This town grew up in the 16th century around a small port between the beaches of Empúries and Riells as the fishing district of Sant Martí d’Empúries, and it became the most important town municipality in the 18th century. L’Escala is and has been eminently a seaside town, as its traditional source of income comes from the sea: fishing and anchovy salting.
The Archaeology Museum of Catalonia-Empúries is one of the most important archaeological sites in Catalonia. The Greeks settled here at the beginning of the 6th century BC and later the Romans also began their Romanisation of the peninsula (2nd century BC) from here, not only because of the strategic advantages offered by the gulf, but also due to the unquestionable beauty of this place. At the ruins of Empúries it is possible to visit the Greek city, the Roman city and the Archaeology Museum.
Over the centuries, L’Escala has kept up the industry that has made it world famous: anchovy salting. The Anchovy and Salt Museum explores the history of fishing and the salting of oily fish from the 16th century to the present day. It is possible to arrange guided tours, such as the Víctor Català tour, the smugglers’ boat trip and the visit to Can Cinto, the fishermen’s house, which will help visitors to find out about L’Escala’s heritage in different languages.
Vicenç Folgado’s private motorbike collection contains a great variety of items obtained from all over the world throughout a very intense sporting career. The collection includes not only motorbikes of all ages, but also vintage cars and miniature model trains and cars.
The Montgó tower was a defence tower built under the orders of King Philip I of Aragon and II of Castile to protect the fishermen of L’Escala and L’Estartit from pirates. On the way to the tower, in the Corral d’en Lleona, there was a 2nd-3rd century Roman villa. In El Pedró there is another similar tower dating back to the 16th centuries.
The public washhouse and the marine cemetery are worthy of a mention; the typical Mediterranean whitewash of the fishermen’s cottages is also present in the tomb recesses with tympana at the marine cemetery. It was declared a monument in 1974 and is typical of popular neoclassical architecture. Some of L’Escala’s most famous citizens, such as the writer Víctor Català (Caterina Albert i Paradís) and the photographer Josep Esquirol, are buried there. Tours can be arranged at the Anchovy and Salt Museum.
It is interesting to visit Sant Martí d’Empúries, an old island that was first settled in the 9th-8th century BC (Late Bronze Age). In the 6th century BC, trading took place with the Phoenicians, the Punics and the Phocaeans of Massalia, and the name Emporion first appeared at the end of that century. Later the native population (Indigete Iberians) and Greek Phocaean merchants settled on solid ground, establishing the great port of Empúries, which would supply the subsidiary ports of L’Escala and La Clota (2nd century). It has been inhabited ever since, and one can still see the medieval wall that was built over the Greek Cyclopean remains, and the church to Saint Martin that was built in 1538. It was the first capital of the county of Empúries until 1064 and it is now conserved as a Medieval town.
The avenue of Empúries links Sant Martí and L’Escala. This 2.5-km-long promenade runs along the coast, offering views of the ruins of Empúries on one side and the magnificent dunes of the beaches of Empúries on the other. The emblematic streets and corners of the old part of L’Escala invite visitors to explore the history of this fishing town and discover architectural features from its past. The fishermen’s house Can Cinto Xuà (Carrer de la Torre, 35) offers a lifelike recreation of everyday life in L’Escala during the 18th and 19th centuries. To visit the fishermen’s house, visitors should ask
at the Anchovy and Salt Museum.
Products such as salt and other goods arrived by sea and were taken to the Alfolí de la Sal (the salt warehouse), which was built in 1697, from which they would then be distributed to inland towns. The existence of a building of this nature, shipyards and cabotage led to significant economic expansion during the 18th century.