Hotel Highlights

  • Catalan countryside meets the Med
  • A mediaeval castle as your temporary roost
  • An area rich in history, beauty and gourmet delights

Overview

A Catalan ruin restored into a romantic retreat, Castell d’Empordà hotel is dramatically set between the peaks of the Pyrenees and the cliffs of Costa Brava. This mediaeval stone castle in the countryside is filled with exotic relics from around the globe. This is fitting, given that it was once the home of an explorer who traveled with Christopher Columbus.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Castell d'Empordà with us:

A mystery olive oil gift and a bottle of cava.

Special offers

Exclusive rates, packages and special offers at Castell d'Empordà

3 nights for the price of 2

Facilities

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Need To Know

Rooms

38, including nine suites.

Check–out

12pm; earliest check-in, 2pm.

Rates

Double rooms from $212.79 (€154), excluding tax at 10 per cent.

More details

Rates include buffet breakfast.

Also

On selected Friday nights, a local dancer performs a fabulous fusion of ballet and flamenco in the bar.

At the hotel

Gardens, library including DVDs, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player and minibar.

Our favourite rooms

If, like Forster, you’re after a room with a view, book a bijou boudoir in the Tower (no bath, though). The Castle rooms are the exposed-stonework real deal, with hand-made floor tiles from Marrakech, patchwork-hide rugs and dramatic views, to be enjoyed from cushioned window seats in some rooms. Stained glass windows draped in Indian silk, a Victorian bathtub and antique Tibetan rugs lend opulence to the palatial Suite Pere Margarit by Dutch designer Menno Kroon. Look out for the fabulous whale-tail shelf.

Poolside

There’s a turquoise-tiled, heated outdoor pool in the gardens, overlooking the green-gold scenery.

Packing tips

Bring dancing shoes and something red and frilly – the bar hosts live music performances. Relic hunters should pack their most elastic plastic to flex, in anticipation of the area’s pottery and collectibles. Remember a jumper for cooler nights.

Also

Smoking is allowed in some bedrooms and in the hotel’s communal areas. A three-night minimum stay is required between 16 July and 11 September.

Children

Little Smiths are welcome, with cots provided free, extra beds for €40 a night and babysitting with a nanny (€20–€25 an hour, book three days in advance).

Weddings

This property is suitable for weddings

More details

Food & Drink

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Hotel Restaurant

A dramatic bull’s-head sculpture on the wall keeps watch over proceedings in the sensual gothic restaurant. Black silk drapes lie sleekly against the rough, nougat-coloured stone walls, glossy jet chandeliers drip from the ceilings and tabletop candles flicker amid the dark expanse. In summer, floor-to-ceiling glass doors open up onto the terrace and in winter, the fire crackles and muted jazz provides a relaxed background. Offerings are Spanish with global influences – be sure to try the signature tuna sashimi dish.

Hotel Bar

The Cava Del Drac, housed in the old wine cellar, is a suitably historic and dramatic drinking den. Sit among the vaulted stone ceilings on low, slouchy sofas in neutral shades and admire the decor, inspired by a ’50s Parisian jazz bar. Small, curved tables sparkle with tea lights and a relaxed soundtrack of laid-back lounge music will fill any gaps in conversation. Leave no alcove unturned; there is a bounty of books on art, wine, history and so forth to enjoy with a glass of tempranillo.

Last orders

11pm for dinner; the bar is open noon until midnight. Grab breakfast between 8am to 10.30am; lunch from 1pm to 3.30pm; and dinner from 8pm.

Room service

There’s no room service but the restaurant is sure to cater to your culinary needs.

Smith Insider

Dress code

Channel flamenco-glam for evening, light and layered during daylight hours.

Top table

Sit out on the terrace – enjoy a lazy lunch in the shade by day and admire the twinkling lights from distant towns by night.

