More than just great beaches: cool culture, fine food, stunning scenery

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Why come?

The great cities of Barcelona & Gerona and the Salvador Dali museum trail; a gourmet food scene; stunning inland routes… and, of course, those great beaches

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Pros

Destinations to suit everyone. Stylish accommodation; so much to do away from the beach. Second best restaurant in world…and you can even ski in the Pyrenees

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Cons

Justifiable popular, so you’ll usually need to book well ahead. More expensive than some parts of Spain. Beaches and cities very crowded in late July and August

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Practical info

Barcelona’s the main gateway, but Ryanair and Thomson fly into well-placed Gerona. The high-speed rail line (Ave) gives great access from France and central Spain

Costa Brava resorts

Costa Brava resorts

L’Escala

Once a slightly scruffy village and port, the resort has been smartening up its act over the last years, thanks in big part to the pull of its classy neighbouring beach Sant Marti, home to Roman ruins and a chic hotel. Other good bases above Gerona: Begur, Aigua Blava, Calella de Palafrugell and Cadaques. Lower down, S’Agaro is a small, smart family resort with a large sandy beach.

Costa Brava beaches

Costa Brava beaches

Town beach, L’Escala

A village cove packed with local kids swimming out to the diving platform. This one faces the restaurants and bars, but you also have other, longer stretches of beach heading south towards L’Estartit.

Costa Brava beaches

Costa Brava beaches

Coast leading to Sant Marti

The best beaches near L’Escala – and, in fact, some of the nicest ones on this stretch of coast, are those at Hostal Empuries and beyond: safe, gently-shelving and backed by protected sand dunes and walking/cycling trails. In their centre lie the Roman ruins of Empuries.

Costa Brava hotels

Costa Brava hotels

Hostal Empuries, Sant Marti

One of the coolest hotels in Catalonia, the building dates back from 1907, hence its privileged posiition bang on the sands. Some of the older rooms look onto the sea; the newer ones suit families and nestle in the gardens near the small spa. Yoga classes are held in the summer on the decking in the woods. Save up: it’s worth it.

Costa Brava hotels

Costa Brava hotels

DoubleTree Hotel Emporda

With so many great farmhouse hotels and independent seaside properties, we wouldn’t normally highlight a resort. But a dog-friendly one deserves a shout-out. This one, run by the Hilton group, caters to golfers, with a fine course on site, but plenty of guests are just regular holidaymakers taking advantage of its good location, pools and spacious grounds for families.

Costa Brava activities

Costa Brava activities

Yoga

Year-round classes at the Hostal Empuries; in summer on their terrace under the trees. Other hotels which run sessions include the DoubleTree Emporda, Hotel Mas de Torrent, Hotel Casa AnaMaria…

Costa Brava activities

Costa Brava activities

Flying

There are a number of flying schools which will take you up for a short spin over the coast or countryside, picking out the sights. Two in the near the resorts of Pals and L’Estartit are ultraligeros.net/en/ and flycostabrava.com/aeroclubemporda-welcome.html.

Costa Brava activities

Costa Brava activities

Cycling

Spain’s old railway lines, converted to cycle paths and known as the Vias Verdes, also run through stunning parts of this region. We tried the trail near Olot when the kids were small. The protected volcanic landscape of the Garrotxa Natural Park is often overlooked by holidaymakers sticking to the coast, but is well worth a detour. In fact, well worth a couple of days on your holiday itinerary. en.turismegarrotxa.com. (Map courtesy Vias Verdes).

Costa Brava restaurants

Costa Brava restaurants

Tragamar, Calella de Palafrugell

Calella de Palafrugell is packed with good restaurants and Tragamar isn’t the top one. It does has the best seat in town, though, bang on the shingle beach. So close to the water in fact, that some guests arrive by dinghy. For families, this is perfect, as kids can play on the sand until the food’s on the table. Modern, mid-priced Med dishes; part of the cool Barcelona Tragaluz group (pic © Tragamar).

Costa Brava restaurants

Costa Brava restaurants

Candelaria, Peratallada

One of the longer-running restaurants in this picturesque inland village, packed with visitors in the summer strolling around its carefully restored medieval streets and fine houses. Head to Candeleria for a romantic treat; innovative cuisine and quirky candle-lit decor. (Image © the restaurant). Families will enjoy informal brasserie-style eateries, some with gardens.