Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Costa Brava
The picturesque mountain town of Besalú is well-known for its ancient Catholic monasteries and iconic Romanesque architecture, particularly a photogenic 12th-century bridge that has become the symbol of the town. In the Middle Ages, Besalú was a regional capital, overseeing this scenic section of Catalonia.
The original of three theme parks on Spain’s Costa Dorada, PortAventura Park features more than 40 rides and attractions. It’s part of the larger PortAventura World—a resort complex that also includes Caribe Aquatic Park and Ferrari Land, the resort’s newest addition and home to one of Europe’s highest and fastest roller coasters.
Halfway between Barcelona and the French border lies the town of Palafrugell, a jumping-off point to some of the prettiest and most pristine areas of the Costa Brava. Enticing spots include the fishing village of Calella de Palafrugell, Cap Roig promontory, and the beachy villages of Tamariu, Aiguablava, Fornells, and Llafranc.
Surrounded by walls and marked with winding cobblestone streets, medieval Pals still has many of its aged stone arches, walkways, and balconies. A Romanesque tower dates back to the 11th century, while the Mirador del Pedró provides a lookout over the sea and surrounding Catalonian landscape dotted with citrus groves and rice fields.
Cap de Creus is a peninsula in the far northeast of Catalonia, not far from the French border. Covering 73 square miles, it is the easternmost point of Spain and is protected by Cap de Creus Natural Park. Salvador Dali, who was born in the nearby city of Figueres, painted the cape in “The Persistence of Memory” and built a home in Port Lligat. While Cap de Creus contains the largest uninhabited area in the Spanish Mediterranean, it does have a number of small towns, the most well-known of which is Cadaques.
Cap de Creus is generally quite rocky and dry, but is also home to more than 800 species of plans, as well as rare species of sea birds that are close to extinction. Hikers will enjoy a variety of trekking routes around the cape and visitors should be sure to visit the Sant Pere de Rodes, an 11th century monastery with great views of Cap de Creus.
The southernmost part of the Dali Triangle (completed by the Teatre-Museu Dali in Figueres and the Casa Museu Salvador Dali in Cadaques), the Castle of Púbol (Gala Dalí Castle) was a gift from artist Salvador Dali to his muse and wife, Gala. Their former home is now her final resting place—a surrealist Gothic and Renaissance building surrounded by shady gardens and quirky fountains, and open for the public to explore.
Combine your beach excursion with exploration of the distant past by paying a visit to the ruins of Empuries. Founded in 575 BC by Greek colonists, Empúries was later occupied by Romans before it was ultimately abandoned given its exposed coastal location. Today it remains as the only settlement in Iberia that displays remains from both the Greeks and the Romans.
Among the Empuries ruins, which are only partially excavated, you can tour the amphitheater, old factory, basilica, exquisite Roman floor mosaics, and the foundations of former Greek houses. There’s also on onsite museum, where you can learn more about the excavations, and check out artifacts such as ceramics, utensils, mosaics and other items. Between the history, the views, and the beach and seaside cafes just steps away, you’ll be happy you made the effort to visit this unique corner of Costa Brava.
The Cap Roig Botanical Gardens (Jardines de Cap Roig) began as the private estate of two expat residents in 1927. The castle and gardens remained private until 1969. Since then, it is overseen by the “La Caixa Foundation” and is open to the public.
The Cap Roig Botanical Gardens covers about 17 hectares and features more than 1,000 plant species, one of the most impressive collections in the Mediterranean. The grounds run from the castle itself all the way to the sea, with terraces on each level.
Throughout the gardens, visitors can see sculptures in various places which add to the overall aesthetic look of the space. Some of the sections of the gardens are the Cactus Garden, the Spring Garden, the Lovers’ Garden, and the Geranium Walk.
With a well-planned day tour, it’s possible to visit nearby Palamos and the Cap Roig Botanical Gardens in one day from Barcelona.
Situated in the former home and workshop of surrealist painter Salvador Dali, the Salvador Dali House—Portlligat (Casa Salvador Dalí—Port Lligat) showcases the artist’s quirky work and offers a look into his eccentric life. Visitors can explore the house-museum’s maze-like interior, window-framed views, and kitschy decor including everything from mannequins to taxidermy. Outside, you’ll find a surrealist wonderland as well, with curiosities like a funky lip-shaped sofa flanked by giant Pirelli tire signs and an abundance of Dali’s signature giant eggs.
Located on the scenic Costa Brava of the Catalonia region of Spain, Water World Lloret is one of Europe’s largest water parks. Its many slides, water rides, pools, and activities make it particularly popular with families. The variety of thrill levels and different areas means that there’s something for any member of the family, whether a toddler, a teenager, or an adult.
The park’s Water Mountain slide contains steep drops and turns in the dark, and the Kamikaze slide reaches high speeds on its drop from nearly 80 kilometers. There’s even a large bungee jump where daredevils leap from a crane that's 80 kilometers high.
On the gentler side, there’s a wave pool, family lagoon, jacuzzis, and toboggan rides. The park is shaded by pine trees and contains several picnic areas for families to relax and enjoy the natural surroundings as well.
More Things to Do in Costa Brava
The town of Palamos is on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Spain, northeast of Lloret de Mar and southeast of the regional capital, Girona.
The Mediterranean as a whole is a popular vacation destination, and Palamos has the added benefit of being near a large bay that makes an especially appealing spot for swimming and other water sports. Palamos is a port town, as well, with a busy fishing industry.
Visitors enjoy the beautiful beaches in and around Palamos, and the many opportunities to get out into nature. Swimming, diving, and sailing are popular on the water, and hiking is popular on land. There is a particular type of prawn caught in the area that is famous among foodies - Palamos prawns are flavorful and typically a bright red color.
Salvador Dalí once said that the lovely seaside town of Cadaqués was the most beautiful village in the world. Today, the whitewashed town, with its quiet cobbled streets wending through a maze of modernist homes, charming hotels, and restaurants renowned for their tasty local cuisine, ranks among the Costa Brava's top attractions.
Situated near the mouth of the River Muga on Spain’s Gulf of Roses, the attractive medieval town of Castelló d'Empúries has a rich architectural heritage, thanks to its position as the seat of the earls of Empúries until the 14th century. Cobbled streets, a well-preserved Jewish Quarter, and a 14th-century Gothic church add to the historic appeal.