Empuriabrava is the largest residential marina in the world, an unusual town in Costa Brava, Spain. Its development started around the late 1970s when a group of visionaries dreamed of building large, comfortable, and luxurious houses throughout the town, with yachts moored at their doorsteps. Not far from the border of France, Empuriabrava has 24 kilometers of canals and around 5000 private jetties. And, it has also become an up-level tourist resort with waterways reminiscent of Venice.
If you have a holiday at the Vermillion Coast or Perpignan, France, you could make a day trip to this water town. We discovered Empuriabrava when we had a holiday near Collioure, a famous beach town on the Vermillion coast. To drive there, we followed a beautiful coastal route passing through many small fishing villages. It is also possible to make a day trip from Barcelona.
The town offers many activities for families and outdoor adventurers. Things to do in Empuriabrava are:
- Take an Eco Boat Trip through the canals
- Skydive (Parachuting)
- Relax on the Beaches in Empuriabrava
- Visit the Aiguamolls Natural Park
- Watch Butterfly in Park Empuriabrava
- Stroll around Castelló d’ Empuries
Take an Eco Boat Trip in Empuriabrava
We stopped at this town on the way to Cadaques. Many boat rentals are offering electric driven boats. By renting a boat at one of the companies in town, visitors can explore the canals and navigate through the town. The street names are on the banks of canals, where no pavements exist.
We boarded on an electric boat and toured around the canal. The rental company Eco Boats provided us a map of the local waterway. Their boats are in an elegant design and are ideal for many activities in an ecological way. Our boat can reach a speed of 6km/h, the maximum allowed by the marina. It took us gently along the canals without making any noise and of course without any contamination. To operate the boat is very easy, even our kid was able to do that.
We passed a small triangle lake and enjoyed the pleasant view of those luxury houses along the canals. These villas have terraces, balconies, and loggia, different sets of lounge furniture. Instead of cars, residents use their boats to go shopping.
When we approached the small lake, we saw the skydivers. The constant wind howls through the Bay of Roses, which makes Empuriabrava and the surrounding area the perfect location for kite-surfing and winds surfing. Therefore, Empuriabrava offers the most exhilarating skydiving opportunity. The friendly world-class instructors will teach the methods and safety procedures if you are a beginner.
Relax on the Beaches in Empuriabrava
Rubina Beach is an unspoiled paradise, the clean and shallow water, the soft sand, and the silent atmosphere will bring you every satisfaction. Besides, it has an area for kite-surfing as well.
Immersed in nature, the pristine beach Can Comes Beach offers 4km of sand dunes and lagoons for you to relax. It is not a commercialized beach but is a part of the Aiguamolls Natural Park. Therefore, if you want to spend a day there, please bring your own food and drinks, as there is no service in the area.
Visit the Aiguamolls Natural Park
If you spend a day on Can Comes Beach, it is also possible to hike in the park. Follow the sign-posted routes to learn more about the park and enjoy the nature. The Aiguamolls Natural Park is the second-largest wetland in Catalonia and has a large plant and bird diversity.
Watch Butterfly in Park Empuriabrava
Setup in tropical scenery, you will discover the fascinating world of butterflies, toucans, turtles, parrots, and many other exotic animals. You would probably spot the Attacus atlas, which is said to be the biggest butterfly in the world. Walking through the garden, direct contact with nature and animals is a nice experience for families with kids.
Stroll around Castelló d’ Empuries
If you have enough for the beach and outdoor activities, then take a trip through the centuries-old town Castelló d’ Empuries. It is home to well-preserved historical buildings.
The first building is Ecomuseum-Flour Mill, a three-storey building constructed around 1905 on the site of the original building. You can still see the original machinery, which is mainly made of wood.
Address: Carrer Sant Francesc, 5, 17486 Castelló d’Empúries, Girona, Spain
The next building is the famous Basilica de Santa Maria, a perfect example of Gothic architecture. Its marble exterior, stained glass windows, alabaster main altarpiece, the Gothic belfry, and the Parish Museum visualize its history.
Address: Plaça Mossen Cinto Verdaguer, 17486 Castellón de Ampurias, Girona, Spain
But if you a history lover, the Museum of Medieval History of Castelló d’Empúries is something for you. Located at the historical building of the Curia-Prison, the museum is one of the medieval spaces of the town.
Address: Carrer de la Presó, 6, 17486 Castelló d’Empúries, Girona, Spain
Where to stay
Many holidaymakers spend weeks in this town. In the summer, it can host up to 80,000 visitors, while the regular residents are around 5,000. There are also many apartments and holiday homes in the town.
- Port Salins is in the centre of Empuriabrava Port, 100 metres from the beach. It and offers views over the Salins canals. Cap de Creus Natural Park is 7 km away. The charming, white-washed town of Cadaques is approximately 13 km away, where guests can visit Dali’s unique house.
- Maison canal Avec piscine Amarre 9m has the best location in the town. Featuring a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, a garden, and a terrace, the hotel also has free WiFi and pool views.
How to get there
There are four ways from Barcelona to Empuriabrava, either by train, by taxi, bus or car. Please find connections here. The easiest way to Empuriabrava from the French side is to rent a car and drive around this Spanish area.
If I had known that Empuriabrava was only a day trip away from Barcelona, I would’ve done it when I was there a couple of months ago. What a lovely day trip it would’ve made, relaxing on the beaches, visiting the fishing villages nearly, or even visiting the Castelló d’ Empuries.
I guess Empuriabrava is an example of what a vision came true. When I came to the picture of the Basilica, I was thinking, please don’t tell me that they also built a basilica that looks like from hundred years ago. Thankfully it’s not. This place really gives the luxurious holiday for its visitors.
I went to Costa Brava a few years ago for a TBEX meeting, in Lloret de Mar. I absolutely loved Catalonia and promised myself to return someday. I didn’t get as far as Empuriabrava, but I remember visiting some very beautiful coastal towns like Tossa de Mar.
I think a lot of beach towns can look pretty run down by tourists, but Empuriabrava looks so upscale and beautiful. I love the variety of activities there are to do too, so you’re not just laying out all day. Cruising around by boat there would be a lot of fun I imagine, and I would love to skydive there as well!
I hoping to head to the south of France next year and I really didn’t know about this place. Thanks for introducing this to me. I’m definitely adding this to my itinerary.
Street names at the end of the canals? Indeed as you say, the whole thing is like a lesser-known Venice. Good to know we can operate our own boats and its easy as well. I’ve been wanting to do skydiving since ages. Let’s see if I can do it here in Southern France.
Nice to see somewhere a little more unusual – not that I don’t love Barcelona, but there’s also so much more to see. I do think I’m too wussy for skydiving (although it’s incredibly exciting) but a helicopter ride would be ace. And then I’d go find out just how big the Attacus atlas is in Park Empuriabrava 🙂
I have never heard of Empuriabrava but it sure looks really nice! I would definitely take an Eco Boat Tour as well. I like to see places for a different view.
Well, this is the first time I heard about Empuriabrava but going on an eco boat trip and a visit to the Butterfly Park is really nice.
Would definitely love to visit in the future. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful experience.
I love the idea of taking an Eco Boat tour. I love being able to get out onto the water and view a city/town from a different perspective. And I love that they have the street names on the banks of the canals. Clever. The Basilica de Santa Maria in Castelló d’ Empuries looks amazing. I love to check out the architecture of churches!