The Romantic Medieval Town of Besalú


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It’s amazing that Besalú — a town of weaving cobblestoned streets —  has managed to stay so intact since the Middle Ages. Its Romanesque bridge dates back to 1075. And although it’s been reconstructed twice after that, it’s still a well-preserved piece of medieval history.

Besalu bridge

I dropped by this little charmer in December when there were few crowds. I’ve heard that sometimes visitors come in by the busloads. Bleh! So if you’re coming in the summer, make it an early day.

My family and I spent a good 4 hours in Besalú — perusing the shops, enjoying some coffee, and meandering about the atmospheric streets.

Besalu streets

I adore the contrast of Catalonian small towns against big-city Barcelona. In the city, things are shiny and new and soon they’ll be opening up the next hipster cafe. (I still love you so much, Barcelona. Kiss, kiss!)

But in Besalú, you turn a corner…and you see touches of those romantic medieval times. Nothing too modern, gimmicky, or strangely out of place.

So no Starbucks, McDonald’s, or H&Ms. So stay away, megaconglomerates.


We do live in modern times. Where insta-everything doesn’t exclude having an insta-butcher. Check out this vending machine of fresh meat.

This would so be useful on Sundays or holidays when all the supermarkets are closed.

Besalú vending machine

In Besalú, I just love the I-don’t-got-sh*t-to-do-today atmosphere.

Calm, relaxed, ommmmm……


Sprinkle it with some sun


a dash of medieval architecture

= travel bliss.

The most picturesque part of this town is the fortified bridge that goes over the Fluvia river. It’s no dinky construction. It has two segments, which form an obtuse angle.

Besalú bridge

Besalú river

Besalú bridge
A view of the bridge that leads you back to Barcelona.

You can also take some stairs to go down to the river bank. There aren’t any benches, bike paths, or picnic tables. It’s just a place to admire the calm waters and breathe in nature.

Besalú River Fluvià

By car, Besalú is about one hour and 45 minutes away from Barcelona. And I think spending 5-6 hours max is just enough to enjoy the town.

While this town hit the spot for “getting away”, I don’t think I’d come again just for the heck of it. But, I would definitely come to show visitors around. The summer must have a more upbeat vibe too.

Have you been to Besalú? Does this look interesting to you?

By Justine Ancheta

California native, churro aficionado, and mom of 3, Justine Ancheta writes fervently about Barcelona and Spain. Since 2008, she's been eating burnt onions (calçots) and tripping on cobblestones in the Gothic Quarter. She shares tips on popular attractions, exposes offbeat non-touristy spots, and gives insight on exploring Barcelona with kids. Her next Catalan culture challenge: top level of a human castle (castellers).


  1. Justine,
    I have been quietly following you, preparing for our trip to Barcelona and southern France. I have enjoyed many of your insights. This post in Besalu piqued my interest so we stopped there. It was so worth it, a gem of a village ! Thank you for sending us somewhere I wouldn’t have found myself!


    1. Amelia, Oh thank you! I love that you actually went to Besalú and LOVED it! It really is so enchanting, right? Aren’t the river and bridge so lovely? I’m thinking now that the perfect time to go is now since it’s not too cold yet. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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