After the Costa del Sol, the Costa Brava is the best-known part of Spain’s coastline. Although it has suffered from development, it still has unspoilt corners, sheltered coves, some of the most attractive scenery in the Mediterranean and delightful beaches.
The ruggedly beautiful Costa Brava holiday coast stretches for 100 miles (160km) along the shores of Catalonia in Spain’s north-eastern corner, from Port Bou on the Franco-Spanish border to Tossa del Mar, just north of Barcelona.
The Costa Brava used to be defined as more or less the Catalan coast between Barcelona and France, but the Costa del Maresme, the coast of the county north-east of El Barcelonès, is now being promoted in its own right, and is quite different in character. Costa Brava is the coast of the Catalan province of Girona, the other important geographical feature of which is the Pyrenees. Its name is often translated as “wild coast”.
The regions of Girona, is quite diverse what you will find is a multitude of changing landscapes. Like a kaleidoscope, your senses will receive an avalanche of sensations, shapes and colours, the most pleasant emotions and the most diverse experiences.
And if what you seek is more fun and entertainment, you will find beachside resorts like Empuriabrava, L’Estartit, Lloret de Mar, Platja d’Aro, Roses, Sant Antoni de Calonge, etc.
On bike or on foot, by car or even on horseback, through the skies, by the footpaths or along the cove-dotted coastline, the Costa Brava is an unsurpassable setting for your strolls or excursions.
Blue is the colour of the sky and the sea, and it’s the colour of the flags granted each year by the European Environmental Education Foundation, synonymous with clean, crystal-clear, pollution-free waters. The flags are proof of the environmental quality of the water and beaches.
Exploring the Costa Brava
The beaches closest to Barcelona are at Blanes.
Blanes – Quite a built up resort town with an old center fronted by long beach-front promenade, then a marina, fishing port with good seafood restaurants. Above town is the magnificent Botanical Gardens of Marimurtra, a splendid way to start your visit to the Costa Brava. Just beyond the Marimurtra Gardens is the first real Cala, or sandy cove beach of the Costa Brava – far more more romatic than Blane`s wide beach.
The next stop north from Blanes on the Coastal road is Tossa de Mar.
Tossa de Mar – christened “Blue Paradise” by painter Marc Chagall. Tossa`s walled medieval town and pristine beaches are among Catalonia`s best. Tossa de Mar is a pleasant low-key resort town that has retained much of its charm due to good urban planning. The Vila Vella with its 12th C walls is a gem, and the old town is full of good restaurants. The beach has nice coarse sand, and there is a very handy municipal parking lot just below the old town walls on the beach.
Sant Feliu de Guixols follows Tossa de Mar. (travel around 23km (15miles) of hairpin curves over hidden inlets). Another pleasant town with a difference. Like Blanes, this isn’t just a resort but a real town with a busy fishing port as well as a fine beach, and there is an attractive market place surrounded by good and moderately priced restaurants in the old town behind the attractive sea-front promenade. Visit the Attractive Sunday Market. The town museum has a interesting exhibit dedicated to the town’s important cork industry, with all manner of artifacts fashioned from this spongy bark.
S`Agar`o is one to the Costa Brava`s most elegant clusters of seaside mansions (3km -2miles) north of Sant Feliu. The 30- minute walk along the sea wall from Hostal de La Gavina to Sa Conca beach is not to be missed.
From S`Agaro a road leads east to;
Llafranc, a small port with quiet waterfront hotels and restaurants. On the right you will find Calella de Palafrugell, a pretty fishing village known for its July Habaneras festival. Just south is the panoramic promontory Cap Roig, with views of the barren Fornigues Isles and a Botanical Garden.
The left forks down to Tamariu, one to the Costa`s prettiest inlet towns. A climb over the bluff leads down to the parador at Aiguablava, a modern eyesore overlooking magnificent cliffs and crags.
Santa Pol – is a tiny resort just above Sant Feliu with a wide dune-backed beach. At the northern part of this beach lies the semi-private up-scale resort of S’Agaro, playground of Hollywood stars in the ’50’s.
Platja d’Aro- is the second biggest tourist trap on the coast, and is saved from being utterly hideous by the low pines that line the streets – effectively hiding much of the urban blight. There is a very long nice beach between Platja d’Aro and Sant Antoni just north of town
From Begur, north of Aiguablava, you can go east through the Calas or take the inland route past the rose colour stone houses and medieval town of Pals –
Pals – is much on the tourist track. But despite this and some over-restoration of historic buildings, the town and surrounding area is truly gorgeous and worth a visit, particularly in the off-season.
Nearby Peratallada is another medieval town with fortress, castle, tower, palace and well-reserved walls. The name Peretallada means cut-in-stone, and many of the narrow streets and building foundations are just that, carved right into the natural bedrock. The town is delightful with plenty of restaurants.
North of Pals there are signs for Ullastret, an Iberian village dating from 5th Century BC.