Local Guide

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Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Local restaurants

Feast on traditional Catalan cuisine at Mas Pou at 4 Placa de la Mota (+34 (0)972 634125; www.maspou.com) in Palau-Sator. Once a family home, this restaurant is full of local character (and characters) and snails – apparently they serve up to 26,000 a week. If you want to sample stylish Catalan cuisine in a romantic setting, eat at Hotel Restaurant El Fort on the lantern-lit terrace, in the village of Ullastret, at 2 Carretera de la Preso (+34 (0)972 757773). El Pati, at 13 Carretera La Roca, in Peratallada (+34 (0)972 634069) serves up delicious Catalan specialities (the traditional Spanish breakfast is also worth rising early for) and has a pretty courtyard area, surrounded by natural stone, walnut trees and shrubs. La Plaça at 17 Sant Esteve in Madremanya (+34 (0)972 490487; www.restaurantlaplaca.com) is built inside an old country house with vaulted stone ceilings and terracotta-tiled floors, and has a tranquil vine-covered, jasmine-scented terrace, where you can enjoy nouvelle cuisine-style Catalan dishes. Hostal La Llagosta’s unassuming restaurant, La Llagosta, at 24 francesc de Blanes, Llafranc (+34 (0)972 300115; www.hostallallagosta.com) serves some sophisticated little dishes – look out for gazpacho with a tomato sorbet and tart tatin with cinnamon ice-cream. Feast on succulent seafood at Es Furio’s beachside restaurant, at Foraió, Tamariu (+34 (0)972 620036; www.esfurio.com). Originally a fisherman’s house, Es Furio has been a family-owned hotel since the 1930s. Les Coques del Pss is a traditional restaurant at 11 Les Voltes, Peratallada (+34 (0)972 635014), with simple stone and wood decor and hearty local specialities.

Local bars

For beers in bohemia, head to Mas Sorrer, set in an open field, just outside Gualta (+34 (0)677 458854). This unique drinking-hole hosts regular live jazz performances and has a covered outdoor bar, pool tables and a caravan selling crepes. Inside is a pretty candle-lit restaurant and the bar stays open until around 6am in summer.

Local cafés

Patisseria Sans at 4 Avenida Les Voltes in La Bisbal (+34 (0)972 640375) is a family owned bakery, famous for its luscious cakes and pastries. Be sure to try the Bisbalenc, a sweet treat made from puff pastry, vermicelli, sugar and pine nuts.

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Costa Brava countryside

Castell d'Empordà

3 Castell d'Empordà s/n, La Bisbal, Empordà, Girona, 17115

Planes

Ryanair flies from 11 UK airports to Girona-Costa Brava Airport, 40 minutes from La Bisbal by taxi (www.ryanair.com).

Trains

Take the Eurostar (www.eurostar.com) from London to Paris mid-afternoon; then take the evening Barcelona-bound train from Gare d’Austerlitz and wake up in Girona (www.raileurope.co.uk).

Automobiles

Exits 5 to 9 of the A-7 motorway access the region from Barcelona to the south, Perpignan to the north.

Reviews

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Anonymous review

By Mr & Mrs Smith.

Having never quite recovered from the disappointment of not actually being born a princess, this Mrs Smith is hugely and perhaps rather childishly excited at the prospect of a weekend in a real mediaeval castle in Northern Spain. Driving through the huge stone gateposts towards Castell d’Empordà, this luxury stay looks so much more like a fairytale residence rather than a hotel tha...

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Castell d'Empordà

By Mr & Mrs Smith.

Having never quite recovered from the disappointment of not actually being born a princess, this Mrs Smith is hugely and perhaps rather childishly excited at the prospect of a weekend in a real mediaeval castle in Northern Spain. Driving through the huge stone gateposts towards Castell d’Empordà, this luxury stay looks so much more like a fairytale residence rather than a hotel that I half wish I’d donned a long dress and pointy hat with veil for the occasion. Mr Smith expresses great relief that I haven’t.

Leaving the lush, water-featured grounds and groves to explore until later, we admire the outdoor turquoise-tiled pool, built into a timber deck near the edge of the cliff before depositing our bags in our Castle room. Here we find everything a wannabe royal might expect from their quarters – vaulted ceiling, exposed stone walls and a window seat with a silk-tasselled cushion and a view overlooking endless trees and fields. Thick, Indian silk curtains and an animal-skin rug on Moroccan-tiled floor inject a little exoticism to the story.

Restored from a near-ruin only a decade ago, our bedroom also has plenty of extras unrecognisable to my inner centuries-ago heroine. But maybe in today’s Disney version, a minibar, air-conditioning, TV and DVD player and discs to borrow from reception is standard regulation. A brief look at the hotel literature tells me that the dark wood furniture throughout Castell d’Empordà has been sourced from Italy, Morocco and China, and wherever I look, tasteful castle-type objêts – stone busts, headless torsos, antique chairs and the like – are discreetly dotted about.

