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Property on the Costa Brava

The Costa Brava is the first Spanish coast you see when you arrive by car or train, and you can see why many of us never bothered to go any further. It is stupendously beautiful, as the foothills of the Pyrenees arrive at the Mediterranean in a series of sweeping pine-covered headlands between which are sandy bays.

Property on the Costa Brava is among Spain’s most expensive, although the rental appeal round here is so strong that you could work that into your price calculations. Travel between here and the UK – or indeed anywhere else in Europe – is so easy that owning and living in the Costa Brava needn’t prevent you working in the UK. The plane to Girona takes just two hours from the UK, with Barcelona and even French airports also usable.

You could get here by train or car from London in one day, and it certainly makes property ownership a lot more easy if you can drive backwards and forwards with your stuff occasionally.

Costa Brava actually means rugged or rough or wild coast, and you do get serious storms. Ironically, however, this is probably Spain’s most sophisticated and cultured coast. It’s all very user-friendly too, with well-planned out fishing-villages-turned-seaside-resorts offering a good mix of bucket and spade fun with plenty for the grown-ups too.

The most famous resort towns are Cadaqués, Roses, L’Escala, Blanes, Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar. Between these are dozens of lovely little seaside spots, such as Begur or Palafrugell – house hunters looking in the area should just hire a car and drive the 160 kilometre coastline to see what takes their fancy. You could even search by boat – this is an enervating sailing coast with plenty of places to keep your boat in the water.  

Strictly speaking the Costa Brava stops several kilometres north of Barcelona, but Spain’s second city tends to dominate the region, with its wealthy population of 1.6 million seeing the Costa Brava as a private playground. It’s hardly surprising that the authorities chased out the cheap package tours and replaced them with weekend-breakers looking for high culture at, for example, the Dali Museum in Figueres or haut cuisine in restaurants such as E Bulli.

The pretty city of Girona is the historical highlight of the Costa Brava proper, with its own airport. The Catalonian countryside sitting behind the Costa Brava is rugged too, with deep ravines, rushing rivers and remote villages – a real ‘getting away from it all’ option, yet so easy to get to from the UK.

Where to Buy Property in the Costa Brava 

Prices didn’t fall dramatically in this area as building has always been strictly controlled, and this is not really a region for those with less than €100k to spend – you can buy properties for this budget, but there just won’t be as much choice as elsewhere – and certainly not all the cookie-cutter new-build apartments.

But there are two key buying areas – the most northerly section around the Bay of Roses, part of the Alt Empordà, and an area known as the Golden Triangle, part of the Baix Empordà.

The Bay of Roses 

Bordering the lunar-like Cap de Creus Natural Park at the northern end of the Bay of Roses, life in Roses centres around its sandy beaches, lively town and marina. The hotels that fringe a section of beachfront accommodate its all-inclusive holiday market, so second homeowners tend to head to quieter residential areas, including Canyelles Petites on the coast, or to a hillside community, such as El Grecs, Mas Fumats or Mas Boscà, which offer stunning views across the bay. Apartments starting from around €80,000, while villas can be anything from €300,000 to €1 million-plus.

Roses has its own waterfront community at Santa Margarida but next door to this is Europe’s largest residential marina community, Empuriabrava, comprising 24 km of navigable canals lined with waterfront properties. 

A three-bedroom, three-storey ‘fisherman’ style house with a mooring, is around €330,000.  

In the Pyrenean foothills old farming villages such as Rabós, Palau-Saverdera or Sant Llorenc de la Muga are popular too, but many of the old character properties are sold by Catalans who don’t like to advertise.

At the southern end of the Bay of Roses is L’Escala, an old fishing town centred around two bays with a newer residential district at Riells, home to a large beach and L’Escala’s marina. A series of sandy coves and a shady walkway through the pines connect the town with the Empúries ruins and ancient village of Sant Martí d’Empúries. Round the headland to the south is Montgó Bay, where some of the area’s most desirable villas drip down the hillside – the views alone can sell a property there.

A three-bedroom villa with private pool in Riells might be around €290,000, or in Montgó, a refurbished two-bedroom apartment might be circa €155,000.

The Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle is formed of the medieval hilltop town of Pals, a few kilometres inland from the beach at Platja de Pals. Along with neighbouring - and equally pretty – Begur, Pals is popular with British buyers looking for a tucked-away villa or character home. The two golf courses are also a draw.

In this area, two-bed apartments start from €150,000 to €250,000 and villas from €250,000 to €500,000, but luxury cliff-side pads will be more.

Snaking southwards from Platja de Pals is a string of idyllic, picture postcard coves, including Sa Riera, Aiguafreda, Sa Tuna, Aiguablava, Tamariu and Llafranc, some not much more than a beach, others more developed with waterfront restaurants. Calella de Palafrugell, the unspoilt coastal resort linked to the town Palafrugell, is especially sought-after.

Apartments in this area typically start from €200,000, with the bulk of villas between €500,000 and €1million, and the most desirable cliff-side properties upwards of this. From here, the coastline opens up a bit with a collection of larger resorts south of Palamós. Other popular locations include Platja d'Aro, Calonge, S'Agaró, Santa Cristina. Typical two-bedroom apartments in the Platja d’Aro area start from around €170,000. 

Also of note in this region, near Girona, is the PGA Catalunya Resort that combines a solid-gold name in golf (the course is voted the best in Spain) with a property developer with a stellar history — Denis O’Brien, who owns the Algarve’s Quinta do Lago resort. The resort continues to evolve, adding sports and lifestyle amenities to its offerings, and you can get a new two-bed property for around €380,000.

Buyers Need to Know

Purchase process – as per Spain.

* ITP (purchase tax) on resale properties is 10 per cent in the region of Catalonia (Catalunya)

* Beware of licencing rules on short term (holiday) rentals, as some areas such as Barcelona, are implementing restrictions.

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