We had researched the best way to visit Andorra and it seemed the best way was from Barcelona. A mere 3hr and 18 minutes and 191 km away to be precise. We debated visiting in wintertime, but summer was also supposed to be pretty spectacular and so with a bit of research we booked the 7.40am ALSA bus for €18 each from Barcelona Nord Station arriving into Andorra La Vella at 11.40.
Our first impressions when we arrived were that this was a pretty special place; we were in a lovely little town surrounded by imposing, but spectacular mountains.
What we didn’t know however was that our phones wouldn’t work here so we had no idea where we were heading! A quick food and drink stop with some wifi allowed us to do some research. We decided we would head to Placa del Noble, a rooftop square which offered great views across the city.
Heading away from the Placa across the footbridge we found ourselves in what looked like an Old Town; quaint streets with bars and restaurants and then we came across Casa de la Vall; an historic house and headquarters of the general council of Andorra.
Casa de la Vall was built in 1580 by the Busqet family but acquired by the Consella de la terra in 1702, becoming one of the oldest and most continuous paliaments in Europe, the Consell General. The house was open to visitors and when we enquired it was a very modest €5 each with a map and an audio guide; the staff were extremely friendly and so we decided to have a look round. The upper floor hosted the Assembley Room, the Passos Perduts Hall and the kitchen with a very impressive hearth.
On the lower floor there was a criminal courtroom; which according to the guide is still used on occasion today. There were some impressive highly detailed wood carvings in the courtroom.
Outside of the house on the front door is the Busquet family shield and the Andorran shield. In addition to this there were sculptures around the house; La Morisca by Antoni Viladomat, created in 1967 paying homage to the new reform in 1866, a monument to the 7th Centenary of the “Pariatges” and the most recent addition which celebrates the launch of Andorra as a constition in 1993 (not pictured). In addition from the garden you can also see an usual array of yellow figures on posts; the tour informed this was actually the 7 Poetas Sculptures by Jaume Plensa; each one representing a parish in Andorra.
It was an interesting visit and worth the time we spent to learn more about Andorran history and their parliament. Next though we headed to the main town itself in search of the ‘Melting Clock’ sculpture we had seen online. It wasn’t long before we stumbled across it in the main plaza.
The official name for the sculpture is “Nobility of Time sculpture” and without knowing its’ history it is quite easy to identify this as the artwork of Salvador Dali. The sculpture is made of Bronze and must be worth a fair bit; especially given who the artist is; however there was no security or anything to prevent people going right up to it. It was apparently donated by Dali’s agent, Enric Sabater, to the Andorran government and it has sat as big a tourist attraction here ever since.
Just behind the ‘Melting Clock’ is another tourist attraction, the Andorra la Vella Bridge or its official name Pont de Paris. It’s a suspension road bridge which joins the two sides of the river and is a popular spot for those wishing to take pictures… as we did!
Andorra is rich in art and sculptures and we saw several different pieces on our walk around the city; many of which we didn’t known the history of or we couldn’t understand what the sign said; there is little doubt however that Andorra La Vella is very rich in culture.
Another thing Andorra La Vella is known for is duty free shopping; it is popular with tourists and shoppers due to the fact the whole country is a tax free haven so bargains can be found here. There were some very high end shops which, even with tax free price tags we couldn’t afford but also it was possible to get some alcohol and cigarettes at very reasonable prices. The extent of my shopping was a memory card for my tablet which was at a comparable price to Amazon.
We had seen a lot in our short time here but Nigel had one last ‘treat’ in store for me before we headed back to the bus station for our ride home. He had spotted a football stadium whilst we were at Casa De la Vall and wanted to check it out (!). We had a lovely walk down by the river before reaching the Stadium. Estadio Nacional de Andorra is used by the national teams for both football and rugby union and has a heady capacity of 3,306. It was tiny but a happy boy had seen another stadium; unfortunately this time I was there to accompany him :-/.
Our short time in Andorra was up but we liked what we saw; Andorra La Vella was a lovely place and a great spot for shopping or just to like us to spend a day out of the hustle and bustle of Barcelona. We both said we would like to see it in wintertime with the snowcapped mountains but we were glad we made the effort and the long bus journey to come here and see for ourselves. Back to Barcelona we went – it was a long and tiring day but one we would recommend.
Carol & Nigel xx