First, we had the news that Julien’s contract would be extended – at least until the end of the school year. I was really hoping for this news as Arthur had settled in so well into his new school that I didn’t want to have to uproot him again. But the bad news was that we’d have to move rentals for the remaining 5-6 weeks of the school year.

In early May, we had a short getaway to Corsica. Corsica was such a surprise to me! I had no idea of the rugged beauty that would await us on the island and I quickly realised 4 days was never going to be enough. But we jam-packed as much as we could into the short time we had. We took a 4×4 adventure to two of Corsica’s most beautiful beaches – Saleccia & Loto. We went on a cruise around the Calanques de Piana. And we explored the mountainous region surrounding the little converted gypsy caravan that we’d booked on Airbnb. Needless to say, Corsica is high on my list for a return trip!

Back in Pelissanne we packed up and found a new rental (easier said than done when it’s June, in a popular holiday spot, last minute, and you have two big dogs). But we had weeks gap between moving out of our current place and into the new one. Naturally, we used our week in limbo to discover another of the Mediterranean islands – Sardinia!

Our holiday in Sardinia was a much slower pace than the previous stint in Corsica. This time we found a place (Airbnb for the win again!) right on the beach at Cala Liberotto, and we took it easy. We still explored, but with a week up our sleeve, we didn’t have to rush things. We hung out on the beach, ate local cuisine, and enjoyed the early summer weather and tranquillity.

Porto, Corisca. Cruising with Corse Emotion.

June – Paris

Ugh, June.

We moved into our new rental in Pelissanne. And promptly tried to find a way to leave again. Most of the time we love Airbnb, but it’s largely up to the integrity of the people listing their properties to accurately describe them. And in this case, the house was a long way from what was described. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty, but it ended up being a two-week battle to get a portion of our month’s rent back (we lost out big time), while frantically trying to find another place to rent. We eventually ended up moving back into our original rental (which was free again) for the final two weeks of the month. Que move number three for the year.

The saving grace of the month – my mum arrived in France in the last week of June. She was flying all the way from Gisborne, New Zealand, so I decided I’d pick her up in Paris and help her find her way to Provence. I went up to Paris a day early as I hadn’t spent any time in the city for a few years, and had such a lovely time. I strolled around aimlessly at first but soon realised how easy it was to walk to many of the finest attractions in the city. I had stumbled on my own little walking tour of the city! The next day I picked mum up from the airport and took the TGV back to Provence.

Paris. Le Long Weekend - 2017 in Review

July – Charente-Maritime

French school holidays had arrived and it was time to move back to Saintes. We enjoyed laid-back days in the house we had so promptly moved out of 5 months earlier. It was fun getting to know Saintes and the surrounding areas all over again.

Julien’s contract had been extended once again – at least until the end of the year – so we had to decide what we were going to do long term. Provence felt like home now. But our house, which we still loved, was half-way across the country! Many sleepless nights later, we decided to go ahead and purchase a little pied-à-terre in Provence.

Cruising the Charente - Saintes. Le Long Weekend - 2017 in Review

August – Barcelona, Provence and Charente-Maritime

August in France is the best. Long hot days without the humidity I’d become accustomed to living in New Zealand. Our pool was finally sparkling blue again after turning green due to neglect over winter, and the garden was an oasis.

We had our first Home Exchange in August, which was promptly followed by our second. The first was in Premià de Mar – a beachside town right next to Barcelona. It was an amazing house – we couldn’t believe our luck! I quickly became a huge fan of home exchanging. It really lets you live like a local, and it’s the ideal way to reduce your travel footprint. We spent our days walking to the beach, taking the train to Barcelona, and probably far too long in the town’s dog parks thanks to our four-legged companions.

From Barcelona, we drove straight up to Provence where we had arranged a second home exchange. Remarkably, we had found one a few doors down from the house we were about to buy so it was the ideal time to explore our new village while also organising the logistics of moving down permanently in a few weeks time.

