Costa Brava’s most beautiful towns and villages

The Costa Brava is a coastal region of Catalonia in northeastern Spain, that stretches from the town of Blanes, 60 km (37 mi) northeast of Barcelona, to the French border. In the 1950s, Costa Brava was identified by the Spanish government and local entrepreneurs as suitable for substantial development as a holiday destination, mainly for package holiday tourists from Europe. 

Besides picturesque beaches and luxury resorts, Costa Brava hosts the stunning Camí de Ronda (Camino de Ronda), a set of former police footpaths built in the 19th century to control smuggling, which is now one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Spain.

Girona

Riu Onyar’s view from Pont de les Peixateries Velles

Girona is one of the biggest cities in Costa Brava and the capital of the province of the same name, the comarca of the Gironès and the vegueria of Girona. It also hosts an airport so it is usually a starting point for a trip to the area.

Located at the confluence of the Ter, Onyar, Galligants, and Güell rivers, it’s known for its medieval architecture, walled Old Quarter (Barri Vell) and the Roman remains of the Força Vella fortress. Landscaped gardens line the Passeig Arqueològic, a walkway following the Old Quarter’s medieval walls, which include watchtowers with sweeping views.

So Girona is an excellent starting point for a trip to Costa Brava. It is inland, so no beaches nearby, but it can be considered the cultural part of the trip.

Cadaqués

Cadaqués is arguably the most popular and beautiful town in Costa Brava.

It is on a bay in the middle of the Cap de Creus peninsula, near the stunning Cap de Creus cape and a two-and-a-quarter-hour drive from Barcelona. Its size, shape and traditional white-washed and blue houses make this town extremely picturesque.

Moreover; it has a special place in art history. For instance, commanding charcoals, by local artist Eliseu Meifrèn, of the 19th century Cadaqués beleaguered by a winter tramontane, can be seen at the Cadaqués museum.

But the main artist strongly related to the town is Salvador Dalí, who often visited Cadaqués in his childhood, and later kept a home in Port Lligat, a small village on a bay next to the town. A summer holiday here in 1916, spent with the family of Ramon Pichot is seen as especially important to Dalí’s artistic career.

We strongly recommend visiting the best restaurant in town, Compartir. They offer a high-quality contemporary and creative cuisine cooked with local fresh produce. You can have a 10-course tasting menu or a la carte.

We stayed at Hotel Tarongeta, a modest but complete hotel at the entrance of the town, which is a 10-minute walk from the main beach and city old town. The location was good and they have a good parking lot, which is something scarce in the town. Other good recommendations are Casa Margot, Hotel Playa Sol and Boutique Hotel Villa Gala.

Tossa de Mar

Muralles de Tossa de Mar

Tossa de Mar is another picturesque town in Costa Brava which is also an important stop during a road trip in the area. It’s about 103 kilometres north of Barcelona and 100 kilometres south of the French border and Girona airport. It is the closest to Barcelona on this list, and you would normally do it at the beginning or at the end of your trip.

Tossa has traditionally been a fishing town, in medieval times and until the arrival of tourism, the local economy was mostly based on agricultural production. The small fishing industry is still active as of 2005 and occupies a few members of local fishing families. Most of their captures are sold to local restaurants and in the fish markets in neighbouring Blanes and Sant Feliu de Guíxols.

Sometime in the 12th century, the medieval town was walled off and a castle was built on the highest point of Mt. Guardí, this castle was to be subsequently replaced by a windmill, and this in turn by a lighthouse which is still operational and it is visited by many tourists every year.

Tossa de Mar has three main beaches: The Tossa Beach (Platja Gran), La Mar Menuda and El Codolar. Parking could be a problem during high season, so patience is required. There is a parking lot just in front of the main beach but it is normally busy.

Some other popular attractions are the Walled-in Old Town, the Parish church, the Roman villa of Ametllers, the Municipal Museum and the Ancient Hospital of Sant Miquel.

Some good accommodation options in Tossa are Hotel Diana, Hotel Marblau Tossa, Hotel Windsor and Tossa de Mar Beach.

Palamós

Sant Antoni de Calonge with Palamos at the very end

Palamós was founded and recognised as a village on 3 December 1279 by ‘Pere el Gran’, ‘Comte de Barcelona’ (Peter III of Aragon) because he wanted to found a new port.

It is located at the northern end of a large bay, which is popular for sailing, swimming and windsurfing. The town is bypassed by the C31 which connects the coastal towns of central Costa Brava with Girona. Palafrugell lies 8.5 km to the north and Castell-Platja d’Aro 7 km to the south.

The town is a major port (with the closure of Sant Feliu the only commercial harbour in the Province of Girona) with one of the last remaining fishing fleets on this part of the Mediterranean coast. It is famous for the locally caught prawns from Palamós.

