Travel Ninja

Discover Girona: Top Activities & Hidden Gems

Tucked away just 45 minutes from the bustling streets of Barcelona, Girona offers a blend of tranquil green spaces and vibrant historic charm, making it a perfect escape from the usual tourist paths. This city, where parts of Game of Thrones were filmed, is celebrated for its well-preserved Jewish quarter, colorful buildings, and the medieval city wall that encircles the old town. Despite its fame, Girona remains delightfully off the beaten track, free from the overwhelming crowds that can obscure the beauty of more frequented destinations.

Whether you’re wandering through ancient winding streets, savoring the local cuisine, or exploring the surrounding beaches and islands like Mallorca and the Grand Canaries, Girona embodies the essence of Spain in a uniquely intimate setting. It’s not just a city; it’s a gateway to understanding the broader tapestry of Andalusia and beyond, all while being budget friendly and accessible within Europe. Here, every corner promises a new discovery, from family-friendly excursions to evening cocktails under the stars.

How To Get To Girona

Reaching Girona is a breeze, whether you’re flying in from Northern Europe or traveling from Barcelona. Girona Airport, also known as Girona-Costa Brava Airport, serves as a hub for budget airlines and is just 11km away from downtown Girona. Convenient buses sync with flights, shuttling passengers directly to the city center for as little as €2.75 per person. For those considering a return ticket, it’s a steal at €5.

Alternatively, the train from Barcelona can whisk you to Girona in about 35 minutes with tickets ranging from €13-17. Utilize the Renfe app or website to check train times and book tickets online; opting for roundtrip tickets often offers savings over singles. Whether you’re planning a short getaway or a longer stay, these options make getting to Girona straightforward and stress-free.

How Many Days In Girona?

Deciding how many days to spend in Girona can be tricky, especially when considering its proximity to Barcelona. While a day trip might allow you to scratch the surface, truly experiencing Girona requires at least 2-3 days. This allows ample time not just for exploring the main sites in the old part of the city, but also for savoring the local tapas bars and restaurants that come alive in the evenings. If you only have one day, you can still get a taste of what Girona has to offer, but spending a few nights means you won’t have to rush through the beautiful, historic streets and can immerse yourself fully in the vibrant local culture.

Where To Stay In Girona

When visiting Girona, choosing the right place to stay can greatly enhance your experience in this charming city. As a small and walkable city, staying anywhere near the center ensures that all of Girona’s main attractions are just a short walk away. For those looking to explore beyond, Girona serves as an excellent base for day trips to places like Barcelona and the picturesque villages of Catalonia. Hotels in Girona range from luxurious boutiques to budget-friendly options, all offering a gateway to the rich culture and history of this unique region. Whether you’re here for the history, the food, or a bit of both, Girona provides a delightful backdrop to every part of your stay.

Best Things To Do In Girona, Spain

Explore The Old Quarter

Immerse yourself in the Old Quarter of Girona, known locally as Barri Vell. This enchanting neighborhood, nestled along the River Onyar, is a mosaic of historical sites, medieval architecture, and vibrantly colorful old homes. Unlike the bustling streets of Barcelona, here you can meander through tranquil lanes and over picturesque bridges, soaking in the serene atmosphere. For those intrigued by the city’s recent fame as a backdrop for Game of Thrones, take a walking tour specifically designed to showcase the iconic filming locations alongside rich narratives of the city’s history.

Old Quarter

Additionally, Girona Walks offers guided tours that delve deeper into how this part of town has evolved over the centuries, making it a must-visit for both history buffs and fantasy fans alike.

Marvel At The Cathedral Of Girona

Discover the majestic Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona, a monumental structure built between the 11th and 13th centuries. Standing proudly at the heart of the city, it is renowned as the second widest church in the world, spanning 23m (75 feet) across, surpassed only by St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Fans of Game of Thrones might recognize its grand stairway, a dramatic setting from the series.

Despite its grandeur, the interior maintains an austere and peaceful ambiance, perfect for contemplation, enhanced by a comprehensive audio guide available to visitors. Located at Plaça de la Catedral, the cathedral welcomes guests most days, with varying open hours across the seasons and an admission fee that contributes to its upkeep. Remember to dress respectfully, as it remains a place of worship.

Tour The Arab Baths

Step back in time with a visit to the Arab Baths in Girona, a beautifully preserved relic from 1194 designed in the Romanesque style. Inspired by ancient Roman and Arab baths, this historical site was built to accommodate the city’s growing population and their hygiene needs. Today, you can explore these baths through a fascinating self-guided tour, which vividly illustrates Middle Ages bathing practices.

