Posted: 04/20/20 | April 20th, 2020
From lively Barcelona to island paradises like Mallorca and the Grand Canaries to the historic cities of Andalusia, Spain is awesome. It’s one of my favorite countries in the world and one of the most budget friendly in Europe.
But there is one city that captures my love of the country the most: Girona.
Home to just over 100,000 people and only 45 minutes from Barcelona, Girona is home to a well-preserved Jewish quarter, ancient winding streets, and a walkable medieval city wall. Throw in lots of green space, colorful buildings, and perfect weather, Girona is one of my favorite places in Spain.
Girona is more famous today thanks to Game of Thrones being filmed there but this tiny city only 30 minutes from Barcelona remains somewhat off the beaten track and free of the crowds that make Barcelona unbearable sometimes. There’s good food, lots to do, and lovely people. I can’t sing the city’s praises enough.
To help you make the most of your trip, here are my top things to see and do in Girona:
1. Explore the Old Quarter
Girona’s Old Quarter (Barri Vell) sits beside the River Onyar. This neighborhood is home to some of Girona’s most popular and well-preserved historical sites. Filled with medieval architecture, colorful old homes, and picturesque bridges but without the crowds of Barcelona, this is my favorite area to wander around.
You can explore it yourself and enjoy getting lost, but before also check out the tours Girona Walks offers, so you can learn more about this section of town and how it has evolved over the centuries.
2. Marvel at the Cathedral of Girona
Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona towers over the city. It’s the second widest church in the world, almost 23m (75 feet) across — only St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is wider. (It was also featured in Game of Thrones!)
The interior isn’t particularly ornate and has a bit of an austere feel to it, but it’s peaceful, and there’s a lot of information and a good audio guide available.
Plaça de la Catedral, +34 972 42 71 89, catedraldegirona.cat. Open 10am–6:30pm, April–June; 10am–7:30pm, July–August; 10am–6:30pm, September–October; 10am–5:30pm, November–March. Admission is 7 EUR ($7.70 USD). Dress respectfully, as it is a place of worship.
3. Tour the Arab Baths
These preserved public baths were built in 1194. Their Romanesque style was inspired by similar Roman and Arab baths and was built in response to ancient Girona’s growing population and the need to improve hygiene.
While you can’t actually use the baths, you can take a self-guided tour to see what bathing was like in the Middle Ages. The building is covered by a large vaulted ceiling and includes a cold-water bath, a hot-water bath, and changing rooms.
Carrer del Rei Ferran el Catòlic, +34 972 21 32 62, banysarabs.org. Open Monday–Saturday 10am–6pm and Sundays 10am–2pm. Admission is 2 EUR ($2.20 USD).
4. Stroll Along the Eiffel Bridge
The Palanques Vermelles Bridge, also known as the Eiffel Bridge, was built in 1827 by Gustave Eiffel just before the construction of his most famous work, the Eiffel Tower. Located over the Onyar River, it’s a great place to get some pics of the Old Town’s colorful buildings. I try to cross this bridge often, simply because the view is so nice!
5. Learn Something New at One of Girona’s Many Museums
For a small city, Girona is home to quite a few museums and art galleries. Here some I think you shouldn’t miss:
- The Jewish History Museum – The museum is made up of 11 exhibitions that explore the history and culture of the region’s Jewish community, which was one of the biggest in the area. Admission is 4 EUR ($4.40 USD).
- Girona’s Art Museum – This has the region’s largest collection of Romanesque and Gothic art (over 8,000 items). It’s huge! Admission is 6 EUR ($6.60 USD).
- The Cinema Museum – This museum covers the history of cinema and is filled with old posters, films, and movie equipment. It also hosts regular events and movie screenings. A must for movie buffs! Admission is 5 EUR ($5.50 USD).
- The Girona Archaeology Museum – This is one of the oldest museums in the region and boasts a collection of archeological finds from pre-history all the way to the Middle Ages. Though small, it goes into some good detail about the area. Admission is 6 EUR ($6.60 USD).
6. Tour the Basilica de Sant Feliu
This historic Gothic cathedral is eye-catching and hard to miss. It almost looks like a castle. Its bell tower is visible from most spots around Girona, so it’s never far from view.
It was the first cathedral in Girona and remained the only one until the 10th century. Beyond the impressive architecture, the cathedral is home to historic works of art, including a 14th-century sculpture of Christ, as well as Christian and non-Christian sarcophagi that date back to the fourth century.
Plaça de la Catedral, +34 972 427 189, catedraldegirona.org. Open Monday–Saturday 10am–5:30pm, Sunday and holidays 1pm–5:30pm. Admission is 7 EUR ($7.70 USD).
7. Visit the Monastery of Saint Daniel
Founded in the 11th century, this monastery located on the outskirts of town was created with the intention of establishing a nunnery in the region. While the abbey is no longer in use, you can still visit the church and the cloister. Inside, you’ll find Saint Daniel’s sepulcher, rumored to house the remains of the saint himself. The architecture is a mix of Romanesque and Gothic, with additions from the 12th and 15th centuries.
The monastery is surrounded by the Valley of Sant Daniel, a lush green space with lots of shade and picturesque natural springs.
8. Walk Atop Girona’s Ancient City Wall
Dating to Girona’s medieval past, these ancient walls were partially destroyed in the 1800s to make way for city expansion. Fortunately, many of the missing pieces have been recovered or reconstructed in recent times. Taking a stroll atop them offers an unbeatable view of both the city and the countryside’s rolling hills. Plus, they’re free!
9. Stroll La Rambla de la Llibertat
Lined by gorgeous neoclassical, baroque, and Gothic buildings, this is the main pedestrian street in town. The street dates back to 1885 and is full of shops, cafés, and restaurants. There’s also a flower market on Saturdays.
10. Indulge at Rocambolesc
This is one of the best gelaterias I’ve ever been to! Owned by world-class chef Jordi Roca, it’s a great spot to (over)indulge in delicious ice cream and gelato topped with berries, cotton candy, fruits, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, fudge, and so much more. I go there every time I visit (usually multiple times). It’s amazing and worth every euro!
50 Carrer de Santa Clara, +34 972 41 66 67, rocambolesc.com. Open Sunday-Tuesday from 11am-9pm and Friday-Saturday from 11am-10:30pm.
Girona’s long history, a unique and rich culture, so much delicious food, and stunning architecture. A lot of people make it a day trip from Barcelona but I’d recommend spending at least one night here. There’s plenty to keep you busy. I first visited here in 2012 and have been back a total of four times. I love Girona. Most people do. Make it part of your next trip to Spain.
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Book Your Trip to Girona: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:
- Can Cocollona
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
If you want to do a bike tour, check out Fat Tire Tours. They offer tours that are fun and informative. They’re my favorite company to go with. They even have some food-themed tours too.
Want More Information on Spain?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Spain for even more planning tips!
Photo Credit: 3 – Doronenko, 4 – Toni Verdú Carbó, 6 – stefano Merli, 7 – Josep Maria Viñolas Esteva, 8 – Montse Poch, 9 – rivigan, 10 – Joan, 11 – Jordi Sanchez