Spain is one of my favourite places to visit, and after four consecutive years of travelling to similar areas in Catalonia, I decided to write a blog post on some of the best places we’ve discovered over the years. These five places vary from small and almost abandoned medieval villages, to seaside towns, to larger cities, and should cater for anyone; they’re all completely stunning and make me wish I lived somewhere that wasn’t England.
After spending a week in a small village just outside of Roses (Rosas) we managed to get a proper feel for the town, and visited a selection of restaurants and bars during our stay. It’s often quite busy and to get away from the crowds you have to either visit in the early morning or on a colder day, but the bustling atmosphere was a new one and perfectly matched the huge sandy beach and array of beach bars and souvenir shops dotted along the promenade. With a huge line of shops and restaurants along the large cove, you are spoilt for choice; there really are more places to eat or drink than you can shake a stick at. Above all, the Italian that is placed in a square overlooking the harbour is something you shouldn’t miss due to its sensational pasta – if you’re able to visit, you really should.
If you like to get out into the water, I’d recommend hiring a paddle boat as they’re readily available along the beach (but booking is advised). You then get an hour of paddling around in the waves and considering whether you should or shouldn’t use the slide to get into the water; it’s a great way to see the town from a different perspective and also have some fun in the good weather it almost guarantees.
If the sun gets too much, there are lots of picturesque back streets to wander through; seafood bars, ice cream vans and even fish massages are available, plus a look around the historic walled part of the town. There’s a whole host of other activities to do nearby, including going to the famous water park or visiting the go-karting, which is a short ten minutes from the town centre.
Pals is a traditional medieval town, built on the top of a hill and walled. The grey stone buildings still look medieval and the whole village is beautiful, surrounded by fields of sunflowers and grape vines. Further, there’s a selection of gorgeous restaurants and bars to eat at, all offering a wide menu with a lovely view. Although it’s not huge and is best for a shorter trip, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon or evening and shouldn’t be missed. It also has a lot of history and you can spend a while simply walking around the village, reading (translated) signs and learning a bit about the past of Pals. It’s definitely worth a visit, and if you can, go in the evening so you can watch the sunset.
Spain has a whole host of these traditional little villages, often sat on top of small hills, so if there are any near you, I recommend visiting. We’ve had dozens of pleasant afternoons wandering through the narrow streets of the medieval villages.
Located in the same bay as Roses and just a few miles South, Empuriabrava hosts a huge series of canals between “islands” with houses and apartments. You can hire paddle boats, larger steamboats and jet skis from the canals and also take a guided tour along the waterways in another boat, so there’s never a dull (or dry) moment. Along the beach, there’s a wide walkway with a market (at particular times) and a huge array of bars, restaurants, a few fast food places and some ice cream parlours. The plentiful food opportunities, things to look at, experiences to try and stunning views make it a must to visit.
At night Empuriabrava livens up a little more and there is live music, evening boat trips and gorgeous sunsets to watch. The tapas bars are also open till late, like most places serving food in Spain, so you can head out for an evening meal and a wander at whatever time works for you.
If you’re more of an adventurous person and a wander doesn’t cut it, there are dozens of companies advertising jet skis for hire along the canals. Aside from that, if a jet ski is a little too adventurous, many boat trips complete with a tour (in several languages) and smaller boats to hire are available at most times of the day.
Palafrugell is a little larger than Begur and has a collection of 7 stunning beaches, all below a walkway that looks down on the coves. Each beach has gorgeous white sands and clear water, popular with swimmers, snorkelers, paddle boarders and those with boats. As well as a pleasant walk overlooking the beaches, restaurants and bars are on the other side, providing plenty of places to eat. There’s also more shopping on the main street leading towards the beaches, perfect for tourists to pick up a souvenir, as well as pick up some baguettes from the bakery on the road leading down to the beaches (it is incredible, I definitely recommend!).
It’s popular with tourists who may stay in the outskirts of the town in one of the many stunning villas, or stay a little further away and come to visit for a day. The huge selection of snorkelling and swimming bays and outcrops of rock for diving and fishing make it very desirable, with holidaymakers and locals alike. The one downside is how busy it gets; make sure to plan your trip around other people and arrive early or later after people have had their fun.
Begur overlooks the Mediterranean only just over an hour from the border, with a shopping street and many more bars and restaurants, as well as plentiful beaches and shops. We stayed here for three consecutive years, attracted by the beaches and the snorkelling, and the whole town has a lovely feel.
Some of the best beaches around are Llafranc, Aguifreda, Aiguablava and Tamariu, all a short drive from the town centre; there’s also Sa Tuna, perfect for an evening stroll and light meal but not so ideal for swimming due to a pebbly beach. In addition, there’s bars, cafes, restaurants and coffee spots in the town, and their menus range hugely and offer lovely views, traditional Spanish dishes (including a huge range of tapas) and also all types of ice creams, crepes and churros, ideal for accompanying an evening walk.