September – Provence

Move number 5. Back down to Provence we went for the start of the school year and into our new home. We hadn’t settled on the property yet, but the ex-owners were very kind to let us rent it for a few weeks first. It was a busy month furnishing our new house (it felt like we spent every waking moment in Ikea!), Arthur had a very rocky start to school, and my mum went home. All-in-all it was a bit of a downer after our busy summer. Things eventually got better as the month passed and we got back into our groove.

I also started private French lessons in September which I’d been putting off forever. But I was embarrassed to admit that after over a year in the country, my French was still almost non-existent. I was determined to change that!

Gordes. Le Long Weekend - 2017 in Review

October – Ireland and New Zealand

October was another insane month.

At the beginning of the month, I was heading over to Ireland to attend TBEX – another travel blogging conference that was being held in Killarney. I thought it’d be rude to travel all that way and not see more of the country. So I booked a car, flew to Cork, and proceeded to explore the County Kerry portion of the Wild Atlantic Way. What an incredible country Ireland is! I had an amazing time discovering some off-the-beat places and a few more famous ones along the way. An absolute highlight was Mizen Head – the most Southwesterly point in Ireland. I spent hours walking the tracks, taking pictures of the jagged cliffs and watching seals playing in the choppy waters below me.

A few busy days in Killarney followed. First, there was a tour to Dingle to meet fungi the famous dolphin, and to taste Ireland’s finest gin and whiskey at the Dingle Distillery. Followed by the learning, inspiration and networking that summed up TBEX.

I was back in Provence less than two weeks when we had to pack our bags again – this time for 6 weeks in New Zealand! Once again, Arthur & I were using Julien’s work as an excuse to travel and visit friends & family back home. We figured we’d be going back for a visit sooner or later, so this proved to be a good opportunity to save one airfare. 40 hours of solid travel with a 4-year-old is an ask, but as usual, Arthur took the trip in his stride and we arrived (only a little frazzled) in Christchurch late October.

Mizen Head, County Cork, Ireland

November – Christchurch, Auckland and Gisborne, New Zealand

Pretty much as soon as we landed in Christchurch I wrote a list of all the things I wanted to see while I was there. Top of my list was swimming with wild Hector’s dolphins, which I was lucky enough to tick off that first weekend in NZ! Also on the list was a weekend in Hanmer Springs, visiting my childhood favourite Moeraki boulders and going to Mount Cook. Well, we didn’t manage to get to Mt Cook, but we had a wonderful weekend in Hanmer Springs and I loved taking Arthur and Julien to Moeraki boulders for their first time.

At the end of the month, we left Julien in Christchurch while Arthur & I travelled north to visit family. I also managed to squeeze in a girls weekend in Auckland while Arthur stayed with my mum in Gisborne. We met up with friends for lunch, shopped in town, drank too much wine on Waiheke Island, ate amazing food and indulged in a spa treatment, i.e. the perfect weekend.

Moeraki Boulders. Le Long Weekend - 2017 in Review

December – Qatar, Costa Brava, Provence and Charente-Maritime

On the way home to France we spent two nights in Doha, Qatar which ended up being a bit of a disaster. The hotel we stayed at was lovely, but our sleep times were so messed up that we ended up being awake all night and wanting to sleep during the day. With nothing open, we strolled the quiet hotel corridors, ate room service and waited it out until the pool area opened at 7am. We did manage a quick trip to Souq Waqif and re-lived a few precious memories of our last trip to the city, but it was all too much for Arthur who fell asleep at the table at midday. And so we retreated back to the hotel for a snooze.

We were flying back into Barcelona (it’s closer than Paris), and at the last minute decided we’d be too knackered to drive all the way home after spending another night awake in the hotel. As predicted, Arthur slept the entire flight. But we weren’t as comfortable/relaxed, so it was a relief knowing a bed awaited us on our arrival. We’d booked an apartment at Torremirona Relais Hotel Golf & Spa as it was on the way home and would knock over an hour off our drive home the next day. But waking up to a beautiful sunny morning, and after indulging in one of the best hotel breakfasts I’ve experienced, we decided to stay another night and explore the Costa Brava that day instead of heading home!

