A-2, a route along the Barcelona road

The Barcelona road is a fragmented road that was a pioneer in the motorway system. It links the two great capitals of the country, Barcelona and Madrid. Although it was one of the first to be built, it still retains some incomplete sections. One of these is the one that crosses the Monegros desert, which means that one has to choose between the AP-2 and the old N-II between Zaragoza and Fraga. However, the A-2 is a very interesting road, full of history and that runs through very different environments. It is a route that also offers a varied cuisine.

Corredor del Henares

Kilometres 4 to 58

The first kilometres of the A-2 run along the Corredor del Henares. The river runs along the right bank, in a rising direction, until shortly after entering Castile-La Mancha. After this, the road from Barcelona follows its course until its source, almost in the province of Soria. From Avenida de América, in Madrid, the exit from the city is through Canillejas. Coslada, San Fernando de Henares or Torrejón de Ardoz are Madrid’s centres that have grown up alongside the motorway and the old N-II. Likewise, the Adolfo Suárez-Barajas airport has its main exit in this infrastructure.

A-2 carretera de Barcelona Alcalá de Henares

Alcalá de Henares.

However, there are two main cities to pay attention to in this section of the A-2: Alcalá de Henares and Guadalajara. The city of Alcalá de Henares is a World Heritage Site thanks to its extensive university legacy. The arcades of its main street give rise to such interesting buildings as the house where Cervantes was born or the oldest hospital in Spain. It also has the Roman ruins of Complutum. A very complete place.

Panteón de la duquesa del Sevillano en Guadalajara

Pantheon of La Duquesa del Sevillano in Guadalajara. | Shutterstock

On the other hand, Guadalajara is the capital of La Alcarria, a territory that will be dealt with in the following section. Its growth came largely from the Autovía del Noreste. Thanks to it, a huge chemical and logistics industry developed, which led to a notable increase in size. However, it is not a simple dormitory town. The Infantado Palace is the best example of an Isabelline Gothic palace, next to the Casa de las Conchas in Salamanca. Meanwhile, the pantheon of La Duquesa del Sevillano and the San Diego de Alcalá Foundation, today a beautiful school, are another of the landmarks of the place.

A trip to La Alcarria along the A-2

Kilometres 83 to 134

La Alcarria is a region full of juniper trees and small valleys, famous for its honey. A beautiful environment that is often overlooked in favour of the famous black villages of La Alcarria mountain range. It has countless villages, so the rural atmosphere is predominant. The passage of the A-2 through the region allows you to get to know several of its most famous towns, thanks in large part to the novel Journey to the Alcarria by Camilo José Cela.

Real Fábrica de Paños de Brihuega

Royal Cloth Factory of Brihuega. | Shutterstock

The first of these villages is Brihuega, past Trijueque and near the also visitable Hita. Less than ten minutes separate it from pk.83 on the Barcelona road. A key point in the battle of Guadalajara during the Civil War, it has an extensive heritage. The castle of Peña Bermeja or the gardens of the Royal Cloth Factory are good examples. However, it has become extremely popular thanks to its lavender fields.

Castillo de Jadraque, un pueblo cerca de la ruta por la A-2

Jadraque Castle.

From the same pk.83, but on the opposite side of the A-2, is Jadraque. Its most spectacular landmark is the medieval castle of El Cid. Although its origins are in the Muslim period, its current appearance dates from the 15th century. It is therefore one of the last medieval fortresses to be built in Spain. Its name comes from the Marquisate of El Cid, not from the mythical Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar. Likewise, its mansions are remarkable. The town is bathed by the Henares River, as is the next one.

Sigüenza pueblos medievales más bonitos de España

Sigüenza. | Shutterstock

Some 36 kilometres further on, passing from the Alcarria to the Serranía, you can take a fifteen-minute detour to Sigüenza. The most spectacular medieval village in Guadalajara was where Cardinal Mendoza expanded his influence. Its tandem of bishop’s castle and cathedral makes for an impressive sight. It is also located next to the Barranco del Río Dulce Natural Park. This space offers various routes and is perfect for bird watching.

The Jalón castles on the road to Barcelona

Kilometres 151 to 218

The passage from Guadalajara to Soria involves crossing the most important slopes of the Madrid-Zaragoza section of the A-2. Sierra Ministra separates the two provinces and changes the fertile plain of Henares into the Jalón. This important tributary of the Ebro will mark the route almost to the capital of Aragón. Before changing provinces, it passes through Alcolea del Pinar.

Castillo de Medinaceli en la A-2

Medinaceli Castle.

Medinaceli awaits on this side of the mountain. It is a place with a long past and that keeps milestones from all times. For example, it has a Roman triumphal arch. This is a rarity that is complemented by various remains from the period such as mosaics. Later it was a Muslim stronghold where it is said that Almanzor went to die. Remarkable remains of the castle are still visible. In the meantime, the dukes who give their name to the place were responsible for raising the Renaissance Ducal Palace. Its collegiate church lived through centuries of tension with the bishops of Sigüenza.