Things to Do in Girona, Spain

Wander beneath the vaulted ceiling and between the cold-water and hot-water baths, and imagine the echoes of the past in the changing rooms. Located on Carrer del Rei Ferran el Catòlic, the baths are a testament to Girona’s rich history and are open for visitors with a modest admission fee.

Stroll Along The Eiffel Bridge

Before the iconic Eiffel Tower rose above Paris, Gustave Eiffel crafted the lesser-known but equally charming Palanques Vermelles Bridge, also known as the Eiffel Bridge, in 1827. Spanning the Onyar River in Girona, this bridge is a picturesque vantage point for admiring the Old Town’s colorful buildings. As you walk across, the reflection of these vibrant facades in the water below offers a view that competes with any canvas.

Best Things To Do In Girona, Spain

It’s not just a bridge; it’s a passage through time, connecting visitors to the architectural flair that preludes Eiffel’s most famous work. Whether you’re capturing photos or simply soaking in the ambiance, this bridge is a testament to the blend of engineering and artistry that defines Girona.

Learn Something New At One Of Girona’s Many Museums

Girona is not just a city of picturesque landscapes but also a treasure trove of cultural heritage showcased across its numerous museums and art galleries. From the Jewish History Museum, where exhibitions trace the profound history and culture of the Jewish community in the region, to Girona’s Art Museum with its vast collection of Romanesque and Gothic art, there’s a narrative thread for every interest.

Film enthusiasts will revel in the Cinema Museum, diving into the history of cinema through old posters, films, and original movie equipment, alongside engaging events and movie screenings. Don’t miss the Girona Archaeology Museum, where archeological finds from prehistory to the Middle Ages bring the ancient past into detailed relief, enriching your understanding of the area. Each museum offers a unique lens, providing insights that go beyond the conventional tourist path, making them must-visit destinations within Girona.

Tour The Basilica De Sant Feliu

Girona’s Basilica de Sant Feliu stands out not just as a Gothic cathedral with its castle-like appearance, but also through its bell tower, which is visible from numerous spots around the city. Esteemed as Girona’s first cathedral until the 10th century, its rich architecture and the historic works of art it houses, including a 14th-century sculpture of Christ and both Christian and non-Christian sarcophagi from the fourth century, make it a fascinating visit.

Located at Plaça de la Catedral, the basilica invites visitors to explore its grandeur, with admission details and open hours available for those planning a visit. This majestic site offers a deep dive into the religious and artistic heritage that has shaped Girona through the ages.

Visit The Monastery Of Saint Daniel

Nestled on the outskirts of town, the Monastery of Saint Daniel, founded in the 11th century to establish a nunnery, beckons as a serene escape. The abbey—now inactive—still houses the church and cloister, where visitors can view Saint Daniel’s sepulcher, rumored to hold the remains of the saint himself. The architecture, a blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles developed between the 12th and 15th centuries, offers a glimpse into its storied past.

Surrounded by the lush Valley of Sant Daniel, a verdant green space offering shade and dotted with natural springs, the monastery provides a tranquil setting perfect for reflection and a deep connection with Girona’s spiritual heritage.

Walk Atop Girona’s Ancient City Wall

For an unforgettable view of Girona, a stroll atop the city’s Ancient City Wall is a must. Originally built in the medieval period, these walls were partially destroyed in the 1800s to make way for city expansion, but have since been lovingly reconstructed. Today, they offer a unique vantage point from which to gaze over the city and the countryside’s rolling hills. The best part? Access to this historical walkway is free, allowing everyone to step back in time and trace the perimeter of an ancient city that has survived and thrived through centuries.

Walk Atop Girona’s Ancient City Wall

Stroll La Rambla de la Llibertat

Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of La Rambla de la Llibertat in Girona, a bustling pedestrian street that captures the essence of the city’s historic charm. Lined with neoclassical, baroque, and Gothic buildings dating back to 1885, this scenic route offers a picturesque backdrop for a leisurely walk. As you wander, explore the array of shops, cafés, and restaurants that line this lively street, providing perfect spots to people-watch or enjoy a coffee.

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Be sure to visit on a Saturday when the street comes alive with the vibrant colors and fragrances of the flower market, a local favorite. This combination of historical architecture and modern day commerce makes La Rambla de la Llibertat a must-visit for anyone exploring Girona.