L`Estartit – deserves a star not for its English and German pubs, nor for its souvenir shops, but for its wide beach and whitewashed old town. Especially because it is where one departs by boat to the wonderful Illes Medes. (Part Natural Submari,) (Underwater Natural Park). A cluster of seven ecologically protected islands with coral reefs, that are a diver’s paradise. Whether, you scuba, snorkel or simply sit in a glass-bottom boat looking down, be sure to visit these islands.
Torroella de Montgris is five kilometers inland from L`Estartit. Wonder its plazas and narrow streets all under the eye of its 13th Century castle.
L`Escala – is another fishing village. Just north of town is one of the coast’s premiere historical sites, the Greco-Roman ruins at Empurias. The site and ruins are a winning combination.
Roses – is the larges town on the wide golf of Roses. For the beachcomber, there is the long white beach, for the ecologist and bird watcher there is the important nature reserve at Aiguamolls de l`Emoporda.
Cadaques – is the nicest of the resorts on the Cape, along with Port de la Selva and Llanca. The won is delightful, particularly in the off-season. Cadaques still has the whitewashed charm that made this fishing village into an international artists haunt in the early 20th century.
City of Barcelona
Barcelona is known throughout the world as a cultural city, with an important heritage and a permanent and exciting range of activities to offer.
It is a city of renowned architectural interest, from its Roman walls to the Romanesque churches of Sant Pau del Camp and Sant Pere de les Puelles. Te Gothic Quarter invites the traveler to stroll down its narrow alleyways and visit its churches (the Cathedral, Santa Maria del Pi and Santa Maria del Mar) and civil buildings. The Passeig de Gacia and the Rambla Catalunya are the main thoroughfares.
La Rambla, stretching from Placa Catalunya to the harbor, is the busiest Street in the city. Most typical are its newsagent’s open day and night, and its flower and bird stalls. Locals and tourists alovke mingle in La Rambla`s non-stop bustle. Both the Port Vell (Old Harbour) and the Barceloneta district afford delightful walks by the sea.
The newest parts in Barcelona are those of the Port Olimpic (restaurants and promenades) and the forum, a new location of conferences and mass events which as recently been opened. It is surrounded by skyscrapers that have changed the skyline of the city.
Hot summers and mild winters make the Costa Brava an all-year-round resort and a sport fanatic’s paradise. With it’s wide selection of long, sandy beaches, secluded coves and tiny bays, water sports are top of the agenda.
The coast’s most popular pastime is swimming but why not try boating, Banana boats, Water-skiing or snorkeling. In high season the best beaches are crowded but between towns you will find less used beaches that are just as attractive.
Hunting, shooting and horse-riding is also popular within Catalunia as is fishing.
When it comes to golf, Girona Province offers three main golf courses: Club de Golf de Pals have 18 holes near Begur. Club de Golf Costa Brava near Santa Cristina d’Aro has 18 holes. Reial Club de Golf de la Cerdanya is near the French border, another good 18 hole course.
A holiday on the Costa Brava is an ideal opportunity to see a bullfight.
Away from the coast you will find a very different Spain. Here you are within Catalonia an area with it’s own ancient language, traditions and ambience. A distant backdrop of snow-capped mountains lies behind almond groves and orchards and green, rolling hillsides. Visit the vibrant city of Barcelona.
The art and universal spirit of Salvador Dalí head up a list of offerings that must inevitably include the Dalí Triangle (the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, the Portlligat Museum-House in Cadaqués and the Gala Dalí Castle in Púbol); Girona’s Archaeology, Art, History, Cathedral and Cinema Museums; the Toy Museum of Catalonia, also in Figueres, and the Garrotxa District Museum in Olot, amongst many others.
Vall de Nuria Rack Rail
About two hours from the coast are the southern slopes of the western Pyrenees, where in winter skiers skim the sides of the valleys, and in summer time nature-lovers enjoy the tranquillity of the Alpine environment. A popular excursion for holidaymakers on the Costa Brava is to take Spain’s only cog railway into the scenic Vall de Nuria north of Girona, surrounded by mountain peaks and passes that form a massive amphitheatre. The rack railway connects with regional trains, departing from the Ribes-Enllac station and travelling to the village of Queralbs.
How to get there
From Barcelona to the Costa Brava:
If you leave directly from Barcelona Airport then you simply follow the blue signs for the A-7 marked “Girona” and “Francia”. This will lead you around metropolitan Barcelona and the Province of Girona begins in 70 kilometers, 90 kms to the town of Girona.
Most UK airports and European airports have direct flights to all major cities.
Airport: Barcelona Airport is located 12km outside the city at El Prat de Llobregat.
The main train station in Barcelona is called Estació de Sants, but the most central ones are Plaça de Catalunya (most local and regional trains) and Passeig de Gràcia (serving some local and most long-distance lines).
The Spanish train company is called RENFE (http://www.renfe.es/ingles/index.html). Barcelona is very well connected by train with Madrid, Valencia (City), Zaragoza and the Basque Country.
Inside Catalonia, there are frequent trains from the other three provincial capitals (Lleida, Tarragona and Girona).
A few trains travel across the Pyrenees, but it’s possible to reach the eastern part using the train to Tour de Carol (France).