Costa Brava. Le Long Weekend - 2017 in Review

The rest of the month passed in a blur as Arthur went back to school, Julien went back to work, and I finally had a few spare hours to get some work done after being a full-time parent for the best part of two months.

And to wrap up the year, we arrived back to our house in Saintes for Christmas. We had come full circle.

As the year draws to a close, I’m reflecting on what has been achieved. I’m happy and extremely grateful we’ve had so many chances to travel and spend time together as a family. But if there’s one thing I wish for 2018, it’s a little more stability – I’m not sure I can handle moving house again. At least not as much as we did this year…!

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Le Long Weekend's 2017 in review. Travels around the world and tales from our life in France.


18 Fun Things to do in Christchurch For Kids – Canterbury, New Zealand

18 Fun things to do in Christchurch for kids. Things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Recently my husband had a work opportunity crop up in New Zealand. As it was for an extended period of time, I jumped at the chance to relocate the whole family back to our former homeland! Not only was it a fantastic chance to catch up with friends and family, but we’d also be based in Christchurch for the majority of our 6-week stay. I’d spent holidays in Christchurch as a kid, but I’ve never had the fortune to return for a decent length of time with my own family. I was excited to share my old favourite haunts with my 4-year-old son, and discover all the new things to do in Christchurch for kids too!

Whether you’re heading to the Garden City for a weekend or an extended holiday, there are so many things to do and see in Christchurch that you’ll be pushed to fit them all in. Here are some of my favourite Christchurch attractions. And if you’re looking for cheap and free things to do in Christchurch – there are plenty of these included too!

Top Things to do in Christchurch for Kids

Riding the Christchurch Tramway

Hop on board one of Christchurch’s heritage trams to explore the city from a unique vantage point. The Christchurch tramway weaves through the city, down streets closed to other vehicles, and past some of the city’s key attractions such as the iconic Re:START Mall, Cathedral Junction, the Avon River, Gothic-style Arts Centre, and New Zealand’s most beautiful street – New Regent Street.

It’s a kid-friendly attraction with an ongoing narrative of the sights and history of the area. In our experience, the tram drivers are friendly and engaging. Our driver went as far as showing our son how the controls work and letting him pull the tram bell! Riding the Christchurch tram is an excellent way to see the city without little legs getting tired. Hop on and off as you please, stopping to explore as you go. Book your tickets here and save queuing up on the day!

Tip: Jump off at stop 12 to explore the Canterbury Museum and Discovery kids area.

Riding the tramway is one of the things to do in Christchurch NZ

Address: Cathedral Junction 13/109 Worcester Street, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8011

Adrenaline Forest

One of the best things to do in Christchurch for older kids, Adrenaline Forest will keep adventurous families busy for hours! Make your way up wonky wooden ladders, zip line between the tree trunks, stretch your stride on the rope bridges and teeter on tightropes as you’re put through your paces. The park is constructed of courses that are designed to challenge you both physically and mentally.

There is no minimum age to enjoy Adrenaline Forest, but younger visitors must be at least 130cm tall. Children between 1.30m – 1.45m can enjoy the first two pathways. While the rest of the course is open to anyone taller than 145cm. Book your tickets for unique family fun here.

Adrenaline Forest is one of the best Christchurch things to do with kids.

Address: 105 Heyders Rd, Brooklands, Christchurch 8083

Quail Island

A short 15-minute drive from Christchurch city will see you in the quirky portside town of Lyttelton. The town itself is well worth a stroll, as it’s brimming with boutiques selling locally made art and delicacies. But we all know how much kids like shopping, so a better idea to keep little ones happy is to jump on a ferry to Quail Island.

Ferries depart Lyttelton mid-morning and return mid-afternoon, leaving you just the right amount of time to walk, explore and enjoy a picnic lunch on the island. Quail Island is uninhabited and it’s a great place to discover at your own pace. Kids will love passing the island’s shipwrecks, former leper colony and early European quarantine station. Stop to swim and build sandcastles on the island’s beaches and keep an eye out for NZ’s native birds who call the island home – including the white-flippered penguins.

