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!
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- Brief History of the Casa de la Vall
- What to See at the Casa de la Vall
- Practical Guide to the Casa la Vall
- More Posts about Andorra
- More Posts about Museum Guides
- What Photography Gear Do I Use?
Brief History of the Casa de la Vall
Did you know that the General Council of Andorra or General Council of the Valleys (in Catalan, Consell General d’Andorra or Consell General de les Valls) is one of the oldest in Europe? Originally called the Council of the Land (in Catalan, Consell de la Terra), this institution responsible for the country’s legislative power was founded in 1419!
Now, as I mentioned in the introduction, the former mansion only became state property at the beginning of the 18th century, when the Busquets family decided to sell it to the Council of the Land. In fact, before 1702, the Parliament of Andorra had no fixed seat and met in public outdoor spaces in Andorra la Vella!
What to See at the Casa de la Vall
The Casa de la Vall has three floors, with the ground floor being dedicated to justice and including the Courtroom. On the other hand, the upper floor was intended for administration and accommodates the Assembly Room. As this was the main floor of the family house, it’s still possible to see rooms such as the kitchen or the common rooms!
The second (and last floor) of the Casa de la Vall is the attic, which was utilized as rooms for the members of the General Council of Andorra in the 18th and 19th centuries. After a recent architectural intervention, this floor was transformed into a multipurpose space, mainly used for temporary exhibitions.
Former Main Door
The Former Main Door of the Casa de la Vall is crowned by the small shield of the Busquets family (a tree), which in turn bears the date of 1580 – the year of construction of the building.
In 1763, the larger coat of arms of Andorra – the bigger one – was added, with the Principality’s motto in Latin: “Virtus Unita Fortior” (or “The virtue, united, is stronger”, in English).
Above this, there’s a second inscription in Latin: “Domus Concilij et Justitia Sedes” (or “House of the Council and Seat of Justice”, in English). This is a clear indication that the Casa de la Vall was not only the seat of the general councilors’ meetings but also accommodated the courts.
These days, the Former Main Door is closed and the entrance to visit the interior of the Casa de la Vall is on the opposite side (hence the name).
Sala del Tribunal de Corts
The Courtroom (in Catalan, Sala del Tribunal de Corts) is the space where the Criminal Court of Andorra operated, between 1702 and 2011.
This room is located on the ground floor of the Casa de la Vall, more precisely between the entrance hall and the ticket office. For that reason, you can explore it either at the beginning of your audio-guided visit or at the end.
The furniture and decorative pieces that you can admire in the Courtroom of the Casa de la Vall are still the original. Here, the finest woods were used, also included in the covering of the walls and ceiling.
Have you noticed the embossed details present on the table and wall panels?
Sala dels Passos Perduts
The Room of the Lost Ways (in Catalan, Sala dels Passos Perduts) was the noble hall of the Busquets family house and occupies a central place on the first floor. And when the Casa de la Vall was bought by the Council of the Land in 1702, it started to host all kinds of parliamentary activities.
In this room, the frescoes from the end of the 16th century stand out, representing different episodes of the Passion of Jesus Christ. Previously, these murals were located in an adjacent room known as the Office of the General Syndic (in Catalan, Despatx del Síndic General).
The Kitchen (in Catalan, Cuina) is located on the north side of the Casa de la Vall and has direct access from the Room of the Lost Ways. And, despite its small dimensions, it surprises both for its colorful tile panels and for its monumental fireplace and chimney!
Through the pieces of furniture and household utensils, it’s possible to have an idea of how meals would be prepared and consumed at that time, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries. In fact, the long benches and the size of the fireplace/chimney suggest that political journeys took place here too!
Sala de Sessions & Capella de Sant Ermengol
The Assembly Room (in Catalan, Sala de Sessions) is probably the most important room of the Casa de la Vall. This is because it was here that the sessions of the General Council of Andorra took place, presided over by the General Syndic and the General Subsyndic. These began with the ringing of the bell, still present at the back of the room.
