Barcelona and Madrid may be bucket-list destinations, but sadly that’s the case for virtually every tourist heading to Spain. Instead of fighting crowds for your entire vacation (we can think of nothing less restful) why not buck the trend and tack on a few days on Spain’s Costa Brava? The eastern coastline stretching from Barcelona to the French border boasts miles of hidden beaches, untouched Medieval towns, and world-renowned restaurants. The still mostly undiscovered “wild coast” is filled with charm-your-pants-off towns and arresting vistas, which guarantees to make for a very magical trip. Here, a list of everywhere you should stay, eat and sun yourself. Vamos a la playa!
Start In Barcelona
Start your trip in the pulsing port city of Barcelona and take in the skyline of the city on the roof of the Mercer Hotel with a glass of local wine and Iberian ham croquettes.
Situated on one of the Gothic Quarter’s narrow, ambling streets, the top-rated Mercer Hotel is a history lesson in Barcelona architecture: modern design intersects with original Gothic structures and there’s even a Roman wall hidden in a private dining room.
Rent A Car
Once you've recovered from jet-lag, rent a car to head north from Barcelona to the fortress town of Begur, a perfect home-base for beach-hopping. It’s the kind of town where the only clock you need is the cathedral's bells—which have no regard to the amount of wine you drank last night and begin at 7am.
The Hotel Aiguaclara is an instant charmer with eclectic decorating, book-laden “chill out” areas, and a massage room. If you’re lucky enough to have a terrace, you’ll catch a glimpse of the hilltop castle where residents used to flee from invading pirates.
Dine On Catalan Cuisine
The restaurants in Begur feature some of the best of Catalan cuisine. Turandot is the chicest table in Begur and features inventive cooking, attentive service, and modern takes on old Catalan favorites. The fresh caught fish dishes are menu standouts and the deconstructed lemon tart is both surprising and to-die-for.
Hit The Beach(es)
If you like a castle with your beach, stop by Sa Caleta, a tiny beach located in a small cove. Swing through Sa Tuna for the Instagram photo or a snorkel but not the beach—it’s rather rocky—and instead hit the sand just north.
Sa Riera and Illa Roja beaches are connected by the most beautiful (and challenging) stairs you’ve ever been on, winding through cliffs and offering spectacular views of the sapphire Mediterranean waters.
Illa Roja is clothing optional so, if you’re feeling cheeky (literally), strip down and get rid of those tan lines.
Photo: Visita Costa Brava
Make A Stop In Pals
Make a pitstop in Pals, one of the most perfectly preserved Medieval towns in the area. Meander the streets and discover the millennia-old church.
Photo: Trip Advisor
Get A Room
In Girona, a mosaic of buildings line the river that divides the old town from the new. The city is most famous for its ancient Jewish Quarter, a web of cobbled streets scented with the perfume of night-blooming jasmine.
Rent one of the two apartments in Alemanys 5, a house situated smack dab in the center of the historic quarter. Take the upstairs apartment for the views or the downstairs apartment for the plunge pool.
Dine In Style...
Girona has some of the best food in Spain. El Celler de Can Roca is the crowning jewel and has the title of being the number one restaurant in the world. There’s a Michelin star for each of the three brothers who opened it and it's viewed by many as the successor to El Bullí (RIP). And yes, you’ll definitely need to book months in advance.
Photo: El Celler de Can Roca
...Or Family Style
In the very likely event you didn't score a reservation at El Celler de Can Roca, grab a table at Compartir. The name of the restaurant means “to share” and the menu is designed to do just that. It’s modern Spanish and regional cooking at its best and, for the indecisive among us, you can’t go wrong with any dish.
Get Some Culture
From Girona, take a day-trip to Cadaqués. Skip the Surrealist yard sale that is the Dalí museum in the charmless city of Figueres and check out the eccentric home Dalí shared with his wife and muse, Gala, instead. It’s a popular attraction so book your tickets ahead of time.
Do Some Shopping
Be sure to check out the boutique of jewelry designer Gemma Ridameya. Her hand-crafted creations are influenced by nature and architecture, drawing from their forms and elements. You’ll find rings with smoothed Costa Brava stones, structural but delicate rings, and statement making collars and cuffs.