Christchurch Gondola

Gently winding up and down the side of Mount Cavendish in the Port Hills you’ll find the Christchurch Gondola. Cable cars are a huge hit with kids of any age, and Christchurch’s gondola is a fun way to get a different perspective of the city. If you’re feeling active, climb to the top using the dedicated walking track and take the gondola back down!

But this Christchurch attraction isn’t limited to the ride itself! At the top, you’ll find a breathtaking view of Lyttelton Harbour and the alpine mountains, an on-site cafe serving classic kiwi favourites, summit trails, and a gift shop. But the winner for kids is the ‘time tunnel’. Hop on a cart and explore Christchurch through the ages with this entertaining ride at the top of the Gondola!

Book your gondola tickets here.

Christchurch Gondola is among the best attractions in Christchurch New Zealand

Address: 10 Bridle Path Rd, Heathcote Valley, Christchurch 8022

Orana Wildlife Park

Ask any kid from the 80’s about the best things to do in Christchurch, and undoubtedly Orana Wildlife Park will come up. Like many others, I have childhood memories of driving through Orana Park in our car as lions would swipe at our wing mirrors and jump on our roof! Due to modern common sense health & safety rules, you can no longer drive through the lion enclosure. But you can still get up close to the big cats in the back of a caged off 4WD.

I’m not normally a fan of Zoos, preferring instead to see animals in their natural habitat. But Orana Wildlife Park is a zoo like no other in New Zealand. Firstly, it’s New Zealand only open range zoo. Set in 80 hectares, the animals have much more space to exhibit natural behaviours. Secondly, it’s backed by the Jane Goodall Institute of New Zealand, a partnership that reflects the park’s commitment to conservation, education and advocacy.

Everyone will have a great day out at Orana Wildlife Park. Take part in the many animal presentations throughout the day, play at the well-maintained playground, meet NZ’s only gorillas and orangutans, and take a break at the onsite cafe.

Address: 793 Mcleans Island Rd, Mcleans Island, Christchurch 8051

Quake City

Quake City is an interactive museum dedicated to the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes that devastated Christchurch. It’s both an inspiring and educational exhibit, as you learn all about the science behind earthquakes, right through to the city rebuild efforts that are continuing to this day.

While Quake City isn’t a child-focused attraction, it has interactive exhibitions that make the experience an informative and fun visit for the whole family. I would recommend it for older children who can read, and who can appreciate the scale of the earthquakes. Alternatively, younger children are provided with a Lego table to keep them busy.

Quake City Museum in Christchurch is one of the best things to do in Christchurch New Zealand

Address: 299 Durham Street North, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8013

Punting on the Avon

Punting down the river Avon is such a fun way to discover the garden city as you glide down the winding river on an Edwardian flat-bottomed boat. An iconic Christchurch experience, the ride will take you under weeping willows, through the botanic gardens and past the serene spaces of Hagley Park. Sit back and relax as all the work is done for you.

Kids will love the novelty of the ride, and it’s short enough to hold the attention of even the littlest of passengers. Take some birdseed to sprinkle in the water, and watch as ducks come rushing up to the boat for their share.

Check prices and book your Avon River punt here.

Punting on the Avon River in Christchurch. Things to do in Christchurch for kids.

Address: 2 Cambridge Terrace, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8013

International Antarctic Centre

One of our favourite things to see in Christchurch, the International Antarctic Centre is an awesome day out that your kids will love! Located right next to the Christchurch airport, this interactive attraction takes you on a magical journey to Antarctica, minus the prohibitive logistics.

Experience an Antarctic storm, ride in a real-life Hagglund, feel the thrill of an Antarctic cruise through the simulated 4D experience, and watch the rehabilitated little blue penguins at feeding time! Any adventurer will have hours of fun at the International Antarctic Centre. Book your tickets here.