Indulge At Rocambolesc

Discover the sweet delight of Rocambolesc, a charming gelateria in the heart of Girona, crafted by the culinary genius Jordi Roca. This isn’t just any ice cream shop; it’s a wonderland where ice cream and gelato are transformed into works of art, adorned with berries, cotton candy, and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Each visit promises a feast for the senses, where traditional flavors like crema catalana blend seamlessly with bold twists like fudge and fruits, all topped with whipped cream.

Located on Carrer de Santa Clara, Rocambolesc offers a whimsical escape where every scoop is a taste of culinary magic, making it a must-visit spot listed on rocambolesc.com. Whether you’re a local or just passing through, make sure to treat yourself to this unique gelato experience that stands out as a highlight in Girona.

Basílica de Sant Feliu

Step into the Basilica of Saint Felix in Girona, where history seeps through the walls of what was once the main church before the Girona Cathedral. This architectural marvel not only boasts a striking baroque exterior but also shelters 4th-century paintings that echo tales of the past. Unlike its grander neighbor, the Cathedral, the Basilica offers an audioguide that enriches your visit with deep dives into both its history and the art it houses.

Best thing to do in girona

Whether you’re drawn by spiritual reverence or artistic curiosity, this Basilica, less trodden yet steeped in lore, offers a quieter yet equally profound counterpart to the bustling Cathedral nearby. Explore at your own pace, and let the layers of history unfold in one of Girona’s most revered sanctuaries.

Arab Baths

Immerse yourself in the serene ambience of the Arab Baths in Girona, a relic of Moorish rule designed in the traditional Roman bath style. Nestled near the city’s iconic cathedral and basilica, these baths offer a journey through time with rooms gradually escalating from cool to warm, and finally to hot, echoing ancient hygiene practices. While the baths no longer function for bathing, the experience is enriched with informative plaques available in both English and Spanish, making it an enlightening visit especially during the summer months. This architectural gem provides a peaceful retreat right in the heart of Girona, offering a unique glimpse into the city’s layered history.

Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya-Girona

Housed within the historical Sant Pere de Galligants Benedictine Abbey, the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia in Girona is a treasure trove for history enthusiasts. Not just an old abbey with stunning architecture, this museum boasts a significant collection of Roman tiles and mosaics, presenting a vivid mosaic of the region’s past. These artifacts not only illustrate the rich archaeological heritage but are also among the best preserved ruins in Spain.

Whether you’re a history buff or a casual visitor, make sure to check the museum’s website for the latest visiting times and prices, as they offer valuable updates to enhance your experience. This museum is a must-visit to grasp the depth of Girona’s ancient roots deeply embedded in the stones of its venerable buildings.

Walk The Girona City Walls

Tracing back to the 9th century, the Girona city walls offer a fascinating path through history, now fully restored to provide a unique vantage point over the city. Starting from the designated starting point, you can meander along the walls up to the cathedral, taking in panoramic views that span across the urban landscape to the green surroundings. Each of the towers along the route presents a chance to see Girona from a high perspective, making it a true highlight for visitors.

Best thing to do in girona

Best of all, this historical walk is free, allowing everyone to appreciate the ancient fortifications at their own pace. It’s a safe journey through time, especially during the day when the path is well-frequented by both locals and tourists alike.

Take a Girona Walking Tour

Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of history and culture with a Girona walking tour, a perfect introduction to this charismatic city. Whether you choose free walking tours where you pay what you feel or opt for small group tours, you’ll discover the hidden gems and iconic landmarks of Girona. These 3-hour explorations cover everything from the ancient city walls to the majestic cathedral and the picturesque bridges over the River Onyar. Each tour is led by a knowledgeable guide who brings the city’s past and present to life with captivating stories and interesting facts.

To ensure a personalized experience, it’s wise to prebook your spot, particularly with Free Walking Tours Girona, known for their intimate and insightful outings. Don’t miss out on this essential Girona experience; tour booking is just a click away, setting the stage for an unforgettable adventure through the heart of Catalonia.

Eat Some Xuixos

Indulge in the sweet delight of Xuixo, a pastry unique to Girona, where bakeries compete to craft the best in the city. A standout choice is Casamoner, conveniently situated near both the Basilica and Girona Cathedral, making it an easy stop during your explorations. The traditional Xuixo is a tantalizing fried pastry filled with crema catalana, a custard blend of egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and usually vanilla.

