Andorra la Vella is the capital of the Principality of Andorra (in Catalan, Principat d’Andorra), a microstate situated between France and Spain, right in the heart of the Pyrenees. Due to its location at an altitude of 1023 meters, the city is known as “the highest capital in Europe”.
Interestingly, the name “la Vella” means “the Town” and not “the Old”, having been added to distinguish the city from the homonymous country, as well as to reinforce the fact that it’s its capital. On this Andorra la Vella itinerary, you’ll discover tourist attractions and cultural activities, including the best things to do in Andorra la Vella!
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- Brief History of Andorra la Vella
- Visiting Andorra la Vella
- Andorra la Vella Itinerary
- Map of the Andorra la Vella Itinerary
- More Posts about Andorra
- More Posts about Travel Itineraries
- What Photography Gear Do I Use?
Brief History of Andorra la Vella
Legend has it that Andorra was founded by the Roman Emperor Charlemagne in the year 805 AD. But written documents suggest that, in the mid-9th century, the parishes of Andorra belonged to the County of Urgel (one of the historic counties of Catalonia).
Whether you believe in popular legends or historical references, the truth is that the Andorran territory was highly disputed during much of the Middle Ages – which is why there are so many forts, towers, and churches from that period (especially in the Romanesque style).
The most important of these conflicts for dominance and power was fought between the Bishops of Urgel and the Counts of Foix from the 13th century onwards. However, the two parties signed a peace agreement on September 8th, 1278 – the “Pariatge d’Andorra” – which is the genesis of the country as a co-principality and Andorra la Vella as its capital.
Not everyone knows, but even today, Andorra is ruled by two co-princes: the Bishop of Urgel and the President of the French Republic!
Visiting Andorra la Vella
Did you know that you can visit Andorra la Vella on a day trip from Barcelona? Although the bus trip takes between 3 and 4 hours, the connection is direct and the landscapes are breathtaking! And if you arrive in Andorra la Vella relatively early, you’ll still have time to explore the Les Escaldes area, in the neighboring parish of Escaldes-Engordany!
Andorra la Vella Itinerary
This Andorra la Vella itinerary starts at Plaça Lidia Armengol (also called Plaça dels 7 Poetes), a square about 250 meters from the Estació Nacional d’Autobusos de Andorra. This is where you can admire “7 Poets” (in Catalan, “7 Poetes”), a sculptural ensemble created by the renowned Catalan artist Jaume Plensa.
Inspired by the stylites of the Byzantine Empire, these seven human figures are, at the same time, a tribute to the seven Parishes of Andorra (in Catalan, Parròquies d’Andorra): Canillo, Encamp, Ordino, La Massana, Andorra la Vella, Sant Julià de Lòria, and Escaldes-Engordany!
Casa de la Vall
The Casa de la Vall (House of the Valley, in English) is one of the most important buildings in Andorran civil architecture and one of the most symbolic and characteristic monuments of the Principality. Constructed in 1580, this old manor house served as a residence for the Busquets family until 1702 – the year in which it became the seat of the General Council of Andorra.
In 2011 and after more than three centuries, the Parliament of Andorra moved to a new building and the Casa de la Vall opened to the public as a history museum. Even so, this historic property continues to host the most formal events in the small European country!
Read my complete guide to the Casa de la Vall, a must-see tourist attraction on any Andorra la Vella itinerary!
Església de Sant Esteve
The next stop on this Andorra la Vella itinerary is probably the most famous tourist attraction in the city. I’m talking about the Church of Saint Esteve (in Catalan, Església de Sant Esteve), located in Plaça del Príncep Benlloch and that appears on most postcards from Andorra la Vella!
Constructed in the 12th century, this Romanesque-style church was expanded and modified on different occasions. One of the most notable changes took place about a century later and culminated in the Romanesque semicircular apse, decorated in the Lombard style and considered the largest in the country. The last major intervention was carried out in the 1940s, by the architect Josep Puig i Cadalfach (one of the greatest exponents of Catalan Modernism)!
After entering the Church of Saint Esteve to contemplate elements such as the two Baroque altarpieces or the Romanesque polychrome wooden beam, I suggest you head to Rambla Molines, the small high street that gives access to Plaça del Poble (the best viewpoint in Andorra la Vella)! From here you’ll have privileged views of the Catholic temple and unique opportunities for panoramic photographs of the surrounding mountainous landscape.
Despite having less than 20 thousand inhabitants, the city of Andorra la Vella receives more than 10 million tourists. And it’s no secret that a large part goes to the ski resorts, as Andorra is one of the best winter destinations in Europe.
Nevertheless, many also visit Andorra la Vella for shopping. After all, international brands are tax-free in Andorra!
Since tourism and commerce are the main economic activities in Andorra, it’s natural that you’ll find dozens of shops selling clothes, footwear, make-up, perfumes, jewelry, technology, decoration, etc. The best known are concentrated on Avinguda Meritxell, especially in large department stores such as the Pyrènèes Andorra!
“La Noblesse du Temps”
Andorra la Vella is a very small capital – when compared to other European capitals – but it has an impressive number of contemporary sculptures, wall paintings, and art installations, scattered throughout different tourist spots in the city.
Besides the “7 Poets”, the most famous sculpture in Andorra la Vella is “La Noblesse du Temps” (or “The Nobility of Time”, in English), created by the Catalan surrealist artist Salvador Dalí in 1977.
This monumental bronze work symbolizes the passage of time and its dominion over mankind. After being ceded to the Government of Andorra in 1999, “The Nobility of Time” was placed in the Plaça de la Rotonda in 2010, where it now has permanent residence.
Pont de París
The Paris Bridge (in Catalan, Pont de París) is a suspension bridge that crosses the Valira River and connects the Avinguda Doctor Mitjavila with the Avinguda Consell d’Europa.
Designed in 2005 by Spanish civil engineers Leonardo Fernández Troyano and Guillermo Ayuso Calle, the Paris Bridge is an avant-garde work with a straight branch (45 meters) and a semicircular branch (27 meters).
Other architectural details that stand out in this modern construction are the two triangular structures, crowned by two steel spheres measuring 2.20 meters in diameter.
Take advantage of your stop at the Plaça de la Rotonda to also photograph the letters of Andorra la Vella on the Paris Bridge, which lights up at night!
Meritxell Avenue (in Catalan, Avinguda Meritxell) is the main avenue in the Andorran capital and has already been mentioned in this Andorra la Vella itinerary. Named in honor of the Virgin of Meritxell (the patron saint of Andorra), Meritxell Avenue is home to a vast number of hotels, shops, restaurants, banks, pharmacies, and supermarkets.
Just over 1 km long, the Meritxell Avenue starts at the Plaça Rebés (next to the historic center of Andorra la Vella) and ends at the Avinguda de Carlemany – the latter already located in the parish of Escaldes-Engordany. The last 400 meters, between the Plaça de la Rotonda and the Carrer de la Unió, are a pedestrian-only area.
The last point of interest on this Andorra la Vella itinerary is Central Park (in Catalan, Parc Central), the city’s green park. I choose to leave it for the end of this “1 Day in Andorra” because it’s just 300 meters from the National Bus Station of Andorra!
Developed on the south bank of the Valira River, the Central Park of Andorra la Vella has an artificial lake with ducks, a large playground, and a restaurant bar called La Petite Fôret, as well as a series of trails perfect for hiking and jogging.
Map of the Andorra la Vella Itinerary
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