The Costa Brava is the coastal area which runs all the way from just above the city of Barcelona to the French border. It’s characterised by cute little towns and villages, rugged rocky coastlines, mountainous peaks and stunning beaches, bays and inlets. Here are 10 things you need to know before visiting the Costa Brava.
The Costa Brava makes up a large part of the Spanish region of Catalonia. It runs all the way from the French border down to the province of Barcelona. It also extends west from the coastline, encompassing some of the interior villages and towns along the way.
You can get to some places in the Costa Brava by bus, but the routes are not very extensive and journeys are long – stopping in all the small towns along the way. Many of the tiny villages and hidden coves cannot even be reached by public transport at all, so if you really want to see the best of the Costa Brava, it’s best to hire a car.
One of the Costa Brava’s most famous former residents is the eccentric artist Salvador Dalí. Dalí was born in the town of Figueres, around 43km north of Girona. Today, this is also where you’ll find one of his most celebrated and arguably his best museums – The Dalí Theatre Museum. Converted from a former theatre by Dali himself, it’s home to some of his most famous works. Other Dalí spots you can find in the Costa Brava include his quirky summer home in Portlligat, close to the town of Cadaqués, and his castle in the town of Púbol.
The Costa Brava is without a doubt home to some of the country’s best beaches. They may not be long and sweeping – but they’re small and intimate, surrounded by soaring clifftops and unusual rock formations. Many of the beaches can only be reached on foot too, scrambling down steep coastal paths to find pebbly shorelines lapped by clear azure waters. Take a look at our list of the best secret beaches on the Costa Brava to find out more.
The area is incredibly popular in summer, with many Barcelona residents holidaying there, as well as those from the south of France and other European countries. Hotels get booked up months in advance, so prepare your trip early. This means that yes, some of the larger towns can get very crowded, but because the area is so big and the coastline so long, you’re always guaranteed to find some quiet villages and small beaches with no one on them – even in August.
The area in and around the Costa Brava is dotted with many charming towns and villages. Some of the best you need to visit include the medieval town of Besalú, the beautiful hilltop town of Begur with its castle, the artsy white-washed town of Cadaqués and the coastal villages of Calella de Palafrugell and Llafranc.
Girona is like the capital and the gateway of the Costa Brava region. If you don’t want to take the two or three hour bus journey up from Barcelona, you can always fly straight into Girona Airport. Girona also makes for a great base to spend a few days before or after your Costa Brava holiday. It has many interesting historic sights, from a large cathedral and monasteries to a city wall, ancient Arabic Baths and a maze-like Jewish Quarter.
The area has an interesting collection of museums where you can discover all manner of weird and wonderful things. Visit the Cinema Museum (Museu del Cinema) in Girona to find out all about the moving image, or the fascinating Cork Museum in Palafrugell (Museu del Suro). Or how about a visit to the Museum of Dolls (Museo de la Muñeca) in Castell d’Aro with the kids? There’s even a Museum of Jam (Museu de la Confitura) in the village of Torrent.
The Costa Brava is part of Catalonia, so you’ll find of course that Catalan is spoken among the locals, rather than Spanish. It’s also a great place to learn more about Catalan culture, heritage and architecture. Almost everyone will understand Spanish though, so if you do speak some, you’ll still be able to use it. Learning a few words in Catalan will go a long way though.
West of the coastal area of the Costa Brava, the area is filled with soaring mountains, valleys and stunning natural parks. It’s a great area for hiking and mountain biking especially. Some of the best areas include the Montseny Mountain Range, the Cap de Creus National Park and La Garrotxa Natural Park – filled with ancient volcanoes.