The Costa Brava is a beautiful, rugged stretch of coastline in Eastern Spain, running from just north of Barcelona up to the French border. The area is full of charming fishing villages and medieval castles, rugged cliffs, and hidden coves. With so many unique places in one area, there is naturally a variety of ways to spend time. This destination is so full of awesome things to do that I firmly believe any traveler could have their ideal trip there.
So, based on what you love most about travel, here are the perfect things you should do on your trip to the Costa Brava once the travel restrictions are over.
Editor’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions and always follow the advice of your origin and destination governments before planning any trip.
If you love: Food and Drink
Sample the freshest paella north of Valencia in Pals
I’d be remiss without mentioning paella—this is Spain, after all. The best happens to be in a charming medieval town called Pals, just 30 minutes inland from the coast. Visiting Pals is a dream in itself, and it can be easy to get lost in the narrow winding streets. But the real gem here is the Paella.
While Paella is technically a Valencian dish, the seafood paella found in Pals is some of the best in Spain. Head to Solimar for the freshest seafood paella sourced straight from the nearby sea.
Sample gourmet tapas inspired by the masters at Compartir in Cadaques
If you’re a true culinary buff, you’ve probably heard of El Bulli, the famous restaurant created by world-famous chef Ferran Adrià.
While El Bulli has since closed its doors, the legacy lives on, with many up-and-coming chefs creating cuisine inspired by the ambiance and creativity of El Bulli. Compartir is one of those experiences, with creations and flavors that rival some of the best in the world.
Located in Cadaques, Compartir—meaning share in English—takes the idea of appetizers to the next level, presenting everything on big plates in the middle. But these aren’t your normal shared plates, because each one is prepared with the utmost attention to texture, flavor, and presentation.
Enjoy fresh-caught seafood in old fishing villages
Speaking of the sea, it’s almost impossible to find seafood that isn’t fresh in the Costa Brava. It’s hard to go wrong, as most restaurants source directly from the waters on which they sit. But there are a few areas that simply stand out above the rest.
Head to the cozy fishing villages of Palamos, Blanes, or L’Escala to try the best catches of the day.
Visit one of the best restaurants in the world in Girona
El Cellar de Can Roca is a three-Michelin-star restaurant that was named the best restaurant in the world twice, in 2013 and 2015 and second-best four times. However, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill pretentious gourmet spot.
Can Roca is a family joint, run by the famous Roca brothers, Joan, Josep, and Jordi. Each has its specialty—Joan is the head chef, Josep is the sommelier, and the youngest, Jordi, is the mastermind behind the desserts, which many say are reason enough to pay this place a visit.
The cuisine is Catalan with a twist, and everything about the experience is fine-tuned to a T. The result is an unforgettable culinary experience that combines otherworldly creativity with traditional Catalan home cooking.
If you love: Historic + Artistic Heritage
Take a trip hundreds—or thousands—of years back in time
While Europe is a hotspot for history, there are tons hidden in the Costa Brava. It is rich in history, as many towns were once Roman (and even pre-Roman) settlements, and some feature buildings that are hundreds of years old and date back to medieval times.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the towns of Pals and Peratallada, whose medieval town centers feature stone walls, arches, and gates as well as old cobblestone roads, all preserved in their ancient style.
Castle-hop along the coast
If there is one thing the Costa Brava is just as famous for as its beaches, it would be the many castles you can find along the coast. Or at least, it should be famous for this, because these massive structures are stunning.
In Begur, you can spot a beautifully restored hilltop castle from the 16th century, while Tossa de Mar’s seaside castle offers stunning views to anyone who chooses to trek up its ramps.
Other popular towns that feature castles include Roses, Figueres, Blanes, and Palamos—though that’s only scratching the surface.
Simply drive along the coast, stopping through as many little towns as you can and you’re sure to discover more castles than you can count on one hand!
Track Salvador Dali’s best (and worst) days
Travel to the top of the Costa Brava, just below France, and you’ll find a little village that Dali once called the most beautiful place in the world.
This is Cadaques, and it’s easy to see what drew him to it—the village is stunning, made up of glittering, whitewashed houses built into a hill right on the sea.
Dali loved it so much that he eventually settled there, building a house with his beloved wife, Gala. You can visit this labyrinth-like house in Cadaques and take a look inside the strange mind of Dali. You can do the same at the Dali museum in his hometown of Figueres, which is a fascinating place full of the weird, wacky art that was Dali’s specialty—he specifically said he wanted people to leave the museum feeling as though they’d had a surrealist, theatrical dream.
When Dali’s wife died, he couldn’t bear to stay in the home they’d shared together in Cadaques. He moved to the Castle of Púbol, a castle he’d bought for his wife and dedicated to her, where he completed his last works. This castle can also be visited for a glimpse into the final chapter of Dali’s life.
Experience the artistic legacy left by the greats
Dali may get most of the fame, but he was just the beginning of Costa Brava’s emergence as an artistic hub.
The natural beauty of the area, as well as its many charming towns and villages, have inspired plenty of art and artists. Many artists have followed in Dali’s footsteps and flocked to Cadaqués, creating sculptures and architectural wonders in the tiny town.
Sant Feliu de Guíxols is another lovely, exciting town which a rich art heritage, housing an excellent museum called Espai Carmen Thyssen (related to the Thyssen museums in Malaga and Madrid). Their arts center hosts exhibitions from local and international artists.
The town also features Porta Ferrada, an international festival of music, dance, and theater—which happens to be one of the oldest events in Catalunya.
If you love: Nature + Adventure
Hike along the rugged Mediterranean coast
The Costa Brava is the perfect spot for hiking: interesting terrain, beautiful views, plenty of beaches to take a dip and keep cool. The entire path, called the Camí de Ronda, was once used to keep an eye out for smugglers. It now has been mostly broken up into smaller sections ranging in length and difficulty.
For a longer hike, try the stunning two-three day leg from Sant Feliu de Guixols to Begur. For a moderate day hike that features some heights and narrow passes along cliffs, start at Sant Pol beach and walk north to the Sa Conca beach. For an easier option, walk from L’Escala to Sant Martí d’Empúries, where you’ll be rewarded with the remains of an old Greek harbor.
Try out some water sports
Many of the bigger towns along the Costa Brava offer a great variety of water sports for the whole family. Some of the best towns to find water sports centers include Lloret de Mar, Roses, Tossa de Mar, and L’Estarit.
Here you can find easier options, like catamarans, paddleboards, or kayaks, to more skilled varieties such as diving, windsurfing, and jet-skiing.
Explore hidden coves
One of the most beautiful features of the Costa Brava is the abundance of coves hidden within the rocky seashore. There are too many to count, and simply by driving along the road, you will surely come upon plenty. However, the most beautiful are not to be missed.
Cala Futadera is a stunning cove with crystal clear water, while Cala Del Maset is very small and intimate, flanked by tall red rocks on all sides, and features deep water and super soft sand.
The cove Roques Planes features gorgeous rocks that have been eroded into smooth shapes. The coves are often much less crowded than the beaches, if at all, and provide the perfect setting to relax and enjoy life on the Costa Brava.
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Pandora Domeyko is a Barcelona-based travel writer and blogger, and the creator of the travel blog Pandora Explores. On her blog, she covers solo travel and expat living in Barcelona and beyond. You can find her on Instagram, Pinterest, Medium, and Facebook.