Tossa de Mar is a charming coastal resort on Catalonia’s rugged coast – the Costa Brava – just under an hours drive from Girona and an hour and a half north of Barcelona. It is steeped in history, and overlooked by the turrets of a 12th century walled town, the Vila Vella (old town), which blends seamlessly into the Vila Nova (new town) – a maze of narrow winding streets dotted with boutique style shops and cosy bars.
Tossa escaped over-commercialisation during the tourist boom and retained its ‘fishing village’ charm. Nevertheless, it offers much to the visitor, including plenty of hotels, hostels and campsites; a profusion of bars and restaurants; a programme of fiestas and cultural events packed to the brim; and three main beaches with ample services and special facilities for the disabled courtesy of the Creu Roja (Red Cross).
If you like a scenic walk you will not be disappointed: Tossa has a strict ‘no high-rise’ policy, meaning the many viewpoints along your route will be uninterrupted. The Tourist Office runs organised walks every Saturday and Sunday morning, mostly along the coastal paths either north or south of Tossa, exploring the pretty secluded coves and bays that this coastline is renowned for. There is also a programme of planned but unguided walks, as well as excellent guided tours within the village.
Who holidays here?
Unlike the surrounding more boisterous resorts, those that have contributed to the unfortunate ‘Brits abroad’ labelling of the Costa Brava, Tossa de Mar is more suited to couples and older travellers. Due to the friendly nature of its people, and the safety of the area, Tossa is also ideal for those who prefer to travel alone.
How to get there
Tossa de Mar is served by the regional airport in Girona and several airlines offer flights here. Barcelona El Prat Airport is a little further away, but offers a wider range of flight options. There is also the opportunity to travel by coach, rail or ferry depending on your preference.
For travel details, together with lots of information about Tossa: things to do, where to eat, where to stay, virtual video tours, musical photo movies, an events diary updated monthly, a discussion forum, a section dedicated to services for the disabled, and lots more, visit www.tossacostabrava.com.
Region of Spain: Catalonia
Tourist Season: May to October
Climate: 21°C (May) to 28°C (August)
Airports: Girona (GRO) and Barcelona (BCN)
Transfer time: 50 minutes (GRO), 90 minutes (BCN)
Taxi cost aprx: €55 (GRO), €110 (BCN)
Buses run to: Lloret, Barcelona, Blanes, Girona (via Lloret)
Boats run to: All resorts en route to Blanes and Platja D’Aro
Taxis from: Avenida del Pelegrí (next to Tourist Office)
Market: Thursday 9am-1pm
Don’t go home without visiting:
The Mediterranean Lighthouse Interpretation Centre, opened in September 2005 by the Mayoress amidst a proud and distinguished ceremony. The centre is located at the summit of the Vila Vella. The observation platforms offer spectacular views along the amazingly wild stretch of coastline and the centre itself provides an excellent guided tour and virtual demonstration on the history of the lighthouse. For those who can’t manage the journey on foot to the top of the Vila Vella, a mini bus runs every half hour.
The Museu Municipal is nestled in the centre of the Vila Vella and was opened on 1 September 1935. It is considered Spain’s first Modern Art Museum and its renowned collection includes 19th and 20th Century Catalan pieces, as well as works of national and international artists who patronised Tossa during the 1930s. Don’t miss Marc Chagall’s famous and baffling ‘The Celestial Violinist’, a painting that mystifies every onlooker – are the windows opening outwards – or are they opening inwards? The museum also houses the archaeological collection of Dr Ignacio Melé, the town’s GP, who was initially responsible for the discovery of Tossa’s Roman settlement around the early part of the 20th century.
La Torre dels Moros (The Moorish Tower), once an important part of the town’s defence system, provides undoubtedly one of the most astounding viewpoints of Tossa. It’s quite an uphill walk, but well worth it – the views literally take your breath away – they have to be seen to be believed. From this tower, the most spectacular panoramic vistas are set out before you: the Vila Vella; the bay of Tossa and it’s beaches; the glimmering Mediterranean dotted with fishing boats; the warren-like streets winding into each other; the pine topped mountainous backdrop. Your camera will not leave your hands!
Don’t go home without:
Sampling the renowned cuisine
Try one of the many quality restaurants for dishes like the locally celebrated Cim-i-Tomba (a stew of monkfish and potatoes garnished with lashings of garlic mayonnaise), Parillada de Pescados y Mariscos (mixed grill of fish and seafood), Lubina or Dorada al Sal (sea bream or sea bass baked in salt), the renowned Girona Veal (try it in goats cheese sauce – delicious!) and the Catalan sausage delight, Butifarra (with white beans in garlic and parsley – not chips!).
Taking the Pandora’s Box Guided Tour of Tossa
A guided walk around the village. Organised by the Tourist Office, it’s described as ‘A walk through the history and magic of Tossa’. It starts at the ruins of the Roman village of Turissa, which is over 2,000 years old. You are then taken on an historical tour of Tossa, seeing the major sights and learning about their history as you go. The guide also covers Tossa’s myths and legends, its past industries and artistic heritage and includes a visit to the Museu Municipal.
At the beginning of the walk you are given a box – Pandora’s Box – but you’ll have to go on the tour to find out more about its significance!
Experiencing a Power Boat Thrill!
One thing you must do in Tossa is take a boat trip along the rugged coastline. There are a few different trips to choose from, one of the most exciting being ‘Splash!’.
The speedboat, like the ones used by the lifeguards, whisks you away from the main beach. Experience the pleasure of the coastline with the wind in your hair, holding tight as the boat skims the waves. You’ll make some stops on the journey: time to admire pretty Cala Bona with its crystal clear waters dotted with snorklers, observe the shimmering walls inside the caves, and get a close-up of those craggy, pine-topped cliffs…it’s an experience that combines thrill and tranquillity!
Witnessing Corpus Christi
In May or June you can watch the townspeople dedicated to ‘carpeting’ the streets of the Vila Nova in beautiful floral mosaics made of petals, leaves, soil and sand. The work is in preparation for a holy procession from the Parochial Church, after a mass celebrating the First Holy Communion of a number of young boys and girls.
The procession marches slowly to the rhythm of a solemn band: watch the girls in their immaculate white dresses and the boys in their waistcoats and bow-ties, their young faces etched with honour and dignity. The party makes its way through the streets of the Vila Nova and tramples through the flower mats that had been so carefully laid a few hours before.
A wonderful opportunity to see all the people of the town come together to celebrate their faith.
Taking a walk along The Paseo del Mar
The Paseo Del Mar (Passeig de Mar) is a promenade that stretches along the length of the main beach. It is lined with bars and restaurants and in parts shaded by leafy canopies, and is the ideal place to watch the world go by, with the Vila Vella and main beach offering a scenic backdrop. Most of the bars along the Paseo offer menus of amazing ice creams, so well ‘sculpted’ they could win an award! Order your ice cream, sit back, and people watch to your hearts content!