Cardona - Catalonia, Spain
Cardona is located in the province of Barcelona which is on the east coast of Spain. Count Borrell II granted the town the Charter of Township on April 23rd in 986AD giving it an official birth date. However Iberian remains show evidence of its existence long before that.
The Castle of Cardona is a magnificent fortress that stands high on a hilltop overlooking the town and valley of the Cardener River. First constructed in 886AD it is a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles. During the 14th century it was occupied by the Dukes of Cardona, one of the most important families in the area making it second only to the royal palace.
The town became a great commercial and political centre because of its wealth generated by the excavating and marketing salt to Europe. Consequently the Castle was crucial in defending the exploitation of the salt mines and was virtually impregnable. The locals would be given salt every Thursday in exchange for working one day a week maintaining the fortifications and ironically, having survived many battles over the centuries, it was extensively damaged during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s.
Thankfully the Castle was restored and in 1976 it re-opened as the Parador Cardona (Hotel Duques de Cardona). Now a luxury four star hotel, it has been tastefully decorated in keeping with its medieval heritage. The walls are decorated with beautiful tapestries and wrought iron torch holders, and most of the bedrooms have antique four poster beds with beautiful views from the window. However, on a more modern note there are facilities such as a bar, satellite TV, gift shop, sauna and gymnasium. The Parador also has its own restaurant which once again has a medieval feel to it and specialises in Catalan dishes.
Within the Castle you will also find San Vicente church which was built in 981AD and where several important family tombs and mausoleums can be found in the crypt below. There is also the Torre de la Minyona Tower which dates back to the 2nd century and is said to be where the Duke of Cardona’s daughter was imprisoned by her brothers for falling in love with one of the leaders of the Moors and converting to the Muslim religion. Sadly she only survived a year before she eventually died.
On a clear day you can see the Monserrat Monastery from Cardona which stands in the hills that are over 50 km away. If you decide to visit the Monastery do be sure to find out when the Escolania Choir is singing as they are one of the most famous boys choir in Europe. Another special event not to miss is the annual festival in Cardona which is in September.
Other places to visit nearby are the Montaña de Sal Cultural Park or the Cadi-Moixero Nature Reserve. The waterfalls of the Llobregat River are also on route. At the Cultural Park you are taken on a tour of the interior of Salt Mountain. Once inside there are numerous galleries filled with spectacular stalactites and stalagmites. You will also be able to see the different veins of salts which run through the rock such as potassium, magnesium and sodium.
Cardona is a fascinating destination and an opportunity to stay in a very special Parador that was once of great importance in Spanish history. As it is less than an hour and a half from Barcelona you could easily combine it with a visit to one of Spain’s most visited cities.
About the Author: This article was written by Susan Bartle who is a seasoned traveller and freelance travel writer.
Originally from Canada she currently resides in the UK and recent research has resulted in expert knowledge of the Pousadas and Paradores. Click here to read about other destinations where these luxury hotels can be found.
Or visit her travel website covering countries in Europe and all around the globe.