Address: 38 Orchard Rd, Christchurch Airport, Christchurch 8052

Halswell Miniature Trains

The Halswell Miniature Trains are a hidden gem in Christchurch. Located southwest of the city in the Halswell Domain, every Sunday afternoon you’ll find a dedicated group of train enthusiasts driving miniature trains around a looping track. A fantastic activity for younger children, they’ll be thrilled to ride atop these amazing replica trains as they puff and chug around the park.

Halswell Domain also has a small lake where model boats are sailed on the 2nd Sunday of each month, plus playgrounds for both toddlers and older kids, making it a great destination for a family day out.

Halswell Miniature Trains. Fun things to do with kids in Christchurch, New Zealand

Address: 38 William Brittan Ave, Halswell, Christchurch 8025

Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is a fantastic family-friendly venue, offering little ones the unique opportunity to get up close to New Zealand’s native birds, feed wild eels and learn about animal breeds that are unique to NZ. During the school holidays (for an additional charge), kids can step into the shoes of a Keeper and experience what it’s like to care for the animals in this important role.

A trip to Willowbank isn’t just a fun outing though, it’s also the best place to see kiwis in New Zealand. It boasts the country’s largest and most accessible kiwi viewing area, where seeing a kiwi is guaranteed! The team at Willowbank are dedicated to the conservation of New Zealand’s kiwi population, by running a breeding programme that sees kiwi eggs incubated at Willowbank and released back to crèche sites in the wild.

Best place to see kiwis in New Zealand. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch.

Address: 60 Hussey Rd, Northwood, Christchurch 8051

Toy Library

Most towns in New Zealand have their own toy libraries – and Christchurch is no different. Toy libraries offer you the chance to leave the toys at home on your next trip to Christchurch and load up on fun new games and activities for a small rental fee.

Renting toys from a toy library normally involves paying a small bond (around $20 which you get back when you close your membership), and borrowing toys for around $1 – $5NZD each. Proof of address is required to sign up, but the toy library near where we were staying had no problem accepting that we were temporary visitors to the area with no fixed address.

Click here for a full list of toy libraries in Christchurch

Money Saving Tip: You can book combo tickets for Christchurch’s attractions for less! Check out some popular combos below.

Free Things to do in Christchurch for Kids

Airforce Museum of New Zealand

I remember visiting the Airforce Museum as a kid, and it’s still a very popular Christchurch attraction with children today! Take a journey through time as you explore New Zealand’s military aviation before, during, and after WW1 and WW2. Children will be entertained by the immersive exhibitions, the free 30-minute Behind the Scenes tour, getting up close to the real military planes, and testing their flying skills in the Mosquito Mission flight simulator.

Entry to the museum is free, and there’s plenty to keep older visitors occupied too!

Airforce museum of New Zealand is one of the best things to do with kids in Christchurch.

Address: 45 Harvard Ave, Wigram, Christchurch

Westburn Reserve Bike Park

Have you got kids that are mad about bikes and scooters? A trip to the Westburn Reserve bike park is bound to be a hit! A safe place to let younger kids ride through a realistic course of streets, roundabouts and intersections – without the worry of traffic. It’s the perfect place to teach kids the basics of riding their bikes, road rules, and signalling, before letting them loose on real roads. There’s also a small playground and picnic area to enjoy.

Westburn Reserve has been a favourite with Christchurch families for years, but it’s still relatively unknown to most visitors.

Address: Westburn Reserve, Westburn Terrace, Burnside, Christchurch

Botanic Gardens

Christchurch’ botanic gardens are one of the most beautiful places in Christchurch, and a must-do for anyone visiting the city. Stroll through multiple rose gardens, a herb garden, rock garden and water garden, or wander through the fernery.

Kids will have plenty of fun running around the gardens, feeding the ducks or trying to find treasures among the trees. And there’s also a dedicated kids area with a large playground and picnic areas. During the summer months, there’s even a fantastic paddling pool for the little ones to cool down in – a favourite among the locals!

The gardens are spread out over 21 hectares, so I’d recommend taking a ride on the electric ‘hop on hop off’ trains if you want to make the most of your visit with kids.