Mr Smith takes a peak around a half-screen and discovers a large white bath and shower, and an array of white, fluffy towels and orange-blossom toiletries. But our regal plans haven’t yet stretched to ablutions, and having never visited this area before I dispatch Mr Smith to ask the friendly reception staff for maps and suggestions of places to visit around Girona. Dutifully listening to directions while HRH Smith sits on velvet cushions in a copper-leafed alcove, Mr Smith raises an eyebrow at me leafing through glossy magazines. Well? Princesses don’t really do driving instructions.

We head off for Spanish-style late lunch of fresh, garlicky squid and icy rosé wine at Hostal La Llagosta overlooking Llfranc Beach, around 20 minutes’ drive from the hotel and then head for the beach, whiling away our afternoon lazing around on loungers, gazing out over the calm and sparkling sea. Sunbathing somehow seems a suitable way to work up an appetite for dinner in Castell d’Empordà’s Mediterranean restaurant. With chunky black chandeliers, crisp white tablecloths, exquisitely upholstered seats and a giant fireplace with a bull’s head poised above, it manages to feel romantic, intimate and relaxed all at once.

Choosing delicate beef carpaccio, fresh fish and marinated strawberries with basil and yoghurt ice-cream from the Market Menu proves wise. And Mr Smith’s declares of that delicious basil ice-cream that it is likely to become the stuff of legends, proclaiming it the best dessert he’s ever had. ‘All other ice-creams are now nothing to me,’ he sighs as we reluctantly call it a night.

Darkness-ensuring shutters, decadent drapes and pin-drop peacefulness mean that we sleep so late we almost miss breakfast. Croissants are buttery, juice is freshly-squeezed and scrambled eggs and bacon are perfectly cooked. We eat at a white-linen covered table on the hotel’s shady terrace among the heady-scented flowers looking over hills of every shade of green and in the distance, brooding mountains. It was definitely worth dragging ourselves out of bed for.

With a previous day spent mostly eating and drinking, we take advantage of mountain bikes on offer and go for a cycle before lunch. This seems an excellent idea as we freewheel down the hill, me with skirt tucked into knickers as I have brought nothing remotely pedal-able in. Past fields of poppies we glide, through a verdant valley with tumble-down stone huts in fields, and finally into the near-silent village of Canapost with an ancient church. You know where this is going, right? Of course what goes down must also go up and our glide back through the valley segues into an uphill walk.

The nearby mediaeval villages of Pais and Begur explored and we settle down for lunch of more grilled squid and chilled rosé (somehow it seems so suited to this sunshine) at waterside restaurant Es Furió. So cute is this bay of Sa Tuna that it appears something from a children’s story, surrounded by rocks and icing-sugar white houses. There is a fishing boat resting on the sand, a narrow shop selling toy wooden boats and even an artist capturing the scene in watercolour. ‘It’s like Cornwall, only with good weather and better food’, Mt Smith observes.

Huge mattressed day beds pull us back to the hotel, where, supine, we order ice-cold Estrella beer. Castell d’Empordà regularly hosts live music in its cellar bar and this weekend is its jazz festival. Sadly, despite calls and email from the hotel before our arrival, we didn’t get around to booking tickets and it’s sold out. We head instead to another nearby mediaeval town, Peratallada, for dinner. Here, thick, hearty soup with anchovy toast and velvety Rioja at the bizarrely named Les Coques del Pss provides decent consolation.

After supper, a stroll round the Peratallada, where the uneven, cobbled streets makes me regret high heels; but at least in appropriate Mr & Mrs Smith style, my footwear has me clinging to my beloved like a drunken starlet. Returning to our castle-for-now for coffee on the candlelit terrace, looking out over the sea while the smooth-as-chocolate voice of the jazz singer drifts up from the antique cellar bar is as charming a nightcap as I’ve known.

Castell d’Empordà is a seductive mix of contradictions. Opulent yet relaxed, and seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but in fact within easy reach of all the ceramic and antique shops your heart could desire, cosy tapas bars, terraces overlooking the sea serving any-fresher-it-would-be-twitching seafood and sandy bays, some of which are so postcard-perfect they look like they have been Photoshopped. Little wonder, back in the Seventies, Salvador Dali hoped to buy the castle for his muse, Gala. It’s just a shame the artist isn’t around today to visit Castell d’Empordà – it’s hard to imagine a setting more inspiring. Even Christopher Columbus’ cohot Captain Margaris decided to up-ship and settle here. So, if it can court world-famous painters and their muses, and tempt a reluctant landlubber into domesticity, no wonder it’s been a fairytale spot for this Mr & Mrs Smith to enjoy their own love affair.

