10 Cool Castles of the Costa Brava

🕔 7 mins (total)
10 Cool Castles of the Costa Brava

The medieval old town of Girona attracts huge numbers of tourists every year, but Girona Province is also full of old castles that are well worth visiting too. In fact, there are too many castles to include here so, in the end, we selected 10 castles on, or close to, the Costa Brava, starting at the French border and working our way south. We left out Girona and Figueres as they deserve articles of their own.

You can click on the name of each one to see its location on a map.

Castell de Requesens

Perched atop a hill with spectacular views over the surrounding valleys, this 11th-century castle is about a 13km drive east of La Jonquera, the last 6km of which is on a gravel road – an adventure in itself, but well worth it! The castle was rebuilt in the late 1800s, but parts of the original castle dating back to the 12th century still remain. It changed hands a number of times during the last century, although it hasn’t been inhabited for some decades now. Most of the interior has been removed, but the castle itself is very well preserved.

During the low season, it is only open to visitors at the weekend, so check before you go – although even when closed, it is still full of charm!

Castell de Requesens is found in the mountains just below the French border.
Castell de Requesens is found in the mountains just below the French border.

Castell de Perelada

Built in the mid-14th century to replace an original 9th-century castle that had been destroyed in 1285, this beauty was renovated and enlarged in the 19th century. Today it remains under private ownership and so parts of the castle cannot be visited by the public (most notably the wine cellar, dammit!) but there is a restaurant and even a casino here and the gardens are open during the summer months. They also host the renowned international music festival here, Festival Perelada, which starts in July and runs into August every year. As festival settings go, this one is tough to beat!

Castell de Perelada is one of the most beautifully preserved in the region.
Castell de Perelada is one of the most beautifully preserved in the region.

Castell de Verdera

Although this supposedly haunted castle is now in ruins, at 670m above sea level, a visit here is an absolute must for the incredible views in every direction – of the coastline up into France, the plains of the Alt Empordà, the mountainous Cap de Creus peninsula and the Bay of Roses. That, and the fact that you can combine it with the Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes and the Ermita de Sta. Helena. Access is only by foot, but the shortest route is an easy 10-minute “hike” from the monastery.

On one side is a cliff known as Salt de la Reina (Queen’s Leap) off which, depending on which version of the legend you read, a Moorish queen jumped to her death on horseback after her husband had been killed in battle; or it was a count’s daughter who was being forced her to marry another noble when she was really in love with a shepherd. Either way, it didn’t end well for the poor lady and supposedly her anguished wailing can still be heard on occasion. But mostly you should go for the views!

Castell de Verdera offers some stunning mountain and sea vistas.
Castell de Verdera offers some stunning mountain and sea vistas.
A suggested hiking route taking in the castle, plus the monastery and the ermita
A suggested hiking route taking in the castle, plus the monastery and the ermita

Besalú

We’re heading inland a bit now, but with good reason. Today’s town of Besalú has its origins in the Castle of Besalú, the existence of which was already documented as far back as the 10th century, and its ancient city walls which date back to the 12th century. Although most of the original castle is no longer there, the layout of the town and its architecture are straight from medieval times. The most emblematic structure is undoubtedly the bridge, with its seven arches and two towers. Inside the old town, you’ll find the old Jewish quarter with its narrow streets, synagogue and purification baths, a monastery and church, making Besalú one of the best-preserved examples of a medieval Catalan town.

A view of the famous bridge of Besalú crossing the Fluvià river
A view of the famous bridge of Besalú crossing the Fluvià river

Castell de Montgrí

Construction began on what was to be a military fortress in 1292 during a local conflict between rival local nobles. It was never finished, however, as the dispute in question came to an end in 1301 and construction ceased. The shell of the castle (i.e. the 13m walls and the four towers) is complete, and if you visit here, you’ll wonder why they never finished the rest, war or no war, as the views are only breathtaking from its altitude of 315m. Maybe it was because the castle was as tough to get to for the defenders as for any invaders!

