The Catalan city of Girona lies approximately 100km northeast of Barcelona, and is well worth a day trip for anyone staying in the area. Filled with historic churches, monasteries, fascinating museums and ancient narrow alleyways, here are our 20 must-visit attractions in Girona.
Without a doubt, one of the most impressive sights in Girona is the Cathedral de Santa María. Built between the 11th and 18th centuries, it comprises a mix of architectural styles including a Romanesque cloister and a Gothic nave – which is the widest in the world. Inside the cathedral, you’ll also find the Cathedral Treasury Museum, showcasing important religious artworks.
The River Onyar runs through Girona and has, over time, become an integral part of the city. The famous multi-coloured houses that cling to the edge of the river are quite a sight to behold. Also worth a look are the various bridges which cross it, particularly the arch stone bridge of Pont de Pedra and the Pont de les Peixateries Velles, designed by Gustave Eiffel, who also designed France’s celebrated Eiffel Tower.
The city’s Arab baths are actually Roman and were built during the 12th century, inspired by both Roman and Arabic designs. The baths remained open until the 14th century, and today visitors can wander around the various spaces and rooms. The entrance hall with its central pool and slender ornate columns is the most impressive.
The Benedictine monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants is one of the most beautiful examples of Romanesque architecture in the whole of Catalonia. It was built during the 12th century, however there is evidence that the original structure dated back as early as the 10th century.
Housed inside part of the monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants and the adjacent Sant Nicolau church is the Archeological Museum of Cataluña. The exhibits explore human activity from the earliest appearance of man until the Roma Period, through a series of objects discovered in the region.
The Sant Domènec Convent was built between the 13th and 14th centuries and was one of the first Gothic buildings in Catalonia. It comprises a magnificent church, standing atop a long flight of stone steps, with cloisters and a chapter house. Today, part of it is used by the city university.
The Girona Art Museum is located in the old Episcopal Palace and houses a collection of art from the Romanesque period to the beginning of the 20th century. It features Romance, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and works from the 19th and 20th century.
The Museum of Jewish History details the story of the Jewish medieval communities in Catalonia and the old Kingdom of Aragon from the 9th to 15th centuries. Among the artifacts that visitors can view here are a large collection of medieval Jewish tombstones.
Find out all about the story of Girona at the history museum, from its founding by the Romans in the 1st century BC to the modern era. It features 14 exhibition rooms all centred around different themes. The museum is housed in the old Capuchin monastery, which dates back to the 18th century.
Girona’s city walls were built between the 9th and 14th centuries, and much of them remain intact today. Visitors can even walk along sections of the walls, including some of the longest parts of Carolingian walls in Europe.
Basílica de Sant Feliu, Girona | MARIA ROSA FERRE / Wikimedia Commons
To one side of the Cathedral sits the equally impressive Basilica de Sant Feliu, which used to be Girona’s first cathedral, back in the 10th century. It features a gothic nave and a baroque façade, dating from the 13th to the 18th centuries and a tall bell tower, built between the 14th and 16th centuries. Head inside to admire the structure and its important collection of artworks.
Girona’s Cinema Museum is located in the old Casa de les Aigües (House of Water) and houses the collection of Tomàs Mallol, which includes a variety of pieces, from shadow theatre puppetry to some of the first moving images and old cine cameras.
One of the famous houses that cling to the edge of the River Onyar, the Casa Masó is the former home of the architect Rafael Masó (1880-1935). It is one of the few houses along the river that visitors can actually enter and see inside. The house is still set up how it looked when Masó lived there.
The city’s Devesa Park covers over 40 hectares and is the largest urban park in Catalonia. It’s filled with forested areas, pathways and wide avenues, making it a perfect place for a stroll or even a picnic.
Sitting on the outskirts of the city, in a lush green valley, you’ll find the Monastery of San Daniel of Girona. The monastery houses the tomb of Saint Daniel, which was created by the sculptor Aloi de Montbrai. The beautiful Romanesque and Gothic cloisters, built from the 12th to the 15th centuries, are also worth a look.
You may not know, but the city of Girona was featured in season six of Game of Thrones, and visitors can even go on Game of Thrones tours of the city to see some of its filming locations. Some of these places include the Cathedral steps, the Monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants and the Arab Baths. Read our Game of Thrones Guide to Girona to find out more.
Named as the World’s Best Restaurant on numerous occasions, Girona’s most famous eatery is a must-visit for foodies. Run by the Roca brothers – Joan, Josep and Jordi – El Celler de Can Roca serves quality Catalan home cooking with that special avant-garde twist. Remember to book months in advance if you’re planning on dining here.
Girona’s grand Independence Square, sits on the edge of the Old Town and makes for a great spot to stop for a coffee or some tapas. It was designed by Martí Sureda and built on the site of the old convent of Sant Agustí. Surrounded by neoclassical portico arches, in the centre stands a monument to the people who defended the city in 1809, created by sculptor Antoni Parera.
The Old Hospital of Santa Caterina was a working hospital from the 17th century until the beginning of the 21st century. Inside, you will discover the ancient pharmacy of the old Hospital. It is from the XVIII century, and is one of the best preserved in the south of Europe. The hospital was built in 1666 and currently houses part of the Catalan government. Visitors who want to tour this splendid building can organise visits with the Girona Museum of Art.
Located inside the Força Vella, the old fortress built by the Romans in the first century BC, Girona’s Jewish Quarter is one of the most iconic parts of the city. Dating back to between the 12th and 15th centuries, it’s a maze of tiny cobbled alleyways and stone staircases – perfect for getting lost in.