With its distinctly small-town fishing village feel, Palamos is a beautifully preserved Costa Brava gem. Its maritime heritage stretches back centuries and today you can still watch the fishermen returning to port every afternoon and selling the fruits of their day’s work directly from the dockside. With a lovely sandy beach right in town and several more just a short walk or car ride away, charm-filled Palamos also has a historical Old Town and is surrounded by mountains in which wineries nestle and nature runs wild.
With so much going for it Palamos can really be whatever you want it to be. It can be a day filled with complete relaxation with your feet in the sand in a tucked away cove in which nothing more energetic is necessary than the occasional stroll to a beach bar to refuel and refresh. Transversely it can be a day filled with exploration and activity. Possibilities include everything from wine tasting to walking the coastal path visiting historic ruins and kayaking the coves to learning about the Catalan culture.
When it comes to food, it will probably come as no surprise to learn this active port with a centuries-old history is home to some incredible seafood restaurants – everything from cozy tavernas to refined dining venues complete with spectacular Mediterranean views. Be sure to try the famous Gambas de Palamos while you are in town, a type of prawn prized for its firm, succulent meat and incredible flavor.
A Morning in Palamos
Your Costa Brava morning begins in the historic Old Town and finishes at the town’s excellent museum.
Exploring Palamos Old Town
Dating back to the 13th century, Palamos was originally established as a royal port. These were the days when pirates roamed the coast looking for easy pickings and the lands were troubled by armed conflicts. As a result, most of those who called Palamos home lived within the fortified walls which surrounded the town – the area now known as the Old Town.
Today this area is still peppered with ancient remnants centuries-old and historic buildings. Heading out for a stroll through these narrow characterful streets not only gives you a chance to explore these points of interest but also lets you soak up some of the distinctly Mediterranean vibe.
Start by dropping into the tourist office on the Paseo Mar where you can pick up a self-guided walking tour map which details the main points of interest. The town also has a series of information plaques located wherever you find something historical, noteworthy or otherwise of interest.
Placa de la Murada
Begin your morning stroll at the Placa de la Murada. This square offers one of the town’s best viewpoints, taking in both beach and port with the Mediterranean sparkling in the midst of it all. The bronze bench statue here is of the 20th century Palamos-native painter Ezequiel Torroella I Mato.
From here you can follow the map or wander freely if something not marked attracts your attention or you want to check out one of the quainter shops, discovering as you go.
Santa Maria del Mar
The principal highlight of the Old Town is its 15th century church which was constructed on the site of a chapel some 100 years older. Santa Maria del Mar with its distinctive bell tower is the town’s oldest continuous use building which still retains some of its medieval Gothic features while the church’s interior is home to some 16th century artworks.
Capella del Carme
The Capella del Carme which dates from the 1700s is today an arts and cultural center which has ever-changing exhibits and works by Ezekiel Torroella but was previously a hospital church.
A little outside the Old Town in the elevated Pedro district but still within easy strolling distance you can also find the remains of a 16th century Augustine convent. There is little left to see here today beyond a wall or two complete with columns and grand stone-sculpted arches but the setting is lovely. Located within the leafy Parc del Convent dels Agustins, the old convent ruins are another of the town’s best view points to take in sea and marina.
You can if you wish widen you explorations a little to the hamlet of Sant Joan de Palamos which is around 1 km north of the center where you will find the 18th century Santa Eugenia de Vila-romàChurch,
Morning Coffee in Palamos
The Old Town is littered with a number of cafes at which you can take a morning pause after your explorations here. The picturesque squares have numerous options for taking a seat in the open air while the area’s main street – Carrer Major – also has some great cafes. One of these is Granja Nua with its relaxed atmosphere and fast, friendly service serving good standard coffee.
A three minute walk from here brings you to Cafe Bar Diferent. This sits across from Placa de la Murada on Passeig del Mar and has outdoor pavement seating as does Caffe Italiano in the same general vicinity at Placa dels Arbres.