There is a free car park where the trail begins and there is also a drinking water tap, which you’ll be glad of by the time you arrive back down again. The hike up should take you a little over an hour, although it’s best to plan for a bit longer to allow for all the photo stops.

Castell de Montgrí was never completely finished, but the views from up there are incredible
Castell de Montgrí was never completely finished, but the views from up there are incredible

Castell Gala-Dalí de Púbol

In 1968/9, the world-famous Catalan artist Salvador Dalí purchased and restored a mostly dilapidated castle in the medieval village of Púbol for his wife Gala, with an agreement between the two that he would have to request permission before coming to visit her there. (They had an unusual relationship!) The fact that the castle was in poor shape when they bought it meant the couple could carry out the restoration very much according to their own taste.

After Gala died, Dalí lived there himself for a time, until he sustained serious burns in a fire in the castle and moved to Figueres. In 1996, the castle was opened to the public as the Castell Gala-Dalí de Púbol Museum.

Castle

Castell de Begur

Built on the site of an ancient pre-Roman town, all that’s left of this 11th-century castle are the battlements and the ruins of what was once a tower. Begur Castle is worth a visit mostly for (you’ve guessed it) the stunning views from the hill it is situated on. It’s no coincidence that these medieval lords built their castles on high ground – they had no drones then! Begur is a destination in itself too, and also has a number of beautiful beaches and stunning coves to investigate as well.

Beautiful Begur and its hilltop castle with spectacular views
Beautiful Begur and its hilltop castle with spectacular views

Castell de Sant Esteve

Situated right on the coast at beautiful La Fosca beach in Palamós, this castle was built on the site of a Roman villa, which itself was built on what had once been an Iberian settlement. It changed hands many times over the centuries until it was mostly destroyed during the Remences Wars in the late 1400s and was abandoned until the 16th century when it became a farmhouse.

It also doubled as a lookout post at a time when raids by North African pirates were a constant threat. It remained a farmhouse until the middle of the last century when it was abandoned again (hard to understand why, in such a gorgeous location!) and fell into disrepair until restoration work began in 2011. A visit here doesn’t take long and is ideally combined with a day at La Fosca beach.

This must’ve been a pretty great place to live in its day!
This must’ve been a pretty great place to live in its day!
Castell de Sant Esteve is right next to the beach in La Fosca, Palamós
Castell de Sant Esteve is right next to the beach in La Fosca, Palamós

Castell de Calonge

Located within the village of Calonge, this castle was built in stages over the centuries and was also damaged during the War of Remences but was restored almost immediately. It has been put to various uses during its history, including a theatre and casino, but now belongs to the Generalitat de Catalunya. Starting in 1968, for 50 years the castle hosted the Music Festival of Calonge, making it one of the oldest festivals of Catalunya. The strategy nowadays is to offer concerts at various times throughout the year rather than one big festival, so keep an eye on the calendar. You never know who might show up!

Castell de Calonge is located right in heart of the town
Castell de Calonge is located right in heart of the town

Tossa de Mar

Leaving the Empordà region but staying on the Costa Brava, in the comarca of La Selva, we finish with the town of Tossa de Mar. The area around Tossa has been inhabited since at the least the Neolithic period (which began about 12,000 years ago), but it wasn’t until the 12th century that the medieval walled town was built with a castle on its highest point. The castle was later replaced, first by a windmill, and later by a still-operational lighthouse.

Situated at one end of a beach with views over the bay, Tossa de Mar is the only example of a fortified medieval village that still exists on the Catalan coast, and it too played its role in defending against pirates. Perfectly preserved since the 14th century, this walled medieval town (although strictly speaking not actually a castle) makes for the perfect day trip with its battlements, parapets and towers and its cobblestone streets – plus the beach, of course, which was even named in National Geographic’s Top 25 beaches in the world in 2013!

The medieval town of Tossa de Mar really is a sight to behold
The medieval town of Tossa de Mar really is a sight to behold

Happy exploring!

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