The Christchurch Botanic Gardens are a fantastic thing to do with kids in Christchurch

Address: Rolleston Ave, Christchurch City Centre, Christchurch 8013

Christchurch Beaches

What better place to let the kids loose than on a wide open beach? There are several great beaches in Christchurch, New Zealand – perfect for building sandcastles, flying kites and swimming in the summer months. My favourites are Sumner Beach and New Brighton Beach, but there are plenty of other beaches near Christchurch. So grab your jandals and get ready for some good old fashioned kiwi fun!

Beaches in Christchurch New Zealand. Beaches near Christchurch New Zealand.

Christchurch Playgrounds

The playgrounds in Christchurch are among the best we’ve seen anywhere on our travels. Head into the central city to experience one of the most famous things to do in Christchurch with kids – the Margaret Mahy Playground. Opened in December 2015, the Margaret Mahy playground is a park like no other. Filled to the brim with exciting activities including water play, flying foxes, climbing walls and rope courses, kids will have hours of fun working their way around the largest playground in the southern hemisphere.

But the fun doesn’t end there. We found fantastic playgrounds tucked away in every corner of Christchurch. Amazingly, there are almost 300 playgrounds in Christchurch! Find your closest playground here. For those staying outside of the city centre, the nearby towns of Lincoln and Rolleston boast their own destination playgrounds.

Margaret Mahy playground is one of our top things to do in Christchurch for kids.

Margaret Mahy Playground Address: 177 Armagh St, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8011

Canterbury Museum

The Canterbury Museum is one of the best things to do in Christchurch. Visitors from all around the world will be enthralled by exhibitions telling of the history and heritage of the region. You’ll be taken back in time as you walk through a life-sized replica of a typical nineteenth-century Christchurch street – complete with shop displays and the background noise of horseshoes clip-clopping through the town.

Kids are particularly well catered for in the Canterbury Museum, with their very own Discovery Centre. Discovery is ideal for kids aged between 3 and 13 and is full of fun educational activities such as digging for fossils and getting up close to realistic animal models.

Although entry to the museum is free, entrance to Discovery costs $2.

Address: Rolleston Ave, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8013

Imagination Station

Imagination Station is the perfect pit-stop for any Lego loving kids! Let their imaginations go wild as they create masterpieces with the massive array of Dulpo, Lego and Technic pieces available. For those who like more structured building, there are also idea stations – where kids can create based on specific requirements or plans.

Remarkably, this is a free activity in Christchurch, although if you can afford to make a small donation, it is always appreciated. Imagination Station is located right near the Christchurch tram depot – so you can combine two great things to do with kids in Christchurch!

Imagination Station is a among the best free things to do in Christchurch New Zealand.

Address: 3/113 Worcester St, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 6011

Map of Things to do in Christchurch for Kids

Final thoughts on things to do with kids in Christchurch

Christchurch provided our family with so many opportunities for fun and exploration. Some new attractions, and plenty of old family favourites. Which of these top Christchurch attractions have you visited?

P.S If you’re looking for things to do around Christchurch, check out my post on swimming with dolphins in Akaroa – a short 1-hour drive away!

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Looking for the best things to do in Christchurch for kids? We've compiled a list of all the local's favourites - including a few hidden gems! Read on to find the best family attractions in Christchurch, New Zealand.



A Complete Guide to the Falkland Islands Penguins

Falkland Islands Penguins. King penguins in the Falkland islands. Volunteer Point.

My favourite part of visiting the Falklands? That’s easy. Without a doubt, it was the Falkland Islands penguins.

I spent hours hanging out on the beach and the grassy banks with the penguins of the Falkland Islands and it was the most memorable aspect of my trip. Sure, there were other highlights such as watching dolphins playing in the bays, or spotting the elusive reindeer on Weddell Island. As well as some lowlights like getting chased by a giant elephant seal (luckily his heart wasn’t really in it, and after a few half-hearted lurches my way, he went back to his business), but I digress.