Passeig del Mar, 1, 17230 Palamós
For those who rate the quality of the coffee as the primary factor in determining where to take a break head to Secret Cafe. For alfresco fans there are pavement tables while the interior is an arty monochrome decor space with splashes of greenery. There is a tempting range of sweet treats too for a coffee accompaniment.
If you want a lovely Mediterranean view you can direct your steps towards the Terrassa del Mar of the Vintage Restaurant. Overlooking the marina on a lovely elevated wooden deck this venue is rather more restaurant than cafe but they are happy to welcome those only in search of refreshment if they are not otherwise busy serving meals.
Museu de la Pesca – The Fish Museum
While compact little Palamos doesn’t have a vast choice of cultural options for the visitor to explore what it does have it does well – something demonstrated by its fish museum. Not exactly prepossessing from the exterior and with a theme that may not instantly suggest something fascinating the museum is nonetheless an engrossing gem.
With a centuries-old fishing tradition and today known for high-quality prawns so famous they are sought after the world over, Palamos has a relationship with the sea which is an interwoven part of its culture. Exploring this theme with regard to both past, present and future will give you insight into the Palamos way of life and its heritage while also teaching you a variety of things about fish and fishing you couldn’t possibly have imagined.
The museum is relatively small, housed in what was once a boat shed and thanks to its vision and quality has earned itself several awards in the fields of both tourism and sea heritage. With models, ancient artifacts and audiovisuals, the museum is extremely well laid out in themed areas such as ‘Who’s Who in the Fishing World’ which covers everything from fishermen to marine biologists and a section which charts the changes in fishing methods from ancient times to the technology of the modern age.
Besides its displays the museum also offers an incredible range of tours and activities which are each fishing or sea-related and last from one hour to one day. For example you can step aboard real fishing craft to handle the equipment and watch shoal location through sonar monitors, head out to sea on a traditional fishing trip or sign up for a workshop to learn some maritime craft.
‘L’Espai del Peix is part of the museum and an essential inclusion for gastronomes or keen cooks. Opportunities here include watching show-cooking demonstrations, fish-tasting sessions and the chance to learn how best to prepare and cook different types of fish.
If you want to watch some live action be sure to head to the docks in the afternoon when the town’s fleets come in to dock and unload their catches.
Lunch in Palamos
You will have no problem finding somewhere to pause for lunch in vibrant Palamos. Cuisine types are diverse, its venues presenting everything from laid back beach shack surrounds to sophisticated restaurants and the price range offering something for everyone. Unsurprisingly the famous Palamos prawns are the star of the show in many restaurants and cafes.
One such lunch choice in this category is La Gamba which has been part of the town’s dining scene since the 1960s; any restaurant which has been around that long has to be doing something right, especially with so much great competition in such close proximity. Besides its vast menu of high quality seafood and extensive wine list La Gamba’s principal trump card is its port-side location and a choice of dining areas which between them offer very different experiences. Choose from complete alfresco out front, a covered but open sided terrace behind it and a glassed area which gives you the comfort of air-conditioning without losing your views. The last option is the elegant main dining room – still with great views – which offers an air of sophistication with its historical Neo-Colonial décor.
Another choice which has an unbeatable view if you are looking for a refined lunch venue is the exceptionally lovely-set Vintage Restaurant with its roomy elevated wooden deck complete with marina and mountain views.
If you are not a seafood fan, are vegetarian or simply want a hearty and healthy lunch the Cactus Eco Cafe is one of the Palamos choices which consistently receives rave reviews. Offering both a set menu which changes every day or individual menu choices and great artisan beer, Cactus Eco proves that eating vegetarian fare doesn’t have to mean boring or bland. Additionally, if you have a sweet tooth, the cafe’s choice of desserts is going to leave you with a big smile on your face. The atmosphere here is serene and uncrowded and its location just north of the Old Town highly convenient.
