Barcelona may hog the holiday limelight in Catalunya – doesn’t everyone want a slice of the sun and fun? But the region has plenty more to offer. Take Girona, 100km or so further north: it’s a wonderful medieval city of shady cobbled ways opening onto echoey plazas where a chilled cerveza is easily the best thirst-slaker. You’ll want to take in the crumbly Roman remains and the historic Old Quarter. But don’t forget: Girona is a rambling region as well as a city, and your limbs will love you if you pamper them properly. So check in at one of the best spa hotels in and around the city of Girona – and, relax.
With views of the 2km sands of Platja d’Aro, half an hour from Girona, this contemporary 59-room hotel keeps guests returning with inviting rooms of shiny chandeliers and mirrors in soft shades of taupe and champagne. Admire the sea view from the poolside bar, sipping a chilled glass of Cava before dining on delicious sushi rolls in the elegantly styled restaurant. By day, kick back in the spa with its indoor plunge pool, sauna, Turkish bath and hot tub. And save your limbs by sightseeing on wheels: take a hotel bike for a pootle along the promenade, or motor to Girona for the magnificent gothic-flecked Cathedral.
This serene seafront stunner is in the charming town of Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Girona province. Mere steps from Platja Sant Feliu, it has a superb ornate facade that’s a foretaste of the stunning styling of its rooms: the effect is jewel-like, from emerald-green velvet bedheads and covers to glinting brass-trimmed wood. Cool off in the refreshing rooftop pool before a leisurely breakfast of pastries and cured meats. Apply plenty of high-SPF cream before basking on comfy loungers under the fierce Spanish sun. On another day you should jump in the car for the easy 15-minute drive to Platja d’Aro beach or the Giravolt amusement park, with its whirling fairground rides.
Love culture? Love luxury? Then you’ll love this sleek white boutique by the Greco-Roman ruins of Empúries, half an hour or so by bus from Girona city. On the bay of Playa del Portitxol, backed by fragrant pines, it was built to house archaeologists in the 1900s. The main part of the hotel holds cosy rooms of sleek, bleached-out decor; in the modern annexe, spa rooms cocoon you in edible shades of chocolate and latte. Take breakfast in the main restaurant, admiring sea views while downing organic goodies from jamón Iberico to fresh tomatoes, cheeses and fruits. Now switch off in the small spa with its indoor pool and gym, before retreating to the library, to lounge with an antique chess set.
What a setting this place enjoys, in acres of lush greenery in Santa Coloma de Farners, an easy 20 minutes by bus from Girona. This 16th-century Catalan farmhouse layers rustic chic with luxurious facilities – predominant among them the thermal-circuit and massage-offering spa and outdoor swimming pools. Want 100 percent privacy? You can snuggle up on your private terrace, with views of beautiful gardens that extend to an artificial football pitch, 12 tennis courts, and four paddle courts. Bicycle rental can be arranged if you’re up for exploring the surroundings. Or pack a picnic to sprawl on the beaches of the Costa Brava, less than an hour’s drive away.
With a vantage point high above the crystal-clear coves of Calonge, this modern seaside hotel is a mere five-minute clamber from two tiny beaches. But there’s so much on site you might not leave: outdoor tennis courts, a rooftop terrace with a cool slice of swimming pool overlooking the Mediterranean, a spa with – our favourite place to be on a day of warm gentle breezes – alfresco treatment areas and a Turkish steam bath. When you’re fully played out and spa-pummelled, flop in your white-walled, wicker-lined room – or outside it, as most have balconies. Hot and cold buffet breakfasts set you up for the day, while come sundown the Mar Blau café serves aperitifs on the terrace and the Mar Brava restaurant has tasty twists on traditional Spanish cuisine.
Yes, you’re in Girona province, but you’re on alpine time at this mountainside retreat in the Pyrenees. Find it on the Collada de Toses pass, close to the twin ski resorts of La Molina and Masella. View the mountains from the rustic-chic dining room, as you crunch through the irresistible Catalan speciality pa amb tomàquet (fresh bread smeared with sweet and garlicky tomato). Now retire to your cosy, comfortable room – here they feel like cabins, with plenty of wood accents and, yes, glimpses of those peaks scratching the skies. You might take a swim in the generous indoor pool, getting muscle relief with its back-massaging jets. Or float al fresco, if you prefer the fresh alpine air, before an indulgent massage in the spa.
You come to this whimsical wonder for its sophisticated rooms: all moody, dark walls, designery-glass bathrooms and natural objets d’art, such as gnarled tree stumps. These open onto smart terraces and lawned areas, with modish swing chairs to fold yourself into for an afternoon of admiring those awesome mountains. The natural-produce-laden menu includes creamy lobster rice stew, but the spa’s the star: an odyssey of pampering, from its salt cabin to its ice cave, balmy indoor pool, heated loungers and foot bath. The 18-hole pitch and putt is a breath of fresh air, but golfers should hit the Costa Brava Golf Course, less than two miles away.
For more unique accommodation, read our guide to the best boutique hotels in Girona – then book your stay on Culture Trip.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.