Jewel of the Costa Brava
Tossa de Mar is an ancient Catalan town on the rugged Costa Brava
, nestled about 100km north of Barcelona beneath the French border. Today it is one of the best-loved and most visited towns on the coast.
The town began life as a small fishing and agricultural community, and has been continuously populated since Neolithic times. The Romans conquered the Catalan territories in the 1st century BC, and under the Empire Tossa de Mar continued to grow. Remains of a villa can be seen today at Els Ametllers, which is a fine example of Roman architecture: the site comprises sophisticated urban living quarters that display the grandeur of Roman wealth, with thermal baths, nymphaeum, dining room, mosaics and stuccos. The beautiful marble sculpture found here is now housed in the Tossa Municipal Museum. Beneath this is an impressive industrial area, with store rooms and pressing facilities for making wine and olive oil.
Tossa was given to the Abbey of Ripoll in the 10th century, and in 1187 it was granted a charter by the Abbot. A church was built that same year upon Mount Guardí and visitors may see the remains of this almost thousand year old church today. The town grew prosperous during the Middle Ages and transformed into a small walled city bastioned by crenellated towers; it is now the only fortified medieval town left on the Catalan Coast, and is a protected historical site. A castle was built on the highest point of the mountain. This was in time replaced by a windmill and finally the lighthouse which can still be seen standing guard on the mountain today, guiding vessels safely to Tossa’s shores.
Mermaids and movie stars
The town is decorated with beautiful statues - mostly with a nautical theme, like the Watching Mermaid in Plaça del Far and The Sea Woman on Mirador d’es Codolar. There is also a statue of Hollywood actress Ava Gardner. Her 1951 film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman was filmed in Tossa de Mar, which at that time was relatively untouched by tourism; Ava fell in love with Tossa and the people fell in love with her. In 1998 the bronze statue of Ava as her character Pandora was erected, looking out over the bay from the ancient town wall.
There are three main beaches in Tossa: The stunning Platja Gran beach is located right beside Villa Vela, the old town; La Mar Menuda Beach is a bit more touristy, with sports equipment like paddle boats available to rent; El Colador beach is located behind the walls and is a lovely place to spend a relaxing day in the sun. There are of course many nice restaurants throughout the town, as well as some late bars which have sprung up for the tourists. Apart from traditional festivals (including Catalan sardana dancing), you will also be able to enjoy live music, street parties and concerts staged at the emblematic lighthouse. Tossa de Mar is a stunning town full of history and activity – a must-visit for anyone travelling to the Costa Brava.