When I asked my boyfriend if he wanted to come with me for a long weekend to Barcelona Spain, his response was: again!? Yes, indeed, we did spend some time in Barcelona and maybe it was time for a change. When I suggested renting a car and explore more of the Costa Brava region, north of Barcelona all he said was: ROAD TRIP! And off we went! We had 3 days for our Costa Brava road trip but we could have easily made it into a 7 day or 10-day road trip.
However, in case you’re visiting the Costa Brava beaches and would like to see more of the region, or you wish to see more and go from Barcelona to Costa Brava by car, here is my 3-day Costa Brava itinerary to explore the highlights of the region.
I paid for everything in full myself. I was not paid or sponsored. All my opinions and experiences are my own.
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Short introduction to Costa Brava Spain
The Costa Brava is the name for the coastal region from the French border to Blanes (north of Barcelona) that is very popular with tourists. Golden bays and rough coastline, the area became immensely popular with holidaymakers, looking for sun & fun.
But the area has much more to offer. From the origin, most villages are fishing communities, which you can still find in the local food (like the sardines of L’Escala).
Dotted with little villages and holiday towns, there is plenty to see and do for the whole family. You can find interesting Greek and Roman history or join the Catalan community in apperitivo by the beach.
It doesn’t matter if you plan your vacation at the beach and wish to explore more of the Costa Brava or want to escape Barcelona, a road trip to Costa Brava is always a good idea!
Day 1: on the road from Barcelona to Costa Brava
We arrived really early in the morning at the car rental place. We were surprised by an upgrade with a nice car. This car would have enough horsepower to drive us up the windy roads and we were particularly pleased with the climate control and tinted windows of the car.
We left busy Barcelona behind us and took the fast route to Girona. My initial plan was to meander through the offbeat villages dotting the coastline, but as we had some delays, we decided to head straight for Girona.
Girona & food
When we arrived in Girona, the city was struck by a thick blanket of numbing heat. In the middle of the day, the city seemed to grind to a hold. People walked slowly on the side walk, the market just packed up their stuff. We checked into our hotel and decide to freshen up first.
Once the scorching heat of the sun had diminished (only slightly) we set out to explore more of the old town. The colourful houses along the river, Eiffel’s bridge and the medieval streets pulled us in. I loved Girona. A cute, colourful old town without the hustle and bustle of big tourist centre Barcelona.
In the evening, we explored the old town on foot with a food tour. Nibbling on Spanish ham, sipping on local wines, tasting the fresh sardines from L’Escala region.
Where to stay in Girona? I stayed at Hotel Margarit Girona. It was close to the old town of Girona and had on sight parking for a small fee. Excellent choice for a Costa Brava road trip.
Find your parking space in Girona here.
Day 2: to the coast and finding Dalí
The next morning, it was an early rise for us again. We were supposed to go on a balloon ride to see the Costa Brava from above, but due to fog, our ride was canceled. After a good cup of coffee and some breakfast, we hopped into our rental car and drove to Cadaqués.
White Splendor in Cadaqués
This cute village of white houses, hugging the cliffs of the rugged bay is postcard perfect. We arrived just before noon, parked our car in the underground car park at the edge of town and explored on foot. We walked through the streets, stopping at souvenir shops for some postcards and checked out the local antique market in the main square.
When we became hungry we stumbled on a local bakery with a queue around the block, so we decided to check it out for our lunch spot. And this didn’t disappoint. I can highly recommend Es Fornet bakery for a coffee stop or lunch.
Cadaqués is famous for the nearby Dalí house, but we decided to stay in town, enjoy the sea breeze, look at the lovely white houses and just enjoy the summer vibe. After a refreshing beer (non-alcoholico of course) we continued our route across the rugged cliffs towards Cap de Creus.
End of the world at Cap de Creus
Cap de Creus is famous for its lighthouse at the edge of the peninsula. This might be the most eastern part of Spain and you have a lovely view across the sea. I especially enjoyed the drive up there. Just a half-paved dirt road it wasn’t an easy drive, but the sweeping scenery left and right made up for it.
We took some pictures at the lighthouse and waited for a while to get a seat at the little café with view across the sea. In the end, things took a little too long and we decided to continue our Costa Brava road trip.
Figueres- capital of the Dali triangle
Our stop for today was Figueres. I found an amazing apartment right next door to the Dali Museum, so we wanted to check it out. After a warm welcome and a refreshing shower, we went to the museum.
It was late afternoon, early evening, so we almost had the place to ourselves. We spend 2 hours in the museum, marveling at the seemingly crazy but definitely artistic Salvador Dalí.
Although I didn’t particularly like his art, we did talk about it nonstop for the remainder of the evening. As we enjoyed our table of tapas at Sidrería Txot’s we discussed what we saw in the paintings, how Dalí must have lived his life, and what we didn’t like about it.
At the end of the day, we rolled back to our apartment for some much needed sleep.
Day 3: Roman Greek discovery and the hilltop village of Begur
The third day was also already our last day on our Costa Brava road trip. Luckily, we still had the whole day before we had to return our rental car and we made a plan to see as much as possible in little time. But first, we slept in and made some delicious breakfast in our apartment. Priorities and all.
Empúries – find your inner G(r)eek
After we picked up the rental car and left Figueres behind, we set out to Empúries. This Roman and Greek archeologic sights close to L’Escala shows the ancient city of Empúries and the sea. I always get super excited when I can visit a Roman sight, so I couldn’t wait to get in. We paid €5,50 for the entrance fee which included a free audio guide.
We first walked through the lower Greek part. Ancient houses, the shopping street and the main market. As my boyfriend listened to the audio guide, I couldn’t peel my eyes from the glistering sea behind the pine trees. The sight was amazing. The cool sea breeze made exploring the ruins bearable in the blistering August heat.
After the (air-conditioned!!) museum, we continued to the ancient Roman sights. We checked out the detailed mosaics and watched a small dig take place. We continued down the old street to the city walls to finish our visit at Empúries.
Begur and the Gulf of Roses
By now, it was already mid-day and our stomachs wanted some late lunch. We drove to the hill top village of Begur, to sit in the shade, sip on a cold drink and devour some amazing tapas spreads. As the food wasn’t that amazing, I kicked myself for not looking further for a better place to eat. But, being lazy by now, we continued eating and sitting.
As it was getting late, we decided on one more sight before heading back to Barcelona. We drove up the hill of Begur, with sweeping views across a big part of the Costa Brava.
We stood together at the top, pointing at all the places we have visited on our Costa Brava road trip. This was the perfect overview to end our Costa Brava itinerary.
3- day Costa Brava Road Trip
This was the perfect end of our trip from Barcelona to Costa Brava by car. We left Begur and headed to the motor way. When we returned the car, we added 450 km to the car’s mileage, which doesn’t sound that much. The good part about the inland part of the Costa Brava is that all villages are small and the roads are good.
You can easily see a lot of things, in a short amount of time. Of course, when you have long lunches, followed by siesta time and lengthy apperativos, then you might need more time to explore.
Although the Costa Brava is known for its endless gold beaches, I hope I showed you some interesting things to see and do on a road trip through the Costa Brava. I showed you, you can easily rent a car for a road trip from Barcelona. What would be your first stop en route?