Palamos, Spain impressed us with its vibrant fishing culture and amazing seafood. See what it’s like to visit Palamos on the scenic Costa Brava coast.
As the glass shattered on the table, an uncomfortable hush fell over the room. Seconds felt like minutes until the room erupted with laughter. And like that, a potential low light became a major highlight of our day trip to Palamos on the coast of Spain’s Costa Brava.
Watch our YouTube video to see Daryl’s porron incident. You know you want to see it.
What’s a Porron?
For those unfamiliar, porrons are traditional wine pitchers with long narrow spouts. A drinker lifts the porron to his face, drinking the stream of wine that flows directly from the vessel and into the mouth. Once common in Catalonia, the porron is now used more for fun and ceremony.
Our Day Trip to Palamos
We arrived in Palamos enthusiastic to learn about the port city in Costa Brava Spain and its vibrant fishing culture. Already familiar with Gamba de Palamos, the area’s intensely red prawns (pictured at the top), we were curious to learn about the city’s history beyond its famous shrimp.
Most of all, we wanted to eat as much fresh seafood as possible. Luckily, our knowledgeable guide Maria Àngels Soler taught us about Palamos’ unique marine biology and fishing culture. We also ate well – very well indeed.
Interactive Cooking Demonstration at Espai del Peix
Within moments of welcoming us to Palamos, Soler and assistant Olga Mias whisked us to Espai del Peix (i.e. Fish Space in English), a sunlit modern space with wide picture windows and a large, open kitchen. Though the space is usually utilized for large cooking workshops and shows, Soler confided that we were about to experience a private cooking demonstration with Chef Ramon Boquera.
Boquera, a skilled but unpretentious chef, greeted us with a warm smile and the 2foodtrippers tagline (We eat, we travel…)
A fisherman for 25 years, Boquera honed his kitchen chops while cooking for Palamos’ daily fishing boat crews. Not a classically trained, but rather, a chef trained by real life, he put away his rod five years ago to join the culinary team at Espai del Peix.
Before we knew it, we exchanged our jackets for aprons and were cooking alongside the chef. Okay, Daryl was mostly cooking and Mindi was mostly shooting video.
Regardless, it was great fun as we assisted Boquera in cooking classic Catalan dishes like Pan con Tomate (Tomato Bread) with Anchovies, Suquet de Peix (Fisherman Stew) with Bonita Tuna and Fideus Rossejats (Catalan Vermicelli – think rice-a-roni).
Like at our Tauts a Taula cooking class in Girona, Daryl prepared an aioli (mortared garlic paste) and Mindi assembled the Pan con Tomate, reinforcing the preparation process of these two classics.
While we cooked, Boquera shared fishing stories and cooking tips. We learned that we should always use a lot of olive oil and that it’s key to listen for a smacking sound when making aioli.
We also learned that cooking for a hungry crew on a moving boat is challenging work. All of this was well and good, but how was the food?
Lunch at Espai del Peix
We assumed that our lunch at Espai del Peix would be good based on Palamos’ reputation as a seafood hub. However, everything that we ate exceeded our high expectations.
The Pan con Tomate burst with flavor thanks to the addition of two types of anchovies – one cured in vinegar for two hours and the other cured in salt for a full year. The Suquet de Peix, or Fisherman Stew, had deep flavors from its mortared, picata base, a blend of garlic, parsley, nuts, fried bread, and sweet paprika.
Plus, Daryl’s handmade aioli added a zesty zing to the Fedeus Rossejats. We didn’t help bake the almond tart, but it provided a sweet end to the meal. And, of course, we drank glasses of local Empordà wine with gusto.
Tour of Museu de la Pesca
Eating is just half of the Palamos seafood story, which means that a visit to the Museu de la Pesca (i.e. Fish Museum in English) is a must.
We started our visit with an educational yet entertaining video before we entered the main part of the museum. Soler provided a quick lesson on the 532 species indigenous to the area – fish and crustaceans like bluefish, anchovies, sardines, mackerel, monkfish, hake, rockfish, lobsters and the famed gambas (red shrimp).
As we walked around the museum, we learned about Palamos’ rich fishing history from the perspective of the generations of fishermen (no women included!) who have fished the waters along with their families on shore who supported them. Soler was a perfect guide, and her insight into the region’s unique marine biology ecosystem was enlightening.
A visit to Museu de la Pesca would be incomplete without experiencing the daily auction. Not a show for tourists, this auction is the mechanism for fishermen to sell their daily catch to brokers and agents representing retail customers in Costa Brava and throughout Spain.
We found the auction to be fascinating both for the quality of the seafood offerings and its cutting auction system. At this auction, buyers bid electronically and silently. Though visitors aren’t typically allowed on the floor, they are privy to a front-row view of the auction through glass windows strategically placed above the auction room.
Did you catch that the auction is closed to consumers and tourists? No worries – the museum complex also includes a busy fish market with some of the day’s fresh catch for sale to retail customers.
Open at 5:00 pm after the boats return to the dock, the quality and selection for sale at the market is outstanding. This market is open to the public. Whether you’re shopping for dinner or just taking photos, this market is a must visit in Palamos.
Our tour ended just in time for us to view a stunning sunset. Though we later heard that we could have witnessed an even better sunset from atop the local lighthouse, we were satisfied to watch night fall over the harbor from the dock.
About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.