Q1-Q3 2019 Costa Brava & Girona

Regional Guide

Here’s our Prime guide to the best spots in the Costa Brava including the city of Girona, the inland Baix Empordà region, Begur and Aiguablava, Llafranc and Calella de Palafrugell, and of course, Cadaqués.

Since 1908, when the writer and poet Ferran Agulló was inspired to give the rugged and beautiful Costa Brava its name, this unique and beautiful area of northern Spain has grown in reputation and appeal.

With its diverse and spectacular scenery, perfect Mediterranean climate and rich cultural heritage dating back millennia, this ‘Spanish Tuscany’ is immensely popular with visitors, and has also become firmly established as one of the world’s more exclusive places for discerning locals and those from all over Europe to live.

From sleepy coves and beautiful beaches to lush forests and rolling countryside, and from historic stone villages and seaside towns to the iconic charms of old town Girona, the Costa Brava suits all tastes. Properties range from fishermen’s cottages to seafront mansions, and from rural estates to chic designer homes overlooking the beach or golf course.

The outdoor lifestyle is encouraged by the vast rural surroundings and a wealth of natural parks, sporting facilities, golf courses and water sports clubs, with plenty of spas and health resorts to help you recover and world-class restaurants to pass the night away.

Geographically this area is perfectly placed for easy access to France to the north, the Pyrenees to the west and Barcelona to the south. It’s no wonder so many people choose this region to invest in, visit or call home.

Girona City (Barri Vell)

The eponymous capital city of the province of Girona is, like the surrounding countryside, steeped in history. Its historic and architectural legacy is a charming concoction of influences from past residents including the Iberian occupation, the Roman Empire and Napoleon, who took the city after a siege in 1809.

The impressive city wall, picturesque squares, narrow streets and alleys and hidden stone staircases are endlessly fascinating and perfect for exploring. The delightful cathedral is reached via a spectacular 90-step Baroque staircase and presides over the town as well as emphasising its hilltop location.

The colourful houses overlooking the river Onyar, and the many bridges that cross it including one by Gustav Eiffel dating back to 1826, further emphasise Girona’s historical credentials and its dedication to art and creativity.

But Girona is also a city for today, with bars and boutiques, international conventions, great shopping and a central train station providing high speed rail links to Barcelona, Madrid and Paris. The airport services much of Europe and brings the tourists in search of gastronomic excellence delivered in spades by gourmet establishments such as Celler Can Roca, twice voted the ‘best restaurant in the world’.

Houses and apartments in the old town ooze charm and comfort, many refurbished sympathetically to blend in whilst offering all modern luxuries and lovely city views. Just outside the old town you’ll find larger detached townhouses, many with pools.

Girona is a hub for outdoor activities and attitudes to sport are firmly focused on the 21st Century, with Girona home to many international professional cyclists whose training regimes benefit from the climate and terrain. There are also plenty of golf courses within easy reach, including the world-class PGA Catalunya resort whose Stadium Course is now rated the number one course in Spain.

Girona is a modern, contemporary city but also claims a historical and charming centre dominated by the spectacular cathedral

Baix Empordà (including the ‘Golden Triangle’)

This area begins in the countryside to the west of Girona and goes all the way to the coast, stretching from L’Escala down to Sant Feliu de Guíxols.

Breathtaking countryside is dotted with medieval towns and villages dating back to Roman times, while pine-clad hillsides lead down to the Costa Brava’s trademark beautiful coves with pristine beaches and crystal clear turquoise water.

The names are as mesmerising as the places themselves, from the lovely seaside town of Calella de Palafrugell to the hilltop settlement of Begur and the tiny bays of Tamariu, Sa Tuna and Aiguablava.

Properties in the area include magnificent restored country masias and designer villas with infinity pools overlooking the sea. Inland, the ‘Golden Triangle’ around the central town of Peratallada and including the villages of Ullastret, Monells and Fonteta, has a deserved reputation for having some of the finest country homes in the area, combining a great location with stunning scenery.

There are many luxury resorts here to cater to the higher end tourism market and offer comprehensive facilities including spa and wellness centres (Mas de Torrent Hotel and Spa, Hotel s’Agaró), golf (Golf Empordà, Golf d’Aro, Golf Costa Brava and Golf Platja de Pals) or simply excellent service in a fabulous setting (Hotel Aiguablava and Hotel Aiguaclara in Begur).

Restaurants such as the Bo.Tic just to the north of Peratallada and Casamar in Llafranc bring Michelin Star quality to an area already famous for its ‘sea and mountain’ culinary diversity, while the Empordà’s rising reputation for fine wine is taken care of by more than 420 growers who produce more than 6 million litres of wine every year.

Aiguablava is an area of quiet privilege, exclusive villas and breathtaking views

Begur and Aiguablava

The iconic Costa Brava town of Begur is indicative of the rich appeal of this part of the coast.

