The first time I visited Palamós was after a diving buddy noticed the signs of decompression sickness a few hours after diving in l’Escala one Sunday.
We’d gone out on dive boat operated by one of the numerous dive centres in l’Escala and after a 45 minute dive had spent a good hour a bar down by the port, enjoying a beer and calamari.
Later on he phoned to say he was experiencing numbness in his fingers and afterwards went to the hospital in Figueres, who put him on board an ambulance bound for Palamós, where the hospital has a hyperbaric chamber. Part of the treatment involves breathing pure oxygen to displace the nitrogen in the blood, and on the drive over he ran out of oxygen.
There at the hospital they used a Doppler detector to verify the existence of nitrogen bubbles in his bloodstream and put him into the hyperbaric chamber for several hours to dissolve the nitrogen and de-pressurise gradually; I visited him the next day in hospital.
Apart from having one of only two hyperbaric chambers in Catalonia (the other is in Barcelona), Palamós is renowned throughout Spain for its prawns and remains one of the few towns on the Costa Brava to still generate income though fishing; the other main industry was cork. As with everywhere else in the Costa Brava, since the 1960s tourism has become the dominant industry and while that has been focused on the local beaches surrounding Palamós more recently it has become a major stop off for cruise ships going into and leaving Barcelona.
The town has retained much its charm, with much of the new construction taking place to the south of Palamós, at Sant Antoni de Calonge. The two towns now merge.
Located a short distance from Palamós, Platja de Castell is the only sandy beach on this part of the coast to have escaped development. Also nearby is Platja Fosca, which friends with two year old found perfect for the shallowness of the beach and the facilities available, although parking in the height of summer can be a little tricky to say the least.
The town’s main beach, Platja Gran, is 575 metres of medium golden sand and has full tourist facilities including a red cross point and showers as well as anchorage, but has a fairly steep shelf which isn’t suitable for all; Platja des Monestri, which is beyond Platja Gran and closer to Sant Antoni de Calonge, has a more gradual shelf with similar sand.
The town was founded at the end of the thirteenth century when Pere el Gran decided to found a new port town after the Royal Port at Torroella de Montgrí silted up. Like many Costa Brava towns, Palamós came under attack by pirates during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including by the renowned Turkish corsair Barbarossa, or Red Beard.
If you’re eating out in Palamós you have to eat some of the local seafood on offer and, the particular speciality of the town for which it is famous, the Palamós prawn.
At L’Espardenya (Avenida 11 de Setembre, 97) you can get a three course seafood lunch from €18, while La Selvatana (Carrer de l’Allada, 5) is well regarded for seafood and paella and has a menu starting at just €12.
The key to eating well is finding out where the locals go, so use your eyes and ears as well as your sense of smell when choosing a restaurant. When there is fresh food on offer for such low prices it’s hard to go wrong.
With a working fishing fleet, one of the highlights of any visit to Palamós has to be waiting quayside for the fishing boats to come in and unload their catches, before auctioning the fish in the early evening (see the video below). Interesting to watch for a while, it’s also free to do.
There is also a museum dedicated to fishing that wis worth visiting. The Cau de la Costa Brava-Museu de la Pesca is open in the summer every day between 11 am and 9 pm, while the winter months see it open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 1.30 pm and 3 pm to 7 pm. See further details here.
History lovers will want to visit the Gothic church of Santa Maria del Mar, which was finished in the sixteenth century, and near to Platja Fosca you’ll find the ruins of thirteenth century Castell de Sant Esteve de Mar.
Other activities include the usual water-sports found up and down the Costa Brava, including sailing, scuba diving, water-skiing and jet ski and kayak hire and to the north of Palamós is a rugged stretch of coastline good to explore via car for its coves and pine covered cliffs. Along here you’ll find the seaside towns of Llafranc, Tamariu and Begur.
How to get to Palamós
Palamós is around 40 minutes by road from Girona-Costa Brava on the C-25/C-65/C-31 and there is a frequent bus service from Girona station to Palamós, although you may need to change at Palafrugell or Caldes de Malavella.
Have I missed anything?
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