La Ruta del Cister
About an hour and a bit drive from the Barcelona airport, you can find the Poblet monastery, UNESCO World Heritage:
This Cistercian abbey in Catalonia is one of the largest in Spain. At its centre is a 12th-century church. The austere, majestic monastery, which has a fortified royal residence and contains the pantheon of the kings of Catalonia and Aragon, is an impressive sight.
Monks still ora and labora at Poblet so visiting hours are restricted (see Monestir de Poblet).
The monastery was founded (1151) by Cistercian monks from France on lands recently conquered from the Moors, at the time divided into many small emirates (taifas). At the time, count Berenguer IV brought about the union of his county of Barcelona with the Kingdom of Aragon.
A trail has been created that connects Poblet with two other Cistercian monasteries in the region, Vallbona and Santes Creus (GR 175, 105 km – La Ruta del Cister).
By car, it is about half an hour drive from Poblet to Santes Creus, another very impressive Cistercian monastery. Unlike Poblet, monks no longer live there and the monastery is now a museum (Reial Monestir de Santes Creus, and Reial Monestir de Santes Creus).
If you happen to visit the monasteries on a weekday in November you will have the luxury of an (almost) private visit.
As we could not get enough of monks and monasteries, we stayed at the Parador of Lleida which had just opened its doors (2017). Those familiar with the Paradores of Spain will appreciate this hotel in a former Convent in the old centre of the city of Lleida.
For dinner, we enjoyed the Cuina de la terra of Ferreruela (Guide Michelin, Guía Repsol).
For the drive, by the way, we followed another route: modernist wineries; the one below by Lluis Domenech i Montaner.