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Cool Costa Brava

It’s the wild coast, they say in Catalonia. We’re not making that up – Costa Brava actually translates to wild or rugged coast. And in all its rugged wildness and wild ruggedness, it stretches from Blanes, north of Barcelona, up to the border with France. That’s 160km (100 miles) of coastline magnificence awaiting you.

Just how magnificent it is kind of depends on what you’re into. With beaches, resorts like Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar, and casinos juxtaposed with quaint villages such as Cadaqués, castles and historical remains, you may be into all of it, or want to rush past cursing the taint of commercialisation.

Culture vultures won’t be able to resist visiting Salvador Dali’s hometown, Figueres, and spending a load of time unearthing intriguing facts about the famed The Persistence of Memory artist. (Side note: you won’t find The Persistence of Memory at the Costa Brava – it’s in New York City. Go figure.)

When you’re in the Costa Brava, put yourself in the mindset of the eccentric Spanish artist and clocks might start melting just like they do in his work (let’s be honest, it can get pretty hot in this part of Spain). But hey, the Costa Brava isn’t just about Dali – there are some pretty splendid activities and landmarks that will just knock your socks off.

Costa Brava's Top 10

10. Museu Municipal in Tossa de Mar is home of the only Marc Chagall painting in Spain, Celestial Violinist.

5. Marimurtra Botanical Gardens Take in the mesmerising views of the sea and coastline while you explore the botanical garden, which is set out according to continents.

9. Parc Natural Submari is famous for its diving and underwater photography.

4. Vila Vella is the oldest part of Tossa de Mar, surrounded entirely by a city wall and seven watchtowers.

8. Santa Clotilde Gardens in Lloret de Mar is a beautiful landscaped garden in the Italian Renaissance style, showcasing sculptures and sea views. Sounds pretty – and is.

3. Lloret de MarThis resort city boasts a flourishing nightlife, great beach and casinos. Not surprisingly, it attracts the younger crowd.

7. Sant Pere de Rodes A monastery built in the 10th and 11th centuries with a wonderful view of the Pyrenees.

2. Ruins of Empuries Be fascinated by the remnants of the ancient Greek and Roman city. There’s also a museum that exhibits replicas of valuable finds (the originals are in Barcelona and Girona).

6. Dali’s House in Port Lligat, a small village near Cadaqués, is now a museum. You have to book it if you want to see it – only 10 people are allowed in every 10 minutes.

1. Dali Theatre and Museum in the artist’s hometown Figueres was a theatre when Dali was a child. Now it exhibits the widest selection of Dali’s works of art.

Costa Brava History

  • Ruins of Empuries - Some of the best examples of Roman and Greek architecture.
  • Cala Nans Lighthouse - Located in Cadeques, this lighthouse gives a wonderful view of the bay.
  • Vila Vella - Many old buildings, some dating back to the 1100s, including extensive walls from an old fort.
  • Santa Maria Church - One of the local church landmarks in the area.
  • Moorish Tower - Hike up to this wonderful landmark that provides an amazing view.

Costa Brava Art & Culture

  • Verdaguer Cultural Centre - Relics excavated from Puig de Castillet that date back to 250 BC.
  • Vila Vella History Museum - Located on the Costa Brava waterfront and highlights local history.
  • Municipal Museum - Features samples of modern art from the 1930s, as well as an archaeological section.
  • Dali Musuem House - Built in the 1930s as the summerhouse of Salvador Dali, the famous artist.
  • Museo del Far de Tossa - An attractive museum of the area.

Costa Brava Shopping

  • St Pere - The main shopping street in Lloret de Mar, Costa Brava, with many well-known fashion shops.
  • Av de Reira - An outdoor marketplace just a few minutes walk from the centre of town.
  • Tim and Kat - A silver shop in which you can find quality items made locally.
  • Blanes - The main shopping area and home to more than 650 shops in all.
  • Vila Nova - Offers a wide variety of novelty shops, bars and restaurants.

Gay & Lesbian Costa Brava

  • Empuriabrava - Many of the beach areas in Costa Brava offer popular nude beaches.
  • Zona B - A great new place in the area.
  • Incognito - A local club in Lloret.
  • Cafe la Llibreria - A friendly cafe and library and great place to spend an afternoon.
  • El David - A great bar in Lloret.

Costa Brava Outdoor

  • Santa Clotilde Gardens - Located in the Lloret de Mar area, with beautiful Italian landscaped gardens.
  • Fenals Beach - One of the lovely beaches in the Costa Brava area for a perfect day outing.
  • Marimutra Botanical Gardens - In Blanes, a charming area with beautiful views.
  • Gnomo Park - A park in the middle of a Mediterranean pine forest.
  • Els Ametllers - A sample farming establishment from the Roman Mediterranean.