An Afternoon in Palamos
Palamos is the type of destination where you can have a great time doing very little except soaking up a few Mediterranean rays at the beach. Your greatest exertion here could be nothing more than the few steps you’d have to make whenever you felt the urge to walk into the sparkling aqua waters for a cool down or when raising your hand to take a sip of ice cold beer.
Alternatively your hours can be filled with much more activity such as taking a boat trip along stretches of the coast where pirates once prowled or strolling the coast taking in some historic sights along the way. If you want to go all out on the exertion front you can sign up for a surf lesson, rent a kayak or head off for a mountain hike. Or maybe you want to mix and match two or more of the possibilities or do a spot of beach-hopping? The following walks you through your options so you can decide.
From Secret Coves to Amenity-Filled Choices – Choosing a Palamos Beach
If you have decided to spend your afternoon hours with a bit of total relaxation beach time you have plenty of choice. On the menu are everything from tucked away coves bereft of crowds because they need a short hike in to large sandy stretches with everything you might need close to hand for a great time at the beach.
Platja Gran – big or main beach – is the beach which the town seamlessly runs into just the other side of the port. At 0.6 km long it is the largest of your options and also has the most amenities which include lifeguards, showers, sun-lounger rentals and restaurants and bars if you get hungry or thirsty. Because you can arrive at Platja Gran’s fine sands after just a few minutes’ walk from the town center it is understandably the most popular of the area’s beaches.
The other two more sizeable beaches are Platja Fosca and Platja Castell. If you still want facilities on hand but prefer to be a bit more removed from town lovely Platja Fosca with its far-reaching shallow waters is a great choice and still only a 20 minute walk away. Tree-backed Platja Castell with its talcum powder-soft white sands and not a building in sight is the most natural of the three principal beaches and one of the most scenic for miles around. Even though the vibe is more tranquil and removed you still have lifeguards present here in summer, a small cafe, bathrooms and kayak rental.
If privacy, seclusion and nature are rather higher on your agenda than amenities there are plenty more beach choices around Palamos. These include –
- Cala del Morro del Vedell – a charming sandy cove which is great for snorkeling and almost as close to town as the main beach but with a decidedly more rustic charm.
- Platja de sa Tamardia – a narrow strip of beach between Cala del Morro del Vedell and Fosca beach.
- Cala S’Alguer – a mix of pebble and sand, this picturesque secluded cove backed by a centuries-old fishing village is ideal for those who want to feel like they have escaped.
A Coastal Stroll
If you love coastal scenery but are really not a fan of just lazing at the beach Palamos offers some spectacular strolls along the coast. If you head south you can follow a gorgeous trail which leads all the way to Platja d’Aro almost 10km away if you have the time and the inclination. Even if you don’t want to take in the entire route you are still going to be rewarded with a series of stunning viewpoints and be able to take in a collection of isolated coves, fishermen’s huts, islets and reefs. If you feel the need for a break at any point you can take a refreshment pause in one of the beachfront bars or cafes along the way.
If you head north from town you can follow a cliff-top path and should any little cove or beach take your fancy along the way you can pause for a while or take a refreshing dip. By taking this route you can also explore some historic ruins along the way.
Located close to Fosca Beach on this route can be found the ruins of Castell de Sant Esteve de Mar. Dating back to at least the 12th century, this former villa and castle which perches right on the cliff edge can only be visited with a guide but is clearly visible from the path. Further along the coast, just above Castell beach you will encounter Castell de la Fosca. Free to visit, this archaeological site which was unearthed in 1935 shows the stone house remains of an ancient settlement believed to be more than 2500 years old. The evocative hilltop ruins with the beach and sea in the background make for particularly atmospheric photographs.
A short forest 10 minute hike from Castell beach will bring you to a small stone hut with a strangely angled doorway known as Barraca d’en Dali. This little hideaway was built by a friend of Salvador Dali to be used as a studio and although it is thought that was never the case he certainly did visit it on several occasions.
