As you approach the Costa Brava region from the north, the snow-topped mountains of the Pyrenees are replaced by the impressive coastal scenery which is depicted in many of the works of native Costa Brava artist Salvador Dali. Today the Costa Brava is a different landscape to that painted by Dali, with the small fishing villages replaced by the bustling holiday resorts of this popular stretch of coastal Spain.
The Costa Brava region possesses some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in Spain (particularly to the north of the region) and has a climate which is usually warm and sunny. The area has a brilliant light quality which has caught the eye of many an artist over the centuries.
Some of Spain's finest beaches are located in the Costa Brava, and local wines and seafood are of the highest quality. As Dali portrayed in his many paintings of the region, Costa Brava has an "embarrassment of riches".
The Costa Brava is part of the Catalonia region of Spain, and the native language spoken here is Catalan - which is not the same as Spanish (although in most of the tourist areas Spanish is spoken). You won't find bull-fighting in the Costa Brava towns, as the practice is outlawed here, unlike in the rest of Spain.
One thing of note is that many of the Costa Brava beaches consist of coarse sand (it almost feels like builder's sand, particularly around the Blanes area) or pebbled beaches, and this may be a factor in where you decide to stay.
If you are looking for a budget-break there are campsites throughout the region, and the climate means you can camp late into the year.
Below is our A-Z guide to some of the most popular Costa Brava resorts and towns.
Begur has managed to retain much of its quintessential Spanish charm despite the recent growth of tourism. The town provides a perfect base for middle-aged and older couples, partly because it is around a 25-minute walk to the closest beaches. A car is recommended (although there are local buses to the beaches). The town and its imposing castle are set on a hill overlooking the coast, so the walk back from the closest beach can be a tiring one after a day long day in the Spanish summer sun.
Begur makes a good getaway for a quiet meal away from the bustle of the coastal resorts. Eat at the highly recommended Restaurant Turandot for around 25 € per person, or Casa Juanita serving great fresh fish from the local coastline. Head to the beach at Sa Tuna a small costal town just outside of Begur. A short drive away from Begur, you'll find the smaller coastal town of Tamariu. This typical Costa Brava resort is popular with Spanish families and provides a good selection of shops and restaurants for a great day on the coast.
Although not one of the more scenic resorts on the Costa Brava, Blanes is an extremely popular holiday destination due largely to the huge beaches which stretch along the hotel-lined promenade towards the neighbouring resort of Lloret de Mar. Behind the hotels is a flourishing town with bars, cafes and restaurants.
Like many of the Costa Brava resorts, Blanes was formerly a small fishing town, but is now massively redeveloped to cater for tourism. Blanes is not the most 'up-market' resort on the Costa Brava. Those looking for cheap holiday deals may consider staying at the large campsite located in the centre of Blanes.
Blanes is a popular British tourist destination, and many of the restaurants offer 'traditional' fish and chips and fried breakfast menus. However, there are some excellent Spanish restaurants including Restaurant El Sorrall which specialises in homemade Catalonian food.
The picturesque town of Cadaques is one of the most northerly towns on the Costa Brava, only a few kilometres from the French border. The rocky coastal region around Cadaques attracts mainly "up-market" tourism and this is reflected in the prices. The Cap de Creus peninsula which surrounds Cadaques has been declared a national park.
Find excellent food at the quaint Gato Azul on Carrer Curos 10 (below the church). The most typical bar in Cadaques is the Cafe de la Habana on 2 Carrer Doctor Bartomeus. Head here for a cool drink in a warm atmosphere, often with live in the evenings.
The small fishing port of Port Lligat just to the north of Cadaques is the former home of surrealist artist Salvador Dali. The young artist was a regular holiday visitor to Cadaques from his childhood home at nearby at Figueres. The artistic heritage of Cadaques continues to attract artists and writers from around the world. Salvador Dali's former house is now a museum in Port Lligat around 3km from Cadaques. Although the house was opened to the public in 1907 you are advised to book in advance as only small groups can access at one time.
Cadaques is around an hour drive from Girona Airport, but the last part of the drive is via a rather narrow mountain road and is not recommended at night.
