Climbing up the ochre stone steps leading to the remains of a crumbling castle leave me out of breath. But the view was worth the climb; miles of jagged coastline and small towns populate the scenery. Sitting on the battlements, dangling my legs over the edge, I can see sky and sea merging together. A long blue-to-white gradient contrasting with the small, amber coloured, houses below.
Detaching itself from the reputation of package holidays associated with Costa Brava, Begur is coming of age. New boutique hotels and restaurants are popping up but medieval charm still remains. Stay there for the weekend enjoying the town or use it as a base to explore the region, there's not a wrong way to go about it.
Carretera de la Platja del Racó, 2 • €€€
The winding mountain road leading to El Convent will test your driving skills. But as soon as you step into this former 17th-century monastery, you’ll feel it was worth it. Terracotta tiled floorings, wooden furniture and rustic minimalist decor embrace you in a cosy and relaxing environment.
The twenty-five rooms, spread across the two floors and a tower, recreated from the original convent cells help deliver a rustic yet refined style. On the ground floor, the long and large corridor leads you to an ochre coloured patio, where meals are served. Breakfasts feature Catalunya’s abundance of cured meats and cheeses, the moreish pan com tomate and the popular tortilla de patatas.
Les Brases des Tocs, the restaurant behind the menu, delivers spectacular grilled dishes with zero miles produce; sitting down for lunch one afternoon, the waiter presents us a large platter filled to the brim with enormous fresh fish. Here, the Mediterranean diet reigns supreme.
From the patio, the same terra cotta tiles lead you to the garden. Linger by the pool side or enjoy a stroll through the ground to discover old age fountains, tucked away in corners between vines and moss covered stones. At the end, a heavy iron gate allows the guest to access the beach, just five minutes away.
This colourful medieval town packs more than just hidden coves by the sea. Walking the narrow terra cotta coloured streets is prone to surprises — like passing through an open house and be lured in by the offer of wine and cheese by a friendly Catalan real estate agent.
With a rich architecture, neoclassical mansions from West Indies traders sit along side modest fisherman’s abodes. These mansions, built by Begurian traders upon their return from Cuba, help to give the Begur a distinctive non european edge. Overlooking the town, sitting high on the top of a hill, the crumbling castle is a memento to the passage of time. The structure creates a dramatic silhouette. Contrasting with the clean lines and mellow tones of the classical houses that rest in its shade.
By refurbishing old houses to host new boutique hotels and restaurants, Begur is starting to set itself apart. Closer to Barcelona, in atmosphere and style, than to bucket and spade Tossa de Mar, it's easy to imagine London's creative types sipping G&T's on the main square.
Cala Sa Riera
Five minutes away from El Convent, Cala Sa Riera is a wide bay sided by small, colourful houses. Despite the popularity of this Cala — cove in Catalan — you can still enjoy it without sharing your neighbour’s towel. Due to the high number of trails in Costa Brava, you'll find most coves connected to one another. Having chosen a path on the left, along the way we discovered smaller beaches where groups of friends mount camp for the day. As tempting as it was to climb down and find a patch in the sun, the daredevil climb and lack of sneakers made us continue on the path, leading us — unknowingly — to Illa Roja, a nudist beach, popular with senior citizens.
Much smaller than Sa Riera, Aiguablava is another great cove the visit — with a more dramatic scenery despite being twice as popular. Sided by woods and cliffs, the trails surrounding the Cala boast amazing views to the azure bay. Perching on the edge of the cliff (shunning the protective wooden fence) you can observe the beach goers down below; kids play in the sand, parents snooze under the afternoon sun and groups of friends dare each to see who can enter the water first.
Carrer Concepcio Pi tato, 3 • €€
Tired of the ubiquitous tortilla de patatas and pan con tomate, Can Kai is a refreshing experience in many ways. From the restaurant space to the meal and service, the self-proclaimed "Japanese of Begur" is doing everything right. Set on a low vaulted room, a long communal table divides the space in half. Smaller tables near the walls provide a less public meal. The dimmed lighting, black walls and Japanese inspired details — painted scrolls hang from the walls, small wooden lanterns from the ceiling — make you forget the European medieval town the restaurant is in.
The menu stays true to Japanese cuisine with an array of sushi and sashimi options and grilled dishes. But Can Kai manages to do bring the Catalan influence in the sauces, pairing well with the main ingredients, which shows the quality of the chefs. For the desert, the crown jewel is the Green tea sponge cake with Match Ice cream.
“This is not a sweet dessert, mind you.” informed the waiter when we ordered. And he was right, but what it lacked in sweetness the dessert delivered in complexity. The fresh, sharp flavour of the matcha ice cream contrasted with the subtle warm, of the green tea sponge, making it the perfect ending note for a meal reminiscent of the land of the rising sun.
Carrer Ventura Sabater, 1 • €€
The chalk written board at the door reads “Vermut Hour”. As the clock strikes midday, this sounds appealing. On a refurbished neoclassical house, Café Begur has several dinning areas — but is the patio that shines. Taking advantage of the original decor, the Café kept an eclectic style; amber and white tones paired with wicker furniture and green foliage, are in every corner. With the Vermut in hand, it's easy to forget you’re not in Cuba.
Plaça de l’Església • €
On the corner of the church's square, Burger Station would be easy to miss if it wasn't for the outside dining area. Offering organic beef burgers, zero miles produce and vegetarian/vegan options (a rarity this part of Catalunya). Burger Stations is a good option for a quick and unfussy lunch.
HOW TO GET THERE
There are two options to get to Begur and Costa Brava region. Either fly to Barcelona or Girona airport. The latter is closer to the coast but has fewer flights. From the airport rent a car to get to the coastal villages and secluded beaches.
Low-cost carriers have affordable prices throughout the year, but fares increase during peak season (May - September).
Make sure to always search Skyscanner for the best possible deals.