Boat Trips and Cruises
While viewing the sea from the land offers some stunning scenery doing it the other way around from a boat rewards you with a plentiful supply of the spectacular too. Out on the water you will be able to marvel at cliff formations, pass by any number of hidden away coves and ply the same routes which the pirates of old once did.
Opportunities to get out on the water are plentiful from Palamos with everything on the menu from quick scenic leisure jaunts to tours which offer a-day-in-the-life-of-a-fisherman experiences. If you are interested in this latter type of trip you will need to arrange it in advance with the Fishing Museum who organize a diverse menu of marine-related activities.
Otherwise, the kind of craft you might board varies considerably with the greatest number offered of the sailboat category. Palamos is well-known in international sailing circles as something of a sailing paradise due to its climatic conditions and extensive facilities which include learning the ropes of the craft from an Olympian. If you already know your way around a sailboat there are plenty for hire or if you are typically something of a landlubber sailing boats can also be hired along with their skipper so all you have to do is relax and watch the scenery. Some of the sailing boats you could go for a trip on are more than 100 years old while an afternoon on-board which includes a prawn-tasting experience is another of the possibilities.
Should you like the idea of taking out your own boat but have no previous boating experience there are some outfits which offer motorboat hire. These types of craft are easy to operate and you will get a quick run through of what you need to know before you head out exploring.
Other Activities in Palamos
Many of the activities on offer around Palamos have a watery theme. From Fosca beach you can sign up for a surf lesson or rent a kayak to paddle your way round the coast. Elsewhere scuba-diving, windsurfing, snorkeling and stand-up paddle surfing are also on the menu of possibilities.
For those who prefer to keep their feet on dry land there is also a diversity of things to enjoy. Because both coastal and inland scenery in this area is so spectacular hiring an electric bike to really get out there exploring medieval villages, historical sites, vineyards and hidden coves is very popular. Some companies offer guide-led tours while most of the outfits will help you with a wealth of information regarding the best routes if you want to do it alone.
Should you prefer to use your own power for exploring the region is something of a hiker’s paradise offering everything from scenic strolls to longer and more challenging trails. The Bell-Lloc Valley in the mountains a few kilometers north of town is a popular place to head with several historical points of interest, a nature reserve and the beautiful Finca Bell-Lloc winery which offers wine tasting.
Pre-dinner Drinks and Dinner in Palamos
Beaches, marina, historic Old Town and mountains – Palamos has a choice of lovely locations in which to hunt down an ideal spot for sundowner drinks and evening dining.
As the home of the famous las gambas de Palamos both pre-dinner tapas and full meals heavily feature this star ingredient while otherwise there is a diverse choice of both Catalan and international cuisine types.
Bury your fit in the sand as you sip on a cocktail at absolute beach-front, drink in some marina views and watch the sunlight play on the water, grab a table at a street-side bar surrounded by gorgeous views or historic buildings or tuck yourself away inside some cozy taverna – all of this and more are on offer for enjoying some downtime and pre-dinner drinks.
Sometimes the best way to find your ideal spot is simply to wander until you stumble across your personal definition of the idyllic. Some of the best gems are not advertised anywhere and appear in no tourist literature while new places spring up all the time.
If you decided to spend your afternoon at the beach or opted for a coastal stroll you can simply shake off the sand when the time arrives and pick your beach bar. Two options here include the elegant D&C Beach Club at Fosca beach and Noctambul which sits at the further end of the main beach.
Av. de la Unió, 2, 17252 Sant Antoni de Calonge, Girona, Spain
However, no matter where you decide to while away the time with a pre-dinner drink there will almost certainly be one ever-present factor which links each of them – tapas. Made for sharing, these bite-sized drink accompaniments can be anything from a few treats to whet your appetite and stave off the hunger pangs until you head off to dinner to meal-size selections. While the Palamos tapas bar choices are beyond counting two which receive consistently rave reviews are the Rumbo al Cairo in the Marina Hotel which is also a great choice for cocktail fans and Arrels Taverna which has both a cozy interior and outdoor tables.
