A Day Trip to Andorra from Barcelona

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Andorra la Vella

The mysterious country Andorra wasn’t on my original itinerary for Europe this summer. From my launch pad in Copenhagen, I planned to head to Athens, then upward into Albania and through the Balkans until I arrived in Belgrade.

In fact, I had no flights booked until two weeks before I arrived! But then after learning that my friend Becki wouldn’t be in Athens during my visit, I decided to look around, use Skyscanner to “fly to anywhere” from Copenhagen, and see which cheap destinations popped up.

There it was. Barcelona for only $60, then on to Santorini, direct (!), for $70. BOOKED.

Now, Barcelona and I have a complicated history — after two trips, I still didn’t really enjoy the city. But with a visit timed for summer sunshine (unlike my previous two rainy visits) and friends in town, this would probably be my best chance to enjoy the city. And all the things I love about Spain: jamón ibérico, cava, late nights, flamenco music played on the guitar.

But those weren’t the only reasons. A temptation lay just three hours away, nestled in the Pyrenees.

Andorra. An entirely new country. And for a girl on a quest to visit every country in Europe, a pull I couldn’t resist.

Andorra

A Mountainous Micronation

Andorra is one of the smallest countries in Europe, sandwiched between Spain and France in the Pyrenees. The currency is the euro, though Andorra isn’t part of the EU. Catalan is the official language, though signs everywhere have French, Spanish, and English as well. Andorra’s claims to fame? Excellent skiing and super-low-tax shopping.

It didn’t take long to figure out that Andorra was a three-hour bus journey each way from Barcelona. Though six hours on a bus was a lot for one day, I could make that work for a solo day trip — I had a slew of books to read on my Kindle Paperwhite!

Kate on the bus to Andorra

(Little did I know that a month later in Albania, I’d be wishing I had as comfortable a bus ride as I did here! And yes, I did bring multiple pairs of sunglasses on a single day trip…)

After cresting through valleys, hills, and then the mountains, we entered the tiny country and its tinier capital, Andorra la Vella. I crossed through Central Park (mostly covered with children’s play structures) and headed uphill toward the old town, where I thought I’d find the prettiest buildings and get the best shots.

First thing I saw? Andorra’s library. And in front of that library:

Andorra Library

What?

Andorra Library

I couldn’t figure out whether these were Buddhas or simply bald men, and even online research didn’t turn anything up — but I was beginning to see what a quirky destination Andorra was.

Andorra Church

And beautiful. This bell tower dates back to the 12th century, though the rest of the church was built later.

Andorra la Vella

The streets of Andorra la Vella were fairly standard European, with a faint 70s motif.

Andorra Basketball Court

And a basketball court with several baskets, featuring — flowerboxes? Well, to each their own.

Probably the craziest thing? I ordered gazpacho and a salad for lunch from a restaurant on a plazza. The salad came with TUNA AND KIWI. TOGETHER.

The kiwi went uneaten.

The old town was nice to walk around for a few minutes, but it was very small. You don’t need much time to see it.

Andorra

Shopping? Meh.

“Well, at least there’s shopping,” I muttered to myself as I headed down from the old town to the commercial zone. At least I could stroke a lot of Prada handbags I couldn’t afford.

Until I found out that there was no Prada in Andorra. Not even a department store that carried Prada products. It turns out that if you want to buy products from top designers — Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen, etc. — it will have to be either fragrances or sunglasses. That’s it.

(Regrettably, I somehow have zero photos of the shopping district of Andorra la Vella. Not sure how that happened — I could have sworn I took a few. Probably just snapchatted them.)

In some of the shopping areas, second- and third-tier designers are more common. Michael Kors handbags are everywhere (side note: aren’t Michael Kors handbags all over the clearance racks in America lately?). Guess accessories fill the stores. Levi’s jeans, Benetton sweaters, Adidas activewear, and Nike sneakers can be found in lots of different malls. Many of the items were the kind of products you’d expect to see in outlets, not regular stores, only they didn’t seem to be discounted much.

Not exactly what I had envisioned.

Andorra la Vella

I should add that Andorra la Vella is not the only option for shopping in the country. There are several malls in Les Escaldes, just next door to the capital. But I went through their shop listings and it’s more of the same.

Turns out that Zara was the best place to shop by far. And I like Zara, but I didn’t expect it to be the pinnacle of the Andorran shopping experience.

