Reasons Why You Should Visit Girona, Spain

Girona offers centuries of different architectural styles to explore
Girona offers centuries of different architectural styles to explore | © dleiva / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Priyankaa Joshi
22 July 2021

Think of Catalonia and you’ll likely picture its capital Barcelona, but don’t miss nearby Girona, with galleries, museums, world-class restaurants and Gothic architecture within medieval walls.

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.

It has a beautifully preserved Jewish quarter

Architectural Landmark
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Colorful houses in the historical jewish quarter in Girona, Catalonia
© Pere Sanz / Alamy Stock Photo
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’s architecture spans over 1,000 years

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Pont de les Peixateries Velles by Eiffel in Girona, Catalonia, Spain, Europe
© Sergio Azenha / Alamy Stock Photo
Girona is home to a beguiling mix of architectural styles, from Romanesque to Modernist. Nowhere is this medley clearer than in the immense cathedral, which has a Gothic interior, Baroque façade and Romanesque cloister. The city is also renowned for its iconic bridge over the Onyar River, Pont de les Peixateries Velles, designed by Gustave Eiffel. From here, you can get the best views of the casas penjades (pastel-painted houses) leaning over the water. The Arab baths, built in 1194 and modelled on Roman and Turkish baths, are worth a visit, too.

You can walk along the city walls

Ruins, Building
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Spain, Catalonia, Costa Brava, Girona, Medieval city walls and Gothic St. Mary's (Santa Maria) Cathedral
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
A stroll along the restored city walls, which run for about 3km (2mi) along the edge of the old town, offers panoramic views across Girona and beyond. The walls were originally built by the Romans in the first century BCE, then reconstructed in the Middle Ages and restored more recently. High above the city, you’ll take in unbeatable vistas of the medieval quarter and the towering cathedral with the Pyrenees in the background. Opt for an early evening visit so you can catch the sunset.

You can take day trips to the Costa Brava

Natural Feature
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Calella de Palafrugell, traditional whitewashed fisherman village and a popular travel and holiday destination on Costa Brava, C
© Boris Stroujko / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

There are fun festivals throughout the year

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
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mannequins with flowers on the torso, annual flower festival ?Temps de flors 2018?, Girona, Catalonia, Spain
© lophius / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

You can pretend you’re in 'Game of Thrones'

Cathedral, Church
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Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona, Catalonia, Spain, Europe
© Sergio Azenha / Alamy Stock Photo
Girona has become a cult destination for fans of the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, as it was one of the main settings for season six of the TV show. Relive your favourite scenes in various locations around the city including the streets of the old town, the cathedral (particularly the steps, remembering to chant “shame, shame, shame” as you go), the Arab baths and the Church of Sant Feliu. The easiest way to see the filming sites is by joining the official Game of Thrones guided tour by Girona Experience.

Girona’s green spaces are perfect for picnics

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Spain, Catalonia, Girona, jardins dels alemanys
© Photononstop / Alamy Stock Photo
There’s no shortage of green spaces in Girona, which is awash with luscious parks and hidden gardens. But Parc de la Devesa stands out. One of the largest urban parks in Catalonia, it’s perfect for a shady stroll under the canopy of trees or a sunny picnic on the grass. Meanwhile, the Jardins dels Alemanys in the old town is a tranquil oasis littered with ruins of some old walls that were used as barracks by German soldiers during the 19th-century Peninsular War.
These recommendations were updated on July 22, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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