Top 10 Things to Do and See in the Costa Brava

Platja d´Aro, Cap Roig beach, Costa Brava
Platja d´Aro, Cap Roig beach, Costa Brava | © Lucas Vallecillos / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Esme Fox
21 August 2020

The Costa Brava, in the northeast region of Catalonia, stretches from the French border down to Barcelona. Home to some of Spain’s best beaches, historic cities and famous art museums, it’s well worth the trip north of the Catalan capital to explore. Here is our pick of the best things to do and see here.

Get lost in the winding streets of Girona

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Colorful houses in the historical jewish quarter in Girona, Catalonia
© Pere Sanz / Alamy Stock Photo

The capital of the Costa Brava, Girona has a history going back 2,000 years. Its well-preserved medieval and Jewish quarters date back to between the 11th and 15th centuries. Highlights include the Arab baths, the romanesque and baroque cathedral, the 14th-century city walls and the colourful houses lining the River Onyar. Girona is also a city of festivals, with celebratory events held throughout the year. Visit in May to see one of the best – the Temps de Flors flower festival.

Marvel at the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres

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© Ruth Hofshi / Alamy Stock Photo

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, the building features his signature eggs and gold figurines on the rooftop, as well as elaborate art installations inside.

Discover the Cap de Creus Natural Park

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In the north of 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.

Eat seafood on the beach in Cadaqués

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© Stephen Hughes / Alamy Stock Photo
The small town of Cadaqués, on the Cap de Creus peninsula, is one of the most picturesque towns on the Costa Brava, 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.

Hire a kayak to paddle along the coast

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Kayaking along the Costa Brava, Cala S'Alguer, Spain
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One of the best ways to explore the coastal areas 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 water along the way. Kayaks can be hired on beaches all along the coast.

Visit Dalí's house in Portlligat

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Delve deeper into the life of Dalí by visiting his house in the small village of Portlligat, just north of Cadaqués. Once an old fisherman’s hut, Dalí, who lived here from 1930 to 1982, redesigned the building to include pieces like his iconic eggs on the rooftops and his pink lips sofa in the garden, as well as quirky sculptures decorating the interior. Tickets for the house museum must be booked well in advance, as spaces are limited.

Swim the sea lanes

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Keen swimmers will love the Costa Brava’s sea 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.

Visit the Cap Roig Botanical Gardens

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© Stephen Hughes / Alamy Stock Photo

Located in the coastal town of Palafrugell, the Cap Roig Botanical Gardens are 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.

Go wine tasting along the Empordà Wine Route

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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.

Find a hidden beach

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© Juan Bautista / Alamy Stock Photo

Some of the best things about the Costa Brava are of course its beaches. There are so many covering this 214km (133mi) 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.

These recommendations were updated on August 21, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.