The Costa Brava is the perfect holiday destination for just about anyone. Located in Catalonia in the northeastern corner of Spain, there really are so many things to do in the Costa Brava. And I don’t say that lightly! From the gorgeous beaches surrounded by rocky cliffs to the wineries, the legacy of Salvador Dalí, the delicious cuisine, and family-friendly activities; I’m not kidding that there’s something for everyone!
I was lucky enough to recently be able to explore much of the Costa Brava, from the north near the French border to the very south at Blanes, and inland to Girona, and I can’t wait to share about it with you! I was struggling with exactly what to write about because it was so awesome. So instead I’m just going to write about all the best things to do in the Costa Brava!
First though, here’s a map to help you see the layout of the Costa Brava and all the main attractions. Not everything is on the map (obviously beaches, diving, or snorkelling could be anywhere!) but it will help you in planning your Costa Brava itinerary. Towns/cities mentioned in this list of things to do in the Costa Brava are marked with orange stars, attractions are marked with a blue pin, and restaurants with a green knife and fork!
Explore the beaches
You couldn’t talk about the best things to do in the Costa Brava without mentioning some of the hundreds of beaches along the coast. There’s everything from large sandy beaches next to towns to hidden coves accessible only by boat or on foot. Although the water is cooler along the Costa Brava than in Barcelona or further south, you can still enjoy a refreshing dip in the sea from June when temperatures are in the mid-teens.
Find Game of Thrones locations in Girona
Much of season six of the popular TV series Game of Thrones was filmed in Girona, the largest city in the Costa Brava that sits around 20km from the coast. The Old Town of the city lent itself well to the fantasy world, and not a lot of changes had to be made in post-production, meaning it’s easy to spot the Game of Thrones filming locations as you wander around the city. (Or check out my Girona Game of Thrones guide to be sure!)
Try Kayaking the Costa Brava
Kayaking in the Costa Brava is a great way to explore more of the hidden coves along the coastline and view the beautiful houses perched on many of the cliffs. It’s possible to rent kayaks and do a self-guided tour, however taking a guided kayaking tour will give you much more information about what you’re seeing and enable you to safely navigate the coast, especially if you’re less experienced!
Book a tour: Kayaking and Snorkelling Tour
Visit the fortifications in Tossa de Mar
Tossa de Mar is one of the most picturesque medieval villages along the Costa Brava, although to be honest there are so many it’s really hard to choose! What makes Tossa stand out is the fortifications that include towers and medieval walls. Wander around them in the early morning when there are hardly any people, or go out there in the evening when all the hidden bars and restaurants come to life.
Be amazed at the Salvador Dalí Theatre Museum
I don’t pretend to fully understand the artwork of Salvador Dalí, but then I’m not sure anyone does! However, after a guided visit to the Theatre-Museum that he designed himself in his birthplace, I do think I have a much greater appreciation for what he accomplished. The museum is set in an old theatre in Figueres, and Dalí is actually buried in a crypt beneath the former stage.
I spent a good two hours attempting to explain the significance of the artwork within the museum and the jewels that he designed to my husband after returning home, but you really need to see it to appreciate it for yourself!
Eat at one of Dalí’s favourite restaurants
Around 5 minutes walk from the Dalí Theatre-Museum is the Duran Restaurant, which was a favourite of Dalí. It is also a hotel and the walls near the entrance are adorned with small drawings he did for the restaurant as well as photographs of him when he was younger. The restaurant has actually been around since 1827 however, and it gives the feeling of having stepped back into another era with the traditional decor. The cuisine on offer is traditionally Catalan, and we enjoyed the daily menu which included three courses for €22, drinks excluded.
Take a wine tour
Given that the Costa Brava is known for its gastronomy, it’s no surprise that they have an array of wineries to go along with it. The Empordà Wine Region is home to many of the wineries of the Costa Brava, and plenty of them offer tours, tastings, and other activities. Try La Vinyeta or Mas Estella. If beer is more your style, you can find several microbreweries stretching along the coast too! Check out more about the must-visit wineries and breweries in this post on Savored Journeys.
Walk the Coastal Path
The Costa Brava Coastal Path covers over 200 kilometres of the coastline, from Port Bou to Blanes. At times it runs along the beaches, through towns, or even the front gardens of houses, and at others it just meanders along rocky cliffs above the sea. The Coastal Path north from S’Agaro is probably the most accessible, with wide paths and much fewer steps. When you’re visiting the Costa Brava make sure you take some time to walk along the path somewhere!
Cadaqués is a short journey from Figueres, and after visiting the Dalí Museum it’s likely you’ll want to take a trip! Aside from being regularly touted as one of the most beautiful towns on the Costa Brava and nicknamed “The Pearl of Costa Brava”, it featured in Dalí’s paintings as he spent his childhood holidays here, and lived nearby in his adult life. There isn’t anything in particular to do in the town, other than visit the beach and walk around the rocky bay and pebble beaches. Then find a table in the sun and order some drinks!
