The small medieval town of Pals is probably one of the most charming and cosiest small towns we have ever visited. It could easily be a location for Braavos or King’s Landing in Game of Thrones, it is like travelling back in time. It lies a few kilometres from the coast of Emporda bay in Costa Brava.
The historical centre of Pals has been looked very well after and local traditions and especially gastronomy have been held in high regard right up until modern times. The surroundings are breath-taking, the city is built on a hill with surrounding marsh lands, the name is a derivation of the Latin name “Palus” which means “marshy ground”. If you are hungry during the visit, make sure to order the traditional rice dish Arroz de Pals in any of the restaurants, made with local rice of course.
The town is mentioned as early as the 9th century, and it was probably inhabited even before this. The circular Romanesque tower Torre de las Horas really stands out. It was built between the 11th and 13th century. The main road into the village winds upwards towards it. The tower is what remains of the castle, which was destroyed during the Catalan civil war in the 15th century. It was then converted into a Gothic-style bell tower, which explains its name: ‘Tower of the Hours’. In total, four towers are left from the original fortification and they are linked by its defensive stone walls.
The church of Sant Pere is over 1000 years old and is a mish mash of different architectural styles and it is built of stone from the old fortress. The are plenty of small artisan shops in town selling everything from souvenirs to the exceedingly popular Catalan pottery. Have a sit down at Placa Major and just look at the stunning surroundings, have a drink and relax for a while.
Pals also host some cool festivals during the year. In April or first part of May is the festival of the rice. There are tours, cookery courses and the local restaurants make sure to celebrate the main produce of town, the mighty rice grain. The Vivid Wine festival takes place in the whole Costa Brava region in April as well. In June is the sowing of the rice festival, where you can experience how the rice was planted in the olden days. The cheese and wine fair is at the end of August. The rice harvest is in October. Apart from all the gastronomic events there is one special even in mid-August, the Nit d’Espelmes is the night when all town is lit by over 10 000 candles that gives a special town an even more special atmosphere.
In most towns we visit we like to just get a little lost and walk the backstreets and alleys to explore, not just the main squares and streets. Pals is like a time machine, had it not been for the occasional moped and car parked in the alleys, we could just as well have been walking around in the 15th century. We visited Pals in the afternoon, and we had most of the town to ourselves, most of the day trippers had gone home, and it was very peaceful to walk around and just feel the history of the place.
We ended our visit at a shop who had a lovely Spanish old lady who sold local produce and ice cream, we happily wandered off with wonderful home-made cones of delish frozen goodness.