If you’ve visited Barcelona before or perhaps you have been enjoying a longer stay in the city, you might think of exploring further afield. Here we have two day trips up the coast to the Costa brava. Exploring the towns of Tossa De Mar and Cadaques, grab your swimsuits and maybe even your hiking boots.
To access both you would need to book a car for the day or arrange a bus ride as neither town has a train stop. Be warned as well that the roads down to Cadaques are narrow and not for nervous drivers, however the rewards for teaching both destinations are ten fold as you find yourself in a perfect picturesque Mediterranean landscape.
You can visit both places in one day but your stops in both towns will be rushed and we recommend making a weekend of it or choosing one of the two depending on your tastes or time. Take a moment to enjoy all that both have to offer. From delicious port side seafood to snorkeling or discovering cultural gems. There is also plenty of hiking, swimming and boating for those with a taste for adventure.
Cadaques lies about 2 hours to the north, close to the French border. Accessed down a steep winding road that runs through extensive olive groves, you can spot the white village as you crest a rise or round a corner. Perched on the edge of the water, it’s blindingly bright, red tiled roofs in sharp contrast with its white washed walls.
Enter the town and find somewhere to park. Not the easiest thing to accomplish on a busy weekend, but persevere and soon you will be wandering the narrow cobbled streets down to the seaside, perhaps in search of lunch.
There are plenty of beach side restaurants offering a selection of typical seafood or the Catalan mar y Montaña ( sea & mountain) fare. You can enjoy a nice fresh glass of cava or wine as you watch beach goers sunbathe on the pebbles beach or take dips in the water. It’s a little colder up here to the north of Barcelona but a refreshing swim in the clean waters can’t be beat. You can warm up in the sun on a rock afterwards and the kids will enjoy looking in rockpools or snorkeling.
In the town itself you can find plenty of great restaurants and if you are spending the night try to get a reservation at Compartir which offers a taste of the gastronomical trends made famous by El Bulli. The concept of sharing that the restaurant is named after, allows you to enjoy small tapas size servings of foam and other curious delectable morsels among friends.
Other highlights in the surrounding areas include Dali’s house in Port Lligat and the nature reserve of Cap de Creus. Dali’s house offers a unique view into the life and mind of the artist. The view from the various Windows onto the little bay illuminated his style as you are able to see the colors and rocks from the islands and water interpreted on canvas. Dali’s work is just as surreal as the surrounding area. And the light is different, reflected through a humid mist, everything seems muted and soft, fuzzy around the edges. Climb up to the garden and wonder at the giant egg sculptures or try to imagine yourself invited to a party with Picasso at Dali’s pool, which is something to behold! Spend the day exploring the coves and hiking in the Cap de Creus reserve. It’s windswept and wild and extremely beautiful. You can find yourself alone with a picnic at the end of a walk in a stunning cove, aquamarine water lapping at your feet, contrasting with jutting grey rocks towering above you. Wild flowers bloom in crevices and seaweed sways in the water. You may feel like Jaques Costeau or a pirate on a desert island. Do some snorkeling and discover some of the best underwater environments that the Costa brava has to offer.
To access some of the more difficult to get to areas, you can hire a boat, but take note that you need a license and that the weather in this part of the world can change suddenly. A drive through the reserve will take you up to the light house where you can see all the way into France and enjoy a delicious meal at the restaurant on the top of the cliff.
There are various places to stay in Cadaques. Try the hotel RocaMar or book a self catering Airbnb. You can even rent the entire island of S’Arenella, which would make a great place for a larger group or unique wedding. With only access by boat, you can have the island to yourself.
Closer to Barcelona you will find the coastal town of Tossa De Mar.
With a history dating all the way back to before the Romans settled here in the 1st century, Tossa de Mar is the perfect place to wander along ancient walls, through crumbling cliff top churches and learn more about Catalan history.
There is ample evidence of settlements dating back to the Neolithic period, and it is believed that the area has been continuously populated since that time.
In 966 Tossa was ceded by Count Miró of Barcelona to the Abbey of Ripoll. Some two centuries later, in 1187 Tossa was granted its charter by the Abbot of Ripoll, coinciding with the building of a church atop Mount Guardí, the remnants of which can still be seen today. – Wikipedia
You can walk along the length of the wall that encircles the old village which will afford you excellent views over the bay and into the old medieval buildings as well. Why not have lunch inside the wall, there are some great restaurants where you can enjoy a meal slap bang in the middle of all the history, dine like Count Miro himself on freshly caught monk fish and wine.
Tossa also has a number of lovely beaches where you can while away the day sunbathing or frolicking in the water. For those more adventurous, you can snorkel too, and Tossa is known for sea horses amongst other interesting Mediterranean sealife. Diving and glass bottom boat trips can be arranged from the town.
There is a bustling shopping district where you can stuff your face with summer time icecream and stock up on silly souvenirs or buy a beach bucket and spade for the kids to play with in the sand. Don’t forget your sun cream and beach towels!
Tossa has plenty of self catering apartments available through Airbnb or tripadvisor. You can also camp in various campsites close to the town and the area offers some great hiking over the cliffs and through the scraggly coastal pine forest. The views are impressive and there’s nothing quite like finding yourself in a quiet cove with crystal clear water to dive into on a scorching summer day.
Enjoy some sundowners on the beach before heading back to Barcelona or to your lodgings for the night.
Both towns can be reached within an easy 3 hour drive from Barcelona on good roads. Be aware that the highways have frequent tolls and that the national roads can get very busy during peak hours on the weekends.