The Guestbook

Reviews of Castell d'Empordà from Smith members

Whenever you book a stay through us, we’ll invite you to comment when you get back. Read the Guestbook entries below to see what real-life Mr & Mrs Smiths have said about this hotel…

BlackSmith

Stayed on 10 Jun 2013

We loved

The location is beautiful and a very romantic setting – while we were at dinner celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary a couple at the table next to us got engaged! The castle is beautiful. The food was excellent. The staff are lovely and very helpful and the service is excellent. Our room (a garden suite) was lovely and had a balcony with an amazing view. You can have a very relaxing stay (or an active one, if you choose). There is plenty to see and do in the surrounding area. I would love to go back (and usually I prefer to explore new places each holiday). The pictures on the website are an accurate representation of just how lovely the place is. I appreciated the fact that there were times in the day when I could get the pool to myself (ie, be the only person swimming). I don't know if this would happen in peak season, though…

Don’t expect

Some of the furnishings are looking a little tired in the restaurant area. We were a little disappointed that there were no complimentary drinks in the room (there is a minibar). In our room, garden suite number 31, on was the floor below the sun deck next to the pool, we heard the sun beds being dragged around after midnight and before 7am. You really do need a car unless you are on a cycling holiday! Otherwise you would run out of choices (and euros) on the menu options as there is a doubling up between the lunch- and evening-meal menus. The lunch menu offered very good value for money (approximately half the price of the evening menu).

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on 10 Jun 2013

We loved

I liked the atmosphere, setting, history, architecture, design, attentive staff, style… all excellent! The Garden Room Suite has a great ambience, fab bathrooms and views, even from the bath, that are quite stunning. A complete getaway.

Don’t expect

Food was excellent, but after eight days I would like to see some menu changes or more daily specials.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on 23 May 2013

We loved

The Castell d'Emporda is about two hours from Barcelona, way out in the beautiful Spanish countryside. It is very quiet, clean and elegant. Not a place for kids, but perfect for an adult get away and quiet holiday. It's only about 30 minutes from the beach and lovely small coastal towns with wonderful restaurants and views. The staff is very sweet and worked hard for our stay. If you need to check out before 8am, check out the night before.

Don’t expect

It did take a while to get served but it is a very relaxing atmosphere and when we were served it all all very good. The servers and hotel associates were all very nice.

Rating: 9/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on 10 May 2013

We loved

The hotel has a lovely calm atmosphere and beautifully done rooms that are simple but stylish. It's the perfect place to sit and look at the stunning scenery with a large glass of something Spanish!

Rating: 10/10 stars

SilverSmith

Stayed on 23 Aug 2012 We did not travel with children but there were children at the hotel and they seemed to enjoy it. The pool is safe and there's lots of space to play. Our children would probably have been a bit bored if they had to stay more than a couple of days.

We loved

Amazing food, beautiful scenery. The hotel is full of character and the pool area has great views of the surrounding countryside. The new chef is a genius – three Michelin stars. Service was spot on – staff always on hand and very accommodating. I don’t drink alcohol, so they made me some lovely alcohol-free cocktails.

Rating: 9/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on 30 Jul 2012

We loved

The location is very good. The restaurant is very good – the service is friendly but could be a little more polished.

Don’t expect

We stayed in a castle room, which had nice all round views. There was very little storage in the room, which meant that you had to live out of your suitcase as well as being able to hang a few items. When we arrived, the reception we received was extremely poor, so much so that we considered moving to another location. Once I mentioned it to another member of staff things did improve. I think this could be an extremely good hotel with just some more attention to detail.

Rating: 7/10 stars

SilverSmith

Stayed on 28 Apr 2012


Castell d'Emporda is surrounded by plush vegetation, walking trails, wineries, Gaudi sightings, medieval towns and gastronomic local restaurants. It is the perfect base to explore the Catalonian countryside. The breakfast is buffet, complete with Spanish cheeses and hams along with more traditional breakfast fare. You can also enjoy a Cava and orange juice in the morning. The terrace allows for lovely views after sightseeing all day and relaxing with a bottle of wine. The pool is also very relaxing on a hot afternoon with spectacular views over the countryside. I indulged in a massage in my room, followed by a local bottle of Cava on the terrace.

Rating: 8/10 stars