Northwest from Barcelona along the C55, between the always-busy Montserrat monastery and noble castle-topped Cardona, sprawling Manresa is often overlooked by travellers spinning straight on past towards the Pyrenees. But this lively town – with its impressive Catalan Gothic basilica, sloping old-town streets speckled with Gothic, baroque and Modernista architecture, and stories swirling around the revered Society of Jesus founder Ignatius of Loyola – is a worthy stop in its own right. Majestic views of Montserrat mountain brooding in the distance add to the appeal.