Costa Brava Sport

  • To watch or play great golf games, check out the Club de Golf D Aro.
  • Lloret de Mar offers fun kart racing.
  • A great way to enjoy the beautiful wildlife is on horseback along the Costa Brava.
  • In Lloret de Mar, you can watch or enjoy incredible parasailing.
  • The Submares club in Tossa de Mar offers wonderful scuba classes and dives.

Costa Brava Local

Girona

Girona is the capital of the Costa Brava. This charming medieval town with its famously narrow pedestrian streets is at the confluence of four rivers, which means it is ridiculously pretty and worth lots of photos. Among the important landmarks are the Benedictine Monastery and the Santa Maria Cathedral. Girona also has a Jewish quarter where you can visit the Catalan Jewish Museum. At the Rambla (‘commercial’ centre – a relative term in Girona), you can make a pit stop at one of the cafes or restaurants and watch the world go (slowly) by.

Figueres

Salvador Dali was ’ere, so you’ll find a whole lot of interesting things to see that are Dali-related. The Dali Theatre and Museum is the main event, but don’t miss the suitably surreal Face of Dali. At the bottom of the Rambla, you’ll see an image of Dali’s face, which appears distorted when you look at it on the ground. When you view it through the mirror, however, it looks spot on. Very cool.

Figueres also contains Europe’s largest castle, Castell de Sant Ferran. For some museum hopping, start at the Museu del Joguet, a toy museum that has more than 4500 toys (and of course you’ll find toys that belonged to Dali). This city also has some delightful old-town streets, which are pedestrian areas lined with trees and shops. Stop here for a little fiesta.

Tossa de Mar

This small fishing village has only recently been gaining popularity. The town has cobblestoned roads, medieval ruins, walls, towers and lighthouses. If that still doesn’t interest you, the beach might! There are PADI diving courses you can take here. The resort area is much more family-oriented than Lloret de Mar. Come here if you’re after a quiet and safe trip.

Costa Brava Eat & Drink

With mostly Catalan and Mediterranean cuisine, the Costa Brava will really show you what its local food is all about.

El Bulli is one of the most famous restaurants in the world – seriously swanky and beloved by the international glitterati. At 140 Euro for a degustation, you’ll leave with a hole in your wallet (or a cut-up credit card). Oh-so-worth-it.

Bar Cap de Creus serves inspired Indian-Catalan cuisine. Located next to the Cap de Creus lighthouse, there’s a lovely view too!

Restaurant Aiguaclara Fresh, seasonal ingredients come together to create great Mediterranean fusion food at the restaurant of the Agiuclara Hotel.

Can Bolet The perfect place to discover what regional Catalan cuisine is all about.

Tragamar is a restaurant focusing on an innovative take on Spanish food. You’ll be eating on the beach. Perfect!

Restaurant Rostei is a Mediterranean and Spanish restaurant that prides itself on serving fresh and seasonal seafood.

Sa Cova at NM Suites exemplifies the culinary treasures of the Mediterranean.

El Celler De Can Roca In 2011, this three-Michelin-starred restaurant was judged the second best in the world.

Flor de Lis A French Mediterranean menu is served at this high-class restaurant in a restored fisherman’s house – it will have you dining and wining the night away.

Emporda Traditional recipes with a modern Catalan and French twist. There’s even a water list besides the wine list.

Costa Brava Events

Carnestoltes is a carnival of street parades in February.

Festival Internacional de la Porta Ferrada takes place from June to September. You can enjoy classical music and flamenco performances amongst other forms of entertainment.

The biggest summer event on the Costa Brava is the Havaneres Festival (first week in July). The name comes from the city of Havana, as Cuban sailors brought their music to Girona.

In July and August, the Festival Internacional de Musiques showcases classical music, world music and everything to do with music!

Festival de Jazz de la Costa Brava is a jazz event held in July and August. Jazz fans (and music fans in general) will love this festival.

Peralada Music Festival in July and August is a music and dance festival. From famous singers, operas, musical theatre and jazz to pop, this festival has it all!

When To Go

The Costa Brava boasts some pretty incredible weather. The four seasons are distinct, but winter is still temperate, making this region a great place to visit at any time.

Winter (November to February) is generally mild, although it can sometimes get a bit nippy. Expect temperatures between 10 and 16°C (50-61°F).

Spring warms up nicely in March to May, with temperatures hovering around 13-18°C (55-64°F). It can get pretty windy, though, which will make your hair look all lovely and windswept!

Summer, from June to August, is dry and hot. Temperatures stay at a constant 29-31°C (84-88°F).