The chamber of the Assembly Room at the Sala de la Vall was designed in 1962 and displays the portraits of the two Coprinces of Andorra (the Bishop of Urgell and the President of the French Republic). On the other side, there’s a small chapel dedicated to Sant Ermengol (or Saint Ermengol, in English).
Armari de les Set Claus (or Arxiu de les Set Claus)
Today, the General Council of Andorra is made up of 28 members, who represent in a mixed and equal way 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.
Now, the Cabinet of the Seven Keys or Archive of the Seven Keys (in Catalan, Armari de les Set Claus or Arxiu de les Set Claus) is a collection of documents dating from the 14th century. Installed in the Assembly Room, this cabinet can only be opened with the seven keys of the seven presidents of the seven parishes!
Once you’ve visited the interior of the Casa de la Vall, it’s time to return to the outside and admire two bronze sculptures that celebrate important events in the history of Andorra.
The statue in the first photo was created by the Italian artist Luigi Terruggi in 1978 and marks the 700th Anniversary of the “Pariatge d’Andorra” (a peace agreement signed by the Bishop of Urgell and the Count of Foix on September 8th, 1278, and which is in the genesis of the country as a co-principality).
The statue in the second photo is a work by Antoni Viladomat and depicts a couple dancing “La Morisca”, a traditional Andorran dance. Created in 1967, this monument honors the New Reform of 1866, which gave all male householders the right to vote and be elected and allowed the reorganization of the General Council.
Tower & Garden
The Tower of the Casa de la Vall is situated at the back and was also built in 1580, along with the rest of the building. With a square plan, it served as a lookout and defense post, similar to the turret installed on the right side of the façade facing the valley – the other on the left side was only added in 1962, for reasons of symmetry.
As for the Garden, it’s also at the rear of the Casa de la Vall, offering a public leisure space with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Decorated with stone benches, flower beds, pruned shrubs, and small trees, it’s the ideal place to rest at the end of your visit to the Casa de la Vall!
Practical Guide to the Casa la Vall
One of the easiest ways to visit the Casa de la Vall (and the city of Andorra la Vella, for that matter) is 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!
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1. Pick the Day Wisely
The Casa de la Vall is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 am to 2 pm and from 3 pm to 6 pm, and on Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm (from May to October). From November to April, the schedule is the same, with the exception of Sundays (when it’s closed all day). And in the months of July and August, the opening hours are extended until 7 pm.
In addition to Mondays and Sundays – or just Sunday afternoons, depending on the time of year – the Casa de la Vall officially closes on January 1st and 6th, March 14th (Constitution Day), May 1st, September 8th (National Holiday and Our Lady of Meritxell Day), November 1st, December 25th and 26th.
2. Look Out for Discounts
The ticket to visit the Casa de la Vall costs €5, but admission is free for children under 10 and holders of the Youth Card and has a reduced price (2.5€) for people over 65 and groups of over 10 people. If you want, you can check all the discounts on the official website of the Casa de la Vall.
Normally, I recommend buying museum tickets in advance, but I don’t think that in this case it’s justified. The vast majority of tourists visit Andorra la Vella for skiing or shopping, so it’s rare to find queues at cultural venues!
3. Visit Another Museum in Andorra
Andorra may be the sixth smallest country in Europe, but that doesn’t mean a lack of tourist attractions to offer to its cultural travelers. And one of the best examples is the Carmen Thyssen Andorra Museum, an art museum located in the parish of Escaldes-Engordany!
Inaugurated in 2017, the Carmen Thyssen Andorra Museum has quickly become one of the most visited museums in Andorra, largely due to its temporary exhibitions, which are renewed every year. This way, tourists have an opportunity to discover new works of art on every visit!
Read my complete guide to the Carmen Thyssen Andorra Museum, one of the best art museums in Europe!
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What Photography Gear Do I Use?
- Camera Body: Fujifilm X-T4 Mirrorless
- Camera Lens: Fujinon XF 18-55 mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS
- Tripod: Manfrotto Compact Action
- Small Tripod: Manfrotto PIXI Mini
- Smartphone Adaptor: Manfrotto PIXI Clamp
- Memory Card: SanDisk 128GB Extreme PRO SDXC