Andorra Culture - Highlights of the Country
In Andorra, culture is a perfect mix of pure Pyrenees mountain traditions and more modern artful achievements.
Even with it's small size, Andorra remains an amazingly, culturally rich country.
It's beautiful valleys are dotted with hidden Romanesque and architectual treasures, traces of traditional Pyrenees mountains culture, and venues which showcase contemporary artistic events.
Almost every parish and village of the Principality of Andorra has a Romanesque chapel, and in some you'll find medieval bridges, monuments, museums, galleries and more.
There's lots to keep you busy all year long here, with a variety of culturally themed tours and treks, great festivals and food fairs, concerts and theatre.
Here’s a list of Andorra Culture Highlights:
Romanesque Churches of Andorra:
- Sant Joan de Caselles- in Canillo
This church dates back to the 11th century, and is typical of Andorra's Romanesque style. With a rectangular nave, wooden ceiling, semicircular apse and Lombard style bell tower.
There’s also a unique stucco Romanesque Christ figure with mural behind it depicting the crucifixion.
- Sant Romà de les Bons - in Encamp
Also known as - Les Bons Conjunt and Les Bons Complex and Santa Romà church.
This complex is located at the top of the village of Encamp, and is made up of the church of Santa Romà (12th century), a defence tower (13th century), an old stone water tank and irrigation circuit, some pigeon houses, and the remains of a 13th century fortified Andorran house.
Don’t miss the chance to have a look at the Centre of Historical Andorra (museum), and take a walk around the well-preserved village of Les Bons.
- Sant Martí de la Cortinada – in Ordino
This Romanesque church houses murals painted by the master artist of La Cortinada at the end of the 12th century, some iron grills, 17th century wood furniture, and chimes in the confessional.
There are some other interesting buildings around the church, like the Cal Pal mill and saw works, and the Cal Pal manor house.
- Sant Climent de Pal - in Pal, La Massana
Pal is a village in the Parish of La Massana, and is one of the best preserved in Andorra.
The church of Sant Climent is the jewel of the complex. It dates back to the late 9th century, is Romanic in style and has a great example of a Lombard bell tower, with a square base, three floors of twin windows, and the last floor with a double twin window arrangement- the only one like this in Andorra.
The village of Pal itself is well worth a look around. And while there you can also pay a visit to the ‘Pal Romanesque Andorra Interpretation Centre.’
- Santa Coloma– in Andorra la Vella
Santa Coloma is a pre-Romanesque building from the 10th century.
It has a very special circular Lombard bell tower, which is one of a kind in the Principality of Andorra, and one of very few in the Pyrenees mountains.
Inside you’ll find a colourful wood bust of Our Lady Remei (12th century), a baroque altarpiece (C.18th century), and traces of some Romanesque mural paintings.
- Sant Serni de Nagol– in Sant Julià de Lòria
This church is known for it’s Romanesque paintings, they are primitive, but quite interesting. They depict different angelical figures and motifs of good and evil.
There’s also an altarpiece and thorny processional crown from the 15th century.
From the church there are amazing panoramic views of the valley.
- Sant Miguel d’Engolasters- in Escaldes-Engordany
Sant Miguel d’Engolasters was built sometime before the 12th century, in an austere Romanic style of Andorra. It's one of Andorra's cultural gems.
Inside are replicas of the magnificent 12th century murals done by the master artist of Santa Coloma. The originals are now housed in the National Museum for Catalan Art, in Barcelona.
There are outstanding views from this Andorran church.
And if you drive just a little further up the road you’ll get to the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley, which has been granted UNESCO World Heritage Status for ‘Cultural Scenery.’
Romanesque Bridges of Andorra:
- Bridge of La Margineda – in Andorra la Vella
This 12th century Romanesque bridge crosses over the Gran Valira river, and can be found on the CG-1, the old road from Sant Julià de Lòria to Andorra la Vella, that passes through Santa Coloma.
It’s the largest, and one of the most beautiful medieval bridges in Andorra.
The stonework is the same as that which follows the rest of the path after the bridge.
- Bridge of Sant Antoni de la Grella – La Massana
The Sant Antoni de la Grella bridge used to be the only way to get to La Massana from Andorra la Vella.
It’s of Romanesque origin, but was rebuilt in the middle of the 20th century. Next to the bridge you’ll find the chapel of Sant Antoni de la Grella.
Monuments and Museums of Andorra:
- Meritxell Sanctuary – in Canillo
The ancient chapel dedicated to Santa Maria, burned down in 1972, but now a restored version, and contemporary temple stands in its place.
The sanctuary was designed by the well-known Catalan architect Ricard Bofill, and now houses the “Meritxell Memòria” exhibition- dedicated to the patron Saint of Andorra.
