We Love Costa Brava: a roadtrip along some of its hotspots
The Costa Brava is full of places that instantly produce great Stendhal moments. Its medieval villages, its beaches, its rural and pastoral landscapes and its art galleries, its restaurants, the people, etc… The Costa Brava is an unmissable destination, beyond the summer.
That’s why, although we didn’t cover all of it, we do want to share with you some of the places we visited on this road trip in a blue Seat Ateca Reference XM. Let’s go!
Villages and favourite places:
Calella de Palafrugell
Thanks to its privileged location, this is one of the most beautiful towns on the emblematic Costa Brava. This is because this ancient fishing village is on a rocky coast, surrounded by small coves with crystal clear waters, and its charm lies in its idyllic skyline of low whitewashed houses, its colourful boats on the sand and its welcoming atmosphere.
As well as for enjoying a day in summer, Calella is actually an ideal destination both for hiking routes and its gastronomy as you can enjoy exquisite rice, fish or seafood dishes in places like La Blava or Sol i Mar.
Without going into too much detail, we recommend that you take a dip in the crystal-clear waters of the Playa del Canadell that preserves the fishermen’s colourful old porches, as well as the Playa de Port Bo, known as the “playa de las barcas (the beach of the boats)”. This is where the popular singing of habaneras takes place at the beginning of July. We also recommend that you wander around the old part of town and some of its narrow streets, such as Voltes and Gravina. And that you eat a Crema Catalana flavoured homemade ice cream at Enxaneta. It’s exquisite!
The scenic viewpoint Mirador de Manel Juanola i Reixach (named after the creator of the formula for the famous Pastillas Juanola throat lozenges) is really beautiful and from there you can enjoy the lovely views over the Playa del Canadell and Port Bo beaches. At your feet, lies “Casa Rosa”. Another interesting scenic viewpoint is the one at La Punta dels Burricaires, located between the beach at Port Pelegrí and the cove at La Platgeta.
The Caminos de Ronda footpaths are another attraction on the Costa Brava. There are a few and they are ideal for discovering incredible coves and for enjoying fantastic landscapes. One of them is the footpath that goes from Playa del Canadell to the coastal town of Llafranc. You can cover this 1.5 km walk in 20 minutes, more or less.
Although we didn’t visit them on this occasion, we would like to recommend the beautiful gardens, Jardines de Cap Roig. They are located on one of the most iconic capes on the Catalonian coastline, and they stand out because of the red hues of the rocks and because of the almost 1,000 species from all over the world that live there. As well as the fantastic gardens and scenic viewpoints, you can also see the castle Castillo de Cap Roig, where each summer one of the most prestigious music festivals in the world is held, where great national and international stars such as Elton John or Lady Gaga have played, among many others.
And as it’s not all about sun, beaches, and beach bars, it’s interesting to visit other towns such as La Bisbal, famous for its ceramics and its vintage shops. We visited the following: Culdesac, Cerámica Sampere and Última Parada.
Begur is not only one of the most beautiful villages on the Costa Brava but also a place where we could easily settle down to live. It has many charms: on the one hand, its medieval aesthetic, on the other, its colonial history – there are houses here that were built by the indianos, those who returned after having found their wealth in America- and yet another highlight, we should also recall that this town experienced Hollywood’s golden era. In fact, Ava Gardner was here. This magical town also has coves and beaches that you will fall in love with. Some examples are Aiguablava, Fornells, Sa Tuna or Illa Roja, which is a nudist cove of 180 metres, whose name refers to the great reddish rock that presides over it.
There is wonderful food to be had both in the town and on the coast. These are some of the restaurants we liked the most: Toc al Mar, Turandot, Casa Juanita, Hostal Sa Rascassa, Clara and Can Kai.
Of course, you cannot forget to visit its castle, have a wander around the town, have something at the C roack, where they prepare delicious cocktails and show classic films and, just like with the rest of the Costa Brava, walk along some of its Caminos de Ronda.
Pals and Peratallada
Pals and Peratallada are the most famous medieval municipalities on the Costa Brava. They are located just a few kilometres from Begur and they are both picture-postcard villages.
In Pals, we would highlight the Torre de les Hores, which is a Romanesque tower built between the 11th and 12th century, its cobblestone streets and the houses with heavy wooden doorways full of plants and flowers. It also has a scenic viewpoint called Mirador de Josep Pla, named after one of its illustrious authors, from which you can look out to the Illes Medes (Medes Islands).
Pals is famous for its rice dishes, but we would go for the artisan pizzas at Grava – they’re delicious! – and its charming open-air setting.
Peratallada is a medieval village declared Conjunto Histórico (a national heritage designation), which is documented as far back as the 10th century. Along its feudal cobblestone alleys, you arrive at the castle with its tower Torre del Homenaje and Palacio, and the perfectly preserved wall and even a moat dug out of the rock. It is an ideal spot for a walk, some shopping of traditional food products and artisan craftwork and for eating at any of its lovely and delicious restaurants such as L’Eixida.
