Costa Brava - “the wild coast”
The Costa Brava, a coastal region of Catalonia, is located in the province of Girona in Spain and stretches from the French border to the mouth of the Tordera River, which begins just past the town of Blanes. The coastline of the Costa Brava (the wild coast) is characterised by its rocky shores and rugged cliffs. Her vibrancy is alluring and awe-inspiring with ethereal qualities and fairytale nature. The small towns dotted along the coast are renowned for their golden beaches and crystal clear sparkling waters. Hidden coves, mountainous landscapes, rivers, streams and the overabundance of beaches make the Costa Brava an unmissable destination.
Behind its vibrant nightlife facade, the region also boasts a wealth of mediaeval and Gothic towns, buried histories as well as startling Islamic remains.
Islam in Girona, capital of the Costa Brava
Girona is located at the intersection of four rivers: the Ter, the Guells, the Galligants and in the heart of the city, the Onyar. The city, filled with historic buildings, museums and galleries, has a mediaeval charm and a rich historical religious heritage.
The Passeig de la Muralla, the mediaeval walls built between the 9th and 15th centuries, towers over the city and offers stunning views of the old town.
Banys Àrabs (Arab Baths)
The archaeological remains of the Arab baths are tucked away on a contemporary street among independent shops. Built in 1194 in a Romanesque style indicating the fashion of the time, these public baths are a representation of Eastern architecture assimilated to the West. The horseshoe arches derive from Moorish influences and the Corinthian columns from Romanesque architecture. These elements are part of an Islamic architectural heritage that preserved Hellenistic influences in the Middle Ages, making it possible to resume them a few centuries later during the European Renaissance.
Santa Maria Cathedral and its Museum
The Cathedral of Santa Maria de Girona is often considered one of the most important Gothic sites in the Western world. Among the treasures of its museum are the Tapestry of Creation, a work of embroidery dating from the end of the 11th century which illustrates the biblical scenes of the creation of the world, as well as the Beatus of Girona, a manuscript dating from the 10th century which describes the end of the world in a vivid way with intense illustrations. This manuscript depicts, amongst other things, a Muslim horseman about to stab a snake, alluding to the clash between the Muslims of southern Spain and the Christian kingdoms of the north. The snake represents the resistance of the Christians against the Muslims. The Cathedral, its museum and surroundings served as filming locations in season six of the Game of Thrones series.
Explore the winding streets of the cobbled labyrinths of the Jewish quarter of Girona, one of the best preserved Jewish quarters in the world, dating back to the years 982 to 1492, the date marking the end of the Muslim kingdom in Spain after being reconquered by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. The Catholic regime that followed brought about the expulsion of the Jews from Spain with the decree of the Alhambra. The existence of this area demonstrates the coexistence and religious support between Muslims and Jews in Spain before the reconquest.
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Mosques on the Costa Brava
Mezquita Al-Ummah de Palafrugell, Girona - Contemporary mosque with lustrous and beautiful architectural features.
Mezquita Bilal, Girona - Housed in the ground floor of an apartment, it has a prayer room for men in the basement.
Mezquita Ar-Rahma, Blanes - Located less than 15 minutes from the city centre of Blanes, in a less touristy area, it houses an Islamic and cultural centre as well as a prayer room for men.
Centro Islamico Imam Malik and Mezquita de Salt, Girona - A large mosque with an architectural exterior that assimilates to Spanish landscapes, accommodating women, men and children.
Main towns of the Costa Brava
Cadaqués is a hidden gem two and a half hours from Barcelona. With less crowds, it offers an old-fashioned charm experience with its picturesque coastline. The Santa Maria de Cadaqués church, established on the highest point of the town, the white facades of the buildings and the maritime promenade of the bay of Roses reflect the peaceful character of the town. In Port Lligat, visit the house-museum of Salvador Dalí, the famous painter who lived in Cadaqués and called it the most beautiful village in the world.
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Tamariu, Llafranc and Calella
The coastal towns of Tamariu, Llafranc and Calella are part of the municipality of Palafrugell and are ten minutes apart with minimal populations allowing their idyllic preservation. Their sandy beaches surrounded by untouched nature are ideal for relaxing and getting away from the hustle and bustle of big cities.
The town of Llafranc houses Roman excavations and remains. The seafront promenade, which is also the main street, is named after the first Roman settlement, Passeig de Cipsela. A few years ago, just outside the bay, divers discovered the remains of sunken Roman galleys loaded with clay amphorae used to transport anchovies, olives and wine. The remains of a Roman wine press from the 1st century BC are further evidence of the Roman history of Llafranc.
Visit Port Bo in Calella, stroll along its unique covered promenades and discover the botanical gardens of Cap Roig with its exotic plants.
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Blanes and Lloret de Mar
The town of Blanes has a versatile character offering sandy beaches and a lazy atmosphere with its daily markets and coastal cafes. Enjoy cycling on bike paths and hiking on the hill of San Juan, where the castle of the same name is located.
Don't miss the Marimurtra Botanical Garden, showcasing sweeping views of the Mediterranean Sea, symmetrical gardens and vibrant colours.
The town of Lloret de Mar, less than ten minutes drive from Blanes, offers stunning beaches and water activities, perfect for family holidays. Like in a fairy tale, the Castell d'en Plaja and the Gardens of Santa Clotilde are enthroned on a cliff with breathtaking sea views.
The town of Tordera in the province of Barcelona is ideal for lovers of mountains and lush greenery. Visit and enjoy art installations in parks like Prudenci Bertrana Park, La Sardana Park and Càmping Internacional Costa Brava. The parks are also great for picnics. The nature reserves of Roureda and La illa del riu Tordera are perfect places for days of family adventure.
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The charming mediaeval village of Pals is ideal for lovers of history and gastronomy. It offers a singular experience with chalets, bridges and stone streets. Its old town was declared a Site of Historic Interest in 1973. Get inspired by its historic spirit in Plaça Major after visiting the Catalan pottery galleries and shops. Discover the famous rice fields of Pals on foot, by bike or even on board the Xiulet de Pals train.
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Costa Brava gastronomy
Catalans love meat and charcuterie, but as the region is ethnically and multiculturally diverse, you will still find halal, vegetarian, fish and seafood specialties.
Try the pa amb tomàquet, a nourishing bread covered in tomatoes and regional olive oil. Alternatively, fish lovers will savour dorada (sea bream), a Catalan favourite, suquet de peix, a seafood stew and seafood paella with the famous Pals rice. Chestnuts and mushrooms are also part of the gastronomy of the Costa Brava and are often served as an accompaniment to rice dishes.
Food lovers will appreciate the Crema Catalana, a Spanish version of the French ‘crème brûlée’, and figs dipped in cream and cinnamon.