Only one hour along the coast from Barcelona and near the French border, Costa Brava translates to “wild coast” and has arguably some of the bluest water and largest stretches of sand in Spain.
During the early 20th century, the likes of Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso holidayed on the coastline along with affluent Spaniards. They wanted to relax in scenic, unpeopled spots, visit the golden beaches and swim in the crystal waters but, the early 1960s changed this.
With aviation becoming cheaper and package holidays ever popular, the once rural, unspoiled escape fell victim to mass developers. With it came hordes of tourists looking to bake on the beach and eat off “English approved” menus. Decades of crazy-golf playing holiday makers who frequented the likes of O’Higgins Irish Bar during Happy Hour followed and, until recently, the island’s reputation has been as a place largely to avoid.
Today, things are changing again. You can count on much of the south of the Costa Brava to still be waving the flag for Brits Abroad but up in the northern corners of the coastline, traditional Catalan dishes, historical sites and untouched fishing villages are attracting culture-seeking travellers to the area once more.
Not only is Catalonia, the region in which the Costa Brava sits, home to the most amount of Michelin starred chefs in the whole of Spain but the Costa Brava itself has more than 40 museums and galleries in total.
Cadaqués is worth mentioning. A coastal town in Spain’s most easterly region, whitewashed cottages slope down the hills into a horseshoe bay. In the town’s square, a large statue of Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali stands and the edges are thriving with quaint cafeterias where cooks still produce the food their grandmothers made.
Further down the coast lies Girona, a city famed for its Medieval architecture, its walled Old Quarter, the Roman Força Vella fortress and its gastronomy scene. The three-Michelin starred El Celler de Can Roca, which previously topped the “World’s 50 Top Restaurants”, sits just outside the city.
Half an hour away from the centre of Girona, is the small town of Púbol where Dali famously bought his wife an 11th century castle as a sanctuary before he changed it into his last studio during the 1980s. Today you can walk around and not only see his early works but get a real feel of the pair’s relationship. He had promised her this castle during the 1930s and fulfilled his promise some 30 to 40 years later in 1969.
The cobbled-street hilltop town of Begur is perhaps one of the most loved places of the traditional regions. A favourite amongst the French elite, its coastline is punctuated with fragrant pine trees, pebbled coves and aqua waters. The town is anchored by a castle that sits high and protective overlooking the Mediterranean sea below.