The Best Secret Village in Europe that You’ve Never Heard of

Bridges of Europe

What makes a great village in Europe? Charm- yes. History- definitely. Art and culture- please.  Good food- bonus points.

What makes a great village even better? Well, that is really simple. The village has to have all those great village attributes- charm, history, art, culture and good food, plus something extra special. It has to be secluded enough that it doesn’t feel crowded, but close enough to a big city that it doesn’t take five trains, three buses and two-horse drawn carriages to walk four miles to just get to the village. (Which, of course, you’ll know once you enter the ornate bridge)

Well, if you like secret villages in Europe, I have just the place for you.  Introducing….

Besalú! 

Have you ever heard of Besalu? Before my recent trip to Spain, I had never heard of it before- and in fact, when I googled it before my trip, the first page was all about some cafe in Seattle named Besalu. (I can not account for the quality of the cafe, however, I can say that Besalu, Spain is awesome.)

Besalu is a secret little village that is close enough to Barcelona that makes it an easy weekend getaway, but has the old world charm that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a time machine.

Why Besalu?

Besalu is a Medieval village in Catalonia, Spain, dating back to the 11th century, that lives today in a quirky balance of new and old. Treasuring its turbulant history, the village has restored the picturesque bridge and maintained areas of the Jewish quarter that make the village a walking museum as much as a vacation destination.

What to do in Besalu?

TOUR. The tourism office can set up a guided walking tour highlighting the villages main points of historical interest. Points of interest include, but not limited to, the Jewish ritual bath, chuch of Sant Pere and the Jewish quarter.  Tours are held July through August at 11am or contact the Tourism Office for private tours throughout the year.

EXPLORE. Besalu is fairly small and one could easily walk around the entire village in less than an hour. But take your time, walk down to the river bed and stroll along the bank. There are also many hiking trails nearby if you want to get another angele of the village or head up to Santa Maria (ruins perched high on a hill) for the best view looking down on Besalu. Stick closer to the main area and wander down the small cobblestone alleyways and cross over the beloved bridge. You are bound to stumble upon a cute cafe or quirky art museum.

EAT. The area is known for their seafood paella, which is a delicious rice dish with a lot of different seafood thrown in. To start your mornings off right, visit one of the villages cafes for a ham and cheese sandwich or pastry and cafe con leche. I loved 10 del Pont for its delicious breakfast sandwiches and quaint atmosphere.

SEE. Make sure to stop by the Museum of miniatures and look through the glass windows at Kel Domenech’s studio. A one of a kind look into an artist’s studio and gallery. Also- while walking around the city, make sure to spot the odd chair or two. Look up, down and behind things- this city has a strange and fun fascination with chairs!

TAKE. This is a photographer’s dream location. Make sure to bring your camera and an extra storage card because you’ll want to capture every nook and cobblestone. You could honestly spend all day taking photos of the bridge!

STAY. If you are traveling with friends or a large family, I highly suggest staying in one of the apartments or villas from Charming Villas. The spaces are completely renovated, have WiFi, and are in the heart of the village. Perfect spot for taking in the sights of Besalu!

A few new blogging friends that I met on my trip have talked about Besalu too- if you are interested in this little gem, please check out their pictures and posts. I’m sure you will fall in love with this secret village just as I have.

Exploring the Medival Village of Besalu by Marie of Eurotriptips

Weird and Offbeat Museums by Cheryl Howard

A Photojourney to Besalu by Laurel of Monkeys, Mountains and Maultaschen

Whining and Dining in Besalu by TourAbsurd

Jade Broadus is a spunky girl hailing from Jacksonville, Florida. She’s addicted to traveling and has a strange obsession with maps and globes. A lover of dogs, fashion, fish tacos, marine biology, and college football, she has a broad range of interests. Jade has a strong passion for the film “Love, Actually” and has watched it 176 times. Her interests include singing really loud, impromptu dances, shopping, and dressing up in cute dresses and extravagant hats. She has written for Gadling, AOL Travel, Discover Los Angeles, LACOT, LandLopers and Spunky Girl Monologues.

21 Comments

  • Reply March 13, 2012

    Cheryl

    Awww, thanks for the link-back! I loved Besalu too … hope I can make it back for a visit someday! And I miss that cafe. :)

  • Reply March 14, 2012

    Abby

    I’ve loved reading about Besalu — it seems soo charming!!

  • Reply March 14, 2012

    EurotripTips

    I looooved Besalu! I didn’t expect anything from it but I was most definitely pleasantly surprised. I really wish I could take my husband there one day!

  • Reply March 14, 2012

    Andrea

    What a delightful discovery – John and I really want to visit Spain again and will visit here when we go to Barcelona.

  • Reply March 15, 2012

    Laurel

    Thanks for the mention! Germans tend to know of places that no one else has heard of, but none of my German friends have heard of Beaslu either, but after seeing the photos I think they’re all eager to check it out.

  • Reply March 15, 2012

    Andrea

    Besalu is one of my favourite towns in Catalonia. I loved wandering around the old town and visiting the ruins of the old synagogue.

  • Reply March 15, 2012

    Francy R

    I loved reading about Basalu and discovering that there are such a gem in Europe that are unilkely to be known!I was in Spain this summer on the Camino way and passed through a lot of wonderful villages! O Cebreiro is anothe great spot in Galicia to visit and it’s not the only one!!

  • Reply March 15, 2012

    Roy Marvelous

    oooh, secret village. Never heard of it! I guess then it wouldn’t be a secret…

  • Reply March 15, 2012

    Abi

    Ooh – I have heard of it – and I love it! Glad you found it :)

  • Reply March 15, 2012

    ehalvey

    What’s the deal with the chair fascination? Is there some tradition or story that explains it?

  • Reply March 21, 2012

    Kent @ NVR

    I am adding Besalu to the list (right next to Girona!)

  • Gorgeous! So breathtaking

  • [...] before setting off on my Costa Brava trip I had doubts about traveling abroad by myself. Yeah, yeah, yeah- I know. I travel all over the [...]

  • [...] out this other traveler blog post, The Best Secret Village in Europe that You’ve Never Heard of, by Vagabond 3 to find out more details about Besalu, [...]

  • Reply July 24, 2012

    Chrystal McKay

    I want to visit this secret Village! I love all the hidden charm that Europe holds! If only you get out and explore you’ll see such beautiful things!

  • [...] BravaHiking in the PyreneesVisiting the medieval town of Besalu, which Jade from Vagabond3 calls The Best Secret Village in EuropeTaking a tour of the Portilligat House Museum of Salvador Dali in CadaquesEnjoying the feast of your [...]

  • Reply July 7, 2013

    Tulin

    I am gonna visit this cute village but I would like to hear some stories from the history does anyone can help me? many thanks in advance. :)

  • Reply July 29, 2013

    Travel Asturias

    It looks great Besalu, lovely pictures.

    • Reply July 30, 2013

      Jade Broadus

      Thanks! It is Besalu. I miss Costa Brava terribly.

  • Reply September 9, 2013

    Anna

    Excuse me, but seafood paella is not the typical dish!!! Only tourists eat paella here.

    • Reply September 17, 2013

      Jade Broadus

      We were served paella by a local chef! :) I guess he likes it even though it might be considered touristy. I loved it!

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