Andorra La Vella is the capital of the tiny European country of Andorra. Nestled in the Pyrenees, between France and Spain, Andorra’s mountainous terrain makes it a popular spot for winter activities like skiing and snowboarding, and a prime destination for scenic hiking and biking in the warmer months. Whilst many people visit Andorra for its outdoor activities, there are plenty of reasons to dedicate a day of your holiday to exploring Andorra La Vella too. You could also arrange a trip from a neighbouring country, with, for example, a tour from Barcelona.
Surrounded by picturesque mountains and home to historic buildings sitting alongside gleaming modern shopping centres, Andorra La Vella offers a rather strange mixture of activities and attractions. From the ultra modern to whispers from the past, here are some of the top things to do on a day in Andorra La Vella:
Enjoy luxury shopping for less
As a low-tax destination, the prices in Andorra La Vella’s shops are often cheaper than in many other parts of Western Europe. You’ll notice the biggest savings on items that are usually pretty highly priced, such as designer clothing, jewellery, fragrances, and electronics. If you’ve been coveting a new lens for your camera, here’s the place to buy! Alcoholic drinks and fancy chocolates are also often cheaper in Andorra than in nearby countries, and it is also known for selling some of cheapest cigars in the whole of Europe! With hundreds of retail establishments, it can be difficult to know where to start! Pyrenees Andorra, Roca & Ribes, and Andorra 2000 are just a few suggestions to set you on your way to shopping heaven.
Spot the quaint signs for building names
Displaying the country’s heritage and traditions from times gone by, many buildings in Andorra La Vella have cute ceramic signs showing what function the building used to play in the past. Written in Spanish, even if you don’t understand the words, the accompanying picture often gives a big clue. Examples include Ca L’Apotecari, a place that once sold remedies for a range of ailments, Casa Ferre, the former ironsmith’s premises, and Casa Carbonell, the previous home of a Catalonian textile producer called Enrique Carbonell.
Ponder the Nobility of Time
Andorra La Vella boasts a large number of statues and sculptures, with those depicting historical people and events and those that are a lot more contemporary.
One of the most interesting pieces is the quirky Noblesse du Temps, which translates from French to Nobility of Time. Also sometimes referred to simply as the Dali Clock, the thought-provoking bronze timepiece was designed by famous artist Salvador Dali. Standing in Piazza Rotonda, it is almost five metres (16.4 feet) tall. Showing a clock that appears to be melting over a tree trunk, angelic being standing at the base, it represents the passing of time and shows the power that the tick-tock of time has over mankind.
Admire the picturesque Church of Sant Esteve
Found in the historic quarter of Andorra La Vella, the serene Church of Sant Esteve is one of the capital’s main landmarks. With a history that dates back to the 1100s, the original Romanesque building underwent many changes in later years. The stone bell tower rises majestically above the pale front part of the church, a large ornate window set in the façade above the entrance arches. The mountains in the background add to the photogenic beauty of the sacred religious site. Walk around the exterior and you’ll notice several religious statues. It is free to look inside the church during the summer months of July and August, although donations are appreciated. At other times of the year, the church is closed except for religious services and mass.
See the historic house of Casa de la Vall
Another attraction in Andorra La Vella’s old quarter, Casa de la Vall was previously home to Andorra’s Parliament. Built in the late 1500s as a private residence for a wealthy family, it represents the style of a traditional grand Catalonian house. The small turrets, tower, and slits in the wall create the impression of a small fortress, adding more grandeur and strength to the building. Whilst there is a paved square in front of the building, head round to the rear and you’ll find yourself in a small but lovely garden, complete with a number of interesting statues. It is possible to arrange a free 30-minute guided tour of the inside, but reservations must be made in advance by email or telephone; contact details are available on the official website. Public access is restricted to the guided tours.
Other things to see and do in Andorra La Vella
You’re going to need to eat and drink at some point during your day, and luckily you’ll find a good selection of places to satisfy your appetite and thirst. Spanish, French, and Italian cuisines are all easy to find, in additional to establishments that offer an assortment of other international dishes. Taverna Lapurdi, located at 4 Carrer De L'aigueta, is a recommended spot to sit and enjoy some tapas or a filling full meal.
A wander through Parc Central is a pleasant way to relax on a sunny day, and the quiet Town Square offers incredible views of the splendid valley. Look for the partially transparent sculptures of praying monks perched on top of tall podiums, take a stroll across the medieval Bridge of la Magineda, and enjoy the unique atmosphere of a place that is neither French nor Spanish, but somewhere charmingly in the middle.
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