Area guide – Costa Brava

16 Feb | 31 min read

Discover unspoilt beaches, stunning scenery, haute cuisine, and amazing art, culture, and heritage along this beautiful stretch of the Mediterranean coast.

Immaculate beaches and emerald seas, ancient ruins, fairy tale medieval towns, and Michelin star dining are just some of the reasons you should move to the beautiful Costa Brava.

Located near the southern border of France in northeast Spain, the Costa Brava (‘Wild Coast’) is one of the most beautiful stretches of coast on the Mediterranean. Its unspoilt beaches spill into glistening emerald-coloured waters, while the intoxicating, resinous aroma of its pines fills the air. Whitewashed villages lead to picturesque coves; wide, sandy beaches curve round horseshoe bays.

The stunning scenery is not the only reason to consider moving to the Costa Brava, however, as the area is also renowned for its excellent culinary scene. The region of Catalonia, in which the Costa Brava is based, is home to the highest number of Michelin star restaurants in Spain. There are gastronomic delights to be discovered at every price point – from beachside catch of the day to Michelin star fine haute cuisine. There are also a number of excellent wines produced in the area, thanks to the warm Mediterranean climate.

There’s plenty of art and culture to be discovered too; the Costa Brava is the birthplace of surrealist artist Salvador Dali. If you love art, you’d be well advised to visit Figueres, the town in which he was born and died, as well as his adulthood home in Portlligat, and his wife Gala’s sanctuary at Púbol Castle. The Costa is also home to some of the most scenic and important Greco-Roman and Iberian archaeological sites in Europe, including the ruins of Empuries, a kind of mini-Pompeii just outside the seaside town of L’Escala.

From ancient ruins, to medieval villages, the Costa offers living history to those who know where to look. The fortified hilltop town of Begur features winding cobbled streets, independent boutiques, and a great choice of bars and restaurants. You will have to cross a moat to get to Peratallada (another time-travellers favourite) but it will be worth it for the fairy tale scenery of beautiful plazas and cloistered arcade.

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Guide to towns on Costa Brava (Girona province)

In this order: Begur, Platja d´aro, Calonge, Lloret de Mar, Blanes.

 

Begur

Located on the east coast of Spain’s Costa Brava around 45 minutes from Girona, the colourful Catalan town of Begur, known as ‘Little Cuba’, thanks to its fine Cuban mansions.

With Michelin star dining within easy reach, stunning views of the Pyrenees and distinctive local architecture, it’s easy to see why this town is one of the most sought-after on the Costa Brava.

Located on the east coast of Spain’s Costa Brava around 45 minutes from Girona, this stunning Catalan town is fast becoming a stylish destination for Barcelonians and in-the-know international property buyers. Begur offers magnificent views from its hilltop vantage point, including some of the best beaches on the Costa Brava, which are less than 10 minutes away from the town. Head to the very top of the hill and you will find a beautiful ruined medieval castle, complete with spectacular views of the snow-capped Pyrenees.

From here you can also get a good view of the town, with its narrow streets and distinctive architecture. Known as Little Cuba, Begur stands out from other towns in the area thanks to its macaroon coloured houses covered in vibrant ornamental vines and fine Cuban mansions. These grand homes were built by wealthy local merchants in the 19th Century – inspired, no doubt, by the opulent properties they encountered while trading in Cuba – and are rumoured to have once hosted pirates.

These days though, the area is less Pirates of the Caribbean, and more quirky bistro, local flea market, and boutique hotel. The town and surrounding area are now better known as a gastronomic hotspot, with Michelin star restaurants and excellent regional wines. No wonder Begur is one of the most sought-after towns on the Costa Brava.

Community

Begur is a small municipality, with under 4,000 residents at the time of writing. International buyers make up more than a quarter of the property market.

Property

There is a good variety of property on offer from stylish villas to modern apartments. Those who prefer rustic properties are also well catered for, with stone town and country houses available in the traditional Mediterranean style.