The town of Calella de Palafrugell is one of the most unspoilt resorts of the Costa Brava. The beach-front area has retained many of the older fisherman's houses giving it a picture-postcard look and feel. If the beach is busy during high season quieter beaches can be found towards Cala de la Fosca a beautiful stretch of coastline which is perfect for sailing.
Must see: Jardi Botanic Cap Roig - a beautifully crafted botanical garden set in the grounds of a small castle and dating back to the late 1920's. Every Summer the festival de Cap Roig has a fabulous programme of International artists. The festival stage overlooks the coastline and has an outdoor area for an audience of just over 2000.
Around 15 minutes by car to the Costa Brava coastline, Figueres is best known as the home of the renowned Salvador Dali Museum which attracts tourists from all over the world. However, the town has a lot to offer besides the Dali museum, and is a good base for a weekend break with easy access to the coast. Figueres has good rail connections with Barcelona and other resorts if you want to leave the car behind.
One of the best hotels is the Hotel Figueres Park located close to the AP-7, the hotel restaurant offers fabulous evening meals and breakfasts. Rooms are available here and in other locations in Figueres for around 50 € per night.
The city of Girona is divided by the picturesque River Onyar. Although not renowned as a tourist destination (probably because it is around half an hour's drive to the coast), the advent of Ryanair flights to Girona Airport has increased the city's profile as a tourist destination. The main tourist activity is found in the old town of Girona which follows the path of the river. The old town has a main street lined with small shops, restaurants and cafes, and has a market on Tuesday and Saturday mornings.
The cobbled streets of the old town offer a range of artisan shops, gourmet food stores and quaint boutiques The Old Jewish quarter of El Call attracts history enthusiasts and guided tours are recommended. Rocambolesc ice cream parlour on Carrer de Santa Clara, 50 is a Willy Wonkeresque establishment which is worth the queue. A mouth-watering range of crepes are available at Creperie Bretonne - the restaurant offers plenty of vegetarian options. El Celler de Can Roca located on Carrer de Can Sunyer is a Michelin 3-star Girona establishment named in the world’s top 50 restaurants. Run by the 3 Roca brothers, the restaurant serves local specialities dreamed up by the inventive trio.
L'Escala is an attractive Costa Brava town on the southern edge of the Bay of Roses. Famous for its Anchovies there are still Salting stores in this location. The town has a large sandy beach which is very popular in summer, and a pretty marina where you can get some wonderful tapas at Cafe de la Riba.
L'Escala is probably best known as the location of archaeological site of an ancient Greek and Roman trading centre at Empuries (known as the "Ruins of Empuries"). It is possible to park at the ruins, or alternatively, take the "scenic route" by walking the coastal path from L'Escala. There is a small museum with plenty of information on the site's history.
L'Estartit is an attractive Costa Brava resort which is favoured by walkers and hikers as it has a small mountain (Roca Maura) overlooking the town which offers picturesque views over the town and harbour.
L'Estarit's 2 major attractions are the well-maintained old town, and an attractive harbour. The old town has a maze of narrow streets and alleys, with typical Spanish bars and restaurants located enjoy a beer or some local tapas. The old town has many shady areas where it is possible to sit and avoid the midday heat of the Costa Brava sun.
Around a mile from the beach at L'Estartit are a small group of islands (the Medes Isles) where it is possible to go snorkelling with supervised tours available from local companies. There is also a glass bottom boat tour for those who prefer to stay dry.
Vegetarians and vegans are catered for at the seafront N GRUNA restaurant where a good selection of vegetarian burgers are on offer at reasonable prices, Restaurant Les Corones offers quality Mediterranean dishes at the higher end of the pricing scale.
The cosmopolitan resort of Llafranc has an idyllic beach set in a cove of turquoise coloured water. The town is a 'hidden gem' for those searching for a taste of traditional Spain with their sand, sun, and sangrias. The beaches are quite remote and the mixture of sand and cliffs makes hiring a boat or kayak the perfect way to explore all of the coves of the region.