So, what makes the Falkland Islands the best place to see penguins in the wild? The Falklands are home to more penguins than people, and their habitat is amazingly accessible. It’s also not overrun with tourists, meaning magical experiences are yours alone to have.

Ready to meet the penguins of the Falkland Islands? Let’s dive right in.

Best place to see penguins in the wild. Penguins Falkland Islands

Falkland Islands Penguins

There are five species of penguins in the Falkland Islands. Rockhopper penguins have the highest numbers, followed by Gentoo and Magellanic, and then King penguins. Macaroni penguins are more elusive – you’ll have to work harder to see one of these Rockhopper lookalikes mingling discreetly among their yellow-feathered buddies.

Rockhopper Penguins

Rockhopper penguins defy the clumsiness that penguins are renowned for. Against the odds, they hoist their small round frame up the steepest of cliff faces. Deftly hopping from one rock to another on two pink feet, they scale unforgiving jarred walls of rock to perch on scenic promontories.

The smallest of the Falkland Islands penguins, Rockhoppers grow to around 60cm. Their telltale crest of spiky yellow feathers extends out over beady red eyes in a way that makes them look curiously coiffed (and a little bad-tempered!)

Rockhopper penguins in the Falkland Islands. Falkland Islands Penguins

Rockhopper penguins in the Falkland Islands. Best place to see penguins in the wild.

Where to find Rockhopper penguins in the Falklands

As of 2010, there were a whopping 320,000 pairs of breeding Rockhopper penguins in the Falkland Islands. But despite their high numbers, their colonies are primarily clustered around the uninhabited Beauchêne and Jason Islands. They can be found on other, more accessible islands though. I saw Rockhopper penguins perched on cliff faces on Pebble Island and Sea Lion Island.

When to see Rockhopper penguins in the Falkland Islands

Rockhopper penguins are migratory birds. They return to the Falklands Islands in early October to breed and leave again by the end of April.

Gentoo Penguins

The Falkland Islands are home to the largest population of Gentoo penguins in the world. So it’s not surprising they have become somewhat of a mascot to the Falkland Islands.

Gentoo Penguins are a fairly large penguin, coming in at around 75-80cms. They’re also an outgoing bunch! You’ll often find them surfing the waves (they’re very skilled and fast swimmers), before awkwardly ‘landing’ back on shore. Or waddling up & down the barren track that leads to their colonies inland – commonly referred to as a penguin highway.

Gentoo penguins are distinguishable by the white bar that extends from the top of one eye to the other, and their bright orange bills.

Gentoo penguins in the Falkland Islands. Best place to see the Falkland Islands penguins

Gentoo penguins in the Falkland Islands. Falkland Island penguins.

Where to find Gentoo penguins in the Falklands

With so many Gentoo penguins in the Falkland Islands, their habitat is far-reaching. Colonies can be found on both East and West Falkland, along with 17 of the outer islands. I saw Gentoo penguins while visiting Carcass, Pebble, Weddel, and Sea Lion Islands, as well as near the capital town of Stanley at Gypsy Cove.

When to see Gentoo penguins in the Falkland Islands

Gentoo’s can be found in the Falklands all year round. The best time to see their chicks is from when they hatch mid-November, through to February.

Magellanic Penguins

Although there are a higher number of Rockhopper penguins than Magellanic penguins in the Falkland Islands, the Magellanic is seemingly the most prolific. The islands’ peaty soil is punctuated with their deep burrows.

These medium-sized penguins grow up to 76 cm tall. They are shy in nature, but if you keep your distance, some will happily pose at the entrance to their burrows, ready to scamper back inside at the first sign of danger.

Magellanic penguins (also known as Jackass penguins) are entirely black and white. The only exception being that young birds have a mottled pink pattern on their feet. Their distinctive circular markings on their faces and bodies make them easy to pick out at a distance.

Magellanic Penguins. Falklands Islands Penguins.

Best place to see penguins. Magellanic penguins in the Falkland Islands.

