Girona: the perfect short break from Barcelona
The city of Girona has made a name for itself worldwide thanks to Game of Thrones. Several episodes of the sixth season of the legendary series were filmed at different locations in the beautiful Catalan city. However, long before the television series, Girona was already well-known for its beautiful and harmonious layout and notable monuments, as well as its picturesque setting, crossed by the river Ter and, above all, the Onyar river. In terms of food, Girona is famous for being home to one of the best restaurants in the world (if not the best): El Celler de Can Roca.
What to see in Girona
Girona is a perfect city for walking, due to its compact size and the peaceful ambience of much of its urban area, and, above all, for the authenticity of its streets and squares. Many of its houses, mansions and religious centres have preserved their medieval features quite impressively. Read on for some of the most recommended places to visit in Girona:
- Arab Baths: Built in Romanesque style, they were used as public baths between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries modelled on the facilities used in both Roman, Muslim and Jewish cultures.
- Girona’s bridges: Perhaps the most attractive is the Les Peixateries Velles bridge (or the Eiffel bridge), which was built by the company of the renowned French engineer.
- Cases de l’Onyar: Painted in different colours and lining the banks of the river, they form—along with the Cathedral and the tower of the Basilica of Sant Feliu—the most iconic image of the city. They were built throughout the twentieth century.
- Basilica of Sant Feliu: An important place of worship combining Romanesque and Gothic features, which stands out for its slender bell tower. It also has an interesting Baroque façade (eighteenth century).
- El Call: The Jewish Quarter is a genuine maze of narrow streets and squares that have retained their medieval spirit. It is recognised as one of the best preserved Jewish quarters in the world.
- The City Walls: In the Middle Ages, the existing walls built by the Romans were extended. These days a walk along its perimeter is one of the city’s most enjoyable experiences.
- Sant Pere de Galligants: A former Benedictine monastery (twelfth century) that has managed to preserve the beauty of its church and cloisters. Together with the nearby Chapel of San Nicolau it comprises one of the most spectacular Romanesque complexes in Catalonia.
The Cathedral of Girona
If there is one monument in Girona that stands apart from all the rest it is the Cathedral. Before entering the place of worship, prepare yourself to be dazzled by its enormous stairway—incidentally, the setting of one of the most famous scenes in the Game of Thrones series.
The Cathedral was built between the eleventh and eighteenth centuries, although a large part of its features date from the fourteenth century when remodelling work took place led by the architect Guillermo Bofill, who endowed the temple with one single nave of magnificent height.
As impressive as the church are the cloisters constructed in the twelfth century. They particularly stand out for their uneven floor and exquisite capitals, which depict the master craftsmen at work during the construction of the house of worship (rare in Romanesque architecture).
Another important feature is the Tower of Charlemagne which was the belfry of the Romanesque church. Built in Lombard style, Gothic remodelling work converted it into one of the buttresses supporting the nave of the cathedral.
What else to do in Girona
Aside from the historic old town (Força Vella), we also recommend strolling along the Rambla de la Llibertat, which runs parallel to the course of the Onyar river. A large part of the city’s shops are situated on the road in addition to bars and restaurants. Look out for Casa Norat, dating from 1912, built in an attractive modernist style by Roca i Pinet.
The surrounding area is also home to the ice-cream parlour Rocambolesc (Santa Clara, 50), the project of Jordi Roca based on old ice-cream carts. That said, its creative flavours go well beyond classic strawberry, cream, chocolate and vanilla and has seemingly no limits.
Be sure to all visit the following places:
- The Museum of Jewish History: Here you can trace the history of the Jewish community in Catalonia and, above all, Girona. Among its most notable pieces is the collection of medieval tombstones from the Jewish cemetery of Montjuïc in Barcelona.
- Casa Masó: The only one of the so-called Cases de l’Onyar that can be visited and the birthplace of the architect Rafael Masó i Valentí. It is one of the finest examples of the Catalan Noucentista style.
- Girona by night: In spite of Girona’s peaceful ambience, come nightfall the city never fails to liven up, especially when the weather is good. Most establishments are concentrated on Plaça de la Independència and Plaça de Sant Feliu.
El Celler de Can Roca
You can’t mention Girona without talking about its most iconic restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca. The small establishment run by the parents of the three Roca brothers is a world away from what is today known as El Celler, without a doubt one of the best restaurants in the world.
Joan creates creative cuisine using local produce based on research into culinary techniques and flavours from all over the world. Josep oversees liquor and wine-pairings and what is, without a doubt, one of the most envied wine cellars in the world. Whilst Jordi, the youngest of the three brothers, is the pastry chef responsible for desserts that are deserving of a visit in their own right.
Information of interest
How to arrive
- By train: Renfe operates several daily high-speed services from Sants station, lasting around 38 minutes.
- By bus: The bus companies Sagalés and Alsa run several daily coaches from Sants station in Barcelona to Girona, lasting between one and a quarter hours and an hour and a half, with varying timetables.
- By car: Barcelona is just over 100 kilometres from Girona along the AP-7 (E-7) or the N-II.