Destination Inspiration: Pals, Catalonia, Spain
East of Barcelona, the medieval Spanish town of Pals is home to honey-hued architecture, family-run eateries, sandy beaches and plenty of independent art galleries.
23 May, 2022
Pals, Catalonia, Spain.
Located just a 90-minute drive east of Barcelona, the small medieval town of Pals feels worlds away from the party-fuelled city crowds. Flanked by stretches of dense vineyards, rolling rice fields and the dazzling Bay of Empordà, these dusty streets look as though they should be crammed with horse-drawn carts and an elderly population, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
A town that is best explored on foot (and borderline impossible to discover by car, thanks to its narrow passageways), Pals is the place to dance between independent galleries - the Anna Agustí Hontangas Gallery is our favourite - and walk-in workshops, discovering the creative energy that rules these sun-scorched streets. Spend days collecting colourful handcrafted ceramics, scoffing paella and sipping sangria.
Take the time to visit Torre de les Hores, a 10th-century castle that marks the tallest point of Pals. If the bell tower is open, peep inside. Alternatively, settle for breathtaking 360-degree views across the Costa Brava coast.
Where to stay?
Hotel Es Portal. Okay, okay, this isn't technically in the centre of town, but the 10-minute drive is well worth it for the remote, home-from-home set-up. Housed in a converted 16th-century farmhouse, nine minimalist rooms feature rough-hewn stone walls and arched windows. It's the gigantic outdoor swimming pool that's really won us over, though. This being an adults-only hotel, you can kick back poolside without fearing the spray of a cannonball.
Where to go for breakfast?
It takes a lot to drag us out of bed, but for Grava, we'll happily rise at the same hour as the birds. Comprising a spacious outdoor courtyard, this spot feels more like a market hall than a café. A delectable all-day brunch menu awaits. Settle beneath the timber-clad pergola (watch your head for the bamboo pendant light fixtures) and order Grava's famous pancakes with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. More than just a foodie hangout, this is a great venue after dark, when the cocktail menu is unleashed. Drinking den of choice, sorted.
And for dinner…
Blink and you'll miss it… Restaurant Can Dolç can be found tucked in a sun-dappled corner of the town's square - if you're in need of a pointer, look beneath the looming Sant Feliu de Boada church spire and you'll find a cluster of parasols hugging feast-ready tables. While the chefs know how to cook up a storm, it's the sheer blood, sweat and tears of founder Carlus Guerra Figola that is behind the restaurant's success and loyal clientele. Arrive for 7pm and snag an outdoor seat, so you can watch the light beginning to fade. Insider tip: specially crafted vegan, gluten-free and veggie Catalan classics are available, too.
Who to take with you
If, like us, you've been thinking that a proper family reunion is well and truly in order, this has got to be the perfect place for it.
When to go
This is a town that remains off the tourist trail. We suggest visiting in the second week of August to soak up the heat of the summer sun. That way, you can also attend the remarkable Nit d' Espelmes festival, an evening that sees the whole town plunge into darkness, before some 10,000 candles are lit. A celebration that draws crowds of locals, upcoming artists and culinary connoisseurs, this is where you'll find the cool kids.
Essentials to pack
Pals is a medieval town, with plenty of narrow alleyways and a fair few hills to climb. Pack these New Balance 327 suede and shell sneakers to make strolls that little bit more comfortable.
How to get there
Fly to Barcelona El Prat Airport and spend a few days exploring the city, before hopping on a train bound for Girona - jumping off three hours' later in Pals.