Palau Casavells: a dialogue between contemporary art, antiques and design
This historical 14th century building of almost 3,000m2, that was completely refurbished, is the head office of Galería Miquel Alzueta and the Side Gallery in the Empordà region. It is the ideal setting to exhibit different exponents of contemporary art such as Andrea Torres, Marria Pratts, Laurent Martin Lo, Guim Tió, Max Cobalto, Sune Christiansen, Lidia Masllorens, Bruno Ollé or Xevi Solà. And also, designer pieces by Branco&Preto, Luis Barragán, Zhou Yilun, Guillermo Santomà, Youngmin Kang, Willem Van Hooff or Lukas Saint-Joigny, among others.
The truth is this place is beautiful. It is inspiring to drive up to it and then roam through its different spaces decorated with works of art and designer pieces. That’s why, if you like art and contemporary design, a visit to Palau Casavells is essential.
We will tell you about this space in greater detail soon in CC/magazine.
Cap de Creus Natural Park
To the north of the gulf of Rosas and very close to Cadaqués is this amazing natural park, the first maritime-terrestrial park in Catalonia created in 1998 which also has a lighthouse, the second oldest lighthouse in this autonomous region.
The Cap de Creus peninsula makes up the last buttress of the Pyrenees and the eastern most part of the Iberian Peninsula. The coast is abrupt and ragged with stunning cliffs and hidden coves.
You can only access the park on the buses available at the park entrance – they leave every 20 minutes, stopping at the 3 stops there are on the way -. We stopped at two of them. The second and third, where the lighthouse is, the two restaurants with unbeatable views, at any time of day, and Cala Fredosa, which is like something out of a film.
Cap de Creus has been and is the key point of inspiration for artists, writers and film directors. It was undeniably so for Salvador Dalí, but also for many others.
Salvador Dalí House Museum (Portlligat)
In a small bay at Cap de Creus, a few kilometres from Cadaqués, is Portlligat. The magic and beauty of this fishing village captivated Salvador Dalí in 1930, when he decided to set up one of his homes there.
A tiny fisherman’s hut from which the genius began to develop his art. He lived here until Gala’s death in 1982. He later moved to Castillo de Púbol.
This house, or rather this sum of houses that he bought and merged until he achieved what would be his home for so many years, was converted into the House Museum and a visit that is a must where, of course, there is no shortage of eccentricities: taxidermist pieces, the iconic eggs, swan fountains, the lip-shaped sofa, the Pirelli signs, the lovers’ silver heads, etc…
As well as visiting his house, you will discover that the light at Portlligat is unique. We don’t know what phenomenon caused this incomparable beauty, but what we do know is that the master discovered it, fell in love with it and could not live without it.
Cadaqués is one of the most symbolic spots of the landscape and the maritime tradition of the Costa Brava. You have only to discover this white village and its bay to inevitably fall in love with it. Oh Cadaqués!
In the second half of the 20th century, Cadaqués was filled with artists and bohemians such as the surrealist Salvador Dalí and his wife, Gala, who lived specifically in Portlligat, and also, the painter Joan Ponç or the writer Josep Pla, among others.
What cannot be missed when you visit Cadaqués?
1. Enjoying the views from the Iglesia de Santa Maria.
2. Savouring a good fish “suquet”, a rice dish or any other dish you fancy. In Cadaqués, the food is incredible, and these are our favourite restaurants: Talla(the marinaded sardines and the entire menu deserve a tribute, as do the views), Narita(their ceviches and in fact, everything they prepare because it is delicious), Compartir (their surprise tasting menu is a winner but their rice is just as good. You cannot skip the cheesecake), Es Baluard (a classic with high quality produce and very tasty dishes), Xiringuito La Sal and Set Cadaqués (it’s new and mainly offers breakfasts, drinks and evening meals based on finger food and snacks).
3. Wandering around the streets of the old part of town.
4. Swimming in some of its coves and beaches like Es Pianc, Caleta, la Platja del Rosor Es Llaner Gran.
5. Walking along the whole length of the bay.
6. Having a drink at Bar Marítim, at Boia, at Brown Sugaror at Bar l’Amistat.
We stayed at two beautiful boutique hotels. At Begur we stayed at La Bionda, that could be the perfect setting for a Wes Anderson film, and in Cadaqués at Casa Nereta, which is the house of the Joan Ponç, the painter, converted into designer accommodation with lots of charm. We highly recommend them both.
Both hotels have very few rooms, their location is excellent, the service offered by both the owners as well as the rest of the staff is sublime, and the decor, although in different styles, is unique and has a lot of personality. Review the links to obtain more information because they are well worth it.
Analog Costa Brava:
Also, on this trip we brought along an analog camera from CamerashopBCN, an online shop created by Santiago Clavijo, that has already become the largest analog camera shop in Spain, and where you can find true treasures.
Ours is a compact camera point and shoot Canon PRIMA Super 105, and the film we used was Kodak Portra 400.
We’ll say no more, nothing better than to enjoy these recommendations firsthand. We hope you like them!
(*) Photos: Ely Sánchez & Cecilia Camacho.