Figueres is home to Salvador Dali’s surrealist museum. // © 2014 Thinkstock
Indulging in history, food and wine is easy in Spain’s culturally rich Costa Brava region. Visitors might begin at the Greek and Roman ruins of Empuries, then head deep into the Alt Emporda, part of the Emporda DO wine region. In addition to Salvador Dali’s home, travelers will find sweeping vineyards that reach down to the sea, white-washed fishing villages with cobbled streets, wine-tasting rooms and first-class local cuisine. Head inland and there are castles, more rolling vineyards and tasting rooms and the fantastical Dali Museum — all within less than an hour’s drive from Empuries.
Ruins of Empuries
Empuries is one of Europe's rare archeological sites, where Roman and Greek ruins stand side by side, tucked away in a curve of the Mediterranean. The attraction is pristine and surrounded by beach and pine trees — it is easy to imagine what it might have been like when the Greek traders first settled there in the 6th century BC. Over the centuries, that first outpost became a proper city with public squares, market places, religious centers, homes and a salting factory. Today, visitors can wander among the ruins, following clear signage and maps.
The ruins of the Roman City are just as worthy of a visit. Established in the 1st century BC, this site contains some remarkable mosaics, as well as a small onsite museum. From here, a refreshing stroll on the beach or a swim is just a few hundred feet away.
Fishing Village of Cadaques
The port and fishing village of Cadaques is only a 20-minute walk from the Casa Dali Museum in Portliggat. Located on the inner edge of the Cap Creus, Cadaques marks the land’s end of northeastern Spain.
It is well worth the walk on the cobbled road to experience the feel of a place that seems lost in time. When walking downhill toward the center of town, guests will see small boats moored in the sheltering harbor — locals often travel by boat and Emporda visitors can rent them as well. There are also beautiful stretches of sandy beach and plenty of cafes and restaurants where visitors can sample local wines.
For delicious food in town, try Enoteca MF-Es Poal, a wine bar and restaurant located right on the harbor. It is owned by the Martin Faxio family, local vintners who have revived the family’s old vineyards and restored the 14th century villa that now houses the winery and a bed a breakfast, just 10 minutes into the hills of Cap Creus from Cadaques. Recently the family also started making their own beer and olive oil. At MF, be sure to sample the tapas that showcase the local fish and pair well with their wines or beers.
Peralada Castle and Winery
Castillo Peralada wines are considered some of the best wines in Spain, but visitors can do much more on the site than taste wine. Situated in the Parc del Castell de Peralada, the Castillo Peralada location is also home to a restored 14th-century crenellated castle, a former Carmelite convent and more than 10 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens with grottos, an aviary, lakes and bridges. The convent has been converted into a museum that houses the owner’s private collection of antique glass and art, plus a stunning library with more than 80,000 volumes, including illuminated manuscripts. The convent’s cellar has been converted to a wine museum. The castle, part of which is a private residence, also houses a casino. A wine shop, tasting room and restaurant are other onsite offerings.
All areas except the private residence can be visited through arranged tours. A short distance from the castle is the Hotel Peralada Wine Spa and Golf, set amid one of the estate vineyards.
Just a few miles from Peralada is Figueres, the central town of Alt Emporda and where Salvador Dali created his surrealist museum. The venerable Hotel Duran, where Dali frequently took his meals, is also located here. The hotel’s cavernous, old-fashioned dining room features dark wood, old photographs and formal waiters. It’s a great place for a quiet, restful meal of salt cod croquettas, market fish or local lamb, plus a glass or two of Emporda wine.