Castillo de Arcos de Jalón

Castle of Arcos de Jalón. | Iñaki (Flickr)

Still in Soria, Arcos de Jalón also has a medieval fortress. Although its initial construction was Arab, it took its present form in the 14th century. It is triangular and made of brick. It was key in the wars between the members of the Trastámara dynasty of Castile.

Already in the lands of Aragón, at the foot of the A-2 like the previous ones, Ariza possessed one of the largest castles in Zaragoza. Although it was ruined, part of its fortifications can still be seen, from where there are great views of the rest of the village. A little further on, Alhama de Aragon is famous for its thermal waters. However, it also preserves the remains of a fortress, specifically the homage tower.

Fuerte de Ateca

Fort of Ateca. | Wikimedia

Finally, Ateca has a curious fort. Its current layout is much smaller than it was in the Middle Ages and dates back to the 19th century. With straight lines and in the centre of the town, it shows the adaptation it underwent to combat based on the rifle and heavy artillery.

Monasteries in the Jalón basin near the Autovía del Noreste

Kilometres 179 to 216

Monasterio de Santa María de la Huerta

Monastery of Santa María de la Huerta. | Wikimedia

There are two extraordinary monasteries to look out for while driving along this section of the A-2. Without leaving the motorway, in Santa María de Huerta. This is a Cistercian monastery whose origins date back to the 12th century. The most outstanding feature of the complex, the refectory, dates from this period. This is the room where the community ate. It is spacious, bright and has curious accesses, and is completely harmonious. Its church is also medieval, although it was greatly affected by the 16th century reforms that marked the appearance of the rest of the place.

monasterios de España, cerca de la A-2

Monasterio de Piedra. | Propia

A little over 25 minutes from the Barcelona road, after leaving shortly before the aforementioned Ateca, the Monasterio de Piedra is one of the most famous in the country. Like Santa Maria de Huerta, it is protected by a wall. Its segments are a mixture of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque. The main person responsible for the fact that this Benedictine complex has survived to the present day is the writer Juan Federico Muntadas. He is responsible for the natural park that makes up the monastery gardens. In landscape style, they are located in the old orchards. They have beautiful hiking trails and a multitude of waterfalls.

Calatayud-Zaragoza , Roman and Arab past on the A-2

Kilometres 232 to 314

Both cities share a Roman-Arab past and the fact that they have a great number of monuments. Calatayud was originally Bilbilis, the remains of which lie in the vicinity of the town. However, its importance was greatly increased under Muslim rule. The archaeological remains of its enormous citadel include the castle of Ayubb, which gives its name to the town. Elevated since the Caliphate period, the fortifications extend for several kilometres.

Puerta del Terrer Calatayud

Puerta del Terrer. | Shutterstock

In the current urban area there are also major monuments. Thus, it has two collegiate churches and a multitude of churches. Meanwhile, the Puerta de Terrer was the entrance to the city in modern times. After leaving Calatayud, halfway from Zaragoza, it is worth paying attention to the Almunia de Doña Godina. Its toponym refers to its foundation in the 12th century as an orchard donated by the aforementioned noblewoman to the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. The complex created by the knights includes a hospital, a church and a palace.

Plaza del Pilar en Zaragoza

Plaza del Pilar in Zaragoza. | Shutterstock

Together with Barcelona and Madrid, Zaragoza is the third leg of the A-2. The capital of the Ebro was Caesar Augusta, a very important Roman communication point. Roads passed through it towards Astorga (Asturica Augusta) or Tarragona (Tarraco). Trade sustained ancient settlements, some of which have been ruined or directly lost. It was during the Taifal period that it gained great importance, the legacy of which can be seen in buildings such as the Aljafería. Mudejar is very present. From its Christian period, the magnificent Basilica of El Pilar stands out above the rest.

Los Monegros Journey

Kilometres 340 to 431

The first section of the Barcelona road does not end in Zaragoza itself, but some 17 kilometres to the east. At the height of the beautiful Galachos del Ebro, in Alfajarín. Here there are two main options to link up to Fraga. On the one hand, the AP-2, a toll road, or the old N-II.

Desierto de los Monegros

The Monegros Desert. | Shutterstock

Both alternatives run side by side. On your way to the lower course of the Cinca River you will come across towns such as Bujaraloz, Peñalba or Candansos. If you go one way or the other, if there is no traffic the journey takes just over an hour. However, betting on the N-II can mean taking on heavy traffic and increasing travel time. On the other hand, towards pk.82 of the AP-2 is the arch which marks the passage through the Greenwich Meridian, the 0 meridian.

