Architecturally a medieval masterpiece, Tossa de Mar sits majestically on Catalonia’s Girona coast – basking in its beautiful Mediterranean climate. The walled old town offers stunning views of the surrounding coast, and is the perfect location to soak up some of the history of the region, as well as the sun. Did you know that Marc Chagall, the French painter, loved the quality of their life there is so much that he actually nicknamed Tossa de Mar – Blue Paradise?
That said, these days it’s an extremely busy resort, which is a favourite of many holidaymakers, but not the place to choose if you need some sedate, tranquil time out. We have to thank how Tossa-De-Mar responded to a post Second World War tourist boom. This really changed it dramatically from a seaside town into a modern tourist resort. The downside of this is the stark comparison that I can’t help but make between the modern development and the wonder of Catalonia’s coast’s only fully preserved medieval town.
Yet at the same time, it’s also somehow charming to appreciate how a sequence of different settlers and visitors have made their mark. From the Iberians, to the Romans, and from creative types to today’s tourists, the bizarre balance of Tossa somehow stays intact.
Temperatures are mild here all year round with the mercury routinely rising through 30 degrees centigrade during the summer months. If you’re looking for a laid-back beach holiday, with almost all imaginable facilities at your fingertips, then look no further than Tossa de Mar. The atmosphere of the place is so relaxed it will draw you back time and again. Did you know that the town was the first place in the whole world, in 1989, to declare that it was an anti-bullfighting city?
The town centre is a bustling little area with market stalls and friendly bars. When you’re able to find the willpower to drag yourself away from the golden beaches, head for the centre of Tossa de Mar and enjoy the warm welcome of the locals.
Whatever it is you like doing, this jewel of the Costa Brava will pretty much be able to satisfy you. If food and drink is your thing, then Tossa de Mar more than packs a punch. Wine has been the favourite tipple of this region for thousands of years. And having made it for millenia the people know more than a little bit about it. So if you’re a wine lover, you have arrived in your very own utopia – enjoy.
The town is very popular with British tourists, which means that there’s no lack of English breakfasts and bars, and the Irish are catered for to some extent as well. On a similar note, you’ll find plenty of tourist shops selling all sorts of gifts, and items that basically say that – I’ve been to Tossa de Mar.
If you’re travelling as an individual, couple or family, who like to have everything on hand then this Costa Brava town could be a very good choice for you. There are wonderful facilities at the town’s award-winning beaches. The restaurants and bars here cater for all ages, and there are plenty of water sports options for those looking for something a bit more fast paced. Don’t forget to pack all those books you have been planning to read for the past year. The beaches will provide you with the best library experience you are ever likely to have.
The enchanting castle is a great place to go to get a real feel for the history of Tossa de Mar. It doesn’t matter if you’re a history enthusiast or not, a trip to the castle is a must during your stay.
Take a stroll along the winding cobbled streets and let your senses enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of this Catalonian cultural gem. You will find yourself stepping back in time to a town blessed with an impressive and inspiring history.
This idyllic holiday retreat is alive with both tradition and modernity. It’s located within a relatively short drive of Girona and Barcelona airports so is easily accessible to travellers visiting this amazing area of Europe.
Things To Do
Vila Vella – Old Town
The old town of Tossa de Mar is beautiful and has fantastic views over the coast. In 1931 it was declared a monument of artistic and historical value. Today you can see how well intact its towers and defensive walls are. It’s actually the only entirely surviving fortified medieval town along the coast of Catalonia. When you step into it through the arched portal, you’ll find yourself in a wonderful world of a labyrinth of ancient houses and medieval alleys. Inside there are bars, restaurants and shops, but somehow these newer businesses integrate quite charmingly into the historic part of the town.
In order to help you appreciate how well preserved Vila Vella is, you might enjoy this quote that I loved in a feature in Washington Post by Kevin Craft:
“…the old town whose 14th-century stone wall is so devoid of any visible wear and tear that it looks cribbed from the Charleton Heston film “El Cid””
Avenida del Pelegri 5-13
This was part of Tarraco, the ancient Roman province, And is considered one of its most important Roman villas. It is a great example of the farming establishment of this historical time. It’s made up of two different parts, the rustic and the rural. There’s evidence of the everyday fishing and agricultural activities, because of the loom tools, farming tools and fish tackle. It’s obvious that the owners were wealthy, because there’s also remains of sculptures, and mosaics. Additionally you can see remnants of a spa and a fruit press.