See the start/end of the Costa Brava in Blanes
The “gateway to the Costa Brava”, Blanes should feature on your trip itinerary. There are both sandy and rocky beaches’ and the town is a little quieter than some of the others along the coast. The rocky outcrop of Sa Palomera marks the beginning (or end!) of the Costa Brava and gives beautiful views up and down the coast.
Stop by Es Blanc, just across from the rock, where we had one of our best culinary experiences on the Costa Brava. The modern restaurant bar offers several stations and areas where you can see sushi being made or Jamon and cheese being cut, plus order tapas and other Mediterranean cuisine from the menu. All of the food was delicious and served thoughtfully, which I love. Later in the evening it transforms more into a cocktail and beach bar!
Discover Dali’s House in Port Lligat
Between 1930 and 1982 Dalí often lived and worked in a house in Port Lligat, until his wife Gala died. You’ll be able to spot the house which has now been turned into a museum because of the distinctive eggs on the roof. Yes, eggs. Entry is by ticket only and in small groups admitted every ten minutes. Be sure to book in advance if it’s high season because you don’t want to be disappointed!
Savour the restaurants and cafe’s of Girona
Girona is full of unique eateries, from the more upmarket to the hole in the wall style tiny shops. There’s traditional Catalan dishes as well as more modern fusion cuisine. Try Casa Marieta in Independence Square for an old world experience of traditional food in a restaurant over 100 years old, or Indigo Restaurant in Hotel Carlemany where you can get everything from Catalan tapas with influences from other cuisines to cocktails.
If you need a pick me up after wandering the Old Town then head to Rocambolesc, a Willy Wonka style ice-cream shop with delicious flavours and unique toppings on offer.
Have fun at Costa Brava waterparks
The Costa Brava has miles of gorgeous coastline, but if you want to spend a day in the water you can also go to one of the many waterparks. They’re good for children and adults alike! Check out the following:
- Aquabrava – Roses
- Water World – Lloret de Mar
- Aquadiver – Platja d’Arco
- The waterpark in the sea – Empuriabrava
Swim the coastal swim lanes
As well as walking the length of the Costa Brava Coastline, you can also swim much of it! The Swim lanes, or Vies Braves, are open water swimming and snorkelling trails that follow the coast. You’ll need to be a confident swimmer to make your way between the beaches and coves along the coast, and check for what safety gear you need, like a bright float to make boats aware of you.
Enjoy the oasis of the Botanical Gardens
Beautiful parks and gardens are a feature of the Costa Brava, as many have been set up as an oasis from the beaches and the rocky coast. The cliffs next to the sea are often the perfect spot for gardens, and so you’ll find plenty as you travel around. There are some of the most beautiful botanic gardens in the Meditarreanean, so take a wander through when you’re visiting a town nearby.
- Pinya de Rosa Botanical Gardens between Blanes and Lloret
- Mar I Murtra in Blanes
- Cap Roig Gardens in Calella de Palafrugell which are also the setting of the Cap Roig Festival
Walk the bridge at Besalú
Besalú is a beautiful medieval town on the Costa Brava, but with a distinctive Romanesque Bridge that is around 1000 years old. The bridge with its seven arches makes for a grand entry point into the small village! I would rank visiting Besalú and seeing the bridge as high on your list of things to do in the Costa Brava, having never been anywhere else like it!
Visit Gala Dalí Castle Púbol
If you want to complete the Dalí triangle after visiting the Theatre-Museum in Figueres and the Portlligat Museum-House you’ll need to travel to Castle Púbol between Girona and Figueres. Dalí bought the Castle for his wife Gala in 1968 and she spent every summer there from 1971 until 1980. It was only after her death in 1982 that Dalí moved in but he left again after a fire in 1984. Castle Púbol has been open to the public since 1996 and you can visit and see the surrealist masterpiece he made for his wife.
View the Santa Clotilde Gardens
The Santa Clotilde Gardens in Lloret de Mar are evergreen gardens rather than botanic, so they can really be enjoyed at any time of year. Although they are in the Renaissance style, they were designed by a local architect who was inspired by the Villa d’Este gardens near Rome. Perched on the rocky cliffs above Lloret de Mar, the gardens include beautiful pathways leading towards views of the coast.
Created in the 1920s and named after the first wife of the architect, the gardens have since been restored twice and are now similar to how they would have been in the 1950s. Originally only for the family, the gardens are now public.