Amenities

Everything you could need is within easy reach, including several supermarkets, fishmongers and bakeries, not to mention fascinating boutique shops, bars and restaurants.

Transport

Begur is 45 minutes away from its closest airport, Girona and 2 hours away from Barcelona El-Prat airport. Public transport tends to coincide with the tourist season here, so having a car is advised.

Health

There is a local clinic in Begur and a number of medical centres in Palafrugell, which is around ten minutes away. The nearest hospital is in Palamos, just under 20 minutes away.

Cost of Living

Begur is a very sought after area; the cost of living is therefore higher here than in other parts of the Costa. However, the quality of life here is excellent, so for the people who choose to buy here, it is money well spent.

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Platja d’Aro

Platja d’Aro is the seaside part of the Castell-Platja d’Aro municipality in Girona. Formerly a fishing village, this coastal town now stretches across 2 kilometres of Costa Brava beach.

A confidently international urbanised beach town, Platja d’Aro has plenty of individual family homes and activities to offer.

This Costa Brava heartland with a neolithic history was mostly developed in the mid 19th century after tourism boomed. Adjoined to S’Agaro, a garden-city designed by Architect Rafael Masó Valentí and the medieval city of Castell d’Aro, the Platja d’Aro resort has been nicknamed Miami Playa by international visitors.

The beach is a broad, sandy sweep lined with interesting shops, bars, restaurants and nightclubs. The area swells with tourists over the summer months as the average temperature in the daytime is 30ºc. There are plenty of water sports hire shops, a dive centre and to the west, a nautical club and marina. Set higher up in the foothills of the Cadiretes Mountains is Golf d’Aro Mas Nou, a 9-hole pitch with spectacular views down to the coast. Families will enjoy the Aquadiver Water Park which has wave pools, indoor and outdoor water slides and a range of rides suitable for everyone from babies to adults.

Platja d’Aro is a short distance from the Catalan cities of Barcelona and Girona, both of which host some impressive architecture, historical sites and cultural events. El Celler de Can Roca in Girona was recently voted the world’s best restaurant. There’s also the Regional Park of the Catalan Pyrenees, a massive nature reserve in the mountains full of hot springs and lakes. The closest ski resort is just over 2 hours drive away in Masella, to the north of the Girona Province.

Community 

The year-round community of 20,000 residents explodes to 90,000 in the summer with the influx of tourists. However, Platja d’Aro is considered an upmarket resort that stays open all year, so it’s particularly popular with British, French and northern European expats looking for good value private villas.

Property

Of the properties listed for sale here, a considerable number are private villas. You’ll also find large family-friendly apartments with at least 2 or 3 bedrooms as the norm.

Amenities

There are a wide range of shops in all three of the major centres in the Castell-Platja d’Aro municipality. There are gyms, banks, hairdressers and a Correos (post office) all within walking distance from the beach

Transport

Platja d’Aro is just 30 minutes drive from the Girona-Costa Brava airport, and 1 hour 20 minutes from Barcelona’s El Prat. You can get a bus via Estación de Autobuses de Girona from the airport, but it will take three times as long as a taxi. SARFA run a bus service connecting the towns along the Costa Blanca, but travelling this way can be a little disjointed.

Health

The CAP Centre Salut Platja d’Aro on the Avenida de Castell d’Aro, managed by the Catalan Health Institute (ICS), is open from 8am to 8pm. The Hospital de Palamos in Palamos is open 24 hours and has emergency services.

Cost of Living

Although this isn’t the cheapest place to move when you consider Spain as a whole, it is still more affordable than many northern European countries. Groceries, transport and services are very good value. Rent and property prices are higher than some coastal retreats but certainly lower cost than living in Barcelona.

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Calonge

Calonge is a municipality covering both the inland medieval village of Calonge and the beachside Sant Antoni de Calonge.  It’s located in the Costa Brava near Girona and Barcelona in Catalonia.

