CostaBravaTouristGuide.com — At the foot of the Pyrenees, hugging the dividing line between France and Spain, lies the small village of Portbou (1300+ inhabitants).

It is the last village of the Costa Brava, which starts some 100 kilometers down the coast at Blanes.

Portbou — which some guidebooks erroneously refer to as ‘Port Bou’ — is situated in the most mountainous area of the Costa Brava, and the closely-packed houses slope steeply up the valley from the waterfront.

Portbou, Catalonia, Costa Brava Spain

Portbou, dominated by its huge train station [1]

Once one of those proverbial ‘sleepy’ fishing villages, PortBou was transformed with the opening of an international railway station in 1878. It soon developed into a busy transport hub.

The train tunnel was joined by a road across the border, to the French port of Cerbère.

The peaceful bay has been called a ‘natural amphitheater.’ It shelters an uncrowded, and stunningly beautiful pebbled beach. Uncrowded because though Portbou has some hotels, a tourist office and other tourist facilities it is not (yet) a major tourist destination.

Yet, used to international travelers, Portbou is a hospitable village and an ideal place to spend a relaxing vacation — far away from the tourist trappings of the larger Costa Brava resorts further south.


The main beach along the promenade is never crowded, even during the summer months. At times the shoreline is lined with fishing sloops.

There are even less crowded beaches up and down the coast, and some people half-seriously claim there’s a secluded beach or cove for everyone. Most can reached more or less easily on foot, while others are best approached by boat.

At the north of the main beach a footpath leads to Tres Platgetes — three small, white sand beaches. Further north the path, hugging the rocky shoreline, brings you to Platja del Pi, a small beach popular with nude bathers.

The water here is crystal clear and, among other things, perfectly suited to scuba diving.

Cala Bramat is also popular with nudists.

There’s a small harbor with fishing boats and small yachts.

• See our general information about Costa Brava beaches

Walther Benjamin

The German Jewish philosopher Walther Benjamin committed suicide in a Portbou hotel in 1940 rather than to be handed over to the Gestapo.

A memorial to him — created by Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan — overlooks the bay from its southern cliff.

It carries an inscription by Benjamin in five languages: “It is more arduous to honour the memory of the nameless than that of the renowned. Historical construction is devoted to the memory of the nameless.”

Weather in PortBou

Portbou Weather

[1] Photo credit: “Catalaunica (Montse). See her other Costa Brava photos at Flickr.

Check these fantastic tours (and more) at the Costa Brava and throughout Catalonia:

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This post was last updated: Jun. 11, 2012