Begur is set on a hilltop boasting far reaching views to the Mediterranean Sea, across the emblematic Medes Islands and beyond to Cap de Creus, Spain’s most easterly point of coastline. Inland, the views extend over the rolling Empordà countryside to the snow-capped Pyrenees on the horizon. From the town the winding roads lead down to the sea. This is where many coves and beaches await and where you’ll find the picturesque bay of Aiguablava, the place whose name means ‘Blue Water’ and where writer Ferran Agulló first coined the name ‘Costa Brava’.

This is an area of quiet privilege and exclusive private villas with infinity pools and fantastic views. The beautiful coastline is ripe for exploring and rich with hidden gems that may not be the easiest to access but reward those who persevere.

The old town of Begur is easy to find, overlooked by the Medieval castle and offering plentiful charming squares, narrow, pedestrianised streets, excellent restaurants and boutiques. Begur also has a busy calendar of events and fiestas that take socialising up a notch and celebrate many things including the town’s close links to Cuba.

In fact, many of the ‘Begurence’ who left for Cuba during the 19th Century to seek their fortunes returned suitably weighed down with wealth that they happily invested in real estate. The ostentatious colonial homes (‘Casas Indianos’) they built form an eye-catching part of the healthy local property market.

One of these mansions is now the Hotel Restaurant Aiguaclara, a perennial favourite that combines boutique sensibilities with a dedication to quality and style. The Hotel Aiguablava is another hospitable local landmark with exquisite views overlooking the bay from its distinguished seafront position.

This is an area dedicated to first and second homes, with stunning first line estates, beautiful beach houses and cottages and standout villas with gardens, infinity pools and panoramic views.

It is also dedicated to making the most of perfect weather, sandy beaches, rocky coves and clear blue sea. The water is ideal for snorkelling, while the more energetic might get on their bikes and rise to the challenge of the winding roads, with regular stops to take in the view of course.

Medieval Begur offers charming squares, narrow, cobbled streets, vibrant restaurants and chic boutiques

Llafranc and Calella de Palafrugell

The beaches, bays and coves that make up this short but spectacular stretch of the Costa Brava include two towns that flow into each other and create the perfect destination to visit, invest in rental property or set up permanent home.

Small boats bob gently in the blue water outside picture-postcard-perfect fishermen’s cottages and set the relaxed tone for Llafranc, while the more bustling nature of Calella de Palafrugell is emphasised by the pretty buildings that appear to jostle for position and almost tip their toes in the sand.

Both preserve the traditional charm of the original villages but also reflect the high-end nature of the town and its residents. The property market reflects this by setting classic fishermen’s houses on the beach alongside luxurious villas and designer new builds with fantastic views.

The luxury taste of the locals is also reflected in the quality of names from the music industry who visit for the Cap Roig Festival held in the scenic surroundings of the Cap Roig Castle and its botanical gardens overlooking the sea. 2019 saw the likes of Sting, Nile Rodgers and Diana Krall grace the stage.

The Festival de Havaneres pays homage to the area’s strong links to Cuba, and this musical celebration has the added appeal of a surprising local beverage of choice, the ‘ron cremat’, which mixes rum, sugar and coffee beans and – naturally – sets it alight.

The quality clientele is also reflected in the gastronomic offerings here, with the Tragamar acting as an outpost for Barcelona’s renowned Tragaluz group, Simpson offering superb local produce from the ground and the sea and, for those looking to work up an appetite with a walk up to the lighthouse, the Hotel El Far awaits.

Llafranc boasts a beautiful sandy beach sandwiched between crystal blue waters and a smart promenade of whitewashed hotels and restaurants
Calella de Palafrugell is a charming former fishermen's village with five beautiful beaches

Cadaqués

This unique fishing town stands in splendid isolation atop the Costa Brava. It is just 20km or so from the French border as the crow flies, but access by car or bike requires a much more enchanting journey that takes you over hills and reveals a stunning almost volcanic landscape that tumbles to the easternmost point of the Spanish mainland – Cap de Creus.

The Bohemian enclave of Cadaqués really is a hidden gem, with a sense of being frozen in time and yet offering a privileged few pioneering souls a very special place to live. The rewards are clear, with fantastic villas set in stunning natural surroundings, or beautiful townhouses overlooking the seafront.

Neighbouring Port Lligat, the famous home of Salvador Dalí, sets the artistic tone for this remarkable headland and you’re never far from his legacy, be it in a store, in the museum where he once painted or under the gaze of his statue that guards the port.

Cadaqués certainly has a magical feel. The views are unlike any other on the Costa Brava, with added unspoilt rugged charm and a sense of drama that even the most impressively rocky of the more southern rocky coves can’t offer. The sheer space creates a comparative sense of isolation that was special enough to attract the eye of Dalí, and is just as spellbinding today.

Cadaqués is an artist's paradise and former home to Salvador Dalí

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