I know how snobby this sounds. Believe me, I don’t turn up my nose at anything that isn’t designer! Have you seen what I wear?! I just figured that a place famous for being a “shopping paradise” would have at least a few designer boutiques where I could ogle the merchandise.

Kate in Andorra

The Takeaway

A day trip to Andorra la Vella? Not worth it unless you’re counting countries. I found the city to be boring; I found the shopping to be subpar. It’s not a micronation thing; Liechtenstein and San Marino have far more to offer within their tiny confines.

That said, I might have had more fun if I had booked this Andorra day trip from Barcelona that includes the French village of Ax Les Themes and the Spanish village of Baga. It seems like it would have rounded out the day better.

I don’t regret my day trip to Andorra, but if you’re spending time in Barcelona, you’re much better off doing a day trip elsewhere. I recommend going somewhere in my beloved Costa Brava instead– think Besalù or Tossa de Mar or Girona. These destinations are closer to Barcelona and much more fun.

Please don’t think I’m insulting the country. The Andorrans with whom I interacted were polite and friendly, and the surrounding landscape is beautiful. But in terms of day trip potential, Andorra la Vella falls a bit flat.

Now, if you wanted to do Andorra right in the warmer months, you would probably be best off renting a car and driving into the countryside. Andorra’s lone UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley, and it’s home to really wonderful hiking trails and lakes.

Your best option of all? Come to ski in the winter. That’s when Andorra truly shines.


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A Day Trip to Andorra from Barcelona

Essential Info: To get to Andorra from Barcelona, buses leave from Estación de Autobuses de Barcelona (Nord), or the north bus station. The station is across the street from the Arc de Triomf stop on the L1 Metro.

I bought my bus tickets online in advance from Alsa. The round-trip journey cost me €53.45 ($59 USD). One-way tickets cost slightly more if you buy them separately. The journey takes three hours and buses run several times each day.

Alternatively, join an organized day tour. This day trip from Barcelona includes stops in Andorra, France, and Spain.

If you decided to spend the night in Andorra (which I don’t think is necessary), you can find hotels here. If you’re staying in Barcelona, you can find hotels here.

As with any destination, I recommend getting travel insurance before you go. I never travel without it and always use World Nomads.

Would you travel three hours each way just to see a new country?

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53 thoughts on “A Day Trip to Andorra from Barcelona”

  1. Can I just tell you how much I love your pink sunglasses-lipstick-belt combo? LOVE IT! I have been craving a lipstick like (hot-ish pink) that for ages but every incarnation just looks atrocious with my complection.

    ANYHOOO. It’s too bad that Andorra was disappointing, but I was kind of delighted by the idea of a tuna-kiwi salad. I think I’ve become a bit jaded food-wize, so any kind of weird and unexpected combo gets me really excited!

  2. It seems crazy that there aren’t people in any of these city shots! Looks – and sounds! – like a very quiet place. I’d never heard of Andorra as a shopping destination, but to be fair, I don’t think I know much about it at all besides its location on a map!

  3. The ‘men on pedestals’ are the work of Jaume Plensa, a Catalan artist. If I remember correctly the ones in Andorra are called the 7 poets. You’ll find his sculptures in various cities, e.g. in Yerevan – or on the main square in Nice, where it’s called they light up in different colours at night. Very cool.

  4. I also did this Andorra in 1 day trip earlier this year (before Tbex) however I didn’t stay in the capital. There are cheap buses going to some mountain towns and it takes only 10-20 minutes to get there. I do agree Andorra was boring but the small mountain town of Ordino was lovely had a great meal and short hike there with a nice mountain scenery.

  5. Spent a night here on the way to Spain from the UK and it wasn’t that interesting, in fact it was one of the most boring places I’ve ever been, I took my dog a walk around the streets after a long drive and even he seemed bored! Unless you want to buy perfume or strange food combinations there’s not much in Andorra La Vella, I wouldn’t write the country off and would explore other areas if passing through again but I certainly won’t be in a rush to go through Andorra La Vella, It’s a toss up between Vaduz in Liechtenstein and Andorra La Vella for the most bland capital city in Europe.

    1. Hahaha, I love the idea of your dog being bored. I do have to say, though, that I found Vaduz much more enjoyable than Andorra la Vella — the crazy art museum, the covered bridges, the prince’s vineyards.