The architecture of Palamos itself remained relatively unchanged with most development focused to the south at Sant Antoni de Calonge which now merges with Palamos. That’s the reason why in Palamos itself there are many flats to rent instead of medium/big hotels. Some recommended accommodation options are Un sueño en Palamos, Molins, Garoina, Casa Vincke Hotel and Aparthotel Ona Palamós.

The town’s nightlife is focused on the old port which is surrounded by bars and restaurants. Next to the port, there is a huge parking, ideal if you visit the main area during the night. Our favourite restaurant was Can Nicanor, one of the most traditional places we find, which is run by its owners and visited mostly by locals.

Calella de Palafrugell

Calella de Palafrugell

Calella de Palafrugell is one of three coastal towns belonging to the municipality of Palafrugell, the other two being Llafranc and Tamariu.

has an excellent setting and, whilst busy in the summer season, it does not have the large hotels and mass tourism of other Costa Brava resorts such as Lloret de Mar.

The town has a number of good standard hotels, apartments and, at a distance from the beach, some campsites. It also hosts a number of beautiful small coves linked to Llafranc via a coastal walk.

The main beach in town is Canadell, and others worth visiting are Les Voltes, Platja Sota Can Calau and Port Pelegri. However; the town charming resides more on its picturesque houses, alleys and port than on the beaches.

Some recommended restaurants are La Blava and Fiego.

Platja d’Aro

Platja d’Aro was a great discovery, and we stayed for two nights. It was originally a small fishing village on the highway between Palamós and Sant Feliu de Guíxols with a 2 km (1¼ mile) long beach but has now become a major tourist resort with hotels and other commercial premises.

We liked the town a lot. Good size with all kinds of facilities, including many hotels and restaurants. We stayed at Goetten Apartamentos and we really enjoyed our time. They have modest but fully equipped flats, which include a balcony and air conditioner which have to be requested in advance. The facilities include a pub and an indoor pool. And the location was perfect. In the middle of the best area, with natural shade thanks to the abundance of trees, and only 4 minutes away from the beach and the city centre.

But one of the highlights was the Cami de Ronda, which we took and went all the way to Palamos, starting right at the north edge of Platja d’Aro’s main beach.

The trail is really beautiful. There are tunnels, parts with pebbles and others with sand, and there is a lot of shade, which is super important if you do it during summer. Along the way, you will pass many calas and beaches (and many of them with chiringuitos in case you need a refreshment or a toilet) such as Cala Rovira, Cala Sa Cova, Cala del Pi, Platja de Belladona, Platja de les Torretes, Platja Torre Valentina and Platja de Sant Antoni. It is worth noting that the trail does not continue surrounding the beaches, and most of the time you need to just cross them walking on the sand and in the middle of people. The good point is that it is fairly easy to find the continuation of the trail, which is also marked with a white and red sign.

The trail is also fairly easy. We even carried an umbrella and we stopped at two beaches for a swim and to have lunch. We took bus number 5 from Sant Antoni de Calonge to go back, which was punctual and fast.

On the way, we stooped at Platja de Belladona for a swim and some rest. We then stopped again at Cala Gogo, a huge beach club with great facilities for a caña and some snacks. Later we had lunch in one of the restaurants on Passeig de Josep Mundet, facing the long and white beach.

It was simply a great way to spend the day, doing some hiking but also swimming and having tapas and cañas.

Begur

Begur

Begur is a very small town (3,986 inhabitants) inland, but close to the coast and with amazing views (see picture above). It is an important tourist attraction, reaching a population of 40,000 people during the summer.

Despite its tourist character, the village has important historical remnants that go back to early history, such as The castle of Begur which was constructed in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The town also includes Esclanyà (with a Romanesque old part), Aiguafreda, Sa Riera, Sa Tuna, Platja Fonda (although it has been almost completely destroyed by storms), Fornells and Aiguablava. The latter is one of the most prestigious beaches in Costa Brava and is also home to Parador Hotel and Toc al Mar restaurant.

Pals

Platja de Pals

Pals is another very small town (2,461 inhabitants) inland but close to the coast. It has a historic centre on a hill surrounded by plains with a medieval Romanesque tower built between the 11th and 13th centuries, known as the Torre de les Hores (Tower of the Hours).

The Gothic Quarter of the town has been substantially restored and there are cobbled streets interrupted by semicircular arches, façades with pointed arched windows and stone balconies. The town wall contains four square towers which date from the 4th century. The Josep Pla viewpoint (from which can be seen the fields of Empordà and the Medes Islands), the Plaça Major, the tombs in the Carrer Major and the Romanesque church of Sant Pere are other features of the town, and there is also an archaeology museum.

Platja de Pals (see picture above) is also a popular holiday location, with a super long sandy beach, beach clubs and some hotels and resorts. And next to it you will find Platja de l’Illa Roja, another very popular beach in Costa Brava.

More pictures

Cadaqués
Cathedral of Girona
Cala Codolar, a hidden gem in Tossa de Mar
Can Nicanor, on of the most traditional Spanish restaurants in Palamos
Aigua Blaba, a beautiful and very popular beach near Begur
Pals

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