Caldes de Malavella
Take a relaxing break at this quiet spa town
By staff writer
Just an hour away or so from Barcelona by train, this picturesque spa town built on natural springs offers a great change of pace from the Catalan capital.
Caldes de Malavella can trace its human origins back to Paleolithic times, but it was the Romans who founded a town here when they discovered natural thermal springs in the area and built a baths, the remains of which you can still find in the town centre. Caldes really took off though in the late 19th century, when spa resorts were becoming fashionable around Europe and in particular in Catalonia which was enjoying a golden age of growth and development (around the time of Gaudi and the Modernisme movement).
Two modern spa resorts were built in a mix of neoclassical and art nouveau architectural styles, the Balneari Prats and the Balneari Vichy Catalan, as local entrepreneurs sought to take advantage of the town’s naturally warm and mineral-rich waters to entice bourgeois families to seek rest and recuperation here during summer times (beach holidays were less en vogue at the time!). Caldes became a prosperous place and today around the outskirts of the town you’ll find plenty of attractive private mansions and summer residences, built in the Modernista – ie. Catalan art nouveau – style.
A small town the biggest draw of Caldes de Malavella is undoubtedly its two major spas, and enjoying the slow life as you make the most of their facilities. However there are several points of interest around town for those who can’t sit still. The well-preserved remains of the Roman baths of Sant Grau are the foremost tourist attraction and history buffs will enjoy stepping back in time two millennia to the time when Caesar and co. ruled the world. You will find them slap bang in the centre of Caldes.
Other than that a stroll around the town reveals Saint Esteve’s church (dating back to the 11th century) and slightly further out a concentration of the aforementioned private villas, which still look great today. Dotted around the pueblo you will also find several small drinking fountains spewing forth the hot spring water… apparently it’s also good for you, but we should warn you… it tastes disgusting.
More adventurous types can borrow a bike from their hotel and sent off through the gentle wooded hills towards the nearby castle and hermitage, or even hike there. In fact there are plenty of biking and hiking trails in every direction, with different points of interest, that you can follow. Finally golfers take note, the PGA Golf de Catalunya course is located here, one of Europe’s top ten golf courses.
Eating & Drinking
Caldes is a sleepy place, so don’t expect to find much in the way of avant garde gastronomy or nightlife. One restaurant however well worth trying is Cal Nap, which serves high class Catalan cuisine and has a terrace on a plaza under the Sant Esteve Church. Their midday menu is excellent value for money.
Hotel Balneari Prats
This romantic resort dates back to 1890 and its neoclassical design and entrance set the tone for a classy stay in Caldes. The main draw is the perennially warm outdoor pool, filled of course with the town’s natural thermal waters and their medicinal minerals. A large section of the hotel is given over for a diverse range of massage, health and beauty treatments at reasonable prices. For more info click our review above, or go direct to their website below.
Getting to Caldes de Malavella from Barcelona is a painless affair. Simply hop on the train from Sants, Passeig de Gracia or Clot and you will arrive at the brightly coloured town station in just over an hour. Train depart regularly throughout the day, and you can check the Rodalies de Catalunya train timetables for precise arrivals and departures. Meanwhile Girona is just 20 minutes away by rail.