It’s not far from Barcelona but Girona feels like a secret city that’s worlds away from all the hustle and bustle of Catalonia’s capital. It’s often overlooked as people head to the nearby beaches of Costa Brava. Which is a shame, as I think its well worth stopping to explore what Girona has to offer. It’s a charming city brimming with history and culture and has a little bit of a French feel. Not really surprising seeing as Girona is just 140km from the Spain/France border.
The fight for Catalonia’s independence is still ongoing so we did notice a fair amount of Catalan flags and posters. There were also lots of yellow ribbons tied to the red bridge.
We took a lovely trip to Girona from Barcelona in the New Year and want to share all the best bits of this Catalan gem.
Girona is set beside the river Onyar and the picturesque painted houses overlooking the river are one of the city’s most iconic views.
On the West side of the river you will find the Plaça de la Independència, a square surrounded by restaurants with outside seating that has a great atmosphere in the early evenings. Also, the lovely shopping streets of Carrer de Santa Clara and Carrer Nou. With not a single high-street chain in sight it’s easy to spend hours browsing through the boutiques selling local products.
Cross the river to the East and you wander into a maze of Medieval streets dotted with little cafes, bars and restaurants. Those backing onto the river often have picture windows looking out on to the Onyar. Rambla de la Libertat is the street where you’ll find the local fairs and markets. Wander through the narrow streets to take in the architecture and explore the many historical landmarks and museums. There are lots of towers with easy access to the city wall, I would recommend you head up there and walk as much as you can the views are well worth it.
The main sights in Girona
As mentioned the views of the River Onyar are quite famous. For the best photo opportunities head to the Pont d’en Gomez, where you’ll catch the Cathedral and Basilica towers in the background. The colours of the houses look really vibrant at sunset on a clear sky day.
The Roman Catholic church also known as The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona. Its part Romanesque in style and part Gothic and has an impressively wide interior nave. It has a Baroque front façade and large stone staircase up to the main entrance.
Old city walls
Passeig de la Murralla are the old 14th century city walls which have been reconstructed in places to allow people to walk the full length. The views over Girona city are spectacular and you can see the peaks of Pyrenees mountains in the distance. The walls run from the Cathedral and curves round to end at the Plaça Catalunya.
The fortress is said to be the first enclosure within the city walls. It dates back to the first century BC and was built by the Romans.
Basilica de Sant Feliu
Girona’s first Cathedral can be spotted from most city viewpoints due to its tall bell tower. It houses some religious art work within its castle like shaped walls.
Rafael Masó is a Spanish architect, his family home has been set up as a museum. It’s one of the only houses that sits on the River Onya that is completely open to the public.
Ornately decorated rooms of Roman bathing pools, built in the 12th century.
Fun things to do in Girona
Which is a light and refreshing mix of beer and lemonade, you get it on draught everywhere in Girona.
Enjoy the café culture
The people of Girona enjoy good coffee, homemade cakes and healthy brunches and there are many cool cafes around the city. I fell in love with La Fabrica, Federal and Espresso Mafia.
With France just on the other side of the Pyrennes some French food influences have trickled into Girona. There are lots of freshly baked bread, pastry shops and crêperies.
Game of Thrones tour
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan take the Game of Thrones walking tour. Lots of season 6 scenes were filmed around the city.
Walking and hiking
The surrounding areas are very popular for walking and hiking, there are many trails offering a range of difficulty levels
My tips for visiting Girona
- Go inside the little shops and cafes, often the simple façade is hiding a secret space worth investigating
- My favourite places to eat in Girona are River café, La Terra and La Fabrica
- Check the back tables of the café’s situated along the river and you might just bag a view
- There are lots of little gardens and courtyards around the city perfect for quiet picnic spots
How to get to Girona from Barcelona
Take the Renfe train from Barcelona Sants station. A single adult ticket costs €12-16 depending on the time of day and the journey takes 30 mins.
Take the Alsa coach from Barcelona Nord bus station. A single adult journey costs €14.50 and the journey takes 1 hour 30 mins.
You can hire a car and drive via the AP-7 or C-32, the later takes in some coastal views and takes approximately 1 hour 30 mins.
Have you been to Girona? Share your experience in the comments box below 🙂 I’d love to hear all about it.
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