On September 8th people of Andorra do a special pilgrimage to the sanctuary, which holds a ceremony and mass in honor of Lady of Meritxell, Andorra’s patron Saint.
- M2R (2-Wheel Museum)– Andorra Motorcycle Museum– in Canillo
This large collection of bikes, from past to present, pays homage to the much loved motorcycle.
- The National Automobile Museum of Andorra – Encamp
From the steam machine of 1885 and up to the 1970’s, this national museum of Andorra displays the transformation of vehicles through history.
- Casa Cristo Museum (Ethnographic Museum) – Encamp
This humble house and museum allows us to see how a typical family of Andorra would have lived during the 19th century.
- Holy Art Museum of Andorra – Encamp
Liturgical objects and holy art, many pieces of which come from the chapels of the parishes of Andorra, are on display in this little museum.
- The Miniature Museum of Andorra– Ordino
This is the world’s largest collection of miniatures of this kind. In this interesting Andorran museum you also get an insiders look at problems that come up when making miniatures, and how they are solved.
- Romanesque Andorra Historical Interpretation Centre- Pal, La Massana
The Romanesque style of Andorra and its evolution is explored in this centre, through an audiovisual presentation and exhibition of paintings and artifacts.
- Casa Rull Museum – Sispony, La Massana
This is a 17th century farm house which shows how a prosperous family lived in rural Andorran society.
- Tobacco Museum of Andorra
The museum is housed in an old tobacco factory from the 20th century that closed down in 1957.
Here we can witness the process of growing and harvesting tobacco, a crop which, in the 20th century, was fundamental to the lives of people in Andorra.
Andorra Culture Routes:
- The Iron Route of Andorra
This route has mines, coal works, forges, sculptures, monuments, and museums; all of which are related to the importance that this industry once held for Andorra.
You can walk this route, or do it on horseback, and most of it can be done for free.
It goes from La Farga Rossell – La Massana, through La Cortinada and up to the Llorts mine.
- Andorra Rural Habitat Route
Includes:Casa Cristo Museum, Encamp
Casa Rull Museum, Sispony – La Massana
Casa d’Areny-Plandolit Museum, Ordino
Traditional rural life, and the social and economic differences of Andorra’s cultural past can be experienced on this route.
You can buy a 6 Euro passport which includes entry into the three houses/museums.
Tickets can be bought at any of the museums.
- The Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley Routes
This Valley has great cultural and ecological value for Andorra, and has been recognized by UNESCO for it’s World Heritage cultural scenery.
There are various routes of different lengths and levels, that take you past the wealth of monuments in this area of Andorra.
The tours of the old shepherd’s huts are a great look into Andorra's Pyrenees mountain culture.
In Andorra, culture routes of many kinds are offered in each parish.
In summer Encamp, La Massana, and Ordino have a tourist train as well.
Andorra la Vella has an interesting route which circles around the town following the recovered, old irrigation network.
It’s called the “Anella Verda”, or the Green ring of Andorra.
There are also 3 variations of Romanesque Routes in Andorra.
You can do them on your own, or on a special Andorra culture tour guide bus.
For more information ask in any of the tourist offices of Andorra.
Festivals of Andorra:
Every parish of Andorra has it’s own local Festival. They usually start on a Friday and finish Sunday.
The exact date may change by a day or two, depending on the calendar that year.
Here’s a basic guideline of festivals for each of Andorra’s parishes:
- Canillo: July 18th - 20th
- Encamp: August 14th - 16th
- Ordino: September 16th
- La Massana: August 15th and 16th
- Andorra la Vella: July 31st - August 3rd
- Sant Julià de Lòria: July 25th - 28th
- Escaldes-Engordany: July 25th and 26th
There are, however, many more festivals and cultural events in Andorra all throughout the year.
I will try to add them all here one day. But, if you want to find out what’s going on when you’re in Andorra, you can just stop by the closest tourist office and ask for an Andorra events schedule.
Some of our favourites in Andorra are; the Bagpipers festival in Ordino, La Massana- August 8th and 9th, and the Wild Mushroom Fair in Arinsal – September 11th and 12th.
Like in many other places of the Pyrenees mountains, traditional dance is a form of folklore that is well preserved in Andorra's culture.
You can see the different dances performed at various local festivals of Andorra throughout the year.
Some of these are; the “Contrapas”, Saint Anne’s and the “Marratxa.”
Andorra’s most popular traditional dance is the “Sardana.”
On July 21st, in Escaldes-Engordany, they hold festivities for the “Universal day of the Sardana.”
Andorra’s National (Bank holidays):
- Andorra Constitution Day- March 14th
- Day of Our Lady of Meritxell, (Andorra’s patron Saint) - September 8th
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