I need to talk about this place as I’m obsessed with this town in the north of Catalonia, minutes from the Spanish/French border. We stayed here on a weekend ski trip to nearby La Molina ski resort.
Puigcerdà is a two-hour drive from Barcelona city center and a 3.5-5 hour train ride depending on which train, time of day, etc. In under 25 minutes, you can be first at Masella ski resort and then at La Molina ski resort.
I hoped it would have a ski town feel and was thrilled to find out there was a nice restaurant with vegan options. Puigcerdà lived up to all my expectations and more. Cobblestone street after street with shops, including ski shops and toy stores, restaurants, and services. Beautiful old buildings, many of which have been carefully restored and have maintained their old-world charm with modern amenities.
Not only is Puigcerdà just under two hours by car from Barcelona city center, but there is also a train station making it one of the more accessible northern Catalonia destinations. Like most ski towns, Puigcerdà has skiing in the winter, and a busy mountain biking, hiking, and other outdoor sports travel throughout the rest of the year.
As well as the charming old town, Puigcerdà is also known for its picturesque lake -Lago de Puigcerdá- that has hotels and restaurants on its shores along with fish, swans, and ducks in its waters. There are some lovely paths and children’s play areas around the lake.
Although it is not suitable for swimming, I think there is a swimming event once a year for those who are brave enough to enter the waters. Those big fish make me queasy so I definitely wouldn’t participate in this activity but would be curious to see it.
The old town area sits up high with incredible views in all directions. From lookouts or for some accommodations, views of the mountains and sister town of Bourg-Madame, France, and the railway station can be seen.
Although Puigcerdà attracts snow seekers from all over the world, you are sure to hear French as much as Catalan or Spanish at any cafe or while meandering the cobblestone streets. Many if not most of the shop staff speak all three languages and some speak English as well.
We stayed at a cute Airbnb just a few steps from one of the lookouts in the old town. Perfect location with parking nearby conveniently across from the Nordest Cafe, where we ate a few meals. The price was reasonable, and the host was very helpful and friendly.
I will say, if you are interested in visiting during the ski season, you need to book your accommodation months in advance. We actually wanted to go skiing in January or February but were only able to book a place in March!
This year, as of September, we have another Airbnb booked for a ski week in January. So, whether it’s a hotel, B&B, or Airbnb, if you want to go, book now with an option to cancel later; but don’t wait.
Our dream is to one day have a holiday flat somewhere within a two-hour drive from our home. Every time we go somewhere I wonder if this is the place? Although having a place in the Canaries or Balaeric islands sounds more exciting, we really want a place to escape to on the weekends or during the summer that won’t take all of our time just to get to.
Puigcerdá seemed like a perfect place for this Canadian to ensure snowy winter fun and Christmas memories. But, I worried that not being close to the Mediterranean sea or any swimmable lake and having limited flats with pool options would make the summers unbearable. Until, I discovered their epic sports center, Club Poliesportiu Puigcerdà.
Gorgeous swimming pools inside and out with incredible mountain views. As well, this sports center has an ice rink open almost all year round along with a gym and other facilities. This would make summers fun as we could use the pool daily and then drive to the Mediterranean Sea from time to time.
This region also has many thermal springs for soaking or thermal canyons for those who want to abseil through warm waters any time of year.
And how is the skiing? Fantastic! With vertical drops of almost 900m in some areas, this Pyrenees ski region including Massella and La Molina resorts is on par or better than some of their Alp neighbors. As well, there is something for every level of skier or snowboarder. From little kid’s ski clubs to beginner adults to intermediate polite lady skiers like myself to advanced daredevils; this ski oasis deserves a visit.
Check out the ski resort websites for further information on accommodations, ski lessons and schools, lift tickets, and other non-skiing activities. They have an adventure park, tubing, gondola rides and children’s play areas, and plenty of cafes and restaurants.
I’ll do another post later this year about La Molina ski resort. But, I just wanted to mention, that if you are visiting Barcelona and would like to go skiing for a day, you can take a day trip from Placa Catalunya. For approx, 80 euros, you can take a coach with a tour guide to La Molina or Massella depending on the day. The price includes ski rentals, lift tickets, and transportation. Any lessons or food are extra. I did this years ago, and it was an excellent experience.
Nordest Cafe Plaça dels Herois, 8, Puigcerdà
We didn’t expect to find many food options seeing as we were in a northern Catalonian small town, but we were in luck. Nordest Cafe offers plenty of vegan and vegetarian options and some well-loved coffee. We ate at this restaurant a few times. Once for dinner and another time for lunch or coffee. The food was a delicious assortment of empanadas, burgers, toasted sandwiches, tacos, tapas, think hummus, guacamole, and potato bravas. The dining area is nice with outdoor seating on the plaza side. The service was friendly and quick.
I’m so excited about our upcoming Christmas trip and can’t wait to see my little guy try his hand at skiing and ice skating!
My husband has tried skiing in the past but is less convinced. He is however excited to make snow angels, build a snowman and enjoy a coffee and a good book in one of the resort cafes.
As well, we hope to venture over to France and soak in the Roman Baths of Dorres near Bourg-Madame, so I’ll update this blog post with any new Puigcerdà area discoveries.