If you want to keep things closer to town but still want the beach feel head to the Petit Bar which sits nestled under a vast tree canopy next to the port. Homely and complete with Mediterranean charm, this little gem offers great views from its pavement tables under umbrellas with tapas options thrown into the mix.
For something with an authentic and relaxed atmosphere check out the roof terrace of La Plata which is where you will usually find locals meeting up with friends to share some tapas. This elegant, greenery-surrounded space is located near the Fish Museum but be aware the drinks don’t come cheap here.
With a large diversity of restaurants Palamos has it all when it comes to dining – from casual beach cafe spots to fine dining venues. Among them they serve everything from traditional Catalan cuisine just like Grandma used to make or hearty uncomplicated fishermen’s fare to innovative, international-influenced dishes designed to satisfy even the most discerning palates.
The absolute stars of the show in the Palamos dining scene by quite some margin are the exquisite gambas de Palamos or Palamos prawns. The catches of this Mediterranean delicacy which arrive in the town’s ports every afternoon are snapped up by restaurants not just all over the neighboring coastal region but in Spain generally and even further afield. Of course as the home of these firm-textured distinctly red shellfish, Palamos is THE place to sample them at their absolute freshest.
There is no shortage of places in Palamos where you can sample this succulent treat however La Gamba is considered one of the best in town – hardly surprising given its name. Established more than 50 years ago, this port-side seafood restaurant not only offers high quality choices but also options for the kind of dining environment in which you can enjoy it. Outside or in, all offer lovely views with possibilities including a more casual alfresco terrace out front and a refined main dining area inside surrounded by beautiful historical architecture and décor. Beware – if you are one of those diners who struggles to make a choice the vast menu here could keep you busy for some time.
Another well-respected seafood choice not far from La Gamba is La Selvetana. With its lovely taverna-feel, warm-tone surroundings of exposed brick, tiled floor and vaulted ceiling covered in atmospheric lighting La Selvetana is a good choice for an intimate romantic meal for two. Creating gastronomic delights with produce which has come straight from the fishing boats a few hours ago, this restaurant is frequented by locals, soemthing which is always a good sign.
Carrer de l’Allada, 5, 17230 Palamós, Girona, Spain
An Evening in Palamos
With its almost village-like feel, evening hours in Palamos are really all about finding your spot, watching the light fade and the stars come out with a drink in your hand. Like many Mediterranean nations, locals here tend to dine very late, hence the tradition of tapas which keeps everyone going until the main event. From one end of the town to the other, as you wander you will see the Palamos people sitting with friends or family, sharing plates and enjoying drinks in the warm Mediterranean evening.
If you happen to be in town for a festival such as the Prawn Fair in June or the two-day July Festival of the Virgin Carmen – patron saint of all those connected to the sea – you will see all kinds of processions and events along with music and dance performances. Otherwise one or two bars in town sometimes offer live music but it isn’t a big thing here. The most buzzing side of the Palamos nightlife is centered around the old port so wander this way once you have finished dining to see what you can find.
If you are a sunset watcher be sure to head to one of the town’s prime viewing spots at the right time – well after 8pm in the height of summer. Located at Palamos’s very southern tip of land you will find its 19th century lighthouse – Far de Palamos. Arguably the best sunset viewing spot in town, this protruding promontory vantage point takes in both the bay and the Gavarres Mountains.
If simply doing as the locals do and relaxing at some idyllic taverna or pavement terrace doesn’t really appeal another option is to head out for a sail beneath the stars. Typically lasting around two and a half hours, such trips allow you to get a whole different perspective of the land as it first becomes cloaked in shadow and finally crosses into night. The companies which offer such cruises typically throw in a glass or two of something sparkling to enjoy as you take in the sky and sea at night.
If you’re ready to experience the beauty of Palamos in person, contact one of our vacation planners today!