Along the Spanish Mediterranean, there are several well-known beach destinations. All along the coast, or costa in Spanish, are unique places to visit. Some of them are very well known, others are less so. Many travelers have heard of the Costa Brava, but often times they are not exactly sure about the location of the Costa Brava. Here, we answer the question, “Where is the Costa Brava?”
The Costa Brava coastline is filled with dozens of towns that are perfect for your Costa Brava holidays. All along the Costa Brava coast are large beach towns, which are easy to find and explore, and smaller towns and coves, perfect for relaxation and getting away from it all. This post includes recommendations for some of the best places in the Costa Brava to visit and some of the best places to stay in the Costa Brava as well.
What is The Costa Brava Catalonia
There are four provinces within Catalonia, which are home to a total of six million people. The four provinces are Barcelona, Tarragona, Girona, and Lleida. Barcelona is the capital of the region. The capital of each of the provinces has the same name as the region, so Girona is the capital of the province of Girona. The Costa Brava lies within the province of Girona, as do the Catalan Pyrenees.
The Costa Brava is a somewhat special place. A corner of Europe that many Europeans are clued into, but Americans aren’t. It’s not over touristy. It has beaches and mountains. It hosts an up-and-coming Catalan wine region. And, most important, it has a gastronomic history and tradition that rivals any other culinary region in Europe.
Where is The Costa Brava
Costa Brava is a stretch of land that runs from just north of Barcelona up to the mountainous Catalan border of France. It is a coastal area, whose name translates to rugged or wild coast. The wild coast of Costa Brava is just that. A stunning coastline, dotted with quaint fishermen villages, and crystal blue waters. Decades ago, a concerted effort was made to encourage tourism to Costa Brava. A temperate climate most of the year helped to aid the destination as a go-to place for Brits and northern Europeans.
There is more to this stretch of the Catalan coast than the sun and beach, which has been the draw of tourism to this region for decades. It is about learning the stories of the products, the people, the wine, and understanding the gastronomy of the region. It’s about exploring this unknown corner of culinary tourism in Europe. This includes eating the foods that are in season, shopping at local markets, and using food as a social connection.
The Best Costa Brava Towns
Many of the towns that can be considered the best of Costa Brava are along the coast. But, there are several cities and towns to visit that are away from the Costa Brava coast. Similarly, some of the best hotels in Costa Brava Spain are boutique hotels or wine hotels that can be found throughout the Costa Brava wine country.
Girona lies at the confluence of two rivers, the River Ter to the west, and the River Onyar, which divides the main part of the city. East of the River Onyar is Barri Vell or the Old Town. Barri Vell’s riverfront is flanked by three and four stories, brightly painted buildings, which feature prominently in traveler’s photos.
On the west bank of the River Onyar is the more commercial City Center, and spreading south from there is the City Center Migdia. West of the City Center is the large Parc de la Devesa, which hosts a large public market Tuesday and Saturday mornings.
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In the north, the plains region of Alt Emrpoda heads south from the mountains in the direction of Girona and includes the areas of Figueres, Peralada, and about a dozen other, smaller towns reaching towards the coast, including Garriguella, and Vilajuïga. Each of the villages has its own unique history, often told through its castle or church.
Figueres lies at the center of the Alt Empordà, and serves as its capital. It is the only main train station, where the TGV runs both from Barcelona and France. Although it has its touristic charms, Figueres is also the commercial hub of the region. When driving through the area, it is almost impossible to find a route that does not head in the direction of, or away from, Figueres.
The city hosts its own La Rambla, which is a spacious walk that lies above what was once a river. It is lined with big plane trees, and buildings from the 1800’s. Figueres hosts the Theatre-Museum Dalí, where the painter’s tomb is located. It is also decorated in the Dalí style, with large eggs on the top, similar to the nearby Galatea Tower. Dalí spent the last years of his life in Figueres. This museum is the second-most-visited museum in all of Spain, after the Prado in Madrid.
Best Beaches – Costa Brava Spain – Southern Beaches
Three of the most popular Costa Brava beaches are located closer to Barcelona in La Selva. La Selva includes many of the most well-known seaside destinations for Catalans and Spaniards alike. Some of the towns have a reputation for family seaside escapes and raucous weekend parties. These destinations tend to be filled to the brim during July and August, particularly on weekends. But, in the spring and fall, they can be lovely.
The three most popular destinations in La Selva include Tossa de Mar, Lloret de Mar, and Blanes. Tossa de Mar is an old fishing village, with remnants remaining of the old village walls. At the edge of the beach, travelers can climb into the old town and visit the stone castle that stands guard over the beach.
