If you thought that Spain’s Costa Brava was just a string of beach resorts, then think again. There are many other reasons to visit the Costa Brava, from history, to countryside and hiking, to great food. The region has now been incorporated into the Grand Tour of Catalonia, a long-distance driving route, making this the perfect time to visit.
What Is The Costa Brava?
Costa Brava literally means “wild coast”, and the region consists of 300 km of rugged coastline, stretching from the French border to the town of Blanes, north of Barcelona. The coastal scenery is varied, with cliffs, bays and secluded coves. Inland, the area is typified by hills and woodland, with natural parks and botanic gardens.
The Costa Brava is part of the Spanish region of Catalonia, an autonomous area with its own language and a distinctive cultural identity. For the visitor this is most apparent in the dual-language signs and the distinctive cuisine of the area. You may also observe local traditions such as the building of castells (human pyramids).
Grand Tour Of Catalonia
Launched in 2021, the Grand Tour of Catalonia is a 2,200 km driving route covering the whole region. The Costa Brava section covers 240 km from the inland town of Figueres, heading towards the coast and ending at Blanes. If you’re looking for a touring holiday, this is an ideal way of taking advantage of everything the Costa Brava has to offer.
Reasons To Visit The Costa Brava
So, why should you visit the Costa Brava, and what is there to see and do? Here are 5 reasons…
1. A Long And Varied History
The history of the Costa Brava goes back to prehistoric times, and there was a local Iberian civilisation that pre-dated the arrival of the Greeks and the Romans. Numerous other settlers followed, including the Visigoths and the Moors. But the key element in the region’s history has always been its relationship with the sea, which provided both food and a means of interaction with the outside world.
Wherever you go in the Costa Brava you will see evidence of this long history. There are remains of ancient settlements, and numerous castles and fortresses to explore. You’ll even find historic sites in places where you might not expect them, like the seaside resorts of Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar.
2. The Towns And Villages Of The Costa Brava
The main cities in the Costa Brava are Girona and Figueres. Girona is a historic city also known for its great cuisine (read more about the Old Town And Walls Of Girona). Figueres also has a historic centre, but it is better known for the Dalí Theatre Museum, founded by the artist himself and full of his works.
Elsewhere, you will find medieval towns and small fishing villages. Avoid the touristy spots and resorts such as Blanes, Tossa de Mar and Roses are full of historical interest. And don’t overlook Lloret de Mar: it may be best known for its lively nightlife but the old town is full of surprises. Read more – Six Things To Do In Lloret De Mar… That You May Not Have Thought Of.
3. Countryside And Hiking
Aside from the stunning coastal scenery, the inland area is beautiful and seems to be hardly touched by tourists. The region’s natural parks cover volcanic areas, cliffs and beaches, forest and wetlands. And there are four botanical gardens, including the noucentiste Santa Clotilde Gardens, just outside Lloret de Mar.
If you enjoy hiking then you’ll be spoilt for choice. The 200 km cami de ronda follows the coast, joining up a series of historic smugglers’ routes. Inland there is an extensive network of well-marked forest trails and mountain paths. And the Catalan Camino also passes through the region.
Have a look at these posts for more inspiration:
- Hiking In Lloret De Mar – Coastal Path And Inland Trails
- Hiking In Tossa De Mar: Coastline And Forest
4. An Inspiration For Artists And Writers
The landscape of the Costa Brava has long been an inspiration for artists. Perhaps the artist most closely associated with the region is Salvador Dalí, whose work can be seen in his museum in Figueres. Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró also worked here, as did the French artist Marc Chagall who described Tossa de Mar as his “blue paradise”.
The area has also attracted writers and poets. These have included Federico García Lorca, who often stayed with Dalí in the village of Cadaqués, and Truman Capote, who spent some summers in Palamós.
5. Catalan Food And Wine
You will eat well in the Costa Brava! There is an abundance of fresh local food and, as you might expect, fish and seafood feature prominently. You will find both traditional Spanish cuisine and Catalan specialities (as well as fast food if you really want it…) And numerous food festivals throughout the year showcase the region’s gastronomy. Read more about Enjoying Catalan Cuisine In The Costa Brava.
Wine is also important: there have been vineyards here since Roman times. The DO Empordà Wine Route enables visitors to visit wineries, and to enjoy food and accommodation provided by vineyards.
Practical Information For Your Visit To The Costa Brava
The most convenient airport is at Girona, although there are more international arrivals at Barcelona. You can travel to the Costa Brava from Barcelona by car or by bus. During your stay you can use buses to move between the towns; however you may wish to rent a car if you want to explore the countryside or to follow the Grand Tour of Catalonia.
Both Spanish and Catalan are official languages here, but most people are bilingual. English is also widely spoken.