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Cardona and its medieval castle sits halfway between Barcelona and Andorra in the Catalonia region of Spain. It is about 90km north-west of Barcelona.
Cardona is a pleasant town and has a Gothic Church, the Saint Miguel church with a Romanesque bell tower and a 9th century fortified building which was once an inn. Look out also for Graells palace with its beautiful arched windows, Graells Gate and the Plaza del Vall.
The two main squares in the town are the Santa Eulalia Square and the Mercat Square both of which have attractive arched galleries at the edges.
The town started to develop from the 11th century when there was a market at the foot of the castle.
On the top of a hill, dominating the town below is Cardona castle built by the dukes of Cardona and occupied by them from the 11th to the 15th century. It proved to be one of the strongest castles in the area and even after many of the castle walls were destroyed in 1714 it was one of the last to surrender to King Philip V.
The castle is now a luxury parador, the Parador de Cardona. With its medieval rooms, the 2nd century Minyona tower, a gothic cloister and the Ducal Courtyard plus stunning views over the town and countryside below, its well worth a visit. Spend the night if you can.
Movie buffs amongst you will recognise the castle from the Orson Wells film 'Chimes at Midnight'. John Gielgud starred in the movie which was filmed in 1965 and is considered one of Orson Wells best films.
Next to the castle is the 11th century church of Saint Vicenc where the Dukes of Cardona are buried. The church is built in Romanesque style and is huge - it takes up about the same amount of space as the castle!
You can take guided tours of the church and castle at the weekend.
As well as views of the town there are great views over the 'Salt Mountain' from the castle. The Salt Mountain is an enormous salt deposit next to the Riu Cardener. Salt has been mined here since Roman times. Indeed the role of the castle was partly to defend the salt mine as salt was a huge source of wealth in medieval times.
It is possible to visit the Salt Mountain and Cultural Park inside the Nieves mine. A guided visit takes you to a depth of 86m and in the mine you can see the fascinating shapes of the salt deposits in this unique site. The cave has formations like stalagtites and stalagmites created in the salt and the tunnels are lit to emphasise the beauty of the formations.
The Salt Mountain is an easy 1km walk from Cardona.
Places to visit nearby
The fabulous city of Barcelona is nearby and should be near the top of anyones bucket list of cities to visit. Whilst there visit the Monestir de Montserrat which is easily accessible from Barcelona and is not only a famous pilgrim site but also has stupendous views.