From foodie recommendations to must-see cultural sites and attractions, this is my insider’s guide to the very best things to do in Cadaqués… “The Pearl of the Costa Brava”.
The Mediterranean villages, pure waters and pine-oozing cliffs of the Costa Brava are all just an hour or so away from my home in Barcelona and I’ve spent the last couple of years exploring them. And what I’ve come to realise is that, by far, Cadaqués is absolutely the most beautiful village on the Costa Brava.
What I’ve come to realise is that, by far, Cadaqués is absolutely the most beautiful village on the Costa Brava.
Important: I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been disappointed by a lot of the Costa Brava. Clearly many parts of this outrageously beautiful stretch of coastline have been tarnished by mass tourism.
So assuming you don’t have a huge amount of time to play with – perhaps you’re on a day trip to Cadaqués from Barcelona – I would highly recommend skipping the other more famous resorts along the Costa Brava and simply heading straight to Cadaqués, which is quite rightly nicknamed, “The Pearl of the Costa Brava”.
Why Cadaqués is the Best Place to Visit on the Costa Brava
I’m not saying it doesn’t get busy with tourists, but due to its geographic isolation it has managed to avoid the overdevelopment that has encroached on its neighbours and retain an air of authenticity.
It’s everything you dream of when you fantasise about escaping to the Costa Brava.
Cadaqués is a world to itself, a whitewashed, blue-doored fishing village that throbs in the sun and glows under canopies of wilting wisteria.
Its terracotta skyline and warren of cobblestoned streets tumble around the coast, inviting you to get lost and stop off at little boutiques and ice cream parlours. It’s everything you dream of when you fantasise about escaping to the Costa Brava.
The tapas bars and restaurants offer high quality and excellent value for money and you don’t feel like you are receiving subpar service/food just because you’re a visitor.
The locals are incredibly proud of their little town and there’s a feeling that they want to present it in the best way possible, to show it off in all its glory.
Most importantly, it still feels like a village, not a resort. I remember sitting in the sun with a glass of wine when a man rode past us on his scooter. He beeped his horn, smiling and waving at us.
“Why do I recognise him?” asked Rosana. “Because he works at the hotel where we are staying,” I replied, suddenly feeling like one of the locals. It’s just that sort of place, if you know what I mean.
Best Things to Do in Cadaqués ~ Like a Local
1. Lounge in the Sun with a Drink and Tapas on the Beach
When I go to Cadaqués, the first (and only) thing I really want do is find a table in the sun and sip on a cold beer while soaking up the atmosphere. And after a number of attempts, I think I’ve found the perfect spot…
“… Salvador Dalí used to stop by from time to time.”
Located right on the sand in the centre of the main beach is a little beach bar called Chiringuito Marítim Bar. It’s been there since 1936 and apparently Salvador Dalí used to stop by from time to time.
It’s nothing fancy to look at, but the tapas are good – the sardines are excellent – and the beer’s cold. Service is surprisingly efficient and the wallet-friendly prices mean you can afford to stay for as long as you like.
Make it Happen: Pounce on the first free table you see. Sip, nibble and relax – you’ve arrived.
2. Walk to Salvador Dalí’s Museum Museum in Portlligat
Testament to just how beautiful this historic fishing village really is, Cadaqués has attracted some of the world’s greatest artists. But for the surrealist vanguard Salvador Dalí, a holiday was never quite long enough.
Dalí lived and worked here until the death of his beloved wife Gala in 1982.
In 1930 he bought a house in the neighbouring village of Portlligat (a scenic 15/20 minute walk from Cadaqués) and set up his home art studio. Dalí lived and worked here until the death of his beloved wife Gala in 1982. Heartbroken, he left the house and moved into the castle he had built her in Púbol, located about an hour’s drive away and also worth a visit.
Make it happen: Today, Dalí’s Cadaqués house and art studio is a beautiful and truly unique museum open to the public – a must-see for art lovers and an essential Cadaqués experience. More info and tickets available at the official website.
Want more Dalí? Figueres, the little town where Dalí was born and raised is just a short drive away and is home to his world-famous art gallery and museum. Actually, it’s more of a shrine than a museum and he’s also buried here. Definitely worth seeing. Check out my dedicated post here.
3. Slurp Your Way Through the Local D.O. Empordà Wines
The Costa Brava is home to the revered D.O. Empordà, a wine region famous for producing bold and rugged garnatxa (grenache) grapes.
Vineyards here are known for their full-bodied reds, well-structured whites and quaffable rosés. And don’t miss the region’s signature Moscatell de l’Empordà – naturally sweet, it makes for the perfect dessert wine.
Assuming you’ve got a rental car you can take off on Sideways-style sipping adventure along the Empordà DO wine route, exploring the vine-covered landscape that sprawls out gloriously between the sea and the mountains.
As an established wine route, you’ll also find lots of wine tours, many of which offer excellent cycling tours – electric bikes area available for those who wide like a little assistance.
Make it Happen
Make a day of it: There are countless vineyards to visit throughout, but if you don’t want to travel too far then be sure to visit Celler Martin Faixó, a family-run winery. Here the 14 hectares of vines are harvested by hand, producing a modest 50,000 bottles of wine a year.
