L’Escala is a charming fishing village that sits on one of the “most beautiful bays in the world”, according to UNESCO. Lined with beautiful, sandy beaches, somehow the traditional Catalan town has eluded the onslaught of tourism you’ll find in some other spots along the Costa Brava. An hour and a half from Barcelona and less than an hour from Girona’s International airport, the quiet town offers a secluded Mediterranean retreat that’s also easily accessible.
When the Greeks and Romans came to Catalonia, they first made their settlements at L’Escala, and it’s little wonder why. The bay of Roses forms an ideal natural harbour for the town and provides unusually sandy beaches for the usually rugged Costa Brava coast. Today, visitors can enjoy both natural beauty and relics of the area’s past. Discover the hidden gems of this picturesque Catalan fishing village.
L’Escala is in many ways a simple, traditional fishing village, like you would find all along the coastline a hundred years ago. However, the town is also renowned throughout Spain for one thing: anchovies. For fans of the piquant little fish, you can’t beat a plate of the local delicacy, served up at any one of many beachside terraces. In addition to the anchovy factories, which offer fascinating tours, visitors to L’Escala can see ancient ruins, several unusual museums, and of course the exquisite local beaches. Also there is an Anchovy Gastronomic Festival!
Whatever you do in l’Escala, don’t forget to simply take a quiet stroll along the coastline. Whether during the day, at dusk or after the stars come out, few sights can compare with the calm found along the shore.
Things To Do
Carrer d’en Enric Serra 1, 17130 L’Escala
Can Maranges is an 18th century house, where several prominent Catalan families resided over some 250 years. The three-story, hipped roof house fronts on town streets on three sides, making it easy to take in its impressive stone façade. Today, most of the lower storey is taken up by shops and local businesses.
Alfolí de la Sal
Carrer Alfolí 6, 17130 L’Escala
This impressive structure, built between the 16th and 17th century, was formerly the storehouse for the salt that formed the backbone of L’Escala’s local economy. These kinds of warehouses were created by King Philip II in 1564, as part of his monopoly in the salt trade.
Torre d’en Montgó
Punta Montgó, 17130 L’Escala
This stout, cylindrical watchtower was built in 1598 by King Philip II as a protective structure for the town of L’Escala. Standing on the promontory just south of Montgó Bay, it remains in magnificent condition and offers spectacular views of the coast.
Carrer d’en Enric Serra, 1
This 18th century house was updated throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and yet it retains much evidence of its origins. Three stories, built in stone, it features many small balconies, each framed with stonework.
Avinguda Montgó, 17130 L’Escala
At the very southernmost end of L’Escala, this tiny beach is sheltered from the strong Tramuntana winds that blow in from over the mountains. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer months.
Cala Illa Mateua
Carrer Punta Montgó, 17130 L’Escala
If you’re looking for a romantic and secluded cove, this rocky beach boasts clear waters and few tourists. Find it just north of the Punta Montgó, at the eastern end of El Montgri.
Passeig del Petit Príncep, 17130 L’Escala
For families, Platja Riells is easy to find and is situated close to all the amenities you need. A town beach, its shallow water for wading is ideal for children. Lifeguards are on duty in the summer months, hammocks and other sundries are available for rent, and there are public restrooms and shower areas.
Platja del Portixol
Passeig Dr. Pi I Llussà, 17130 L’Escala
On the northern side of town, this beach is favoured by many locals for exceptionally clean water and the pine forests that extend to the shore. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer and there are public toilets and showers.
Cal de la Creu
Carrer Gràcia, 17130 L’Escala
This town beach is on the northern side of the village and conserves a very traditional “fishing village” feel. You can find old fishing boats still lining sides of the tiny beach. The beach features a fairly narrow strip of fine sand.
Port d’En Parris
Carrer d’en Perris 1, 17130 L’Escala
This small town beach mostly attracts locals, making it ideal for a quiet retreat. The fairly coarse sand is white and only extends about 40 meters in length. Just behind the beach, you can find restaurants, showers and plenty of parking.
Platja Les Muscleres
Passeig Miranda, Sant Martí d’Empúries, 17130 L’Escala
With fine, white sand and stretching over 400 metres, the Platja Les Muscleres is an attractive option within a ten-minute drive of central L’Escala. Lifeguards are on duty through the summer and public restrooms are available year-round.
L’Esglèsia de Sant Pere
Plaça Ajuntament, 17130 L’Escala
The town church, this Baroque 18th century structure was built after the previous one was damaged in a lightning storm in 1700. Gothic pointed arches contrast a decidedly Baroque façade, which features a large rose window.
L’Esglèsia de Sant Martí d’Empúries
Sant Martí d’Empúries 17130 L’Escala
A late Gothic church, this impressive structure was originally built in 1507, with construction continuing through 1538. Originally, a Romanesque church had been built on the same site. A rose window is the sole adornment of the simple façade.
Anchovy Museum – Museu de l’Anxova i de la Sal
Avinguda Francesc Macià 1, 17130 L’Escala
This museum is dedicated to L’Escala’s booming anchovy fishing industry, from the 16th century through to the present. Visitors learn all the details of the fishing process, the industry’s history, and the salting and preservation process.
MARAM Fish Interpretation Centre
Port Pesquer, 17130 L’Escala
This fascinating centre is a combination of aquarium, science and technology museum and shop. Visitors can learn about the local fishing industry as well as local marine, geological and botanical life.
Close d’en Llop 9-11, 17130 L’Escala
For anyone devoted to motorbikes, this private collection is open to the public. It showcases an impressive collection of bikes that motorbike racer Vicenç Folgado accumulated over a lifetime.
Archaeological Museum of Catalonia – Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya – Empúries
C/ Puig i Cadafalch, 17130 Empúries-L’Escala
The Empúries branch of the Catalan Archaeology Museum is above all an open-air experience. The museum houses two major archaeological sites: visitors can see a Greek and a Roman city, both exquisitely preserved. Here you can see the remnants of the original Greek and Roman settlements established in Catalonia.
Sunday Market – Mercat del Diumenge
Plaça Víctor Català, 17130 L’Escala
L’Escala’s traditional Sunday market is the best place to discover local produce and specialties. Pick up an iconic jar of the village’s famed anchovies or try a local variety of cured meat or sausage, available from many local farmers. A smaller number of stalls also offer antiques and curiosities: ideal for unusual souvenirs.
Solés Anchovy Factory – Solés Fàbrica
Carretera Closa d’en Llop 40, 17130 L’Escala
While it isn’t exactly a marketplace, the Solés anchovy factory is one of the highlights of a cultural tour of L’Escala, and a great place to do a little marketing. Since 1888, the same family has managed the anchovy factory. Today, visitors can take factory tours.