Once known as a holiday hotspot for brits with plenty of fried breakfast pitstops and crowded beaches, the Costa Brava is now a mature version of its former self.Tourists (though still around) have moved further south, giving the beautiful coastline a chance to get back to its roots. It’s here that the authentic charm of Catalunya comes to life, with aromas of fresh fish and the beating hot sun blaring down onto whitewashed villages, neat vineyards, and sprawling sands. There are a collection of charming towns to visit along this stretch of Spain’s coast, but here are some of the best.
Whitewashed Cadaques is the picture of pretty, characterized by its selection of old converted fishermen’s cottages that lead out to the ocean. Salvador Dali called this quaint town home for many years, and you can marvel at his old house with its whacky garden and Morrocan-style den in a tent.
Medieval Girona is your typical walled city, with a Jewish old town that snakes past artisan stores, family-run patisseries, and some of the best tapas restaurants in the region. Elsewhere, the Gothic Cathedral takes pride of place at the top of a wide stone staircase, and the Roman baths offer a slice of life from a time that’s long gone. Along the River Onyar, pastel houses prop up the banks, whilst hip eateries make it one of the best destinations in the Costa Brava for foodies.
Another walled, medieval offering (there’s a lot of them huddled together!), Peratallada lets you leave the 21st century behind and immerse yourself in cobbled streets, picturesque plazas, and scenery that’s been carved from the past. As well as historic sights, there are plenty of art galleries and shops to explore, as well as terraced bars to enjoy the laidback lifestyle from.
Begur remains one of the Costa Brava’s most untouched towns (thanks, in part, to its steep hills and difficult access points). It’s a tiny hilltop town set just a few miles inland from some of the coastline’s most magnificent coves, and it showcases typical Spanish scenes with cobbled streets, Moorish townhouses, and a crumbling castle to top it all off.
Another Dali-inspired hotspot, Pubol is home to a castle the artist bought for Gala, his Russian wife. Painting a picture of crumbling beauty and surrounded by pomegranate groves decorated with leggy elephant ornaments, it’s a peaceful place to pay homage to the art world.
Calella de Palafrugell
Sporting a selection of old fishermen’s houses, Calella de Palafrugell looks like it’s just stepped off a postcard. Boasting unspoilt sea views and a medieval town seemingly untouched by tourism, it’s a quiet pocket along the Costa Brava. The most prominent part of the town is its botanical garden that dates back to the 1920s. Here, flowerbeds have been beautifully crafted into colourful works of art, and exotic trees create a magical landscape.
Tossa de Mar
Though this might be one of the busiest ports of call on the Costa Brava, Tossa de Mar is a hotbed of incredible views and wide, sprawling beaches. In the summer months the sands get busy with locals and tourists, but head there off season and you’ll have the beaches to yourself.
It’s safe to say the Costa Brava is a mishmash of Spanish towns, medieval villages, and gentrified beach hotspots. Grab a car and wind your way down back lanes, through hilltop settlements, and lush vineyards, learning more about the authentic side of Catalunya as you go.
For more fun and interesting places to visit from Barcelona, check out our list 13 Awesome Day Trips From Barcelona.