When people think about visiting Catalonia after they get past Barcelona they usually look—with good reason—to the beautiful Costa Brava. But tucked in the foothills between Girona and France are some gems of villages that should not fall off your “must-see” list just because they aren’t touching the water.
The following list I have put together takes you to the unique and not-to-be-missed villages of Besalu, Castellfollit de Roca and Peratallada
Besalú delves you into Medieval times
Besalú is a medieval town emanating charm, history and character. This is a haven for history buffs. Besalu is a national historic-artistic site that was a highly prosperous independent county. The wealth of the city can be seen in its Romanesque structures that are elegant and beautiful even today.
Besalu had a large and prosperous Jewish community that possibly made up 10 to 15% of the population. Interesting the Jews lived among the population until the 1415 when it was then decreed by antipop Benedict XIII that the Jews were to live in a separate Jewish quarter. They then had to leave their large comfortable houses and move to the Jewish area with smaller, cramped accommodations or leave the city (and most likely the country). Those who complied with this decree did eventually have to leave Spain a few short years later.
The viejo bridge (the old bridge) is a landmark that crosses the Flauvia river. It was built, rebuilt and expanded from the 11th to the 14th century. The bridge was at a strategic entrance to the city and was used as a toll bridge. I often wonder which of our structures today will stand the test of time for as long as this elegant structure.
There is so much to see just wandering through the town and taking in the atmosphere.
As with most touristy places in Spain, there is no shortage of good restaurants. It is difficult to choose which to recommend.
Where to eat in Besalú:
Restaurante Pont Vell:
A repeating theme from all the of guests is that this restaurant offers great food excellent service and a is a stunning location.
Reservations: Phone—(+34) 972 59 10 27. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Amb el 5 sentits:
This is a small cozy restaurant that is done by a “one man band”, the owner is chef and server and does a fantastic job at keeping everyone happy.
One guest recently commented, “Spent a week in Catalunia and had the best meal here.” That is high praise indeed coming from an area of Spain famous for its top-shelf chefs and restaurants.
Reservations: Phone: +34 633 63 33 90
Facebook page: @ambels5sentitsbesalu
Where to stay in Besalú
Els Jardins de la Martana
This hotel has spectacular views of the bridge and mountains beyond. It was a small palace that has been converted into a hotel, but keeps many of the original features.
Reservation information: Phone: (34) 972 590 009, email: email@example.com
Peratallada—perhaps the most picturesque village in all of Spain
Peratallada quickly became my favourite village in the province of Girona. To start with it is a pedestrian-only town, so you don’t have to be jumping out of the way for cars, you have the streets to yourself.
I know I use words like picturesque and quaint on many little towns—and rightly so—but Peratallada is so much more than that, and it almost seems like a new adjective should be invented. Every corner was more charming than the last, and each street had a new and different surprise awaiting. Our family stopped at Peratallada after a day at the beach, we were tired, the kids did not want to walk around another old town and wait for their mom to take pictures, but after the initial grumbling even they came around and were soon running ahead looking for the next thing to see.
Peratallada was a walled city surrounded by a moat. You can still take in the walls, the city gates and the moat as you visit the town. It also had a castle built in the 11th century (and later added to) and numerous other historic and picturesque buildings.
Take your time to take in the atmosphere.
Where to stay:
This is a 16th century home restored to keeps its charm while giving you the comforts of today. Offering excellent value, you can’t go wrong here.
Reservations: phone (34) 972 634185, email—firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Feliu Hotel
This charming and romantic hotel is 10 minutes from Peratallada. It is a small boutique style hotel with only 6 rooms and includes a homemade breakfast.
Reservations: Phone—(34) 972 63 41 82, email—email@example.com
Castellfollit de Roca—living on the edge
Castellfollit de Roca- This town is perched precariously on a cliff that towers 50 metres above the Fluvia and Toronell rivers. As the houses are made mostly out of the volcanic rock that they are perched on, the village seems to be settled right into its natural surroundings.
It doesn’t take long to meander through the narrow streets of Castellfollit de Roca, but it is a fun adventure and worth the trip. The best view of the town is from down below looking up at the houses and marvelling at who decided to start a village in such a spot.
As this is such a small place you don’t have a large selection of hotels, but don’t let that scare you off. Both these hotels come highly recommended:
Ca la Paula: Ca-la-Paula fb
Hostal Mon Rock — I was unable to find a web page or phone number for this hostel, it has to be booked through trip advisor or Booking