Where to find Magellanic penguins in the Falkland Islands

Magellanic penguins can be found throughout the Falkland Islands. They typically dig their burrows around the coastlines of the islands, preferring areas heavy in tussock. I spotted them in some unlikely places too – such as right next to the airstrip at Port Edgar!

When to see Magellanic penguins in the Falkland Islands

Magellanic penguins return to the Falklands in the summer months to breed. They start arriving in early September and return to the same burrow they left the year before. The burrows are deserted again by the end of April.

King Penguins

The biggest of the Falkland Islands penguins, King penguins are also the most striking to look at! Their crowded colony is a hive of activity, as grown King penguins make their way through the throngs of fluffy brown chicks.

King Penguins are among the largest in the world. Only the Antartic emperor penguin is taller. King penguins can grow up to a metre tall and as they stand proudly with their bills held high, they often appear larger.

Their black heads are highlighted with a bright orange ‘cuff’ that extends from their collar up around the back of the head in a circular shape. The orange theme is continued in the lower half of their bills and at the top of their chest where the orange becomes yellow as fans out like an upside down sunrise. The rest of their bodies are covered in a silver grey plumage, while their bellies are the colour of snow.

Falkland Islands Penguins. Best place to see penguins in the wild.

King penguins at Volunteer Point. Falkland Islands Penguins.

Where to find King Penguins in the Falkland Islands

The King penguin population of the Falkland Islands is concentrated at Volunteer Point, although there have been sightings on other islands. At just over 2 hour’s drive from Stanley, it’s the world’s most accessible King penguin colony. But it’s not a drive for the faint hearted! Volunteer Point is located on a privately owned farm in the Northeast of East Falkland. There are no roads to reach the point, just uneven, soft, and often sodden soil. A four-wheel drive vehicle is a must, and hiring a local driver is highly recommended!

When to see King penguins in the Falkland Islands

As the breeding cycle of the King penguin takes over a year, there are always penguins at Volunteer Point. But over the winter months, chicks are largely left to themselves with their parents only returning sporadically to feed them. Chicks start hatching late January and don’t go to sea until they have their adult feathers – around 10-11 months later.

Macaroni Penguins

There are only around 24 pairs of Macaroni penguins in the Falkland Islands, with the majority of the penguins preferring the shores of South Georgia to breed.

Macaroni penguins look very similar to Rockhopper penguins. They are slightly larger and their distinctive orange head feathers are darker and more vibrant than those found on the Rockhopper penguins. The closely related birds do like each other’s company though – going so far as breeding together occasionally, creating a hybrid chick!

Macaroni penguins grow to around 69 cm.  They are black and white with pink feet and an orange-red bill. Like the Rockhopper, they scale the rocky cliffs of the Falkland Islands with ease.

Macaroni Penguin. Best place to see penguins in the Falkland Islands. Falkland Island penguins.

Where to find Macaroni penguins in the Falkland Islands

Macaroni penguins can be found among the Rockhopper colonies. But with such small numbers in the Falklands, it can be hard to spot them among the throngs! With a little help, I was able to see two Macaroni penguins during my travels – one in Sea Lion Island and the other on Pebble Island.

When to see Macaroni penguins in the Falkland Islands

They share another similarity with Rockhopper penguins – their breeding patterns. Macaroni penguins return to the Falklands in October and after rearing their young, return to sea in April.

Final thoughts on visiting the Falklands Islands Penguins

Whether you’re a wildlife fanatic, a keen birder, or an avid photographer – the Falkland Islands Penguins are well worth journeying to this remote and wild land for. The Falkland Islands are truly the best place to see penguins in their natural habitat. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life getting up close to the penguins of the Falkland Islands, and I know it will be for you too!

Disclaimer: I was hosted in the Falkland Islands thanks to Blogilicious and the Falkland Islands Tourist Board. As always, all opinions expressed are honest and 100% my own.

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Wondering where the best place to see penguins is? Well now you've found it. The Falkland Islands penguins are abundant in nature, and the five different breeds all have unique appeal. Read the complete guide to the penguins of the Falkland Islands here!