    2. I think the most boring European capital city is Podgorica. Montenegro is nice, and they had a nice enough Royal capital (Cetinje) but during the Yugoslav period a more urban workers city was selected and it may well be the nastiest town in Montenegro. Albania’s Tirana is also a bit of a dump..Gjirokaster was a lot better. Macedonia’s Ohrid is nicer than the capital Skopje, and Kosovo’s capital Pristina isn’t as nice as Prizren and most Swiss towns are better than Bern, but worse Euro capital for me for far is definately Podgorica.
      I wonder what Minsk is like, and I have my suspiscions about Tiraspol.

  6. I was considering daytripping to Andorra (or even overnighting it) when I went to Barcelona & NE Catalunya last month, but after reading your blog post I’m glad I skipped it in favor of more time in Girona & nearby villages. I’m a completionist at heart like you, and I even have a friend who taught English there for a year and loved it, but your account of your time in Andorra only confirmed that there was only shopping & skiing to be done there.

    Love that shot of the church with the rustic stone bell tower!

  7. Hey Kate,

    This post is so perfectly timed on my behalf. I just finished planning my first Eurotrip Itinerary yesterday and included a trip to Andorra from Barcelona. Like you said, it’s really just for checking off another country in Europe.

    Your writeup pretty much confirms I should expect nothing fabulous hahaha. Oh well, all in the name of the glorious bucket list!

      1. Oh dear…..i love Andorra & been visiting regularly for decades. Its a very independent place, and the day trip experience with shopping is geared towards the long history of what day trippers want to buy. My funniest memory is 4 old nuns all loaded up with cigars & whisky. I never knew people could buy so much sugar either.
        However, to much more serious matters….i checked your visit date to make sure it was there when you visited…there is a gorgeous designer store with all things gucci on a main street, there are 2 or 3 palaces to proper big brands but they are on the newer posher looking side streets…and there is one disgustingly close to the bus station but you need to know to look. Remember the independent comment – the names over the door arent the brand names and thats probably what put you wrong. The same names have sale outlet shops and I’m assuming these are what you found from your report.
        And yes, for Andorra, also its highlights are, the spa, an ensalada catalana or five, the picnics or lunches in the vilages whether sunny or snowy, the time in the hills – skiiing. Walking, sitting, driving or cycling. Andorra is a much more independently propserous place nowadays so more tailored to the people who live there so it remains a place where you need to know someone who can show you around those backstreets or a little more time to find them.
        There was a fab Prada discount store which didnt have their name on the door but great bargains esp the shoes (5 pairs over the years) but it has also moved…..i havent found it yet so theres a mission for me next time

  8. Definitely! Even if Andorra fell flat, I think the feeling of visiting a new country altogether is quite satisfying! Besides, as you mentioned, there were quite a few quirky elements to admire, too.

  9. I feel like I’ve seen those bald guys on platforms before, in Nice maybe?

    I’m guessing Prada shoppers aren’t big bargain hunters.

  10. I feel bad now for not really thinking a little more wider when I started putting together my slow travel guide to Barcelona. I was thinking of places like Girona to visit from the city, but haven’t clearly considered enough places.

    Damn.

  11. Hey Kate,
    I briefly wrote on your facebook page about this. As a kid, we used to go to Andorra all the time. It was a typical weekend or even day trip. People used to go to shop for things that were either not available in post-dictatorship Spain or much cheaper because the tiny Principality state has minimal tax, it is in fact considered a Tax Haven. This also made it the logical tax evasion destination for rich Spaniards. The banking system kept secret number accounts. The other main reason for people to visit Andorra was to enjoy the mountain winter sports. Andorra receives 10 million visitors a year, that is the same amount as Bali. Since I don’t ski, I used to go in the summer to enjoy the mountains, the valleys, the lakes and the nature and escape the heat. Andorra has much to offer but a day trip by bus is not the right way to enjoy it. You will just see the main city area which is a largely functional place. Go on your own car and a world of opportunities awaits. Check out the article I wrote which remains one of the most read ones on my blog. Andorra is well worth a trip, but I would not recommend a day bus trip. Instead, I would recommend a weekend getaway on your own car. Or if you like winter sports, there are plenty of organized tours from BCN where for EUR 150 you get bus, entry passes to the ski resorts, hotel and meals. If anybody wants any recoms/advice don’t hesitate to reach out!

    http://www.onceinalifetimejourney.com/once-in-a-lifetime-journeys/europe/7-reasons-to-visit-andorra-a-paradise-very-few-know-about/

  12. Timing on this post was great for us as we are planning on visiting Barcelona. We were wondering whether or not the trip to Andorra would be worth it and you’ve helped answer that question.

