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Why You Should Not Visit Barcelona And Explore This Perfect Region An Hour Away Instead

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Barcelona, Spain is one of the most popular destinations in the world.

However, it's also one of the most overcrowded destinations in the world that suffers from the effects of overtourism, especially during the peak summer months.

Popular tourist destinations in Barcelona are often packed with wall-to-wall crowds and don't even think about finding a spot at one of the city's beaches unless you arrive at the crack of dawn.

Tossa del Mar Spain

Not to mention, summer in the city can get swelteringly hot, and prices are more expensive.

Many tourists don't realize that just one hour from Barcelona, you can discover gorgeous beach towns, charming villages, and quaint historic cities away from the crowds.

Here's why you should actually skip Barcelona (or at least only spend a couple of days there) and travel to the nearby Costa Brava region of Spain instead.

Pals Spain

Why Visit Costa Brava?

Costa Brava is a coastal region of Spain located just north of Barcelona.

As Spain continues to grow in popularity with Americans as a tourist destination, travelers are looking to get off the main tourist path and explore the country more deeply rather than just seeing the main cities like Barcelona and Madrid.

Costa Brava is the perfect way to see a different side of Spain.

female traveler looking out at blue water and white buildings of the harbor town of cadaques in costa brava spain

Boasting around 75 miles of stunning coastline, Costa Brava has long been a favorite vacation destination for Spaniards and other Europeans.

The beaches here are much calmer than the craziness of Ibiza and less expensive too.

My personal favorite beach towns in Costa Brava are Calella de Palafrugell and Llafranc, which are right next to each other.

Once they were quiet fishing villages, but now they have become popular destinations with fantastic beaches.

Calella de Palafrugell Spain

More Than Beaches

While Costa Brava is known for its beaches, there's also a lot more to discover in the region!

Located a little bit inland, you can't miss the medieval city of Girona. It's only 40 minutes by train from Barcelona, but it feels a world away.

This historic city is known for its unique architecture and well-preserved Old Quarter, which is still encircled by medieval walls.

You can also see Roman ruins of an old fortress here.

aerial view of cathedral and medieval buildings in girona spain

Another place you should visit in Costa Brava is Pals.

This is a beautiful hilltop medieval village that looks like something straight out of a fairytale.

Costa Brava is also a great destination for history, culture, and art.

Salvador Dalí lived in the region and was inspired by its landscapes — you can see Costa Brava's influence in much of his work!

There's a great museum dedicated to the surrealist artist in Figueres, Spain.

Dali Museum

Getting To Costa Brava

If you want to explore Costa Brava on your trip to Spain, it's very easy! Most destinations are one hour to 1.5 hours from Barcelona by car.

There are a couple of options for getting to Costa Brava with public transportation.

For example, it's only a 40-minute train ride from Barcelona to Girona, and from there you can take buses to some of the smaller towns.

There's also a 1-hour bus from Barcelona to Lloret de Mar, one of the first beach towns along the Costa Brava that is popular for its nightlife.

Lloret de Mar Spain

However, I highly recommend getting a rental car rather than relying on public transportation.

Driving in Costa Brava is easy, and you'll be grateful for the flexibility of having your own wheels. This is especially important if you want to visit smaller towns and villages.

If you really don't want to rent a car, I recommend basing yourself in Girona since it's the most well-connected destination in the region.

Then you can take several day trips from there.

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Thursday 14th of March 2024

I didn't realize until going there that Calella de Palafrugcel is on coast and Palafrugcel is nother place altogether - a town in the same region but located somewhat inland. Calella de Palafrugcel is also very expensive, especially during high season, although it is beautiful.Adding to the confusion is that there is another town, closer to Barcelona, that's simply called Calella. I could recommend Peniscola, about 1,5 hours South of Barcelona by train. Far less crowded!

Thursday 14th of March 2024

L'Escala is really with a visit, large area mix of roman and Greek history open air museum. Plus small village featured in a book.

Al LeFeusch

Tuesday 12th of March 2024

Yes, Barcelona has become overcrowded and expensive and has been ruined in many ways by.... can you guess who? Yep, digital nomads and instagrammers! Who would have thought, right? But, instead of sending them to ruin Costa Brava next, maybe just let them stay in the Barcelona that they created.


Thursday 14th of March 2024

Also, stop encouraging people to drive! Even when Barcelona is busy it's amazing how few private cars there are... They have an excellent public transport system and terrific infrastructure for walking and biking. Rent an Ebike for a real adventure, or take a formal Ebike tour around the City. Tip- Towns in Costa Brava are indeed crowded during the summer but not the coastal trails once you venture a ways. Absolutely wonderful!