Though many visitors are drawn to charming Tossa de Mar for its hot, sunny weather and long sandy beaches, it offers rich cultural heritage as an added bonus. Fishing continues to play an important role in the town’s economy and a must-do is to try the rich fish stew known as Simitomba in one of the many seafood restaurants that litter the Old Town.

    Picturesque Tossa de Mar can trace its history back over 2,000 years and, today, the ramparts, towers and cobbled streets of its historic Old Town continue to impress visitors. In the 20th century, it captured the imagination of artists like Marc Chagall and movie stars like Ava Gardner. You don’t have to stay here long to work out why.

    What are the best things to do in Tossa de Mar?

    1

    La Vila Vella towers and ramparts

    Walk the stone walls which enclose the Old Town

    The Old Town of Tossa de Mar is the only fortified town that remains on the Catalan coast. The castle was built in the 12th century and the stone walls enclosing its historic neighbourhood date from soon afterwards. A significant amount remains, not only of the walls but also of the towers that they connect. It's best to walk the walls in the late afternoon when the heat of the day will have dissipated and you may catch a spectacular sunset.

    Three of those towers are essential viewing. Joanàs Tower is one of the best known, with a commanding position overlooking the bay. The Clock Tower, once the only public timepiece in town, and Codolar Tower, with a view down to the beach of the same name, complete this trio of must-sees. The Torre dels Moros on the edge of town, while not part of the ramparts, is a 15th-century watchtower aimed at fending off attacks from the Moors.

    Location: Passeig de Vila Vella, 1, 17320 Tossa de Mar, Girona, Spain

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    2

    Tossa de Mar lighthouse and museum

    Learn about the Mediterranean’s lighthouses in this fascinating museum

    The region’s maritime heritage is celebrated in the Centre d’Interpretació dels Fars de la Mediterrània, an exhibition which tells the story of the Mediterranean’s lighthouses. It's housed in the Far de Tossa, the town’s early 20th-century lighthouse, which occupies a clifftop position overlooking the old town where the castle buildings once stood.

    Learn about what it would have been like to work as a lighthouse keeper and how the evolution of technology made such an occupation redundant. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to leave: from the hill, you can enjoy magnificent views of the coastline below.

    Location: Passeig de Vila Vella, Tossa de Mar, Girona, Spain

    Open: Daily from 10am to 8pm (in summer), Tuesday–Sunday from 10am to 6pm (in winter)

    Phone: +34 972 34 33 59

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    photo by Tanya Dedyukhina (CC BY 3.0) modified

    3

    Ava Gardner statue

    Pay your respects to a late Hollywood diva

    What’s a statue of a Hollywood legend doing in a Spanish coastal resort? The clue is on celluloid and relates to a 1951 movie called Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. The popular actress Ava Gardner, married at the time to Frank Sinatra, starred opposite James Mason in the title role. During the shoot, she won locals over with her down-to-earth manner. Her love affair with Spain was just as endearing, and she later lived in Madrid for a while.

    Immortalising this star of the big screen was inevitable. In 1998, the town’s authorities erected a bronze statue by Girona artist Ció Abellí. Today, the statue of the late actress occupies a commanding position in the old town overlooking the bay. Ask for one of her besos (kisses) and you’ll be pointed in the direction of a bakery, for they are little pastries.

    Location: Passeig del Mar, 12, 17320 Tossa de Mar, Girona, Spain

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    photo by Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0) modified

    4

    Els Ametllers Roman villa

    Uncover Tossa de Mar’s Roman roots

    The Els Ametllers Roman villa is tangible proof that the Romans came to Tossa de Mar around 2,000 years ago and conquered the Iberian Peninsula. To find it, you simply need to head up into the hills behind the resort. There you’ll find the ruins, one of the most significant finds in the area. It was built in the 1st century BC, the home of an aristocrat, and features splendid mosaics, thermal baths and other trappings of Roman wealth.

    Surrounding the villa in those days would have been a successful vineyard. The wine produced from the grapes grown here would have been sent back to Rome and also exported elsewhere in the Empire. Visitors can also tour the remains of a grain store and other agricultural buildings.

    Location: Av. Pelegrí, 5-13, 17320 Tossa de Mar, Girona, Spain

    Open: Daily from 10am to 7pm

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    photo by Shesmax (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    5

    Sant Vicenç church ruins

    Explore the ruins of this Gothic church

    Built in mediaeval times on the site of an older Romanesque church, this example of Gothic architecture would once have been an impressive structure. Now ruined, it had a single nave, a sacristy to the east and a side chapel off the transept to the west. Enough of the walls and roof remain to give modern-day visitors an idea of what it would have looked like.

    But unless you’re a particular fan of religious architecture, the main reason to come here is the view. From the 50-metre-high cliff on which the church sits, visitors have a breathtaking view over the town and out to sea.

    Location: Passeig del Mar, 6, 17320 Tossa de Mar, Girona, Spain

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    photo by Tanya Dedyukhina (CC BY 3.0) modified

    6

    The Municipal Museum of Tossa de Mar

    Visit a museum which pairs ancient history with contemporary art

    Located in what was once the Governor’s house, the Municipal Museum opened its doors in 1935. Its collection can be divided into 2 main disciplines: art and history. Some of the treasures that archaeologists uncovered in the Els Ametllers Roman villa were brought to the Museo Municipal de Tossa de Mar for safekeeping.

    The museum’s also home to an extensive collection of art from the 20th century, displaying works from the local artists as well as the likes of French painter Marc Chagall. So enchanted was he with the light in Tossa de Mar, he called it the “Blue Paradise”.

    Location: Plaça Pintor Roig Soler, 1, 17320 Tossa de Mar, Girona, Spain

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 9.30pm to 1.30pm and from 3pm to 5pm, Saturday from 10am to 2pm and from 4pm to 6pm, Sunday from 10am to 2pm

    Phone: +34 972 34 07 09

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    photo by José Luis Filpo Cabana (CC BY 3.0) modified

    7

    Casa Sans

    Admire the hotel’s unique architecture

    Now the Hotel Diana, the unique architecture of what was originally Casa Sans is worth checking out. Over a hundred years ago, businessman Joan Sans commissioned architect Antoni de Falguera i Sivilla to design and build him this grand mansion. The house is built in Modernist style. Outside, gargoyles decorate the façade.

    Inside, some of the original décors has been preserved, including the stained glass windows and fireplace. When his cork business faltered, Sans sold the home in 1930 to Fernando Vilallonga i Balam, who put his own stamp on the place. We can thank Vilallonga for the Carrara marble staircase and the bronze sculpture of the Greek goddess Diana. After Vilallonga died, the house was converted and in 1958 became the Hotel Diana.

    Location: Plaça Espanya, 6, 17320 Tossa de Mar, Girona, Spain

    Phone: +34 972 341 886

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    8

    Creu de Terme

    Grab a selfie in front of this Gothic cross monument

    This Gothic cross stands at the main entrance to the Old Town of Tossa de Mar. The structure is about 3.5 metres tall and fashioned from limestone. Surrounding it is a small garden, enclosed by iron railings. Experts have dated this wayside cross, once located in the town’s cemetery, to the 14th or 15th Century.

    At the base of the cross are 3 stone steps. At the top, you’ll see an image of San Pedro, patron saint of fishermen and also San Benet, the founder of the Benedictines. Look closely and you’ll also notice that carved into the stone are depictions of the Virgin Mary and Christ on the Cross.

    Location: Carrer del Portal, 18, 17320 Tossa de Mar, Girona, Spain

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    photo by José Luis Filpo Cabana (CC BY 3.0) modified

    9

    Platja Gran Tossa de Mar

    Swim in the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea

    Tossa de Mar’s popularity today is in no small part on account of its coastal location. Closest to the town is the Platja Gran, Tossa de Mar’s largest beach. In high season, the beach is packed with sun-worshippers, but offseason, it’s a delightful and convenient place for a stroll along the shore.

    This 380-metre-long crescent of sand is framed by the ramparts that enclose the Old Town. Not surprisingly, this historic vista has caught the attention of many, including National Geographic who included Platja Gran in their ‘Top 25 Best Beaches in the World’ list several years back.

    Location: Platja Gran, Tossa de Mar, Girona, Spain

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    photo by Demeester (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    10

    Sa Roqueta fisherman’s quarter

    Wander the alleys of the Sa Roqueta fisherman’s quarter

    The characterful Sa Roqueta fisherman’s quarter was one of the earliest neighbourhoods outside the ramparts of Tossa de Mar. Indeed, in the 16th century, the Catalan municipality began to spill beyond its walled Old Town.

    Today, the town’s long association with the sea manifests itself in the seafood restaurants that are liberally scattered throughout the centre. Ask a local to point you in the direction of a small hole known as Agujero del Demonio (the Devil’s Hole). This gap in the fortifications leads down to the bay where fishermen pull their boats out of the water.

    Location: Carrer del Pecadors, 17320 Tossa de Mar, Girona, Spain

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    Julia Hammond | Contributing Writer

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