Journey around the rice fields in Pals
Just a few kilometres from the coast is yet another Costa Brava beauty, the medieval village of Pals. However, as a point of difference to the other villages, Pals is surrounded by what were once marshlands that have now been transformed into rice fields. They date back to 1452! You can visit the rice mill and the fields on the tourist train, or by bicycle.
Get lost in the Old Town of Girona
That cliche of “stepping back in time” as you walk through a modern-day city is true about Girona or at least the Old Town! It has retained much of its medieval architecture and influence, and you really can walk along the ancient walls or explore the Jewish Quarter.
Refresh yourself with a frozen Daiquiri
When I was visiting Lloret de Mar I was intrigued to find out about the connection between this small town on the Costa Brava and Floridita, one of the most famous bars in Havana, Cuba. The town of Lloret has been in existence for over 1000 years, and although it was originally a ship-building community, this work unfortunately dried up, and many people moved on to Cuba in search of making a living.
One such man, Constantino Ribalaigua Vert, worked in a bar called La Piña de Plata, before becoming the owner and changing the name to El Floridita. He was widely considered to be the best bartender of his time, and he is credited with the invention of the frozen daiquiri in the 1930s. He used rum, sugar, and lemon like a traditional daiquiri, but with the addition of crushed ice and maraschino liquor.
So while you’re in Lloret de Mar, be sure to have a frozen daiquiri and remember the man who was from there that invented them!
Appreciate the local food and gastronomy
I really think that Spain, in general, is an underrated foodie destination, and the Costa Brava is no different! The traditional Catalan food on offer is often a combination of rural and sea, with things like veal and prawns being served together. Paella with black rice and seafood is served, as well as fideauá, a Catalan-style paella made with short noodles kind of like vermicelli rather than rice.
In addition to the delicious traditional dishes and abundance of fresh seafood, you’ll find more modern restaurants serving fusion food or a new take on Catalan dishes.
Some places to try:
- Sa Barca in Tossa de Mar – A delightful dining experience, with wonderful staff and plenty of seafood dishes (try their Black Rice Paella).
- Casa Marieta in Girona – A restaurant that has been operating for over 100 years, serving traditional Catalan dishes.
- Casa Brinda in Platja d’Aro – With a beautiful interior and cuisine to match, this is a lovely place to stop in for lunch or dinner during a day at the beach.
- Sybius Cala Canyelles in Lloret de Mar – A seaside setting with lots of seafood dishes on offer. Their seafood paella is delicious!
- Es Blanc in Blanes – A modern restaurant/bar (think vaguely hipster) that mixes traditional and fusion dishes served in quirky crockery. My favourite!
- Indigo in Hotel Carlemany, Girona – Cocktail bar and tapas lounge inside the Hotel Carlemany in Girona. Great for any time of day.
Play a round of Golf
Now golf isn’t really my thing (unless its mini golf!) but it is definitely a reason for some people to choose their next holiday destination. The Costa Brava has a wide range of excellent golf courses and even luxury golf hotels. European Tour events have been held on the Costa Brava, and there are four courses in the region ranked amongst the top 50 in Europe.
Have a cider at Mooma Cideria
Catalan people (and indeed all Spanish people) are well-known for being wine-drinkers, but at Mooma Cideria, they’re trying to change that. The cideria is located to the east of Girona, almost on the coast, and is the only place making cider within 500 kilometres. The family-owned and operated business was started over 60 years ago when apple orchards were planted to sell into supermarkets.
However, the younger generation of the family decided that they wanted to try and do something a little different, and so the cideria was born. Although a type of cider can be found in the Asturias region in the north of Spain, they travelled to Somerset to investigate how to craft an English cider. The first cider was sold in December 2015, and in January 2016 the apple juice variations and vinegar were also released. The most recent addition are guided tours of the orchard and the small chiller, showing how the operation has already grown, plus tastings of course, as well as their restaurant and beer garden.
I absolutely love visiting this kind of place on my travels. Where a small group or family are trying to do something different and make their living outside of the norm. I’d highly recommend a visit to Mooma!
Enjoy the Costa Brava Nightlife
Lloret de Mar is the typical spot to go in the Costa Brava if you’re looking for vibrant nightlife, but many of the smaller towns have fantastic bars and clubs that are a little more local and chilled out too. You’ll need to pay around €12-15 for entry to some of Lloret de Mar’s biggest clubs, some of which are open all day, from the afternoon, or only really become popular after midnight. This does mean the town attracts some stag and hen parties, so look to other places along the coast (there are plenty!) if you want a quieter night out or more local experience!
Take a boat trip
Exploring the Costa Brava coastline by boat is a wonderful way to see even more of this beautiful area. You can join established boat tours, take a ferry between Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar, or charter your own boat for the day to explore hidden coves along the coast!
