Roses is a seaside town to the Alt Empordà, south of Cap de Creus, and with the largest fishing fleet on Costa Brava. These days there is not much left of the old town, although the city wall dates back to the sixteenth century, and today the town consists mainly of tourist apartments and hotels.
Photo: Roses Promenade by Michael Pfeiffer licensed under CC 3.0
The town is the only major seaside resort on the Costa Brava to face west, which affords visitors to Roses a view of the sunset over the northern Bay of Roses, which extends down to l’Escala in the south.
Much of the local economy is derived from tourism, which has benefited recently from the use of the port for cruise ships to and from Barcelona. With easy access to sights such as Girona and the Dalí triangle (Portlligat, Figueres and Púbol) Roses is well situated for day trips.
There are a number of beaches close to Roses, including a 1.8 kilometre stretch of sand along the promenade. There are also a number of smaller beaches nearby, although you may find they get packed out during the summer.
The main advantage of the public beaches is the facilities they provide, which include the following:
- A warning flag (green, yellow or red) to indicate conditions.
- First aid facilities.
- Public conveniences.
- Certified clean water.
The downside is that they can get rather packed, although if you head for one of the smaller beaches you’ll generally find them less packed and you don’t need to go too far.
If you have a car it is definitely worth exploring the coastline of Cap de Creus. The rock formations are spectacular and there are many small coves along the rocky coastline, many of them ideal for snorkelling. If you prefer to get away from the packed beaches you may find these are more to you liking.
The exact origins of Roses are lost in the mists of time, but it seems likely that Roses was founded in the fifth century BC by Greeks from Marseilles, possibly with colonists from Empúries and some remains of the Greek settlement can be seen, while Roman remains date from the 2nd century BC through to the early Christian period.
Following the collapse of the Roman Empire the town appears to have been abandoned but records first mention the Monastery of Santa Maria de Roses in the 10th century AD. The mediaeval town grew around the monastery.
By the 16th century Roses was under repeated attack from North African pirates and so extensive fortifications built. The new city walls failed to prevent Barbarossa from plundering the town though. The wall was further improved, a castle constructed 2.5 kilometres from the town and a permanent military garrison sent to defend Roses. Although the soldiers were located in barracks, the friction between them and the civilian population resulted in the migration of much of the population outside the city walls to where modern Roses is located.
From the 17th century on the city came under attack on a number of occasions, falling to the French several times and came under siege from the French for more than two months in 1794-1795 until all but 300 soldiers were evacuated by sea.The last time Roses came under siege was 1808, when it was eventually surrendered to French and Italian forces. When the French eventually withdrew they destroyed the fortifications, old town and castle.
Until 2011 Roses was world renowned for Ferran Adrià’s el Bulli restaurant. However, after running at a loss for several years, Adrià closed el Bulli, voted the world’s best restaurant by Restaurant Magazine’s five times.
One restaurant in Roses that is reputed to be a favourite of Adrià is Rafa’s in Carrer Sant Sebastià, 56. The chef apparently only opens when he has fresh seafood to serve and if it isn’t available he doesn’t open. This spartanly decorated restaurant has just a handful of tables and is discretely marked so it is easy to miss, but has lots of foodies recommend it.
Roses is well located for anyone looking to enjoy the beach and watersports activities and divers will be interested in excursions to dive sites on the Cap de Creus. The extensively reconstructed fortifications are well worth visiting and Cadaqués, Figueres and Girona are within easy reach. Barcelona is a couple of hours drive, or can be accessed via Figueres or Girona.
How to get to Roses
Roses is less than an hour from Girona-Costa Brava airport by road and around double that from Barcelona via the AP7 motorway. The train service runs to Figueres, with buses throughout the day to the Roses bus station.