Move here for the best of both worlds: a traditional Spanish mountain village and a well serviced seaside resort combine into a brilliant base that’s easy to reach and surrounded by fascinating places.

The Calonge village is a classic Spanish town of labyrinthine streets, medieval ramparts and religious architecture. Nationals speak conversational Catalan and there are many regional customs alive, such as the Feast of Sant Jordi, the Feast of San Juan and Catalan.

Well situated in the middle of the Costa Brava, the Sant Antoni marina has become a thriving tourist town. Sant Antoni beach covers most of the coastline complementing the commercial centre of shops, bars and restaurants. At the southern end, the Playa Torre Valentina walkway begins. This path continues through pine woodland past the rock-ribbed Cala del Racó dels Homes bay to the Cala Cap Roig: a cove named after the glittering red rock jutting out of the Mediterranean on the horizon.

The nightlife in both neighbouring Palamos and Playa d’ Aro is varied and runs into the early hours. The verdant national parks of Massis de les Gavarres and Zona Volcanica de la Garrotxa are 30 minutes, or an hour and 20 minutes’ drive respectively. Girona, Barcelona, Figueres and the French border are all within driving distance, and there are plenty of mountain villages such as Pals, Monells and Madremanya to explore.

Community  

The community is made up from a mix of Spanish and European residents, with many second homes belonging to Barcelona weekenders and northern European holidaymakers.

Property

This is an expensive area for Spain, but people come because it’s got a sophisticated and cultured reputation. Most buyers are after villas with private gardens and often private pools too. Even apartments here start around 2-3 bedrooms and the more expensive have sea views.

Amenities

Calonge has the benefit having of both the urbanised beachside town and the medieval village, so there are plenty of shared amenities.

Transport

The Girona-Costa Brava airport is only 35 minutes drive away, and public transport can get you there via Girona in under 2 hours. The Barcelona–El Prat Airport is further but has more frequent flights to mainland Europe and the UK. The number 44, 42 and 5 buses run between the village and the coast.

Health

The Costa Brava Medic in Sant Antoni is an international medical service, and Consultori Local de Calonge on the Plaça de la Concòrdia in the village, is a public health centre. The Hospital de Palamós is in the next town over and just a 10-minute drive from Calonge.

Cost of Living

Although rent and property sales here are generally more expensive than other parts of the Spanish coast, you can still enjoy an authentic Spanish life with a higher standard of living for less than in mainland Europe.

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Lloret De Mar

Lloret de Mar is a hugely popular seafaring town on the Costa Brava. It’s located in the Selva county to the Northeast of Barcelona in Catalonia.  

Lloret del Mar literally has everything; its prosperous tourist trade makes it globally relevant. It’s beaches, bustle and proximity to Barcelona make it a perfect place to buy.

Lloret de Mar is the most popular destination on the Costa Brava and one of the most visited towns in Europe. A place built for travellers by travellers since the 18th century, when the town’s trade with the Americas meant that locals became affluent. Many commissioned spectacular houses in modernist and neoclassical styles. In the 1920s wealthy Barcelonians began to build summer houses there.  Then in the ’50s foreign tourists begun to flood the area and urbanisation began. By 1975, there were more than 200 hotels in Lloret, more than 400 bars and over 50 nightclubs.

The Lloret de Mar beach is 1.5 kilometres long and complimented by a strip of bars and restaurants with every possible offering under the sun. There are quieter beaches nearby and a walkway connecting the inlets and coves. Peace seekers can also appreciate the Santa Clotilde gardens.

Home to the Costa Brava South Carnival, the Americanos Fair, the Cuina del Peix de l’Art Gastronomic Days, a Medieval Fair, the Tirada a l’Art (a celebration of fishing), the Santa Cristina and Sant Roma festivals and the birthplace of the Ball de Place (a dance in the town square), this is a perfect place for a party and that’s before you’ve had chance to sample the varied urban nightlife! It’s also popular with car enthusiasts, boasting the Lloret Formula Weekend and annual Rally Costa Brava. To top it all, there’s golf, water sports, late night shopping and Europe’s biggest water park, an aquatic zoo and the Universal Studios Port Aventura theme park all within easy reach.