  13. Hey, I’m really jealous of you gal, always partying in best destinations in the world. I say your’e are very lucky. Keep going gal. God bless!!!

  14. Khrysta De Leon

    I’m fun of taking pictures of landscapes and historical & cultural stuffs. I also want to to buy antique souvenirs more than branded stuffs. So i find Andorra a beautiful place to visit. Actually, i never heard of the beauty of this place. Your blog made me want to come to Andorra. The images above, I want to see it closely and in reality. Your so lucky to see a lot of wonderful places. Please continue discovering the beauty of this world. Keep going! God bless. 🙂

  15. That bell tower is beautiful!
    Sucks that it wasn’t what you were hoping for, but at least you got to see it all in a day and tick off another country! It’s not often you can get the feel for a place in a day so i guess it’s size worked to your advantage here! xo

    PS) Sunglass style ON POINT.

  16. I absolutely loved Barcelona and wish I traded out days spending it in Madrid for that city. I have to add that if you find yourself back in Spain, visit Segovia. Beautiful Roman aqueducts are the entryways of the city. There are several churches and and a castle way in the back. I only had an hour to spend there, but even within that hour I was overwhelmed by the history and beautiful architecture.

  17. I just returned from four days in Andorra and it was my destination, not a driveby. I flew from Porto to Barcelona on a cheap flight (€35) and took the shuttle to Andorra. I didn’t go to shop, although I did buy a few photography-related things on the way out. I went there to see a free Cirque du Soleil show, hike, and meet some locals. I couchsurfed in a tiny place above La Massana that I had to hike up the mountain to reach. I took one short bus trip (10 mins) up a valley to start a trail and on my last day took a tourist bus that went up the valley above Andorra La Vella on a half-day tour. Other than that I was on foot, which is the best way to explore Andorra. A car will get you around faster, but nature is best enjoyed outside of a vehicle.

    Clearly, we had very different experiences but also totally different expectations and itineraries.

    I think the worst way to judge Andorra is by making it a day trip to Andorra La Vella, go nowhere else, and do nothing but shop. Andorra (like every country in Europe) is so much more than its capital city. I was barely in Andorra La Vella, I spent most of my time up the valleys and it’s a whole different world of villages and rivers.

    For people reading this account and deciding to give Andorra a miss, I think you are really passing up an interesting and beautiful destination. Especially if you don’t take a single trail, and you don’t stay overnight.

  18. I still think I’ll be visiting because I also want to visit every country in Europe.

    I’ll be there in January/February though so skiing might have been option if I actually wasn’t so clumsy to ski!

    It might be worth looking into exploring a different part of the micronation from your advice.

  19. I actually really liked Andorra. I took part in the parliament’s tour, which turned out to be one of the most fascinating tours I have ever been on. I learned about how few people are in Andorra’s jail system, the strange role that both religion and France play in the country, and why people would choose Andorran citizenship over Spanish. Highly recommend it!

  20. Vincent Abrenica

    I saw your blog! That’s a very beautiful place. There are so much things to do there. I hope one day I will be able to go there as well. Maybe next summer i’ll try to convince my parents to take me there.

  21. It’s unfortunate when a trip doesn’t turn out to be as exciting as you hoped, but we all have those experiences. It’s good to read a review that also points out what could make a trip better if you chose to visit Andorra.

  22. I went to Andorra in the winter and thought it was incredible! I went on a trip with a group of friends and we drove from Barcelona and spent 2 nights there and 2 days skiing and it was amazing! Beautiful little restaurants to warm your heart at the end of a cold day skiing. I think winter is definitely the time to go!

  23. I went skiing to Andorra years ago with family and we always said how nice it would be to go back and hike in the summer. Yeah, I can’t imagine the centre being great, but that kiwi-tuna combo11/rg.mjQO3IJTM q3[10to; WHAT?! I’m gagging in to my breakfast.

    Still there is something satisfying about ticking another country off the list!