Lloret is the largest, and one of the most popular family resorts in Catalonia. Offering a lively nightlife, Lloret is the perfect Costa Brava location for 18-30s. For a quieter experience if you don't like the hustle and bustle consider nearby Santa Susana.
Lloret is home to one of the largest water parks in Spain - Water World offers family tickets for € 85.
The visually impressive Gran Casino Costa Brava offers night time entertainment with slot machines, poker, blackjack, shows, a cocktail bar and on-site snacks and restaurant.
The resort of Palamos is favoured by the Spanish but is highly recommended as an "authentically Spanish" resorts. Palamos is noticeably less developed than many of the surrounding resorts so don't expect rows of bars and restaurants selling English breakfasts and fish and chips although the marina offers plenty of fresh seafood restuarants with freshly caught fish.
In the evenings the locals including children parade the centre of town and promenade in their finest attire giving the place an almost Victorian feel. Experience shopping local-style on Tuesday at the busy Palamos market.
Palamos has a large coarse sandy beach with marina at one end overlooked by the old town and the pictureque 18th century Church of Sant Joan.
One of the best local beaches is at Cala Castel. The beach is accessible by footpath or by car and is ideal if you want to escape the crowds on the town's main beach. offer kayak hire from Palamos and other regions throughout the region.
Platja d'Aro is also one of the most popular destinations for young people on holiday in the Costa Brava largely due to the vibrant nightlife and accessibility to some of the Costa Brava's most popular water and theme parks. The resort is also renowned for shopping, with plenty of mid-price designer clothing stores including Desigual, Mango and Stradivarius. Aquadiver located on the C-31 just outside Platja d'Aro is one of the largest water parks on the Costa Brava.
The town attracts mainly Spanish holiday visitors, and as with neighbouring resort Palamos is mainly frequented by Spanish holiday makers. The town beach stretches for 2km and Cala de Sa Conca past the Port d'Aro marina also has a large beach. The old town of Castell d'Aro is a few kilometres in land from the resort and the restored castle which is home to a doll museum.
In October, Platja d'Aro holds an annual beer festival, where many local beers from the Costa Brava region can be sampled.
The Bay of Roses is bordered to the north by the Cap de Creus national park. Apart from being one of the major fishing ports of the Costa Brava, Roses is the largest tourist resort on the northern Costa Brava, but is relatively unspoilt by tourism.
For those with an interest in history and architecture, Roses is home to the Museu de la Ciutadella de Roses (The Citadel Museum), an ancient fortification which has been restored, and opened to the public in 2004.
On the road into Roses the purpose-built marina resort of Empuriabrava is slightly reminiscent of Venice - originally built on swampland, canals replace roads in a resort which is especially popular with boat owners.
A short drive from Roses inland is the spectacular Peralada Castle. Each summer a cultural festival is held in its gardens with opera, ballet, theatre and music. Even your holiday doesn't coincide with Peralada Festival, a visit to the castle and its attractive gardens and vineyards is highly recommended.
Tossa de Mar is one of the largest and also most attractive resorts on the Costa Brava. The resorts main beach at Platja Gran is overlooked by the walled old town (Vila Vella) which provides spectacular views and wonderful photo opportunities.
The beaches in Tossa consist of coarse sand and in the peak of summer the main beach gets extremely busy. Tossa's beaches are ideal for families with children due to the small waves and shallow water which continues for quite some distance from the shore.
There are a number of smaller beaches away from the centre of Tossa which are also worth exploring - the beautiful Llorell beach is 5 kms South of Tossa, and a short drive up the coast is the small beach resort of Sant Feliu de Guixols.
The commercial centre of Tossa is geared to tourism, with streets lined with tourist shops and designer boutiques. The resort retains an "up-market" feel and is for this reason is slightly pricier than some of the neighbouring resorts such as Blanes.
The Costa Brava region is accesible via Girona Airport which is around 30 minutes by car to the closest coastal resorts.
Low cost flights to Girona are available throughout the year from many UK airports via Ryanair. Alternatively, Perpignan Airport in France is around an hour's drive to the north of Girona, and Barcelona El Prat Airport is around an hour to the south.
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