Community

This is an area that attracts package tourists, with Club 18-30 using the town as it’s first ever destination. But it’s that same vibrancy that makes it a haven for young professionals.

Property

Properties don’t come particularly cheap in this stretch of the Costa Brava. Northern Catalonia’s market has held up better than most. But you’ll find a range of prices for both apartments and villas.

Amenities

Lloret has the second highest number of retail outlets on the Costa Brava, ranked only below Figueres, a non-coastal town. Most are concentrated in the town’s old quarter. Retail businesses in Lloret de Mar have been authorised to open every day of the year, including public holidays.

Transport

Barcelona airport is 75 km away, and Girona airport 30 km. There are coach services to Barcelona, Girona, and other European cities. The bus network connects the town. Both the city of Barcelona and its airport El Prat can also be reached by train from Blanes. You can reach Lloret del Mar on the GI-682 road, the C-32 motorway and the AP-7 motorway — although these roads may get congested in the summer.

Health

There are close to 20 doctor and dentist services in Lloret de Mar and no less than 5 hospitals registered within 5 minutes drive of the town centre.

Cost of Living

You can live on any budget in Lloret de Mar. Housing goes from thousands to millions, there are exclusive bars and restaurants and lower budget all-inclusive venues. Domestic produce and products are good value whereas global brands are more expensive.

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Blanes

Blanes is a large coastal town in Selva, North of Barcelona and just 25 minutes from Gerona. The Costa Brava stretches north from Blanes.

A Catalonian heartland despite being the gateway to the wild Costa Brava coast, Blanes has a little bit of everything you need, city centre, the beach, beautiful natural surroundings and a lively tourist area.

Blanes is a town of rejuvenation. Floored in various Spanish wars and revolts, recently rebuilt along the seafront after a 2008 storm, it still holds onto an interminable Catalonian spirit.

The beach is popular with locals, Barcelonians and a tourist set from Europe. At the northern end of the beach La Palomera, a rocky area of land, separates a quieter, smaller cove where sunbathers laze next to fishing sloops. To the south is El Pins, with camping grounds set away from the high-rise apartments, it’s a tourist resort in miniature.

There are plenty of bars and restaurants along the boulevard and a few streets inland leads to a labyrinthine quarter of traditional squares and passages known as the shopping district. There you’ll find a mixture of terrace bars and upscale boutiques. Blanes is also home to various gardens, including the enormous Marimurtra botanical gardens, Santa Clotilde Gardens and the smaller Pinya de Rosa tropical botanical garden.

Community 

There is a blend of Spanish inhabitants, second homeowners from Barcelona and Dutch, German and English expats. Catalan is still widely spoken.

Property

Blane properties range from seafront apartments, urbanised developments of semi and detached villas to exclusive hillside villas and charming, chic townhouses.

Amenities

Daily farmers’ markets, a fish auction and a beating heart of city centre shops, restaurants and cafes mean you don’t need to travel for your basic needs.

Transport

Girona airport is 25 minutes away while Barcelona El Prat is just under a 60-minute drive. There is a train with one change from Barcelona airport and a nonstop train to Girona that are both inexpensive and quick. Bus routes connect the city zones and travel out to Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar.

Health

There are a few options for medical and dental care in Blanes. Try registering at Centre de Salut Blanes on the Carrer de Sebastia. The Hospital Comarcal de la Selva and Hospital Sociosanitari Sant Jaume de Blanes are both open 24-hours for emergencies.

Cost of Living

Blanes is not cheap because of its proximity to Barcelona and the more expensive Costa Brava, but most expenses are still lower than a similar sized city in northern Europe.

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