Fraga

Fraga. | Shutterstock

Once you have passed this stretch characterised by small streams and the surrounding desolation, you will reach the beautiful Fraga. It is part of the province of Huesca, and begins the second section of the A-2. It is remarkably old and there are remains of local communities from prehistoric times. Since the Middle Ages, it has been halfway between Aragon and Catalonia, the result of which was the development of the Fragatino, a language that mixes Aragonese, Catalan and Spanish elements. The Templar Tower of the Friars or the Palace of Montcada.

The eclectic section from Lleida to Igualada

Kilometres 454 to 552

Like the rest of Catalonia, the places of interest in this segment of the Barcelona road have radically different styles. From the Romanesque to the contemporary schools, including Modernism, there are several interesting stops between Lleida and Igualada, starting with the first of the two.

Seu Vella de Lleida

Seu Vella de Lleida. | Shutterstock

Lérida passed through many hands until it was taken by the Count of Barcelona, Ramon Berenguer IV, in 1149. Until then it was the headquarters of the Ilergetes, the Roman Ilerda or an important Arab stronghold. Its medieval character is reflected in the Seu Vella, the old cathedral. It represents the last great work of Catalan Romanesque architecture and has an extraordinary cloister. The new cathedral is a baroque building from the time of Charles III. It is worth visiting the fish market or the university building.

Cervera

Cervera. | Shutterstock

Tárrega and Cervera are a pair of towns in the vicinity of the A-2 motorway. In both cases, the historical centres offer beautiful walks. There are Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Modernist civil and religious buildings.

Cementerios más curiosos de España Igualada

Igualada Cemetery. | Leon (Flickr)

Almost in Barcelona, Igualada is another point worth stopping at. Although its medieval and modern elements, such as the church of Santa Maria, are the later ones that shine the most. The asylum of the Santo Cristo is a mass of late modernism that is intermingled with other styles. Meanwhile, the Paseo Verdaguer reaches a length of one and a half kilometres, passing by several Modernist houses. Finally, its modern cemetery, which merges with the mountain environment, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Spain.

The wines of the Barcelona road

Kilometres 234 to 595

Towards the end of the route, a small road will take you to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, the main cava production centre in the country. This type of sparkling wine is marked not by its geographical location but by the way it is made, which is why along the A-2 there are other areas in Lleida or Zaragoza that are part of the Designation of Origin. As far as wineries are concerned, the modernist Codorníu winery is one of the most notable buildings in the municipality. Very associated with this type of wine is the D.O. Penedès, famous for its fresh and light whites.

Cava en la A-2

Museo Codorníu.

In Cervera itself and near Tárrega, several of the wineries of the Costers del Segre D.O. are located. To a certain extent isolated, their productions are largely based on French varieties. Their work generates both whites and reds and rosés, without emphasizing too much one type over the other.

Uvas de la D.O. Vinos de Calatayud

Grapes from D.O. Vinos de Calatayud. | Shutterstock

Finally, in the province of Zaragoza, there are three names to look out for. Thus, the D.O. of the same name is centred in Calatayud, which makes it easy to visit the various wineries that surround it. A little further to the northeast, about 20 minutes from the A-2, are the Pago Aylés wine vineyards, with excellent reds. It is located within the territory of the Cariñena D.O., adjacent to the Bilbilitana D.O. and also accessible via the Barcelona road.

The Barcelona mountains on the A-2

Kilometres 569 to 595

Serra de Collserola

Collserola.

Departing or arriving, depending on whether Barcelona is the destination or the departure point of the route, is the Serra de Collserola Natural Park. Although technically the end of the route is in Martorell, it links up with the B-10 or Ronda Litoral, which runs around Barcelona along the coast. In this way, these mountains are part of the bottom of the Catalan capital and the A-2. Tibidabo is perhaps its best known component. Be that as it may, it stands out for being embedded in the dense urban complex of Barcelona’s metropolitan area.

Santuario de Montserrat cerca de la A-2

Abbey of Montserrat.

However, if there is a famous mountain range through which the road to Barcelona passes, it is the Montserrat mountain range. Its forms seem to be inspired by the modernism characteristic of the area, although the influence is rather the opposite. As well as having spectacular routes and viewpoints, it has become one of the main Catalan spiritual centres thanks to the abbey of Montserrat, where La Moreneta is kept.

The stretches to France

Although the long-term project is to fully complete the unfolding of the former N-II to the French border, this is not yet the case. After Martorell, there is a certain continuity of the A-2 through the aforementioned Ronda litoral and the C-31 and C-32, which take the route to the Costa Brava, near Blanes, in Tordera. There it becomes the N-II again briefly until a new section that this time is officially the Autovia del Noreste again.

que ver en Blanes

Blanes stairway.

This is the segment between Massanet de la Selva and Orriols. In between, it passes through Girona and shares 26 kilometres with the AP-7, the Mediterranean motorway. This area is very interesting because of its proximity to the Garrotxa volcanoes, although it is isolated from the route due to the isolation of the sections of the A-2.


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