In September 2019, I was in Nice, France for a work conference and I had the following weekend available. Therefore, I decided to take a detour on the way home to London via Toulouse and Andorra. I spent a few hours in Toulouse due to a missed bus, and then I stayed two days in Andorra. I think that was almost enough time to see the city and natural highlights of the mountainous principality. In fact, I missed out on a few of the museums but they were not open while I was there.
Andorra la Vella is definitely a walkable city with a good mix of art, architecture and nature. There are some natural hot springs and accompanying spas. Additionally, I highly recommend eating at Kokosnot, an impressive and friendly fine dining restaurant.
This is a brief guide to travel to Andorra based on my short and enjoyable visit.
- Andorra Tourism office has to be one of the friendliest tourist offices I have ever been to. When I asked where to buy postcards, the lady at the reception pulled out a stack and gave them to me.
- Dali sculpture near the river – The nobility of time
- The courtyard of the Portuguese embassy has some amazing art pieces – I liked a sculpture of a face called Meteorito 1 by Samuel Salcedo and Overflorx IC by Jaume Plensa
- Margineda, Engordany and Pont de la Tosca- old roman bridges
- Walk along the river path in all directions
- Upper trail in the hills along the irrigation channels; great views of the valley below
- Santa Coloma Church
- Architecture such as church of Saint Stephen and the Casa De la Vall
- Big Andorra La Vella sign
- Transparencia mural by Samantha Bosque Vives
- Placa Guillemo mural
- Wander through the Old Town
- Artalroc art museum- I saw an exhibition La Ruta Migratoria by a Cuban artist called Balmaseda
- Museum Carmen Thyssen
- The Plaza hotel spa was relaxing with a big pool and nice facilities. Not too crowded. The Caldea spa is the more famous one but was too expensive
- Outlet shopping
Before you go
- Andorra is a principality located between France and Spain in the Pyrenees Mountains
- There is no real border check going into or out of Andorra. It is located between Spain and France and there is a land border, but the bus did not need to stop
- Andorra’s currency is the Euro
- The capital and largest city is Andorra la Vella
- The weather varies significantly between summer and winter, so plan for the season. I went in September which was still sunny and warm during the day, and chilly at night.
- There are a lot of tax free and outlet stores for clothing and also for alcohol. Some people seemed to be there mainly to shop and had huge baskets of items in the shops
- Some people speak English especially at hotels. However, many people only spoke Spanish and some spoke Spanish and French. You may need to use GoogleTranslate!
- It is very hilly so there are a lot of stairs in the city, though they have installed lifts in many places for those who are not able to climb stairs
- There is a bus called AndBus from either Toulouse Airport or the Toulouse city centre to Andorra. Unfortunately, I could not find the stop at Toulouse airport but by the time I rang the company, the bus had already left. The next one was not for 5 hours so I spent some time looking around Toulouse. The pick up was across to the parking lot side rather than near the sidewalk just outside the terminal. My 20:00 bus arrived at 23:15, an hour earlier than scheduled.
- I stayed at the Mercure Hotel in Andorra la Vella. It is a well-deserved four-star hotel right in the city centre. When I was there it was not busy and was very peaceful. The reception staff were friendly and helpful. My room was large, clean and comfortable. And the buffet breakfast was delicious with a lot of choice. Finally, don’t miss out on the rooftop bar area which has a great view around the valley.
The currency in Andorra is the Euro.
I recommend to check the currency conversion just before you leave as this fluctuates
Kokosnot was my favourite dining experience of the Andorra visit. First, I had two beautifully-presented croquetas, one with mussel and squid ink and the other with leek and truffle. Next, the second starter was a cassoulet with homemade local sausage and local bacon called cansalada. The sommelier recommended a cotes du Rhône, which was nice, smooth and fruity. The main was black cod cooked in a white garlic sauce, green apple tartare, caviar de truffe and fresh coconut. Delicious flavour & texture!
In between the dishes I was served a vial of green apple and fresh bay leaf. For dessert, I had a passion fruit flan smoked on the grill, with thyme ice cream and smoked coconut foam. Finally, the petit fours included a cardamom marshmallow, coconut truffle, masala cookie with more than 30 spices, caramel wrapped in edible rice paper and a dark chocolate truffle. All very delicious and unique flavours. The friendly owner told me that Kokosnot means coconut in Scandinavia, and she called her grandfather Koko so it’s named for him.
I dined at Chef’s table in the Embassy Hotel and enjoyed a delicious steak and salad. Sadly, this seems to be permanently closed. The restaurant was divided like a mini market place and had a lot of market-fresh food.
There were many patisseries and chocolateries in the city centre. The cakes from Art i Pa 2 Riberaygua were delicious and filling.
The breakfast buffet at the Mercure Hotel was really good with a lot of variety.
At home, I made a traditional dish from Andorra called Trinxat, though I didn’t get to try this during my visit.
Q: Do I need a tour guide?
A: No, it is easy to find your way around the city and even for the hiking areas in the hills. There are many signs with directions around the city, and GoogleMaps is mostly accurate. Some locations were a little off from the map especially on the outskirts of the main city centre.
Q: Do people speak English?
A: About half of the people I met spoke English. For example, the Plaza hotel spa receptionist, the bus drivers, and some of the restaurant staff only spoke Spanish and/or French. It’s probably helpful to have Google Translate to hand if you do not speak Spanish or French.
Q: Can I travel solo?
A: Yes it felt very safe and people were friendly.
Q: How easy is it to send postcards? It was not easy to find postcards for sale, but the Tourism office was very kind and gave me some for free. At the post office, it was easy to buy stamps.
A: See Sending Postcards from Abroad for details on cost and the time it took to reach the USA.
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