Girona, an ancient walled city in northern Catalonia, is more than just a gateway to Barcelona and the Costa Brava – it makes for a fantastic day trip or weekend getaway in its own right. The compact city, just an hour’s drive or 40 minutes by train from Barcelona, offers a wealth of attractions without the hordes of tourists found in the Catalan capital. With a rich history, astounding architecture, innovative cuisine and museums galore, there’s plenty to see and do. Read on to discover what this underrated city has to offer.
Girona’s Jewish quarter, El Call, is one of the best-preserved in Western Europe. Wander through the labyrinth of cramped cobbled alleys and get a feel for how the Jewish community lived here until they were expelled from Spain in 1492. Stop for a coffee on the shady terrace of Federal Cafe, on Carrer de la Força, to soak up the medieval atmosphere. Afterwards, amble towards the Museum of Jewish History, which is housed in a 15th-century synagogue down the street and chronicles the fascinating history of Jewish culture in Girona.
Girona is the perfect central point for day trips to the Costa Brava, popular for its beautifully unspoilt beaches and series of rugged coves. Less than an hour by car is the bay of Llafranc, a sandy beach with crystalline waters, or you can drive or get the bus to the postcard-pretty coastal towns of Calella de Palafrugell and Tamariu. Calella offers rocky coves and outstanding fish restaurants without a tourist in sight, while Tamariu is great for families and watersports.
Girona is at its prettiest during its springtime flower festival, Temps de Flors. Taking place in May, the city bursts into bloom as floral art installations take over the streets. Even the cathedral’s steps are covered in colourful flowers. Running parallel is the Girona A Cappella Festival, which sees concerts and pop-up performances of a capella song around the city. Come autumn, holidaymakers can look forward to the Fires de Sant Narcís, an annual celebration that pays homage to Girona’s patron saint with over 200 concerts and traditional Catalan performances over a week in late October.
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