Below you'll find a list of what we think are the most emblematic and unmissable places around the Costa Brava. From fishing villages to inviting beaches, the genius and craziness of Dalí, and the transparent waters found in the numerous local coves. And not forgetting the magic of the Illes Medes and medieval gems like Montgrí and Sant Pere de Rodes. This is the definitive Costa Brava, a pleasure for all the senses. Put on a pair of comfortable shoes and let's go!
We're going to visit the Costa Brava from south to north, and the first place we'll stop is the town of Blanes. Wander the streets of the town and then head to the Marimurtra Botanical Garden. Carl Faust was a German industrialist who dedicated the first part of his life to making himself rich enough to be able to build his dream garden in Blanes. A century later, the grounds, which cover five hectares and are somewhat uneven but have a multitude of steps and paths, are one of the town's main attractions; however, it's not just a tourist spot but also an important research centre for botany and biology.
Our next stop is Lloret de Mar, and specifically, the most beautiful bar in the whole Costa Brava. It's also the ideal place to carry out the final part of a planned seduction. During the day, you can enjoy views of the bluest sea and the rocks of Cala Banys below your feet. At night, the spot becomes more intimate and romantic and, even though it's only five minutes from the centre of Lloret, all you'll hear is the sound of the water lapping and the voices of loved-up couples. The drinks are top-notch, and this is a memorable and unmissable place for discovering another side to Lloret.
Tossa de Mar is the site of one of Girona's most emblematic castles. Its construction originates in 1187 with the proclamation of Alfons el Cast (Alfons the Chaste) that any person who fished close to the castle had to pay taxes to the monastery in Ripoll. Nowadays, it's the only example of a fortified medieval village that still exists on the Catalan coast. Built at the start of the 13th century with battlements for walls, it still has almost the entire original perimetre area. The wall includes four fortified towers and three cylindrical towers topped with machicolations (openings through which stones, hot oil or similar could be dropped onto attackers).
Who says that a 'xiringuito' (beach bar) can't be glamorous? At Cala Bona, some 2km from Tossa de Mar, you'll find one of the most charming and glam corners of the Costa Brava. It's scarcely 100m from a sea with crystalline waters, and is in a natural setting that easily rivals the Caribbean. The place is so camouflaged by nature it's almost become part of the landscape. Absorb the view while enjoying tapas, salads and paellas cooked over a wood fire. In terms of tipples, we recommend the sangria, mojitos and magnificent G&Ts. It's a great place to go with friends or for enjoying a romantic meal à deux. If we've convinced you to go, then be aware about the single piece of bad news about this bar: it's only open for the summer.
This is the naturist beach par excellence in the Baix Empordà region. A generous length of quality sand gives on to a stretch of sea that is totally open to the east while two bits of rockery enclose it to the north and south, helping to preserve the intimacy of bathers. It's accessible from the sea, by a road (leaving the GI-682 at km 32) that ends up on an esplande just by the beach where they charge €6 to park, or via a footpath that starts in the residential estate of Rosamar. You can also leave the car for free at the top, but the walk back up the hill after a morning of sun is almost guaranteed to induce fainting. It's ideal for taking the cool box, and spending the day swimming, reading and trying to spot spectactors with binoculars hidden in the nearby forest.
Roques Planes is one of the most unusual beaches in the Costa Brava. For starters because it's situated on a rocky outcrop full of rounded stones. And also because just in front of it is a series of amazing rocky isles such as La Roca de Ses Gavines and Els Esculls de les Cigales. Even though a lot of bathers (both naked and in swimsuits) choose to lay their towels out on the rocks, the cove also has a small sandy area that's ideal for sunbathing. The cherry on the cake is that this a great spot to go snorkelling. Without a doubt this is one of the Costa Brava's most amazing and unforgettable beaches.
Les Gavarres is a massif that fits firmly into the character and appearance of the Empordà region where it's located. It's also responsible for local features such as the fact that the towns of La Bisbal d'Empordà and Quart share an economy that is heavily based on pottery and draws on the same primary material, namely the red clay from the massif, but are also separated by a dodgy highway that saves having to cross the mountains but is a nightmare drive of a few kilometres that includes hundreds of curves. Well, it's a nightmare for careful drivers and those who get travel sick, but for unconcerned passengers the journey can be amazing thanks to the magnificent views, especially if you head up to the hill of Santa Pellaia and its church.
Considered one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Catalonia, this is a place where the most characteristic local vegetation is mixed with trees and plants from around the world; and they're all fully integrated into the beautiful natural landscapes of the Costa Brava, in a spot that overlooks the sea. Located between the towns of Palafrugell (10 hectares belongs to that town) and Mont-ras (7 hectares), in the county of Baix Empordà, the gardens are a unique space. Nature, art, culture and history come together in this 17-hectare enclave that features more than 1,000 botanical species, as well as sculptures by renowned local and international artists.
In Palafrugell this is arugably the only place to eat real ice cream. Creamy, artisanal ice cream made with top-quality ingredients. The 'enxaneta' is the small child who climbs right to the top of a human tower ('castell') and raises their hand to signify its completion. As the owners say, 'we incorporate the values that characterise the 'castellers' [the teams who create the high human towers]: strength, sense, values and balance'. As well as classic flavours, Enxaneta also has more original options such as rose and donut. And the house star is 'crema catalana', which tastes just like the best dessert of that name made by Catalan grannies. These really are 'high' quality ice creams! They also have crepes, milk shakes, waffles and slushed ice drinks ('granissats').
Can Baldiri isn't just one of the most historical bakeries in Palafrugell (it was founded in 1856), but it's also the place to find some of the best croissants in the Girona region, both butter and chocolate versions. We're not exaggerating. Their success might well have something to do with the fact that, nowadays, more than 150 years after opening, they still create and knead their bread using artisan methods, and continue to use a family recipe. In 2014, the town council awarded the bakery the Diploma of Citizen Merit for its trajectory. If you go, as well as devouring one or three croissants (if they're just out of the oven, you'll experience a moment of pastry paradise), you should also buy one of their country loaves ('pa de pagès'). Impressive.