Exploring Catalonia: Costa Brava

posted in: Tourism | 14

Costa Brava, a region with most various landscapes in Spain has been attracting tourists since  many years and is represented in a form of a triangle, from beautiful coasts of Girona and Figueres to the city of Barcelona and cape Creus until breathtaking mountains of Pyrenees. 

Many tourists, who come to see Girona or Barcelona, stay in crowded city resorts, without realizing that there are many other great places to visit in the area, –  thus, in this guide we would like to introduce you to some interesting monuments and attractions of Costa Brava and Catalonia.

What to see in Costa Brava?

Many places of interest in Catalonia are located directly on the coast, but here we prepared some information for you about other places that are definitely worth a visit:

1. Magical peninsula of Cap de Creus

We could write a separate article about the magnificent Cap de Creus, since here there are so many places to see. The rocky cape has been terrifying sailors for years. The vast territory od the peninsula is a Natioanl Park due to the unique microclimate and geological structure. In the cliffs of the bays, there are some lovely little towns and fishing villages that tempt with their unpretentiousness and bohemian atmosphere. Cadaques, a beautiful white town that is loved by  artists (Dali, Picasso, Bunuel, etc.) and Roses, a village, located between cliffs and founded by Greek colonists with a medieval citadel, are certainly the most beautiful and worth places to visit. Certainly the most beautiful views you can observe during sunrise or sunset, from the mountain peaks or from the lighthouse.

2. Figueres and surroundings

The most important city of this part of Catalonia has been for years the gateway to France from the south or to Spain from the north. Easily reached by train or by car, both from Barcelona or from Perpignan, it attracts many tourists as a place of birth of El Salvador, and for the extravagant art museum of the name of the artist, located in the building of the former theater, but changed into museum under the influence of surreal vision of Dale. Most of the tourists who come here immediately go to the Museum whereas the charming old town of Figueras is definitely worth visiting.

If you drive around 10 km to the west from the city in the direction of the Cap de Creus Peninsula, you will find Castella d’Empuries, the former capital of the nearby duchy with the amazing church of Santa Maria and one of the best-preserved Gothic architecture in the region.

3. Empuries

Empuries is an archeological site, where you can find Roman ruins, which are vainly sought in this part of the Mediterranean Basin. Both Neapolis (New Town) and Paliapolis (Old) are amazingly situated on the seafront, at the point where the Pyrenees are welcomed by the sea. A trade village, founded by the Phoenicians a long time ago, has grown rapidly, becoming one of the largest Roman cities in Spain. Today only the ruins of Neapolis and the west of the proper Roman city are preserved, where you can still see the remains of the chessboard and the layout of the streets, Neapolis, the Temple of Zeus Serapis, and parts of the harbor. In the inner part of the city, in addition to the remains of the amphitheater, you will be certainly impressed by the preserved residential houses, where you can see the retained floor mosaics or atrium.

4. Catalonian Pyrenees

Following the river Ter, from the ruins of Empurias you would reach the source of the river just below the Pyrenees. The highest point of the surroundings of Girona area is Puigmal Mountain, which is almost 3000 meters high. Although the peaks of the Pyrenees, further west, are much higher, those in the Catalan part, close to the Costa Brava are more easily accessible, well communicated and have a different climate. In the local culture you can see traces of Catalan, Spanish and French influences. Each town is represented by the stone architecture. There are a lot of trails for hiking, as well as many opportunities for skiing in Molina and Alpine resorts for the whole year. An excellent starting point for exploring the eastern part of the Pyrenees is the town of Ripoll and Campodron. Here we advise you to visit the monastery Sant Joan de les Abadesses, built in the tenth century.

5. Girona

Girona is a historic city with a beautiful old town on the banks of the Onyar River, a couple of old bridges, and great views over the colourful waterfronts, – it resembles some medieval towns of Tuscany. Undoubtedly, the Jewish Quarter, a memorial to a large Jewish community (second after Barcelona), known from the prestigious Kabbalistic School, must be the ¨must-have¨ point of every trip. The second point on the map of Girona’s attractions is the gothic cathedral and the treasury with the famous Tapestry of Creation.

6. Medes Islands

These s And yet the archipelago of miniature islands attracts thousands of tourists who explore them, while taking advantage of boat trips. The rocky islands are built of limestone, which might prompt some comparisons with the Cote d’Azur or the Greek Ionian Islands. Also, in the area there is a marine reserve that protects dozens of marine creatures.

As an alternative, you can go visit the nearby town of Torroella de Montgrí. There is a famous castle that was built in the style of the crusader fortress and was used in many movies, such as Ridley Scott’s latest “Robin Hood”. 

7. Pals and Begur
These are two charming towns, located in the north of Cape Cap de Begur. Pals lies on the southern part of the mouth of the Tar River and has a well-preserved remnant of the medieval walls. The arches that cover the many narrow streets of this city are amazing, giving us the impression of walking through the tunnels. For the people who will only have the opportunity to see Pals from afar, you can see resemblances to hill towns in Tuscany (eg. San Gimignano), because some medieval defensive towers have survived to this day.

Begur, located in the shadow of the medieval castle’s ruins, lies 8 km east of Pals in the bay. It is a town much more attacked by tourists comparing to Pals, probably because of the famous Sa Tuna beach and the innumerous holiday apartments.

8. Blanes
This seaside town, alongside the noisy Lloret de Mar, is certainly famous for its Marimurtra Botanical Garden, an unrivaled garden on the sloping cliffs, where more than 5000 species of Mediterranean plants grow. As a matter of fact, the collections of cacti and oleander are especially impressive. The garden was founded in 1920 by German Carol Faust.

In Blanes, it is also worth visiting the 14th century gothic church of Santa Maria and the ruins of Castillo de Saint Joan.

9. Tossa de Mar

Tossa de Mar is so close to Lloret de Mar but completely different. The historical town stands out from the other seaside ones thanks to the large number of monuments. At the end of Punta del Faro, the rocky promontory, there is the lighthouse and some of the impressive old city walls, that date back to the 13th century. The archaeological work, performed in the area, uncover the remnants of a well-preserved Roman villa, which the collection is presented at the Municipal Museum. Moreover, Tossa is a tempting destination, due to the reason that its harbors rocky cliffs and dangerous shorelines.

10. Vic

It is a large historical city that for centuries was the seat of the important bishopric, surrounded by medieval monasteries. It remains the most important town of the Costa Brava’s interior, although it is situated relatively far away from the famous seaside towns. In fact, the big majority of the buildings and structures in Vic were designed by the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. Furthermore, Vic hosts one of the most magnificent Spanish museums – the Museo Episcopal, which has accumulated an extremely rich collection of Gothic and Romanesque art over the years. However, you need to include Vic in your itinerary whenever you are planning a trip to Catalonia.


14 Responses

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