L'Escala lies on the south of the impressive, sweeping Bay of Roses and is one of the smaller more relaxed holiday destinations of the Costa Brava/Catalunya region and is perfect for families and independent holiday makers wanting to avoid the mass-market package holiday resorts.
L'Escala is a traditional fishing town and offers superb scuba diving along the coast, within the new marine park, and at the Medes Islands Marine Reserve. You will soon discover that L'Escala is an excellent base to discover the mostly unspoiled northern Costa Brava, beautiful beaches, art, culture, historic monuments, and well protected nature parks.
The Bay of Roses has joined the Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club, a distinction which carries with it the endorsement of UNESCO. The club, which currently only includes thirty bays, recognises the value provided by the tourism, landscape, and culture in the region formed by the municipalities of L’Escala, Sant Pere Pescador, Castelló d’Empúries, and Roses. The decision was made in a meeting in May 2011 in Toubakouta (Senegal), where the Bay of Roses received the highest number of points possible.
A member of the Tourism Council of L’Escala, Maribel Calderon, was one of the representatives who defended the Bay of Roses’ candidacy in Senegal. Ms. Calderon noted “the significant promotional value which comes with receiving a distinction such as this, as only a single bay is selected per country and sea, which means that they have chosen us from the entire Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula”.
Other members of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club include Península Valdés (Argentina), Mont St-Michel Bay (France), Mindelo Bay (Cap Verde), San Francisco Bay (United States), and Ha Long Bay (Vietnam).
When the decision was made to include the Bay of Roses, the numerous attractions of varying types presented to the general assembly were very important: the three natural parks, the archaeological ruins in Empúries, the more than 45 kilometres of beaches (a number of which have the European certification of quality, EMAS), the gastronomy, the history and culture, and the great variety of activities including, of course, the many water sports.
L'Escala has carefully conserved the typical natural beauty and the traditional atmosphere of the Costa Brava. But, equally important, L’Escala has kept alive many popular traditions and celebrations. These events were not maintained solely for the tourists, they are customs that are strongly rooted among its inhabitants.
L'Escala is renowned for its anchovies and the ancient ruins of Empúries. The older center of the town still retains the character of a typical Spanish working town with its bustling narrow streets and good selection of shops, bars, cafe's and restaurants. There are two small, popular beaches in the old town that add to the overall charm and atmosphere of the area.
Sardanas are the local dance. It is one of the few national dances that is actually danced by the townspeople themselves rather than by a group. An orchestra known as a "Cobla" accompanies the dancing. The participants stand in circles and by listening to the cues given by the music know what step they should be dancing at any given time. Sardanas look deceptively easy to dance! The dances take place every Wednesday evening at 10pm during the summer at the beach at Riell's and spontaneously groups of people form into circles. Everybody is invited to participate in the dancing.
The Landing of the Three Kings - 5th January. The Three Kings arrive by sea are eagerly met by the local children. The Kings disembark onto the main beach and then ride through the town on horseback. That night the children all go to bed hoping that when they wake up in the morning the Three Kings will have left them some gifts, however if the child has not behaved well during the year he may find he has been left a lump of (edible) coal!
Dia de Sant Jordi (Saint George's Day) - April 23rd. Sant Jordi is the patron saint of Catalonia and the day is celebrated throughout Catalonia. The legend has it that when the famous dragon was slain, a rose grew from its blood. To celebrate the victory over the dragon Catalan men give the woman they love a red rose on Sant Jordi's day. In return women buy their loved ones a book. Over recent years the Catalan custom of buying books on Sant Jordi's day has become fairly international and in many countries of the world April 23rd is known as "International Book Day".
Triumirat Mediterrà is a market that is held in L'Escala in June. What makes it special is the fact that the whole market is "set" in 30 BC. Traders are dressed in Greek or Roman dress, the Tavernae sells drinks that would have been available at that time and all products must be compatible with the era. During the days leading up to the market there are plenty of related activities and many restaurants offer a special Roman meal, serving similar food to that which the Romans at that time would have eaten. On the day of the market activities include several gladiator fights and an auction of slaves.
La nit de San Joan - June 23rd. It is a night when people build bonfires and have firework displays. Families and friends get together for a special meal traditionally accompanied by "cava" (champagne) and "coca", a type of cake.
Festa del Carme - July 16th. This is the day on which the town pays homage to its senior citizens. There is a boat parade which brings many of the town's "elders" to the beach from where they are accompanied by their grandchildren or other relations to the church for a celebratory mass, followed by more festivities lasting all day.
Los Gegants Giants and Capgrossos originate from the Corpus Christi processions. Nowadays many Catalan towns have "giants" which are brought out on high days and holidays. There is an annual "giant" meeting in early September every year in which all the local "giants" come to L'Escala for the day and parade around the town. These are L'Escala's "giants", Pere and Maximeta. Here they are standing either side of the church door behind a "carpet" of coloured sand made on the day of the Festa del Carme. The Catalan insignia is represented in a sea full of fish and with small groups of people dancing Sardanas.
The "Festa Major" from the 2 to the 6 of September where the Sardana, the traditional dance of Catalonia, is enjoyed with a special passion. Other interesting festivities, although of a more tourist character is the Festa de la Sal, annually in October, where the visitor can see the traditions related to fishing industry. Another is the Festa de l'Anxova where everyone will be able to taste the internationally acclaimed anchovies of L’Escala.
In the first half of the 6th century BC Greek traders from Phocaea founded a first settlement (the Palaià Pólis) and years later created the new sector of the city (the Néa Pólis), the remains of which can be seen at the archaeological site.
The colony was called Emporion, which in Greek means market. The city developed thanks to the commercial activity of the Greeks with the indigenous peoples of the Peninsula. In fact, their influence and culture were the features that conditioned the development of the indigenous people, giving rise to the birth of the Iberian culture. The Iberian peoples of the Empordà belonged to the indiketes tribe.
In 218 BC on the occasion of the Second Punic War, a Roman army under Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio landed at the port of Empúries with the aim of blocking land access to the Carthaginian troops. This started the romanisation of the Iberian Peninsula.
In 195 BC Marcus Porcius Cato established a military camp at Empúries that was the start of the new Roman city. During the reign of Emperor Augustus, the Greek and Roman cities became one under the name of Municipium Emporiae in the last quarter of the 1st century BC.
As Gerunda (Girona), Barcino (Barcelona), Tarraco (Tarragona) and other Roman cities on the Peninsula became increasingly more important, so Emporiae gradually lost its importance. In the second half of the 3rd century AD, the whole of the Roman city and the area of the Neapolis were abandoned, and the people settled in Sant Martí d'Empúries.
After the invasion of the Moors and its recovery by the Franks (8th century) Empúries was the capital of the Carolingian county of Empúries and was later the capital of the mediaeval county of Empúries until the 11th century, when the capital was moved to Castelló. From that time Empúries was inhabited by a small group of fishermen who in the 16th century founded the town of L'Escala.
Opening times: October - May 10 - 18h Mon - Sun, June - Sept 10 - 20h Mon - Sun, Closed 1st January and 25th December