I personally love the Costa Brava all year round but your choice of timing will obviously depend what kind of holiday you want. That said, as the Spanish rarely need much of an excuse for a fiesta of some kind, whatever time of year you choose, you stand a good chance of running into some sort of carnival or festivity.
Spring is one of my favourite times of year here as the weather is warm but not yet quite as hot as it gets in the height of summer. This makes it the perfect time for long walks and/or cycling. If you’re a walker, you’ll also love the Cami de Ronda – the spectacular coastal path which winds along the rocks throughout this region.
• Easter itself, as in many parts of Spain, is also a sight to behold and this one doesn’t disappoint. For several days, the town erupts with a series of weird and wonderful street processions and festivities, particularly in Girona. On the Wednesday of ‘Semana Santa’ ie Easter week and Good Friday, these include ‘Roman soldiers’ or ‘manaies’ as they call them in Catalan, marching and riding through town ahead of the Virgin. (This tradition has been going since the 18th century and is supposedly based on the idea that Pontius Pilate sent a group of armed guards to accompany Jesus on his walk to the cross.)
Do bear in mind though that this is obviously a popular time in the city so hotels will need to be booked well ahead and rooms may well cost extra.
• Also worth catching is the Palafrugell Spring Festival takes place between May 21 and 23rd with a carnival complete with floats and music.
If your main reason for visiting the Costa is to visit the beaches and you’re looking for gorgeous hot weather, obviously the summer months are the time to come. Be warned though, this is also of course peak seasons and many of the hotels, particularly the smaller ones will get booked up at least several months ahead.
Other dates to watch out for are:
• 3rd June 2011 – Corpus Christi – Tossa. Ornate ‘carpets of flowers’ – flower mosaics outside churches.
• 5th June 2011. 10.30pm Day of the Fisherman at Es Racó beach in Tossa. Sea-shanties sung and cremat served (the local speciality of coffee with burnt rum and cinnamon).
• 5th – 6th June 2011 – ‘Indian’s Fair’ – Cadaqués. Fiesta celebrating the town’s historic connections with the Caribbean (and Cuba in particular) with music and crafts.
• 3rd July 2011 Calella de Palafrugell - Cantada de Havaneres festival. This is one of the major fiestas in the area and has been known to pull in some 40,000 visitors. (So obviously not one to go for if you’re after a quiet break). It’s definitely worth seeing though as male choirs sing Cuban sea shanties whilst standing on boats moored out to sea.
• 23rd July – 10th August 2011 – week long music festival in Begur with classical, jazz and film soundtracks.
• 29th June – 1st July 2011 Festival of Sant Pere, Tossa – sardanes, concerts, fireworks etc
• 2nd July – 17th August – Annual Cap Roig Gardens music festival at Calella de Palafrugell. This is one of the major music festivals in Catalonia and in the past has featured Jamie Cullum, Leonard Cohen, Chic, Joan Baez as well as top classical and jazz names. See ‘Attractions’.
• August – 1st 3 weeks – classical music festival in Cadaqués
Autumn in the sense of leaves turning brown and temperatures falling, doesn’t really get going on the Costa Brava till early October at the earliest. Throughout most of September, generally speaking, you’ll still feel like it’s late summer and can often still more than happily lie on the beach sunbathing. But it also soon stars becoming cool enough to really enjoy leisurely coastal walks at pretty much any time of day That’s one of the reasons I particularly like this time of year - you kind of get the best of both worlds ie it’s no longer quite as searingly hot as in the peak summer months but still more than warm enough to enjoy.
Some of the fiestas to look out for are as follows:
• 3rd – 5th September 2011 ‘Indian’s Fair’ in Begur. Another fiesta, like that in Cadaques, celebrating the region’s past connections with the Caribbean with craft fairs and concerts.
• 8th September 2011 – Cadaques Fiesta Mayor featuring concerts, sardana dancing (the traditional Catalan dance) and what they call ‘billowing sails’ – a display of boats in the bay.
Girona is a great place for a weekend or city break any time of the year but if you want to see it in full party mode, come at the end of October. The town’s major fiesta – Fires de Girona takes place around this time (see below for details) but if you’re thinking of coming for this, you’ll probably need to book your hotel well in advance.
• 29th October – Fires de Girona. Massive fiesta celebrating Saint Narcis, the Patron Saint of Girona with fireworks, amazing processions of ‘giants’ – wood and waxwork dummies of kings and queens and various historical figures, human towers (the Catalan tradition of people standing on each other’s shoulders in tower formation), street concerts and general merry-making.
• 10th – 12th October Jazz Festival Palafrugell
Even though it can get chilly in winter, it’s nearly always sunny so during the day at least, it rarely feels that cold.
I also find that the beach towns themselves can be lovely out of season. Even though some of the restaurants and bars may be closed (particularly in places like Cadaqués where many close between October and March), there are still enough places to eat and you’ll often get some great deals on hotels.
The pre-Christmas markets are also lovely, particularly in Girona and all feature big displays of ‘pesebres’ – models of the nativity of varying scale.
• 20- 21st January – Tossa de Mar – Pilgrim’s Vow Festival aka Vot del Pelegri – a maritime procession celebrating the end of plague in 15th century.
• 22nd January 2011 Fiesta of Sant Vicenc at Tossa de Mar with sardana dancing and music.
• 11th – 17th February 2011 Tossa Carnival with street processions etc
• 4 – 6th December 2011 Tossa de Mar Christmas Fair