Getting some much-needed rest after a late night in Barcelona, we woke up at 10am to catch an 11:45am Direct Bus (that’s the name of the bus company) from Barcelona Sants Station to Andora la Vella.
Once you arrive at Barcelona Sants, the bus station sits adjacent to the main train station on the right:
You should pick up your bus tickets to Andorra at the small office located in the bus station, regardless if you bought yours ahead online or if you want to buy them in person:
Line up by 11:30am as the bus arrives about 10-15minutes early from the Barcelona airport:
Once you load your luggage on the bus, it’s off to Andorra without ANY bathroom breaks or stops on the way! FYI, the free wifi on the bus works great…but only when it’s in Andorra.
But enjoy the views! The whole ride takes about 3 hours.
At about the 2.5 hour mark, the bus smoothly glides through the border between Spain and Andorra with not even a quick stop; if you’re sleeping at this point you could miss the entire border crossing.
Andorra is famous for being the tiny country wedged between Spain and France along the east Pyrenees mountains. It’s Europe’s 6th smallest country covering 181 square miles and its population of 85,000 speaks French, Spanish and Catalan. Its capital, Andorra la Vella, is the highest capital city in mainland Europe. Although Andorra is not officially part of the EU, it uses the euro as its official currency, and it’s regarded as an EU member in trade/manufactured goods but as a non-EU member for agriculture.
We arrived in the capital city of Andorra la Vella exactly at 2:45pm.
We then got our bags off and walked 15 minutes to possibly Andorra’s only hostel with character, Barric Antic Hostel.
So what is there to see in Andorra la Vella? Not a lot, but the city itself is quite quaint and charming.
You can start fittingly in its Park Central:
From here, walk north to the very modern Parliament Building at the edge of its western Old Town.
Then there’s quaint Old Town, lined with narrow and charming streets that all date back to the original settlement of Andorra:
Right by our hostel on the western part of Old Town is Casa de la Vall, the 16th parliamentary house and seat of the Consul General that overlooks the modern Parliament building.
Step out into the plaza in front of Casa de la Vall and you’ll get sweeping panoramic views of the Pyrenees valley and the capital city below:
Close by and still in Old Town is The Church of Sant Esteve from the 11-12th century, open only during mass in the second half of the year.
Extending from the church is Town Square, where you can get more panoramic views of the valley.
At this point we got a bit hungry, but where do you eat when nearly everything closes on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of a siesta on Catalan Independence Day?!
At reliable Mama Maria, of course:
After a quick dunch/linner, we headed east from Old Town into Andorra’s eastern New Town:
This “new town” is essentially one huge shopping mall, given Andorra’s recently former status as a tax-free merchandise haven.
Along the northeastern part of the town is Caldea, supposedly one of the largest spa complexes in Europe.
If you go anytime after 7:30pm you can pay a discounted price of 31 euros to enter (with massages starting at 28 euros for half an hour and 50 euros for an hour) for a 2 hour stay.
We spent a good hour here taking it all in: the main Grand Pool with all its smaller spaceship-style jacuzzis, multiple outdoor jacuzzis, multiple outdoor pools, a large steam room hamam, 2 dry saunas, a water massage room, a cold room, a cold plunge pool, 3 nap rooms, a restaurant, a Roman/Turkish Hot Pool, and a Roman/Turkish cold plunge pool.
Not a bad way to end your day.
If you’re walking around Andorra this late at night, it becomes almost surreal how empty the streets are:
Along the southwestern part of town, climb up a set of stairs and a bushy, rocky hill to get on Rec de l’Obac, a 2.5km long paved illuminated path that overlooks the city (there is also an identical one in the northeast called Rec del Solà).
After about 10 minutes along this path, we headed back down to the main city:
Then we headed up north again into Old Town:
And to end our night, we lavished over a dinner outdoors in the terrace of Papa Nico restaurant.
Although it serves a similar menu as Mama Maria, the service and quality of ingredients are noticeably superior.
After a few more beers, we’re going to head back to bed before getting on our morning bus back to Barcelona!
– At time of posting in Andorra la Vella, it was 66.2 °F – Humidity: 96% | Wind Speed: 6km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy