Daily Life, Food Culture and Street Art in Palafrugell
Whenever we visit a new destination, we often dream of stumbling upon scenes of everyday life – a revelation of something that’s both authentic and real about that place. Often, however, we end up with the complete opposite: we walk the exact same paths as everyone else, and we queue up again and again for the same well-known tourist traps.
In order to avoid this, I always try to aim for the less well-known areas when I travel. And that’s something I can highly recommend for you as well.
Costa Brava has a long and stunning coastline that attracts thousands of visitors every single year. Although most of them are attracted to the sunshine, hot weather and beach life, there are also those who have discovered the picturesque countryside villages.
I found my glimpse of everyday life in Palafrugell. Here, the locals chatted happily in the market, someone was walking their furry dog, and both children and adults alike were enjoying café life this calm Saturday morning. I set out on an exploration, walking past houses painted in warm colours, walked past the market square and enjoyed a brilliant lunch at a local restaurant. It was a picture perfect afternoon in Palafrugell, in other words.
Palafrugell – Both a Town and a Municipality in Costa Brava
You might have heard about beautiful Palafrugell. In fact, it’s both a town and a municipality – and the latter has nearly 22. 000 inhabitants. While there are plenty of tourism in Palafrugell, the majority will visit the famous coastal villages of Llafranc, Calella de Palafrugell and Tamariu. All of these villages have beautiful beaches, idyllic white houses and charmingly quaint streets. No wonder people flock here for a relaxing beach holiday. These coastal villages are also tied together by a network of hiking paths known as Camino de Ronda. This hiking path covers the majority of the Costa Brava coast, and it will take you approximately 14 days to hike the entire route. Luckily, you can split the hike into various day trips based on your needs – and your hiking abilities. You can read more about Camino de Ronda here.
A Medieval Village with Narrow Streets
This afternoon I decided to spend in the small town of Palafrugell. Originally a medieval town, the area was once enclosed by tall city walls. Although these no longer exist, you can still find that the street map of the town is still bearing clear traces of the Middle Ages.
From the main square, Plaça Nova, plenty of narrow streets spread out and snake their way across town, passing cute brick houses, historical buildings and modern businesses on their way. Needless to say, Plaça Nova is the very heart of Palafrugell. This is where you will find the best selection of cafés, restaurants and shops. Any cultural events will also take place in the main square.
There is tourism in Palafrugell, but you are never left with the impression that this is the main focus. The local shops and restaurants are made with the locals in mind, and it’s hard to find tacky tourist shops and the annoying restaurant bouncers you often find in popular tourist destinations.
The narrow streets are warm and welcoming. The buildings are painted in bright, warm colours, and I spotted pink, orange, yellow and red houses wherever I went. What a sight! This is the perfect surrounding to enjoy a refreshing drink in the afternoon shade.
Street Art from the Flors i Violes Festival
Every May, a big festival known as Flors i Violes is held in Palafrugell. The festival focuses on various forms of art, and there are more than 150 events, exhibitions and concerts happening over a 3 day period. As part of the festival, there is also a street art project where professional artists are invited to put their mark on Palafrugell. In my opinion, this is an excellent way of ensuring that the festival is part of everyday life all through the year.
If you ever set out exploring in the streets of Palafrugell, you are guaranteed to come across some of the street art from the festival. I managed to photograph the majority of the art that existed when I visited, but I know that plenty of new motifs have been added since. What I liked particularly well with the various motifs, was that the warm tones of the city were often incorporated and used in the art as well. I also appreciated that elements that already existed on the walls were integrated into the art, thereby creating very unique pieces. It was fun to see how creative the artists had been when it came to including windows, wires and other elements into their art. Stunning!
Browsing the Local Market in Palafrugell
After an inspiring walk past the impressive street art, we decided to head towards the local town market. In Palafrugell, there are three different markets where the locals can buy their fresh produce.
The Fruit and Vegetable Market in Palafrugell
In a narrow side street right off Plaça Nova, you will find plenty of little market stalls covered in fruit, vegetables and flowers. The local farmers are offering fresh and ecological products, and during the weekends you can also find stalls offering locally made clothes and other garments.
Whenever I visit these magical local markets abroad, I often wonder when and why the tradition of using local markets disappeared here in Norway. Nearly all the sales of fruit and vegetables are done in large supermarkets these days, and although you can occasionally find a small farmer’s market, it’s sadly enough not the main form of shopping anymore. Perhaps that’s the reason why these food markets often appear so exotic and inviting to me? Or maybe it’s the childhood memories of going to the fish market in Bergen with my parents as a child.
No matter the reason, it’s really something different to being able to shop directly from those who have produced it. I wish it would be possible at home, too.
The Meat Market in Palafrugell
While the fruit and vegetable market are located out in the narrow streets, the two other markers are kept in two separate halls at the end of the market street. One of them has plenty of stalls that sells sausages and meat in all shapes and varieties.
The Fish Market in Palafrugell
You will find fresh fish and seafood in the market hall that’s the furthest away from the street. Here you will find plenty of freshly caught fish, octopus and other types of delicious seafood. This market is definitely worth a visit if you appreciate good seafood!
All three food markets are open daily from 08.30-13.00, except for mondays.
Experiencing Local Food Traditions at Restaurant L’Arc
Most of the restaurants in Palafrugell are still family-owned, and these are often frequented by the locals. The menus are mostly offered in Spanish or Catalan, and the old lads on the neighbouring table are almost guaranteed to be regulars.
Local dishes, flavours and culture are being kept alive by these family-run restaurants, and Palafrugell is definitely the place where you can find the real, authentic flavour of Costa Brava. I visited the restaurant L’Arc, which was situated on a quiet street close to the impressive street art.
The restaurants offered a wide variety of traditional dishes, all based on the seasonal, local produce. For lunch and dinner, you can choose from the ala carte menu and a set menu. Both of these are served with wine, which is included in the price. Due to its close proximity to the coast, L’Arc naturally served quite a lot of fish and seafood. However, if you’re more of a carnivore, you will be happy to find plenty of red and white meat on the menu. I can highly recommend the daily menu!
Don’t Miss out on Pan Con Tomate in Costa Brava
If you visit Costa Brava, you should definitely try out the local way of eating bread with tomato on. Our meals often started with Pan Con Tomate, which directly translated, means tomato on bread.
The bread is served next to a bowl of mature tomatoes. These tomatoes are then cut into two, and then pressed onto the bread so that it can perfectly soak up the fresh flavour. Add a few drops of olive oil, salt and pepper – and enjoy the flavour of the big juicy tomatoes combined with freshly baked bread. This should be tried regardless of where you go in Costa Brava.
My journey to Costa Brava was made as part of a collaboration between NordicTB and Costa Brava Pirineu de Girona for the campaign #NordicTBinCostaBrava. Throughout this campaign, we have focused on various experiences in the region. All opinions are, as always, completely my own.
This post is also available in: Norsk bokmål