Medieval Villages:
Peratallada & Palau-sator

🕔 7 mins (total)
The Church of Sant Esteve, just outside the walls of Peratallada
The Church of Sant Esteve, just outside the walls of Peratallada

Apart from its stunning coastline and famous Costa Brava beaches, the Empordà region is also steeped in history. This is immediately evident if you head into the interior a little and explore some of the beautifully preserved medieval villages that are scattered throughout the countryside. 

We have written other articles about a cluster of Medieval Villages in the vicinity of La Bisbal d’Empordà and a separate article on Pals, which, as probably the most visited of them all, deserves a write-up of its own. Here, we are going to take a look at two neighbouring medieval villages that, taken together, are also worthy of their own blog: Peratallada and Palau-sator.

Peratallada

Peratallada, the town, was already in existence by 1065, as that was the date of its first mention in historical documents, but it is unknown for sure how long before that the village was established or when its construction began. Whatever about the origins of the village itself, however, the area was certainly settled back as far back as ancient times, as evidenced by pieces of Roman pottery and even fragments of pre-Roman Greek artifacts having been discovered along with medieval ceramic and glass fragments during various excavations since the 1970s. 

In Catalan, pedra tallada means “carved rock” and the name Peratallada comes from the moat, dug out of the rock, that completely surrounded the town, parts of which can still be seen today. Access to the town was by a drawbridge that no longer exists. Along with the moat, its defenses consisted of three walled enclosures with the castle at its centre, making it one of the most fortified Catalan towns of its time. The castle and its palace were completed during the 11th and 12th centuries, and the defensive walls added between the 12th and 13th centuries, with some sections reconstructed from the 16th to 18th centuries.

Peratallada Castle and Palace
Peratallada Castle and Palace

Peratallada Castle became one of the most important in the region following a marriage uniting the noble houses of Peratallada and Cruïlles in the 1200s, and its palace became the favourite residence of this new and powerful local dynasty. Over the years, a number of royals often stayed here too, including on several occasions King Joan I of Aragón, also known by such nicknames as “Joan the Hunter”, “Joan the Lover of Elegance”, and “Joan the Abandoned”! 

Plaça de les Voltes, Peratallada
Plaça de les Voltes, Peratallada

The first of the two main squares in the town is the petite Plaça de les Voltes with its lovely portico-led arches and a number of restaurant-bars from where you can take in your surroundings at your leisure. If you come into the village from the eastern side, this is where you’ll arrive first. Just a few metres further along the street with its immaculately preserved stone houses, you’ll come to the significantly larger Plaça del Castell – you’ve guessed it: Castle Square! – overlooked by the castle palace. 

From the square can be seen the rectangular Torre de Homenaje, the castle’s “Tribute Tower”, with its square battlements, one of a number of still perfectly intact towers belonging to the old walled town; the others being the North Tower, the West Tower and the Torre de les Hores, or “Tower of the Hours”, so-called because it let the villagers know what time it was. Pretty logical really!

Medieval arches in Peratallada
Medieval arches in Peratallada
A beautifully preserved street in Peratallada
A beautifully preserved street in Peratallada

There are also a couple of other photogenic little squares in the town, such as Plaça dels Esquiladors (sheep-shearers square!), but the best thing to do is really just stroll around aimlessly, walking down whatever quaint little street takes your fancy, enjoying the atmosphere created by the medieval arches, the flowers and the greenery of the climbing plants covering parts of the old stone walls. Don’t worry, it’s impossible to get lost and pretty soon you’ll have seen just about the whole town of Peratallada!

When you’ve finished with the town inside the walls, why not leave through the northern Portal de la Virgen gate, worth seeing in its own right as this was where the drawbridge controlling access to the town once was. This will bring you face-to-face with the parish church of Sant Esteve de Peratallada, just beyond the walled area on the other side of the road. It’s a Romanesque-style church from the beginning of the 13th century and also contains a preserved Gothic tomb from 1348, that of one of the Peratallada-Cruïlles lords who died in the Black Death of that year. 

If you happen to be visiting in the spring, check if your dates coincide with the annual Herb Fair. The 2024 edition is the 19th such fair, which aims to educate about a great variety of herbs and their wide range of applications. It features specialized craft stalls where all kinds of fresh and dried herbs, medicinal plants and ointments, sauces, breads, and liquors can be purchased. Parallel activities such as talks, exhibitions, and discovery workshops about the environment also take place.