    Much love, Beanie x

  24. ‘Such a shame that Andorra didn’t impress you Kate. It’s such a quaint little country. I’ve been there.
    I went skiiing there and I loved it.
    The people were really friendly. I went with a bunch of Germans and we actually celebrated New Year’s Eve there! Great skiing and a lot of parties. Cheaper than France. Ho! Ho!
    There were so many parties at the time that I couldn’t even remember them LOL! Loads of people from Denmark, Hollalland, Spain and Germany. I think the trick is to go either in the winter or for the purpose of hiking.
    ‘Hope you can give Andorra a second chance. 🙂

  25. Hi Kate, thank you for sharing info about Andorra day trip. How many hours you spend for the whole trip for Andorra? because I wanted to visit on winter, so I need to know your timeframe at least may help me to proper plan. Please advice and thank you in advance.

  26. I agree that the shopping is meh, and the city is somewhat bland. But we opted to spend the night and stumbled upon a bar called The Harlem, where we had an amazing time. It was karaoke night and everyone sang, including my husband and I, who had never sang before. There was no judgement, only fun. The people included us and made us feel like friends, it was one of the best times I have had in Europe. So I would say give it a chance, but don’t just day trip.

  27. Is spending hours on a bus worth it just to say you a=have visited a new country…..for me, a definate yes…..I have an achievable ambition to visit every country in Europe and (outside of the former USSR ) only Finland, Poland and Romania have yet to be visited.
    Kate didn’t mention a highlight on the bus route…..monserrat, stunning even if you only get to see oit from the coach window…….I should admit I find Designer Clothes, Airport Duty Free Emporiums and the mega malls of Dubai about as fascinating as reading the phone book, and would swap any of them for a decent car-boot sale, or the charity shops on camden High Street, so if Kates says that the Luis Vuitton handbags were not all that great, I am not in a position to agrue, but remember Andorra isn’t just a shopping centre, and even if it was, it would be worth the visit for the ciggies and alcohol….Then there are the wonderful stamp and coin shops. In Europe, the smaller the country, the more stamps and coins they produce, aimed at the tourist market, and they are lovely souvenirs. Andorra is a fascinating glimpse into European history, a territory that France and Spain could not decide to whom it belonged, and so for most of it’s histrory it was a “Co-Principality” with two Heads-of-State, the King (later Presdent) of France, and the bishop of Urgell, but Andorra is now a truly sovereign state.
    Andorra’s capital is luclustre…..for a start it is situated on the countries lowest lying land, and the city is so close to the spanish frontier, the buss arrives at the frontier in a few minutes, and here in lies the problem…..it is only when heading away from the capital that the countries true Pyrenese charms become apparent, but day trippers from Barcelona rarely get to travel mmore than a mile into Andorran territory to see these quaint, rustic and beautiful mountainous areas……and Andorra isnt all that small…..its bigger than the combined size of Malta, Liechtensten,Monaco and the vatican at 460 square KM’s…..so plenty of wonderful montain scenery awaits…..and just for the record, a micronation is a self governing territory without UN recognition, like Hutt river, or Sealand. It is entirely inaccurate to describe a UN Member state as a micro-nation.

  28. Bextol Anderson

    Thanks a lot! Even if Andorra fell flat, I think the feeling of visiting a new country altogether is quite satisfying! Besides, as you mentioned, there were quite a few quirky elements to admire, too.

  29. Hi, I know that it’s 2020. But as a Catalan, I couldn’t resist commenting on your post. I’m sorry! 😂 Because of the proximity, I have spent lots of summers and winters in Andorra. I’ve skied, hiked around the magnificent lakes and the Pyrenees, gone to Caldea (a place where there are swimming pools of different temperatures, 10ºC to 36ºC, and a spa), etc.
    In my opinion, Andorra is a gorgeous small country with lots of things to do. However, I wouldn’t expect it to be a perfect one-day destination. Its fame is not because of shopping malls and expensive brands; it’s known because of its mountains, lakes, cheap prices (there are almost non-existent taxes on food or other daily products), snow, and Caldea.

    I apologize for my criticism since I love your blog, which inspires me to travel solo as a female and live life to the fullest. And because I hate people (like me😂😅) who criticize others for not liking their country or another of their liking.
    At the end of the day, there’s no accounting for taste, is there?

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