Summer in Catalonia wouldn't be the same without 'xiringuitos', or beach bars. Thanks to the so-called 'Golden Age' – the '50s and '60s of the last century, when stars like Truman Capote, Frank Sinatra and Sophia Loren visited the Costa Brava – they've come to form part of the collective memory of Girona locals. There are many different such seasonal bars in the area (and not all of them are actually on a beach), but on this list we've included the ones that we think, for one reason or other, will be the hits of this summer. It may be their location, or the quality of their cocktails, or just because they're amazing. If you think that we've missed out somewhere particularly fabulous, don't forget to tell us about it in the comments section.
You'll need to walk a while or even take the car to actually get to the sea from this 'beach bar', but we can't ignore the fact that this is one hot ticket among Empordà's summer bars. Why is it so popular? First because it's located in an amazing setting, surrounded by nature, at the flight school of Torroella de Montgrí. Secondly, it looks like something straight from 'Out of Africa'. The third reason is that there are DJ sessions, live music, good food and excellent cocktails. The best time to go is, without question, when the sun is just starting to set – and make sure your mobile is well charged because the landscape is spectacular. Unmissable.
If there was a world ranking of xiringuitos, this would certainly be close to the top. And that's because it's in front of possibly the most perfect beach hotel ever. The hotel is a modest house that hardly stands out among the lunar landscape of Cap de Creus, surrounded by pine and olive trees, cut off from the rest of the world, and without coverage for your mobile. To complete the image of perfection, three generations of one family run the place and if there's nothing you fancy on the set menu of the day, they'll rustle something up for you (of course – there's a grandma in residence).
Looking for seclusion? An idyllic place of peace? Head for Garbet. This 'xiringuito', found at the centre of the tranquil beach of the same name, is almost 70 years old and has now been converted into a restaurant. It encompasses simplicity, a landscape that will stun you and, above all, excellent cooking based on top ingredients and traditional recipes. You can either sit in the small dining-room or (which would be our recommendation) choose one of the terraces in front of the sea. What's more, they have a boat-taxi service. If you're still not quite convinced, then the taste of the shellfish paella with lobster will assure you that you've done the right thing by going there.
'All in one' – that could be the logo of Es Blanc, because it's a restaurant but also a café during the day, a cocktail bar at night, and a beach bar in the summer, with a splendid terrace overlooking the sand. The hybrid element also features in the menu, where Mediterranean cooking meets sushi and a range of tapas and Iberian cured meats – each type of cuisine is consumed in a different part of the restaurant. And it's an open secret that multiple Michelin-star-winning chef Carme Ruscalleda goes there expressly to eat the rice with lobster.
At this 'xiringuito' you can enjoy the magical essence of a one-time jazz club that's been transformed into a proper beach bar, like the ones you'd find in the good old days. Forget about white parasols and plastic chairs. At Mar Sorrer, you'll find (very) good music, great cocktails, fresh juices and a chill-out zone with deckchairs and DJ sessions. You can also have a bite to eat, as they have a pretty extensive menu based on fresh, quality, local ingredients. Mar Sorrer is one of those beach bars where you sit down for a quick beer, and without realising it or knowing what happened, find you've been there for the whole afternoon.
Lloret de Mar knows how to make the most of its assets, especially when it comes to appealing to tourists. This place is the perfect spot for going for a daytime walk through the forest. Our main destination is Sant Pere del Bosc, where there's been a building for a thousand years: alternatively a monastery, asylum and home of a self-made man from the 19th century. But now it's become the symbol of Lloret's more chic side, which is trying to escape the stigma of the town's reputation as a low-cost tourist destination - it hosts a luxury hotel and a renowned restaurant. During the summer, there's also a night-time 'xiringuito' in the garden. A magic place.
The last big cove ('cala') in Lloret de Mar before you get into Tossa de Mar terriority is also one of the most chic beaches in the town, and the 'xiringuito' that opens there in the summer more than rises to the standard of its surrounds. A small port full of lesiure and pleasure boats sets the atmosphere, and the large houses that surround the beach (owned in large part by Russian tourists) have raised the caché of this mini Saint-Tropez even further. In the port you'll find a limited range of places to eat that are open year-round, but it's from Sant Joan (Jun 23) that this particular beach bar opens. They excel in fresh salads, smoothies and fresh fruit juices. As you might imagine in a place full of beautiful people, they also make excellent café frappés.
Catalan painter and writer Santiago Rusiñol said of Sant Feliu de Guíxols, a town that was booming at the end of the 19th century thanks to the cork industry but otherwise terribly boring, that it was a 'a golden cage full of owls'. Whether or not the phrase holds any truth, it has become part of the colloquial language of residents, and this fantastic summer 'xiringuito' has taken it for its name. From Easter onwards, it opens at the weekends to make the most of the increasing daytime hours, but during the summer season you can start with breakfast there and go right through to the last drink of the night. They also serve light dishes, salads and tapas. It's a beautiful spot, with amazing views and gorgeous sun-worshippers.
This is a place that looks like exactly what it is: an authentic 'xiringuito' with plastic awnings and metal chairs, all housed in a former fishermen's hut. It's located on the beach of Aiguablava, which is very pretty but also very crowded in the summer, not just for the quality of its waters but also because people are drawn by what this restaurant has to offer: the aroma of oak burning in the oven that is used to grill fish caught that day by the boats of Begur, and to cook rice dishes made to traditional recipes. It's not cheap, and you have to be careful if you order the fish because the price is determined by weight; don't hesitate to ask them to weigh the piece you're interested in and then decide. If you arrive on your boat in the small port of Aiguablava, they'll bring you your paella there, so you can enjoy it without having to touch dry land.