However, for those with adventurous palates, Casamoner offers variants like Nutella, chocolate, cinnamon, and my personal recommendation, orange with chocolate. Each flavor pairs wonderfully with a cup of coffee, creating a perfect pause in your Girona journey.

Museu d’Història de Girona

Dive into the past at the Girona History Museum, a cornerstone among Girona attractions that offers a profound narrative of the area’s storied past. Situated conveniently to enrich your visits to the cathedral and basilica, the museum provides a timeline that weaves together the history of the city and the broader region. Unlike typical museum exhibits, here you engage with personal stories that breathe life into Roman times and beyond, making history feel immediate and accessible.

The modest entry fee is a small price for the depth of insight offered, and you can plan your visit perfectly by checking out the latest exhibitions on their website. This museum isn’t just a walk through time—it’s a gateway to understanding Girona’s heritage and evolution.

Museu d’Art de Girona

Nestled within the historic old Episcopal Palace, the Girona Museum of Art stands as a treasure trove of cultural heritage, tracing its roots back to the 10th century. This museum isn’t just about viewing art; it’s an exploration of history through its extensive art collection. From Romanesque to Art Nouveau, the pieces displayed capture the evolution of art styles through Catalan and international artists.

Best thing to do in girona

The museum’s past as a jail for priests offers a somber glance at its historical significance beyond the art itself. Visitors can also admire ceramics and sculptures, making it a comprehensive cultural site. The surrounding palace gardens provide a serene escape, harmonizing the artistic experience with natural beauty. If you’re planning visits to the cathedral and basilica, consider a combined ticket to enhance your cultural journey in Girona.

Jewish History Museum (and the old Jewish Quarter)

Nestled in the heart of Girona, the Jewish Quarter, known as El Call, is a poignant echo of the past, dating from the 12th to the 15th centuries. This historic area was once the vibrant center of the local Jewish community until the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. Today, the old synagogue serves as the Jewish History Museum, a place dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history of the Jews in Catalonia.

The museum not only recounts the lives of the Jewish community through various centuries but also offers insight into their significant contributions to the region of Catalonia. This enclave of Girona offers a unique window into a profoundly storied past, making it a must-visit to truly appreciate the city’s diverse historical tapestry.

Mercat del Lleó

At the heart of Girona lies the Mercat del Lleó, or market of the lion, a bustling central market that embodies the vibrant culinary spirit of Catalan culture. A favorite morning stop, this market offers everything needed for a delicious lunch or dinner. Here, stalls overflow with fresh fruits and vegetables, while local butchers and fishmongers display their best cuts and catches. For those seeking a taste of Girona without the hassle of cooking, prepared food vendors offer an array of ready-to-eat delights like salads, paella, and a selection of olives.

Best thing to do in girona

Not to be missed is the rich assortment of cheese and cured meats, making it the go-to place for assembling the perfect charcuterie board. Whether you’re starting your day or planning a quaint picnic, Mercat del Lleó provides a genuine slice of city life paired with the flavors of the region.

Take A Game Of Thrones Tour

For fans eager to merge their love for Game of Thrones with travel, Girona offers an exclusive Game of Thrones Tour that explores the iconic filming locations used in the series. Known as one of Spain’s quintessential filming locations, Girona brings the realms of Westeros to life.

From the rugged landscapes of Cabo de Gata to the ancient streets of the city, each site is rich with the real history that inspired the show’s breathtaking backdrops. This tour isn’t just a stroll through cinematic fame; it’s a deep dive into the storied past that these locations embody, narrated by a guide equipped with an iPad to visually connect the scenes from your favorite show to their real-world settings.

Best thing to do in girona

Ideal for Game of Thrones-loving travelers, this experience is enriched by stories of why Girona was chosen for the series, making it a memorable journey through both the fictional and historical tapestry of the region.

Admire The Colorful Buildings Along The River Onyar

Immersing yourself in Girona’s charm isn’t complete without a stroll along the River Onyar, where the vibrant hues of the city’s buildings create a picturesque tableau that rivals Florence. The local lore, as shared by an Airbnb owner, suggests that Girona’s painted facades predate those of Florence, a claim that adds an intriguing layer to your visit.

 River Onyar

Walking across the bridges spanning the river, especially at sunset, offers a transformative experience as the fading light magnifies the reflections of the colorful buildings in the shallow waters below. This visual spectacle is most vivid during the summer when the river becomes a mirror to the city’s historic beauty, making it a perfect backdrop for both photographers and romantics alike.