Tossa de Mar Beaches
The town has beautiful beaches, and the coastline of the municipality is around 14 km, there are also little sheltered coves to be found.
Platja Gran Tossa de Mar (Playa Grande) – Big Beach
The west side of this beach is enclosed by the town’s medieval castle. This is the main beach in town, and is about 380 metres long by 60 metres wide. You’ll find toilet facilities at both ends of the beach, and there are also a couple of beach bars. There’s plenty going on, as daytrippers come in from boats to see Vila Vella, and as you’d imagine the beach is busy in the height of the season. It’s from this beach that you can take glass bottomed boat tours.
La Mar Menuda
La Mar Menuda is a smaller beach on the other side of the bay, which is more protected from northerly winds. You can also find the normal services and facilities there, plus the rocky headland is a good spot for snorkelling and scuba diving. It’s approximately 180 metres long by 20 metres in width.
However do bear in mind that if you’re travelling with young children or older family members, this beach may be more suitable than Platja Gran as it shelves more gradually into the sea.
Platja d’es Codolar
Under Vila Vella’s walls is the Codolar beach, which has to be accessed by climbing up the cobbled pathway, which goes past some of the restaurants. However I think you feel the walk is worth it when you reach this beautiful little beach.
Platja Santa Maria de Llorell
This beach has lovely views over the bay, and is surrounded by lush vegetation. It’s a golden sandy beach of around 460 metres in length by 50 metres in width.
Castillo de Tossa de Mar – Tossa de Mar Castle
An impressive, imposing sight overlooking the sea, the Castle attracts many visitors. You can also see the statue of Ava Gardner halfway up on the walk to the Castle – the actress had been filming locally. As well is saying hello to her, this is also good spot to take some great photos. For those who don’t feel that they could do the walk, there’s a little train to take you there.
Torre de Can Magí or Torre des Moros – Moorish Tower
Like numerous other towns and villages on the coast, Tossa built this tower in the 16th century, to protect from the regular raids of pirates. It’s made from stone and consists of two levels.
To get to it go past the Villa Romana hotel, and continue along to the road meets a path in the woods, and then you need to head up the rocky slope. It’s not the easiest walk, but the views back down over the town on the coast are superb.
Capella de la Mare de Deu del Socors – Chapel of Our Lady of Succour
Wander into this lovely peaceful Chapel the old town. Surrounded by all the bustle and plug in the middle of the shopping area, the Chapel is very important to the locals, and a place of tranquillity. The Chapel is actually where the village originally started, and expanded from during the years.
Esglesia de Sant Vicenc – Parish Church of Saint Vicent
Placa de l’Esglesia
Construction of Tossa de Mar’s parish church started in 1755, on 29 November 1775 it was inaugurated. This is a seriously big church, which is able to hold the entire population of the town during big events. It is dedicated to Vincent of Zaragosa, who was a marked. It is also home to the Chapel of St Sebastien, to whom the population are extremely devoted.
L’Hospital de Sant Miquel – The Hospital of Saint Michael
Founded in 1765, the Baroque style hospital has been declared a monument of national interest. Inside is the Chapel of St Michael.
Museo Municipal – Municipal Mueum Tossa de Mar
The town’s municipal museum is in the old town. It contains an archaeological section, which is especially important as it shows that man was in the town during the Paleolithic era.
Although officially a Museum, it has a strong emphasis on art. There are a number of works by artists who were frequent visitors to the area during the 1930s. The entrance fee is €3 euros, but do be warned it is more of an art gallery that Museum.
Where to Sleep
Where to Eat
Tossa de Mar Food
The traditional dishes of this area are rich and full of taste. From paella to tapas, the local cuisine is a delicious highlight not to be missed. Pizza is also one the most popular dishes in town, and the passion that exists here for this family favourite results in some of the most appetising pizza you’ll find anywhere in Europe. You can also Tossa Rice (Arroz de Tossa), which is the towns own variation of paella, but with the consistency that’s more like a soup.