Lloret de Mar is a lively seaside town, with pristine beaches and a vibrant nightlife. It had hardly occurred to me that it might also have a long and rich history to explore. But the same sea that has made the town so attractive to recent generations has played a major part in Lloret’s history since the earliest times. And that history is brought to life in the town’s museums.
The Iberians – Lloret’s Earliest Inhabitants
For the Iberians, the first settlers in this region, the sea was both friend and foe. It allowed the settlers to trade with other Mediterranean peoples, but it also made it necessary to defend the coastline from possible invasion. In the end they were unable to withstand the Romans, who arrived and colonised Catalonia in the 3rd century BC.
We got a good insight into Iberian and Roman times by visiting the Can Saragossa museum, an old farmhouse full of coins, pots and other artefacts and information about Lloret’s Iberian settlements. (If you visit Can Saragossa, make sure you pick up the comprehensive English language sheet at the entrance desk, as information inside the museum is all in Catalan).
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There are still the remains of three Iberian sites in and around Lloret. Unfortunately none of these were open at the time of my visit. Two of them – Turó Rodó and Montbarbat – are in the process of excavation and the third – Puig de Castellet – only has limited opening times. But I walked along the beach to see where the Turó Rodó was situated; behind the Playa Castle at the place where the cliff juts out to the sea. It must have been a fantastic vantage point.
Lloret de Mar in the Middle Ages
The Sant Joan Castle, high on a hilltop between Lloret de Mar and Fenals Beach, illustrates the town’s history in the Middle Ages. Built in the 11th century, the castle was repeatedly attacked, damaged and rebuilt, the victim of invaders, earthquakes and violent weather (this is, after all the Costa Brava, the “Wild Coast”). The final assault was by a particularly vicious storm in the early 20th century, leaving the castle in ruins.
Today the only intact part of the castle is the tower, which has been restored and filled with information about the history of the town and its fortifications. I climbed to the top and was rewarded with views across the town and the coastline. It was easy to see why this site had been chosen for a lookout.
As you would expect, Lloret has always been a town of seafarers. The excellent Museu del Mar (Maritime Museum) traces their history, from the earliest sea trade to the great sailing ships and ocean going vessels. It tells the story of explorers and adventurers right up to the time of the indianos, men who sought their fortune in the New World and then returned to spend their newly acquired wealth in their native town. Many of the grand buildings in Lloret de Mar – including Can Garriga which houses the Museu del Mar – were built with indiano money (more about this in my next post…)
Taking a Living From the Sea
The sea provided a living for everyone, even those who stayed at home. The town is full of references to the fishing industry, from the tiny Es Tint museum, where fishing nets were once dyed, to the seafood restaurants scattered throughout the town. And a walk along the sea front takes you past a series of outdoor sculptures and plaques, many of them on a maritime theme.
From here it is a short step to the beach, where tourists are lapping up the sun or queuing for boat trips. A reminder that the sea will always play a part in the economic life of Lloret de Mar.
This post is now available as an app for mobile devices – click here to find out more.Tagged with: castles • Costa Brava • history • museums