Take A Food Tour Of Girona

Diving into Girona’s culinary scene is a must, especially if your time in this vibrant city is limited. A food tour in Girona not only enriches your palate but also intertwines a historical walking tour, allowing you to savor the rich food culture of Catalonia. As you explore the charming streets, a knowledgeable guide will lead you through hidden gastronomic gems where you can sample an array of charcuterie and wines from the region. This experience offers more than just a meal; it’s a sensory journey through the flavors that define Girona, making it an unforgettable part of your visit.

Enjoy Local Cuisine

Immerse yourself in Girona’s vibrant food scene by exploring places like La Taverna d’El Foment, where you can indulge in authentic Catalan ingredients including a variety of cheeses and meats from the region, complemented by local drinks such as ratafia. Alternatively, visit Txalaka, a lively tapas bar that blends local ingredients with Basque-style foods, including some of the best mussels you’ll ever taste.

Cuisine

For those seeking a more refined experience, Brots de Vi offers upscale tapas paired with an exceptional wine selection, showcasing the best of local Catalan dishes. Each of these eateries provides a unique taste of Girona, making them essential stops for any culinary enthusiast visiting the city.

Go Hiking or Mountain Biking

For outdoor enthusiasts, Girona is a haven for both cyclists and hikers with an array of trails accessible right from the city center. Ideal times to enjoy these activities are during the shoulder seasons, which provide a more temperate climate than the hot summer months. The Natural Protected Area of Les Gavarres offers several trails, including a popular 2-hour hiking route to Castell de Sant Miquel.

Mountain Biking

This uphill hike rewards you with stunning views, and the return journey is a relaxing downhill walk. For those looking to extend their hike, a path leads from Sant Miquel to the village of Celrà, where cobbled streets, a quaint church, and spots to refill water bottles create a fulfilling day out in nature.

Visit The Costa Brava

A day trip to the Costa Brava from Girona is a must for anyone visiting this region, especially during the summer months, although its charm endures all year. The most accessible beach without a car is Lloret de Mar. Just a bus ride from the main bus station in Girona, you’ll find yourself at this popular destination in about 45 minutes. Favored by both Spanish locals and Europeans, it’s perfect for those seeking great weather and a beautiful seaside experience.

Costa Brava

Don’t miss walking along the Cami de Ronda, a stunning coastal path that offers extensive views of the dramatic Costa Brava coastline.

Take A Day Trip To Besalú

Venturing to Besalú offers a plunge into a Medieval setting that feels like stepping onto a movie set. You’ll need a car or to join a tour, as it’s tricky to reach by public transportation. This gem is nestled between two rivers, originally named Bisuldunum Latin for «a fort on a mountain.» The city’s charm is encapsulated by the remaining segments of its ancient city walls and the iconic Romanesque Bridge that arches over the main entrance, presenting a grand gateway into the past.

Besalú

For those based in Girona or Barcelona, tours are available that delve into not only Besalú’s rich Jewish history but also its broader Medieval heritage, guided by knowledgeable experts who bring the dusty annals of history to vibrant life.

Girona Cathedral

Immerse yourself in the spiritual and architectural majesty of the Girona Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona. Nestled in the heart of the old town, this Roman Catholic church is not just one of Girona’s main attractions but also a famed filming location for Game of Thrones. Its steep stairs lead to an entrance that opens up to reveal an interior nave that stretches 75 ft (23 meters) wide, making it the widest Gothic-style nave in the world and second only to St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

Girona Cathedral

A visit here is enriched by an audio guide that narrates the history of its chapels and the city of Girona itself. Ensure to purchase a ticket that also grants access to the Basilica de Sant Feliu and the Girona Art Museum, valid for 48 hours. For a deeper exploration, consider a guided tour of the old town that includes the Girona Cathedral, where every corner tells a story.

Renting A Car In Girona

To truly unlock the treasures of Catalonia, renting a car in Girona offers the freedom to explore beyond the typical tourist routes. While trains and buses provide access to major cities like Barcelona, they fall short when it comes to reaching the secluded hidden beaches of the Costa Brava or the ancient Roman settlements scattered around Girona. Opting for a car rental allows you to discover these gems at your own pace.

I recommend Discover Cars for the best prices and comprehensive full insurance coverage; their seamless service lets you pick up and drop off directly at the airport, helping you avoid the unreliable airport bus. Check Discover Cars to book your vehicle and start your adventure through Spain’s most picturesque regions.

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