Sometimes travel has a subtle way of making us more honest with ourselves.
After a trip to Serbia to visit my husband’s family followed by a week in Barcelona with girlfriends, my introverted soul was desperate for a retreat. So I bid my friends adéu and set my sights to Cadaqués, a town I knew next to nothing about, on the Costa Brava near France.
I intended to use this time as a creative retreat and was almost giddy with anticipation for how much writing and planning I’d get done. With so much alone time among gorgeous scenery ripe for inspiration, how could I not?
As soon as I’d settled in and made my first stroll around the village I knew Cadaqués had other plans for me.
Instead of productivity, I found peace as the crystal blue water lapped along the shore and the olive trees rustled in the breeze. The mesmerizing labyrinth of flower-filled streets begged me to wander instead of write as the boats bobbed with the tide, never too far from eyesight.
This sleepy seaside village revealed what I truly needed…to put aside the laptop and the ever-pressing need to be doing something and simply be, to stop fighting what was true and honest, which was the fact that I needed a break. Rest, rejuvenation and sunshine, that’s all I needed to “do.” And that was wonderfully ok.
If you ever find yourself lost in Cadaqués, and I hope you do, here are a few ways to immerse yourself in this corner of Catalonia.
Getting To Cadaqués, Costa Brava
Cadaqués sits tucked away at the tip of the Costa Brava, just south of the French border, in between mountains and the sea. There’s only one road leading to the tiny town, swirling its way through the Cap de Creus National Park, one hairpin turn after death-defying cliffside drop at a time. It’s farther away than most places on the Costa Brava, but those who choose to wander past the high-rise resorts and package holiday destinations will be rewarded with breathtaking views, delicious food, kind people and a soul-stirring sense of peace that’s worth every inch of those extra miles.
Even though the road to Cadaqués is a long and winding one, it’s actually not difficult to get there from Barcelona or any of the cities along the Costa Brava. From Barcelona, if you don’t want to rent a car, take the Moventis bus from the airport or Barcelona Estacio del Nord directly to Cadaqués for under 30 euros one way. Then sit back and enjoy the stunning ride!
Where to Stay
There are plenty of options for every budget. I went the more affordable route with Hotel Ubaldo. While the rooms are quite simple, they are very clean and most have a balcony—a must if you ask me! Plus it’s close to the bus station making it much easier to navigate to with luggage on the teeny, tiny, winding cobblestone streets.
Things to do in Cadaqués
Get lost in the charm
Just start walking along the labyrinth of streets and you’re likely to get lost in the right direction. Between the whitewashed facades, Mediterranean style tile roofs, splashes of blue, flowers overflowing from every angle, sparkling sea views and friendly felines, I found myself sighing with happiness at every corner.
Channel your inner artist
Walking around, you’ll likely spot groups of painters perched by the sea or walking the back streets, happily filling their canvases with the inspiration that surrounds them. If you’re more of an art admirer than an art maker, there are plenty of galleries and boutiques just waiting to be discovered. With beauty and light that dreams are made of, it’s no wonder Cadaqués is such an art-centered town.
Visit Salvador Dali’s home
Speaking of artists, Salvador Dali lived in Port Lligat, a tiny village just up the road from the main center of Cadaqués, from 1930 to 1982. You can visit the home turned museum for 11 euros. It’s well worth the money and the beautiful hike to get there, to get a glimpse into the weird, whimsical world he lived in…and not just in his paintings. The house is full of eccentricities that will leave you amused and slightly baffled at the same time.
Wine and dine
Just up the road in Roses, chef Ferran Adrià and his molecular gastronomy techniques turned his restaurant, elBulli, into what many called the best in the world. elBulli closed its doors in 2011, however, some of Ferran’s proteges have set up shop right in Cadaqués with Compartir. I didn’t eat there, but if you’re a foodie, don’t miss this spot. If vino’s more your thing, try Enoteca MF, a tapas bar with local wines.
Hike the Cap de Creus
The Cap de Creus National Park is essentially a hiking path along the peninsula of Cadaqués with enough cliffs and coastline views to turn you into the heart eyes emoji. Put on your boots, pack a lunch (and perhaps a bottle of wine) and make your way to the Cap de Creus lighthouse for stunning views worth the trek.
Sit back and enjoy life
Seriously! There’s not much else you need to do to enjoy Cadaqués to the fullest, except actually enjoy it. The vibe is sophisticated but not arrogant, relaxed but not boring, vibrant but not exhausting. It’s a place to simply be. People here, whether locals or visitors, know how to enjoy the beauty of what’s right in front of them—a contagious feeling that you’ll remember long after you’ve said goodbye to this little village by the sea.
Whether you’re looking for a city break from Barcelona, a solo retreat getaway or a nature-filled family vacation with more authenticity and fewer crowds, Cadaqués is one of the best places to go in Spain. And while it’s still popular, it’s lesser known than much of the Costa Brava making it an underrated hidden gem you won’t want to miss.