Make a day and night of it: For the ultimate L’Emporda wine experience you can combine your wine tasting experience with a stay at the family’s boutique rural hotel, just ten minutes from Cadaqués.
Housed in a hulking stone and timber farmhouse from the 14th century, Hotel Sa Perafita offers unparalleled vistas over the vines and the spectacular beauty of the Cap de Creus Nature Reserve in which it resides.
Short on time? The Martin Faixó family have a wine bar in Cadaqués called Enoteca MF. Spitting distance from the sea, its coveted sun terrace is the ultimate place to while away an afternoon and explore the best of L’Emporda’s enological offerings.
4. Immerse Yourself in the Wild Beauty of Cap de Creus Natural Reserve
Literally translated, “Costa Brava” means “Wild Coast” or “Rough Coast”, and the first time I went to Cap de Creus I distinctly remember thinking that the name made a lot of sense.
Sprawling out over land and sea, this 13,886 hectare peninsula offers excellent hiking opportunities and dramatic vistas over the teal-green waters and craggy, wind-beaten coast.
It’s not particularly leafy, due to the relentless tramontana winds that batter it for much of the year, but the pine, oak, rosemary, sea lavender and juniper release wonderful aromas as they bake in the summer sun.
Make it Happen:
Serious Hiker Style: There are countless routes, many of which start in Cadaques.
Easy “Let’s Get a Drink and Enjoy the Views” Style: If you don’t have much time or if you’re not much of a waker then you can see more of the peninsula by driving up to the Cap de Creus Lighthouse. From here you can follow the signs to walk a number of easier (and signed) routes or simply take a little stroll, pose for a few photos and pop into the lighthouse restaurant for tapas and vino with panoramic views.
5. Dine at “Compartir”, the Best Restaurant in Cadaqués
I don’t know if there’s something in the water, but this little stretch of Mediterranean coastline has produced some of the finest chefs and restaurants the world has ever known.
You might have heard of ElBulli, for example, the three-Michelin-starred restaurant that won the title of “Best Restaurant in the World” no less than five times.
The creation of Ferran Adria, or the “God Father of Molecular Gastronomy” as he’s better known, it was located in Roses, a mere 20-minute drive away from Cadaqués.
But despite its nonpareil credentials, it never managed to turn a profit and closed in 2012. Many of Adria’s alumni, however, went on to open their own restaurants in and around Barcelona, garnering a healthy smattering of Michelin stars along the way.
To get to the point… Three of the cooks (Mateu Casañas, Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch) who earned their stripes under Ferran’s command got together to open “Compartir”, which I believe is unquestionably the best restaurant Cadaqués.
Specialising in Mediterranean cooking that draws on the region’s outstanding fish, meat and fresh produce, they serve creative Catalan dishes that are perfect for sharing (compartir means share in Spanish).
It’s colourful and fresh and perfectly embodies whatever it is that makes eating out in this little nook of the world such a unique and special experience.
Make it Happen:
Be sure to book a table in advance – the leafy terrace area is truly magical so be sure to snap up a table there if you’re offered one – and let the friendly and knowledgeable staff take care of the rest.
Essential Foodie Tip: Proving just how dedicated these three chefs are, in 2014 they also opened Disfrutar in Barcelona, a spectacular Michelin-starred restaurant in Barcelona. Definitely one of the best restaurants in Barcelona – check out my review here for more info.
Where to Stay in Cadaqués
Best Hotels in Cadaqués ~ I’ve stayed in quite a few hotels on the Costa Brava over the years and the best was right here in Cadaqués.
Tramuntana Hotel is a small boutique hotel run by Carlos and Rosa, a husband-and-wife team from the local area who designed and built the hotel themselves.
It’s located on one of Cadaqués’ labyrinthine backstreets, within spitting distance of the waterfront and just a short stroll away from the Salvador Dalí house-museum.
To my disbelief, it’s only rated 2-star, but its modern styling, sweeping views and pine-scented garden terrace makes it feel far more luxurious.
In short, it’s the perfect base for exploring the best of Cadaqués and an ultra romantic Costa Brava experience in its own right.
More Recommended Accommodation in Cadaqués
Best Luxury Hotels in Cadaqués: Hotel Playa Sol is a spectacular 4* hotel located right on the beach. It has its own swimming pool and olive tree garden. If you want to go all out then this is the place.
Best Holiday Apartments in Cadaqués: The Cadaques Cool Apartments are fabulous and offer excellent value for money if you’re looking to book a whole apartment in Cadaques. And of course you can always find plenty on Airbnb.
Best Hostels in Cadaqués: La Fonda Hostal is a good, cheap and cheerful option – more of a guest house than a hostel.
How to Get to Cadaqués
Cadaqués is known for being a little tricky to get to, but this is of course what keeps it in such good shape.
By Car: Whether you’re staying in Barcelona or Girona, I’d definitely suggest renting a car and simply following Google Maps or any other GPS service. It’s a good two-hour drive from Barcelona, but it’s a scenic and enjoyable route.
By Bus/Train/Taxi: If you’re travelling on a budget then this is an excellent option. Take the train from Barcelona to Figueres. From Figueres, walk across the square outside the train-station to the bus station and buy a bus ticket for the “Sarfa bus” to Cadaqués. See schedules and buy tickets here.
You can also get a taxi for about €50.