Going by train to the Costa Daurada beaches is the best choice, using the line to Tarragona. The Costa Brava isn’t well connected by train.
There’s also a Catalan train company Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (http://www.fgc.net/) (FGC), which serves destinations near Barcelona, and some tourist routes. It also operates a funicular service in the Pyrenees.
There are 5 underground (metro) lines in Barcelona. Plans of the network with connecting lines and railway stations can be found in the halls and on platforms .
Buses and coaches connect the principal cities to many national and international locations, and it’s the only public transport to get to many local places in Catalonia.
The most important bus stations are: Estació de Sants (Barcelona), mainly for international routes, is next to the train station and very well connected. ‘The Estació del Nord (also in Barcelona), close to
Passeig de Sant Joan, is the main bus station for medium and long routes – the nearest metro (Line 1) and RENFE station is Arc de Triomf.
The routes inside Catalonia are held by different companies, which leave from different places. Every town has normally only one company, so you should ask at some information point.
Barcelona – The city’s harbor is one of the cruise industry’s favorite destinations and currently has five sea terminals (two more are under construction) for cruise liners. 544 ships, carrying 654,806 passengers, docked here in 2001. Barcelona also has two ferry terminals for regular services to the Balearic Islands.
Festivals in Costa Brava region
They are often a part of tradition and history. The passage of time has changed many habits and extinguished many customs, but festivals are kept alive and modified to adapt to new circumstances.
Catalonia’s unique cultural identity is manifested in a variety of festive activities that are particular to this autonomous region. Some occasions, such as Easter, Saint George’s Day, and the night of Sant John on the summer solstice, take place all over Catalonia. Many other festivals are local. Each neighborhood, town, or village has its patron saint and sets aside a day to honor him in a festa major.
They may take the form of fairs, pilgrimages at local shrines, banquets, marches, contests, dances, musical events, processions, representations, shows, or popular celebrations. They may be rural, pastoral, maritime, urban, commercial, gastronomic, folkloric, religious, civic, or simply for fun. There are all kinds of festivals in all sorts of settings and to suit every fancy.
Barcelona – Festival de Jazz de Terrasa: – Every March Terrassa is, the capital of Jazz.
Eating Dining Shopping
The untouched natural areas and fishing industry have also resulted in making a holiday here a gastronomic treat. Seafood reigns supreme, from sardines to delicious lobster, but specialties also include local wild game, like boar, duck and rabbit, which can all be washed down with a variety of wines produced from the vineyards that clothe the hillsides.
However, there is one thing you should never pass up: the bounty of our restaurants, the so-called mar i muntanya cuisine, a sublime combination of the fruits of the sea with the meats and vegetables of the mountains and plains. Specialties like the suquet de peix (fish stew), cuttlefish and peas, chicken with crayfish, meatballs with prawns, or rice casserole
The well stocked markets daily provide the fresh and excellent produce which we can enjoy at mealtimes.
In all the medium sized cities, you can expect to found a large range of possibilities;
- Catalan Food – Usually announced as Cuina Casolana
- Tapas – Typical Spanish
- Paella – Typical valencian
- Basque food
- Italian food – Pasta, pizzas, …
- Chinese food
- Japanese food
- Fast food
Don’t miss the good Catalan wines Penedès, Alella, Pla de Bages,
Sangría is also served in most restaurants, with large variations in quality.
In Barcelona mealtimes are usually a little later than in the rest of Europe. Breakfast is between 8am and 11am and is similar to other countries on the continent. Lunch is served in restaurants between 1pm and 3pm and dinner from 9pm until midnight.
Each city has a wealth and variety of shops. Local and international.
Visitors are offered the essence of a millenary past, taking them into a magical world of unique religious, civil and military constructions. Visitors should not miss visiting the monasteries of Sant Pere de Rodes, Sant Joan de les Abadesses, Santa Maria de Ripoll and Sant Feliu de Guíxols, the church of Sant Cristòfor in Beget, and the churches of Llanars, Molló, Santa Maria de Porqueres and Santa Maria de Vilabertran. Not to forget the historic centres of Girona, Santa Pau and Besalú.
The city of Girona, on the route from the Pyrenees to Barcelona, is one of the most important historical sites in Spain, founded by the Romans and later a Moorish stronghold. Sitting astride the confluence of the Onyar and Ter rivers, this quaint medieval city attracts hordes of tourists from the Costa Brava resorts and Barcelona, all lured by the experience of walking through the old quarter, the Call, with its narrow alleyways and ancient stone houses.
It includes a museum containing art works and rare manuscripts. Also of particular interest are the restored 12th-century Arab baths with their central octagonal pool, and the fascinating Jewish quarter where, between the 9th and 15th centuries the culture and religion flourished on the narrow steep streets. The arcaded promenade, the Rambla de la Llibertat, is lined with delightful cafes and shops selling souvenirs, crafts, antiques and curiosities. In addition the city is well supplied with museums and galleries. Make time to visit Barcelona.
Useful telephone numbers
The international access code for Spain is +34. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom).
Airport – 932 983 838
FGC (local train service) 932 051 515
Municipal Police – 092
National Police – 091