Blanes Costa Brava is the most southern of the destinations, represents the start of the Costa Brava. Blanes offers a good amount to explore for gastronomic travelers, including a large fishing port, a cava producer just outside of town, a cooking school, and a handful of craft beer producers. Tossa de Mar is an old fishing village, with remnants remaining of the old village walls. At the edge of the beach, travelers can climb into the old town and visit the stone castle that stands guard over the beach. Many travelers from the UK only know Costa Brava as Lloret de Mar. Lloret de Mar can be pretty party-filled during the summer. Just outside of Lloret de Mar are a few Costa Brava beach resorts that are so different from the town center of Lloret.
Check out our recommendations for the Best Beach Hotels – Costa Brava
Best Beaches – Costa Brava Spain – Northern Beaches
The northern half of the Costa Brava includes the coastal area running from Portbou, at the French border, down to L’Escala. Along this coast are some of the most characteristic towns of the Costa Brava. They benefit from the rich wine history of the Alt Empordà, as well as the influx of fresh seafood and fish, from Roses and El Port de La Selva. The northern edge of the Costa Brava includes one of the most characteristic, and well-known coastal towns – Cadaqués. But, other, smaller, and lesser-known towns offer their own charm.
The real star of the Alt Empordà coast is Cadaqués, which is set at the eastern edge of the Cap de Creus peninsula. Just driving over the mountain and through the national park to reach Cadaqués is something of an experience. It is one of the most well-known towns along the coast of the Alt Empordà, in part due to the influence of Salvador Dalí. Cadaqués served as the summer home for Dalí and for generations has been a home to artists and intellectuals.
Roses is larger and more developed than Cadaqués, which is protected by the hills and national park. Roses offers large beaches (a total of 19 in fact), secluded coves, and tons of options for water sports. Heading south of Roses there are some more towns and villages, including Empuriabrava, which hosts 30 kilometers of navigable canals and is one of the most important residential marinas within Europe. It is sometimes referred to as the Venice of the Costa Brava, but the better reference is Miami Beach, with boats and yachts docked row after row. L’Escala is most recognized for its anchovy production. There is a big Sunday market, and it is known for its prominence in the festival calendar, with summer concerts, and an anchovy festival.
The Costa Brava Airport
The easiest way to get to the Costa Brava from an international destination, though, is to fly, either to Barcelona-El Prat or Girona. Girona Costa Brava offers a small international airport with connections, predominantly on Ryan Air, from destinations around Europe. From the airport, a taxi to the city center costs about €20-25. Or, there is a direct airport shuttle bus that runs to the Girona train station for only €3, which takes about 30 minutes.
Barcelona-El Prat is the primary gateway for international travelers. If renting a car at the airport, Girona is about 90 minutes away. Without a car, traveling from Barcelona-El Prat is a little less direct. There are buses that connect Barcelona-El Prat to Girona, and other destinations within the Costa Brava. Otherwise, it’s possible to train to Girona, but it is not direct.
Costa Brava Location – Barcelona Costa Brava
One of the frequently asked questions we get is where is the Costa Brava, and whether Barcelona is in the Costa Brava. Barcelona is not located within the Costa Brava. The Costa Brava begins in Blanes, which is only about 30 minutes north of Barcelona. That makes the distance from Barcelona to the Costa Brava remarkably short. To drive from Barcelona to Cadaques in the north is a little over two hours.
Barcelona to Costa Brava – Train
It’s also possible to travel from Barcelona to Costa Brava by train. Both Girona and Figueres have high-speed train stations that service the AVE-TGV trains that run through Spain and France. Girona is only 38 minutes from the Barcelona Sants station on the high-speed train. Or, local trains take about 90 minutes. Girona is also accessible to cities in France, and Paris is only a six-hour journey.
Top Costa Brava Attractions
This Costa Brava guide includes recommended things to do in Costa Brava Girona, and in other Costa Brava cities and towns.
|Tour||Private or Group Tour||Starting Point||Duration||Price From||Book Now|
|Cadaqués & the Cap de Creus||Group||Girona||8.5 Hours||$110|
|Cadaques St Pere de Rodes Monastery and Tasting Wines||Group||Girona||10 Hours||$145|
|Tour of Dali Museum in Figueras and Cadaques||Private||Barcelona||8 Hours||$225|
|Salvador Dali Museum, Figueres and Cadaques||Group||Barcelona||11.5 Hours||$100|
|Exclusive & Private Sailing Trip||Self-Guided||Peratallada||4 Hours||$76|
|Private & Exclusive Sailing Trip||Private||L'Estartit||2 to 8 Hours||$459 Per Group|
|Costa Brava Cruise and Palamos Prawns||Group||Palamos||5 Hours||$88|
|Costa Brava Fishing Trip||Private||L'Estartit||4 to 8 Hours||$137|
|Sunset Sailing From L'Estartit||Group||L'Estartit||2 Hours||$55|
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