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The capital of the Costa Brava, Girona is a must visit, renowned for its 2000-year history and well-preserved medieval and Jewish quarters, dating back to between the 11th and 15th centuries. Some of the highlights include the Arabic baths, the Romanesque and Baroque cathedral, the 14th century city walls and the colourful houses lining the River Onyar. Girona is also known as the ‘City of Festivals’, holding celebratory events throughout the year. Visit in May to see one of the best – the Temps de Flors flower festival.
The Costa Brava is Salvador Dalí country, so no trip here would be complete without seeing some of his work. One of the world’s best museums dedicated to the artist, the Dalí Theatre Museum shouldn’t be missed. The exhibits are housed in a quirky pink castle-like building, a piece of art in itself. Designed by Dalí himself, the building features his signature eggs and gold figurines on the rooftops, as well as elaborate art installations inside.
In the northern part of the Costa Brava, you’ll find the Cap de Creus Peninsula and its beautiful natural park. Characterised by rocky coves, cliffs, small bays and forests, it is an ideal spot for hikers and swimmers. Make your way up to the Cap de Creus Lighthouse for truly spectacular views across the area.
The small town of Cadaqués sits right on the Cap de Creus Peninsula and is one of the most picturesque on the Costa Brava, filled with steep narrow alleyways, charming art galleries and delicious seafood restaurants. Why not try a fideauá – a Catalan-style paella, made from short noodles instead of rice, while sitting along the seafront? Much of the landscape in and around the town inspired Dalí’s work, and features in many of his paintings.
One of the best ways to explore the coastal areas of the Costa Brava is by kayak, as some of its little bays and inlets can only be accessed from the sea. Remember to take your bathing suit and a snorkel, so you can stop off and swim in the clear glass-like water along the way. Kayaks can be hired from many of the beaches along the coast.
Delve deeper into the life of Dalí by visiting his house in the small village of Portlligat, just north of the popular town of Cadaqués. Once an old fisherman’s hut, Dalí lived here from 1930 to 1982 and redesigned the building to include pieces like his iconic eggs on the rooftops and his pink lips sofa in the garden, as well as numerous quirky sculptures decorating the interior. Tickets for the house museum must be booked well in advance, as spaces are limited.
Keen swimmers will love the Costa Brava’s sea swimming lanes, known as the Vies Braves. A series of open water swimming and snorkelling tracks that follow the coastal paths, they provide safe passage for those wanting to explore the shore from a different angle. The project began in 2014 and now comprises 25 lanes in 20 towns across the region.
Located in the coastal town of Palafrugell, the Cap Roig Botanical Gardens are considered to be among some of the best in the Mediterranean. A series of terraced gardens that cascade from the hilltop castle right down to the beach, they feature plants from around the world, as well as sculptures by international artists. If you’re here in the summer, don’t miss the Cap Roig Festival, it has played host to famous acts such as Rod Stewart, Santana, Lady Gaga and Sting.
Catalonia, and particularly the Costa Brava, is known to be one of Spain’s top wine destinations. Follow the Empordà Wine Route for vineyard tours, wine tastings, visits to wine museums and even bicycle and kayak tours with winery stops en route.
One of the best things about the Costa Brava are of course its beaches. There are so many covering this 214km stretch of coastline, from the French border down to the region of Barcelona, that even in the height of summer, you can often find a secluded sandy cove all to yourself.