Later in the year, in October, Peratallada also holds its Fira Medieval, when “comedians, playwrights, puppeteers, storytellers, and all kinds of vintage characters come to occupy the town, in which a medieval market is recreated. Stalls have all kinds of handmade products: cheeses, honey, herbs, bread, and pastries”.

Palau-sator

The medieval village of Palau-sator as seen from a distance
The medieval village of Palau-sator as seen from a distance
The church of Palau-sator as seen on entering the village
The church of Palau-sator as seen on entering the village

Just a short distance up the road, just under 3km to be precise, is another medieval beauty called Palau-sator. It’s quite a bit smaller than Peratallada but is well worth a visit, and as long as you’re in the neighbourhood, visiting the two together makes for a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

A view from the Torre de les Hores in Palau-sator
A view from the Torre de les Hores in Palau-sator
Peratallada
View of the surrounding countryside from the Torre de les Hores, Palau-sator
View of the rooftops of Palau-sator from the tower
View of the rooftops of Palau-sator from the tower
Cylindrical tower with loophole in Palau-sator
Cylindrical tower with loophole in Palau-sator

The earliest historical record of Palau-sator is a reference to the Church of St Pere and “Sa Tor” (“its tower”) and dates back to the year 994. Access to the walled town was through the main gate, above which the 20m Torre de les Hores still towers today, and from the top of which one can enjoy views of the Baix Empordà comarca (county) far into the distance.

The tower was constructed in the 10th and 11th centuries and was part of the original castle and, as is the case with the ones in Peratallada and Pals, this watchtower owes its name to the clock that stands out on its façade, where this legend is also inscribed: “Només compto les hores serenes” (I only count the serene hours). Very apt in this tranquil village!

Within the medieval enclosure are the remains of the castle, complete with a cylindrical tower with loopholes for firing arrows through. The houses within the walls were built in the 17th and 18th centuries. Just outside the walls are two rather striking fountains that still serve as drinking fountains. 

Fresh water fountain in the main square in Palau-sator
Fresh water fountain in the main square in Palau-sator

Also just outside the walls is the 13th-century parish church of Sant Pere de Palau-sator. It is mostly Romanesque in style, although different parts were added to the original edifice over the centuries, especially in the 16th and 17th centuries. A short distance from the church, you’ll find the Museu Rural. (No translation required there!)

In April of 2017, the historical complex of the nucleus of the village was declared by the Catalan Ministry of Culture a Cultural Asset of National Interest.

Nearby, and also part of the municipality of Palau-sator, are some tiny villages that might be of interest if you are into your churches and monasteries. The monastery of Sant Pau in Fontclara dates back to the 11th century, there is a tenth-century church in Sant Julià de Boada and another from the 16th century in Sant Feliu de Boada.

Feeling hungry?

If you are planning to visit both villages on the same day with a lunch break in between, may we suggest that you plan your dining for Palau-sator. While in Peratallada, we found that the “service” in the three places we tried was very unfriendly and extremely slow, even though we were there at a time of day when the village was really not very busy. Possibly, the locals are just jaded with the volume of tourists they receive, or maybe they were just having a bad day – but all on the same day??

By total contrast, in Palau-sator the welcome was far friendlier, and the service was efficient and with a smile. We had a nice beer in the very cool bar of the Museu Rural, and, without going into detail here, we can definitely recommend Can Saló right next door as a place to have a lovely lunch! 

Edit: On our more recent visit, we had lunch at the Restaurant Bonay in Peratallada, and we can certainly recommend that place too! During the winter, they have a special “hunting menu” featuring wild boar, venison, and pheasant casseroles – a house specialty. Truly delicious!

Can Saló restaurant in Palau-Sator
Can Saló restaurant in Palau-Sator

Xiulet de Pals

One option you might consider if you would like to take in all three medieval villages of Pals, Peratallada and Palau-sator is to take the tourist “train” known as the Xiulet de Pals. As its name would suggest, it begins in Pals (so you can dump the car there), and it takes you through Sant Julià de Boada to Peratallada, where it makes its first stop to allow you to stroll around the town, then to Palau-sator for its second stop before returning to Pals via Fontclara. The whole tour takes about 2 hours and is available in Catalan, Spanish, French and English at a cost of €10 per adult and €5 per child.

Time to get medieval!

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