It’s not hard to see why they call this place Costa Brava, Spanish for the ‘rugged coast’. This north-eastern corner of Spain is bursting with brilliant blue sea views, pretty horseshoe bays, delightfully hidden coves and the longest stretch of coast in Europe. That’s nearly 2,000 beaches in total! Rugged and beautiful in equal measure, with a string of pretty resorts lined up along the coast. What’s not to love?
Away from those wild and wonderful coves? You’re spoiled for choice. This region is also home to some of the most important Greco/Roman and Iberian archaeological sites in Europe, and was the inspiration for the weird and wonderful works of art by Dali. And don’t forget the exquisite food – the area’s home to some of the best restaurants in Europe and a selection of Michelin star restaurants on offer, as well as wine routes to explore.
So let’s take a closer look at a few of the region’s highlights. We’ve picked 11, but we could have easily made it much, much longer…
Tossa de Mar
An impressive fortified medieval town complete with imposing towers and a picture-perfect old quarter. Right at the top of the old town, you will find Castillo de Tossa de Mar a castle that’s nearly a thousand years old and offers views of the surrounding coast and beaches. Packed full of history and close to a Blue Flag beach with golden sands water sports, loungers and umbrellas on offer, topped off with some great views. The perfect Costa Brava day trip – or stay for longer.
Bay of Roses (main pic)
Making up one of the 48 most beautiful bays in the world (no, really, there is such a list!) the Costa Brava’s Bay of Roses is one of UNESCO’s most beautiful beaches. Dip your toes in pristine water, enjoy romantic picnics in secluded coves or grab a drink a one of the spots at the swanky ports and get ready for a beautiful sight as the sun sinks in to the horizon. Why? Because Roses is hooked into a curving promontory, making it the only resort on the Costa that actually faces west!
DO Empordà Wine Route
One of the oldest wine producing regions in the world where you can discover the secrets of winemaking. Taste some very special Empordà wines and explore the beautiful vineyard settings, some blissfully far from the madding crowds.
For something a little unusual take a tour of the town’s 500-year old rice fields on foot, bike or in a tourist train! The views of the Montgri Mountains provide a good photo opportunity and the last stop of the tour is at the mill where you can see the processing of the rice too. Finish off the day with a ramble through the streets of this hilltop medieval village. Admire the view over the craggy Medes Islands or maybe even a stroll on one of the longest beaches on the Costa Brava – perfect for a late afternoon dip.
The winding cobbled streets of Peratallada will lead you over a moat, through stone archways, (pose for a snap) to pretty plazas where you can stay a while in the fabulous cafes and restaurants. One of the most memorable and magical of medieval villages in this corner of Spain.
Dive into a spectacular underwater world teeming with fauna and flora in one of Europe’s most important marine reserves. If you don’t fancy getting your feet wet, why not spy on the sea creatures through the bottom of a glass-bottomed boat?
Dalí Museum, Figueres
Prepare yourself for a truly surreal experience at the Dalí Museum. Housed in the old municipal theatre in Figueres, the exhibition will challenge your perceptions with some of the most amazing paintings, photos, sculptures and installations you will ever encounter.
Survey the city from the perfectly preserved Roman walls and lose yourself in the winding maze of the Jewish Quarter, virtually unchanged since the fifteenth century. Take a tour of the cathedral and Arab bathhouse and explore the cobbled streets of the Old Quarter of Girona.
If you’re a Games of Thrones fan you’ll love exploring some of its filming locations (featured in season six) before grabbing a table and chairs at one of the cafes at Plaça Independencia for a little tapas and people watching.
Marimurtra Botanical Garden, Blanes
Looking for an oasis of peace away from the hustle and bustle of the coast? Then jump into your speedboat (or hop on the bus) and head for Europe’s finest botanical gardens with stunning views out to sea. This is a exotic delight, with various ‘themed’ gardens tumbling down the hillside to the coast.
Whitewashed houses, a café-lined harbour and a beautiful beach. No wonder this was the summer retreat of choice of the Catalan high society and a source of inspiration for Dalí, Picasso and Mirό. The perfect place to seek out creative inspiration, or a nice seafood paella. Save time to wander to Portlligat, the neighbouring village connected by a stone-walled trail, fragrant with bougainvillea. It’s home to Casa Salvador Dalí (Platja Portlligat salvador-dali.org), the sea-facing whitewashed house that was the painter’s Costa Brava residence for over 50 years.
Museum of the Volcanoes, Olot
Take a journey through the mysteries of the region’s volcanic creation. And after you’ve been shaken up on the earthquake simulator, you can restore your equilibrium in the museum’s beautiful botanical gardens.