Costa Brava, Spain and was out and about exploring when I saw this: "Fridays: Extremely Sexy Women and Men, Free Entrance and Prizes". Hmm...I'm not sure I qualify for that. A person I met on the trip told me that there was a sign in their hotel itemizing the costs of replacing the sheets should you stain them with tattoo ink. Uh oh... What have I done and how did I end up Lloret de Mar, the mecca of the package holiday party scene? I was here to attend the Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) conference (April 2015) and through that experience got to see Lloret in a different light. Here are my recommendations for how to enjoy alternative Lloret de Mar if you're not into the package holiday party scene.
1. Appreciate Lloret de Mar's Neon Signs (From the Outside)
Neon signs are everywhere in Lloret, mostly advertising nightclubs, mini-golf courses and the like. Soak in the setting sun at dusk and watch the signs of Lloret de Mar come to life from the outside. I'll be asleep by the time the clubs open.
2. Experience Costa Brava's Rich History and Storm Castell Sant Joan
Costa Brava has a rich history and Lloret de Mar plays a prominent role. There is evidence of a chapel on the grounds of Castell Sant Joan dating back to 1079 AD. The castle itself was fully operational until the 17th century. The castle is situated on a hill in Lloret de Mar with sweeping views over the sea below so it's no surprise that Castell Sant Joan was used as a lookout point for centuries. The tower itself was restored in the 20th century. Climb the spiral staircase for a cool breeze, fantastic views of Lloret, and photo opportunities from the viewing platform.
3. Walk the Cliffs of Lloret de Mar
A string of trails connects Castell Sant Joan to the center of Lloret de Mar. Pick your way carefully through the forest and down to water's edge where you'll find testimonies to love sealed with a lock and the monument to the Fisherman's wife which was erected to celebrate the millennium of Lloret de Mar. Yes, this town that's known for its popularity among young party-seeking tourists boasts 1000 years of history!
4. Relax in Lloret de Mar's Jardin de Sant Clotilde
Lloret de Mar also features a garden in one of the most stunning settings I've ever seen. Jardin de Sant Clotilde overlooks the sparkling blue green Mediterranean Sea and is spread over three terraces. I particularly loved the mermaid statues at the top and bottoms of the staircases bringing a bit of the sea onto land. It would be easy to while away an afternoon here in the garden soaking in the sun.
5. Eat Discount Tapas on the Hill
For me, food is at the center of any trip to Spain and that is definitely true of Lloret de Mar. We also love a good bargain and found an Anti-Crisis Special at Tapa 2 featuring a beer and a small plate of food for just 1 EUR total. We also tried a racione of croquettes for just 4 EUR. Tapa 2 is located on the hill above Lloret de Mar. We found that the more uphill and away from the center of Lloret that you go, the easier it is to avoid the masses of partiers.
6. Sink Your Teeth into Lloret de Mar's Bargain Bocadillos
We stayed outside the center of Lloret de Mar at an Airbnb near Fenals Beach. We discovered a lovely rustic pub, Bodega El Paso, with outdoor seating that served up hearty bocadillos for lunch. We even got a taste of the local tomatoes on bread that are popular in Costa Brava served up with our beer.
7. Sample Gourmet Tapas in Costa Brava
At the other end of the spectrum, gourmet tapas rule in the heart of Lloret de Mar. Restaurant El Romaní is top notch and features a wealth of fancy (and delicious!) choices including squid ink croquettes. I was even able to write my name on the plate with the filling. This tapas bar is definitely worth the splurge in Lloret de Mar.
8. Rev Your Engines for Lloret de Mar's Happy Food Trucks
I felt like I was transported back to San Francisco when we stumbled upon a square in Lloret de Mar filled with about a dozen hipster food trucks. The brightly colored Happy Food Trucks were arranged on Plaça Pere Torrent in the heart of Lloret. My mouth was watering when I entered but my belly was happy and full by the time we left. Keep an eye out on the Lloret tourism website for more fun activities. The food trucks were in Lloret de Mar for one weekend only but they were so cute (and their food was so delicious!) that I hope they return more regularly so locals and visitors alike can have the experience.
9. Admire Lloret's Colorful Cathedral
Église de Sant Romà is situated right in the heart of Lloret de Mar. When the sun is shining (as it most often is in Costa Brava!) the colorful tiled roof comes to life. Lloret's cathedral is such a whimsical structure and totally made me smile.
10. Pay Your Respects in Lloret Cemetery
I love wandering around new places and taking a detour when the fancy strikes us. TBEX was held at Hotel Evenia and we were staying near Fenals Beach about a 15 minute walk away. En route, I noticed this towering cross on a hill. Intrigued, we wandered up to the gate and took a respectful walk through the beautiful local cemetery. I love unanticipated diversions. This cemetery represents alternative Lloret de Mar at its finest.
11. Spot Wildlife in Lloret de Mar
From lizards to playful pugs, you can even spot a bit of wildlife in Lloret de Mar.
12. Go at Dusk to Dip Your Toes in the Water Lapping up to Lloret
While Lloret de Mar's party people are preening and getting ready for a night out, head down to the beach at Fenals at dusk. We visited Lloret in early May and had the beach entirely to ourselves. We had a bit of fun dipping our toes in the crystal clear water.
As you can see, if you take the opportunity to look beyond the packaged holiday veneer, there is plenty of alternative fun to be had in Lloret de Mar. Now on to explore more of Costa Brava...