Updated: May 26
Since moving to England in 2005, hubby and I usually plan two fun trips away from home per year, one in the Spring (before 23 May) and the other in late summer around the end of September. We like travelling during off-peak dates because they’re more affordable and we can visit destinations that are less crowded and exploited by tourism.
This year however, we started our planning late and realised that a lot of places were already full. So, in a slight panic we did some quick researching and found a lovely ‘boutique’ hotel in a small coastal town in Spain called Arenys de Mar, located 25 miles north of Barcelona. We’d never heard of it before, but Trip Adviser gave the hotel rave reviews and so we booked a room at the Vila Arenys Hotel. However, it was a challenge to find any details about the city itself, other than it’s a ‘small fishing village’ north of Barcelona.
Seriously, there were no realistic images of this place to be found, other than arial shots of empty boat docks, distant overheads of beaches and a vacant looking town museum. In fact, we started to wonder if we had made a mistake, but then agreed it would be an adventure and not knowing much would add to the romance and mystique!
Well getting there did turn out to be quite an adventure as we missed our flight to train delays, and a crazy taxi driver who drove us past several ATM machines, when we were supposed to stop to get cash for his fair but then he dropped us near the London Gatwick airport car park instead of near the check-in desk!
Well this was all upsetting to say the least, but thanks to my brilliant hubby and LastMinute.Com we were able to book and purchase new tickets right form our smart phone in the airport lobby! Although this saved the day for our trip, we still missed our driver from the Barcelona airport to the hotel and had lots more “adventure” catching the last elusive late-night bus into Arenys de Mar.
When we FINALLY arrived at 2:30 am to our hotel at Vila Arenys de Mar we were greeted by a cheery night clerk who immediately fetched us bottles of water, empathised with our crazy journey, checked us in and assured us we would love our room. We were not disappointed. In fact, it was everything you could want in a moderately priced boutique hotel. It was clean, quiet and stylish with a modern wood panelled wall that had a wave-like effect across one side of the room and another complete wall of French doors that opened onto trees hovering above the main street below, providing some shade and privacy.
The open plan bathroom / vanity had a separate toilet and shower area. The shower room was nice with beautiful granite tile and a giant cascading overhead shower. There was even a special switch that turned on a colourful display of rotating hues whilst in (or out) of the shower, which we found really unique. We also appreciated a little fridge in the room that was stocked with a couple of bottles of WELCOME cava and was also refreshed daily with cold bottled water.
Overall, the room was lovely with a huge wall-mounted television set loaded with great channels. (we even logged into our own Amazon Prime and spent one whole afternoon binging on Netflix’s Ozark), great air-conditioning, and excellent maid service. The hotel also has a great in-house bar in the lobby with the best coffee imaginable, a friendly staff and a fantastic looking restaurant (we didn’t get to enjoy), plus a sunny roof top bar with a pool that overlooks the charming interior streets below.
Finally, the town of Arenys de Mar, which we were seriously questioning, really stole our hearts. The fact that this city was so inviting and charming (and maybe even a best kept secret) came as a complete surprise to us. Here we were thinking ‘sleepy fishing village’ yet here was this young, bustling, family oriented, authentic, thriving community.
Walking down the busy main street there were cute little clothes, home & wine shops, sidewalk cafes, winding side streets, out of the way antique shops, bakeries and of course produce markets and the piece de la resistance the Metropolitan Community Market. This was all just a stones-throw away from the pristine, blue beaches that were lightly sprinkled with small restaurants of every price range and places to get cold drinks, snacks or even full lunch or dinner.
The harbour was also a nice area with private boats docked and several posh looking nautical clubs and restaurants along the water front. Mark and I had a nice time strolling around this area and peeking in here and there, although unless you have a boat there’s not much to do. Still, there were several areas under development that looked like some more restaurants and bars were coming soon.
The town also sits on a train line that rides up and down the coast, so on day two we opted to take a ride north to the next town of Canet de Mar. This was also a little gem, but if you take the wrong street just off the train, you’re asking yourself, where the hell am I? However, if you take the main street in, you’ll find a local museum built into the former home of the great modernist architect, Lluis Domenech I Montaner, widely regarded as Spain’s ‘father of modernism.’ A professor at the University, one of Montaner’s more famous students was Gaudi.
Plus if you’re hungry, there are plenty of nice places to eat on the main street, including one that I was quite surprised to see had a full vegan menu with some lovely selections. Another neat little surprise there, was to notice that all the trees were decorated with charming little yellow fabric leaves that gave the impression of eternal Spring, or Autumn based on your perception, or time of year I suppose.
One of the best things we liked about Arynys de Mar was the fact that it’s not a tourist destination. It’s an authentic Spanish town where people work and live. The people are friendly, the cocktails are well made & served, the food is good & affordable, there’s loads of fresh & local produce, there’s and amazing street market every Saturday and people are not trying to “sell you.”
Overall, everywhere we go we rate as, could we live here? And for Arenys de Mar it gets a resounding YES! We were actually sad when it was time to leave because we felt that we had only scratched the surface of all there was to see and do if we had more time. Have you ever been to Arenys de Mar? Does it sound like somewhere you would like to visit?