In autumn it starts to get cooler again, but only down to 18-22°C (64-72°F). Still amazing weather compared to some other parts of Europe – which shall remain nameless!

Getting There & Around

You can fly into Girona-Costa Brava airport from various locations in Europe. You can also fly to Barcelona and then take an airport shuttle bus to the Costa Brava.

Exploring the Costa Brava is best done by car. The beautiful coastline is expansive and worth seeing.

There’s also a bus service between cities and towns, but that means you can’t stop and look wherever and whenever you want.

What To Miss

If you’re going clubbing in Girona, don’t wear sneakers (this is directed at the guys, by the way). It’s possible that the nightclub won’t let you in. Opt for dress shoes instead, just to be safe.

There are no lockers or storage places for your luggage anywhere in Girona. Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone, but it’s good to know anyway.

Beachfront restaurants at Lloret de Mar have to pay extra taxes for their location. And lucky for you, it goes straight onto your bill. If that doesn’t bother you, eat away! You have been warned.

General Information

Costa Brava stretches from the northeast corner of Spain towards the border of France; this long rugged coastline is lined with sun-drenched beaches, pocket coves hiding between magnificent rock formations and quaint old towns with medieval castles. The presence of high-end resorts push the envelope further for Costa Brava as one of Europe's playgrounds. And indeed, this 160-kilometre coast does offer a varied range of leisure options to those who expect more than just a lazy stroll on its beaches.

So what makes Costa Brava popular? Perhaps due to the fishing villages which retain its unspoilt appeal and the yearly Havaneres concerts which pay homage to the locals' seafaring heritage. Or it can be the medieval remnants of a long-gone era as seen in castles and cathedrals found around the four regions comprising Costa Brava. With a landscape as magical as its culture, Costa Brava promises enchantment in its shores and towns, even lending inspiration to one of art's memorable maestros, Salvador Dali!

Attractions

Costa Brava encompasses four regions, each with its own unique attributes. Should you want to jump into an artsy exploration, the Alt Empordà region is your ticket to all things Dali! The capital of Figueres is visited by art enthusiasts who troop to the Dali Theatre Museum which houses an extensive range of the painter's masterpieces. And from here, you can head to Portlligat in Cadaques for the Salvador Dali Museum House and to Púbol castle to cap the 3-museum Dali experience.

In this region, you can also enjoy seeing the small towns which seem to go unfazed from all the complexities of the modern world and the vast marshes of the Aiguamolls de I'Empordà Natural Park.

El Baix Emporda, on the other hand, is a region famous for its coves which includes the Medes Islands just off the coast. It has a well-preserved marine ecosystem along with superb diving options. Some more sights to include on your list for this region are the medieval towns of Pals, Peratallada and the famed Calella de Palafrugell, site for big local events such as Habaneras and the jazz festival. The region's capital, La Bisbal d'Emporda, stays true to its legacy of being a potter's town with ceramic shops continuing its tradition.

Costa Brava's main city is Girona where you can have a feel of the old life which once inhabited the island. This ancient city has a Benedictine monastery, the Santa Maria Cathedral, traditional Arab baths and the small streets which still has the old-world charm in them.

The more popular destinations in Costa Brava are found in La Selva region. Lloret de Mar is a haven for tourists; it has a busy coast lined with posh hotels, chic villas standing alongside bars and restaurants. Blanes, on the southernmost tip, has also been touched by tourism and property developers with high-rise hotels on its coast. Though there are still a few quaint reminders of the ancient past such as the St. Joan medieval castle and plenty of old buildings. Another popular stop on this side of Costa Brava is Tossa de Mar, a town known for its streets made of cobblestones and charming old buildings.

Events

In February, there is an outpour of merrymaking during Carnestoltes, a carnival that sees street parades and rambunctious activities preceeding the notion of doing penitence for Lent, as based on Catholic tradition. Then when Easter arrives, expect to find more celebrations in the island. Throughout June to August, Costa Brava holds music festivals, the biggest of which is the Jazz fest which is participated in by major musicians from around the world. On a similar note, in the small town of Perelada, its old castle becomes venue for a special musical gathering of various Spanish artistes.

But perhaps the biggest summer event here is the Haveneres festival. Cuban sailors brought their music in the island and locals have adopted it into their local taste. Haveneres concerts are held mostly in Palafrugell in outdoor venues.

Climate

  • Winter (November to February) 10-16°C; mild, oftentimes chilly
  • Spring (March to May) 13 - 18°C; weather starts to be pleasant, with occasional winds
  • Summer (June to August) 29-31°C; the driest and hottest time in the island with July being the sunniest
  • Fall (September to October) 18 - 22°C; starts getting cooler with chilling winds and with possible rainfall

Costa Brava - General information

Hotels in Costa Brava

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