Wander the ruins of Empúries
Around the 6th century BC a Greek colony was founded on this site, and later in the 1st century BC, it was a Roman town. These now comprise the largest archeological site in the Costa Brava. You can wander down streets, see an old factory and the amphitheatre and Basilica, plus mosaics and paintings. It is possible to park close to the ruins if you have a car or walk along the promenade from L’Escala.
Try snorkeling Costa Brava
The water may be chillier than in Barcelona and the south of Spain, but snorkelling is one of the best things to do in the Costa Brava! The waters are some of the clearest seawaters in the world, second only to the Caribbean. When you snorkel in Costa Brava you can expect to spot colourful fish, sea anemones and maybe even octopus!
Marvel at the medieval towns
You might have guessed by now that one of the best things to do in the Costa Brava is explore all the beautiful medieval destinations. There are the streets of Girona’s old town, and the fortifications in Tossa de Mar, but you’ll also find plenty of beautiful little villages strewn all along the coast and inland.
One of the best to visit is Peratallada, which is full of stone-cut buildings with bougainvillea climbing over them. Besalú has its beautiful bridge and fascinating Jewish history, and Sant Pere de Rodes has a monastery on top of a mountain. Then there’s Pals and Begur as well! You could spend days and days exploring all of the medieval towns on the Costa Brava!
Climb up to Sant Ferran Castle
Just a short 15-minute walk from the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres is Sant Ferran Castle, a large 18th-century fortress that is one of the largest of it’s kind in Europe. It’s worth the effort for the stunning views over the surrounding countryside. Admission is €3.50, but you can also book to see the underground canals built for water receivers in the advent of an invasion.
Explore Cap de Creus
Cap de Creus is in the north of the Costa Brava and comprises of wild coastline and rocky and dry inland scenery where not much grows in places thanks to the wind. There are lots of hidden coves as well as the lighthouse to explore, as well as hiking trails. Dalí used the national park for inspiration, and it’s close to many of the small villages he used to frequent.
Attend one of the Costa Brava Festivals
The Costa Brava has festivals and fiestas all year round, so when you’re planning your list of things to do make sure you check if there’ll be anything on when you’re there! Some examples are:
- Temps de Flor in Girona
- Fireworks and Fiesta Mayor in Blanes
- Lloret Formula Weekend
- Holy Week Processions
- Sail Regattas
- Cap Roig Gardens music festival
Try Scuba Diving Costa Brava
The Costa Brava is one of the best diving destinations in the Mediterranean, thanks to the beautiful clear waters you can find there. Many areas in Cap de Creus are protected, as are the Medes Islands which means there is no fishing or collecting coral, and the visibility is fantastic. There are even caves and tunnels to explore! You can dive all year round as temperatures vary from 12.4 to 22.8 degrees in the water, although you will likely want a wetsuit in both summer and winter. With plenty of operators up and down the coast, it’s also possible to become dive certified in the Costa Brava.
Where is the Costa Brava
The Costa Brava is the coastal region in the very northeast of Spain, in Catalonia. It stretches from Portbou to Blanes, and inland to Girona.
How to get to the Costa Brava
Girona has the nearest airport to the Costa Brava, making it a great place to fly to and explore both the city, the coast, and the inland villages and towns. I flew directly from Edinburgh to Girona with Jet2 Holidays and it was only about a 2-hour flight!
Best time of year to visit the Costa Brava
The Costa Brava is known for being sunny all year round. Its location in the north of Spain means it can be cooler than the rest of the country in winter, but then not quite as hot and stifling in the summer. July and August are when the temperatures are the highest, including the sea temperature, but it also means they’re a very popular time to visit.
I went in June and enjoyed the daily sunny weather and temperatures that weren’t too hot, and it was also obvious that the crowds hadn’t yet arrived! I always enjoy travelling in the shoulder and off-season in Europe and the Costa Brava is no different.
Where to stay in Costa Brava
The accommodation and options on where to stay in the Costa Brava are almost endless! From cities like Girona and Figueres to coastal resorts and villages, and all of the small towns in between. Where you choose to stay in the Costa Brava really depends on what you intend to do, as there is so much to see up and down the coast. I would recommend having a car for at least some of your time in the Costa Brava to enable you to visit many more of the attractions and not be reliant on tours.
We stayed with Jet2Holidays in Tossa de Mar at the Premier Gran Hotel Reymar & Spa. The outlook from the seaview rooms was amazing and I loved relaxing there in the morning and then the evening after a long day. It also has spa facilities and two swimming pools, with lots of lounger space by the outdoor pool.
This is a mammoth post of the best things to do in the Costa Brava, but there really is even more than this too! It’s the kind of place you could holiday more than once and still have plenty of new things to see and do each time. I know I’ll certainly be back!
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My trip was organised by Jet2Holidays Costa Brava and Costa Brava Tourism Board. As always, all opinions are my own.