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Girona, Barcelona Overview

Located between Barcelona and Costa Brava, Girona is a little town nestled in the heart of Catalonia. A distraction from the coast, Girona makes for a day’s trip from Barcelona. This city in Northern Catalonia is rife with culture and a vivid nightlife, and can be visited pretty much any time throughout the year.

With its charming medieval lanes and museums, Girona is a wonderful place to visit for the curious. It manages to combine old Roman charm through its incredible architecture with the modern life that Barcelona is known for. Girona is known to have withstood multiple battles, with its buildings that reflect Gothic architecture.

Take a day out from your vacation in Spain to explore the winding, cobbled paths of this city. The old town stands on the hills of Capuchin while the newer additions are towards the West. Girona has a humid subtropical climate, making it ideal to host tourists all year round.

The centre of Costa Brava, Girona is a gem of a city. Its rich history meshed with modern boutiques and restaurants makes it an ideal place to spend the day. This quaint city is best navigated on foot or by a two-wheeler. You can stopover at Girona on your way to Garrotxa, another Catalan gem.

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Sightseeing in Girona

1. Cathedral de Girona

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One of the most popular attractions in Girona, the Cathedral of Girona is a tribute to 14th century Gothic architecture. An 86 step climb from Plaça de la Catedral, the ancient structure sports the widest Gothic nave in the world. While it is easy to get intimidated by its size, the Cathedral provides guided audio tours to walk you through its heritage. The intricately carved depictions of various Biblical events on some walls of the church are a sight to behold.

2. Museu d'Art de Girona

Ranging from Roman woodwork to murals and paintings of the city, the Museum of Art in Girona sports nearly 8500 pieces of art. Sourced from all over the country and remnants from the many sieges of the city, the pieces in this museum have a story to tell. Particularly popular in the museum is the tribute to Gothic art in Room 8. The gold-spangled religious art on the walls make it seem like the inside of a Gothic cathedral.

3. Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants

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A Benedictine Monastery situated well within the city, the Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants depicts the Roman influence on Catalan culture. The Monastery houses a bell tower and an epic cloister featuring mythical animals dating back to the 11th century. The monastery complex also contains the Museu d'Arqueologia de Catalunya—a museum showcasing various artefacts from medieval and Roman times.

4. Festivals

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Girona celebrates all sorts of festivals around the year. The most popular would be the Temps de Flors or the Flower festival of Girona. It is a colourful festival celebrating the oncoming of Spring in Catalonia. It is usually celebrated at the onset of spring which can range from end of April to beginning of May. Throughout the city, temples, churches and monuments are decked with all kinds of flowers.

5. Museu d'Historia dels Jueus

A museum dedicated to the rich Jewish history of Girona, the Museu d'Historia dels Jueus has eleven rooms each showcasing a different aspect of Catalan traditions. The rare mikvah and Jewish house exhibits are among the most popular ones since Girona is the only place in the world to house such pieces. In Medieval times the Museum was a place of communal use, and many of the rooms were used for rituals and daily prayers.

6. Game of Thrones Walking Tour

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The Jewish quarters in Girona are famous for being the location for the popular HBO fantasy show - Game of Thrones. Watch the scenes recreated in your mind as while walking through the cobbled pathways and winding lanes. The tour company provides ipads with key scenes to keep the memory of the show fresh. The architecture is incredibly detailed and reminiscent of Jewish traditions.

7. El Lleó Marketplace

The Mercat del Lleo is a beautiful local marketplace with the freshest produce and numerous small food carts. The market is set up at dawn and stays open till siesta time around 2 PM. A great place to stumble upon Catalan trinkets and decor pieces, made by indigenous craftsmen, the El Lleo Marketplace lets you experience the local vibe in Girona.

8. The River Onyar

The Onyar River in Girona
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The city of Girona is situated along the banks of the river Onyar. The bright, colourful houses on its banks have become synonymous with Girona’s cultural melee and make for quite a breathtaking sight. Over time, the artfully constructed bridges across the river have become a popular tourist attraction. The stone arches of Pont de Pedra and the Pont de les Peixateries Velles are especially popular.

9. Museum of Cinema

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The Girona Museu del Cinema houses one of the oldest remaining pieces of evidence of modern film making. Apart from that one can find a variety of puppets and constructed characters, popularly known from Spanish cinema and theatre. The museum frequently hosts shows for children and adults, engaging them in the filmmaking process.

10. Casa Masó 

Caso Maso Girona
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Located on the edge of River Onyar, Casa Maso is of the few houses in old Girona which is open to the public. Residence of architect Rafael Masó who passed away in 1935, the house is tastefully designed, keeping with Girona’s stone walled appeal. The house is still set up to look like the time when Maso resided in it, giving visitors a peep into his life and work.

Places to Eat in Girona

Girona has one of the best food scenes in all of Spain. With great restaurants hidden in plain sight, here are some eateries you must try:

1. El Celler de Can Roca

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On the higher end, El Celler de Can Roca is one of two Michelin star restaurants in Girona. In fact it is ranked among the top 50 restaurants in the world. The Roca brothers’ avant-garde take on Catalan cuisine, made with the freshest ingredients makes for a delectable place to dine. Make sure to reserve well in advance to score a table here.

2. Massana

Pioneered by Chef Pere Massana, the restaurant promises to bring ‘little sparks of happiness’ with every meal it serves. With two Michelin stars, Massana combines traditional tastes with local ingredients to produce a melee of flavours, spot on in terms of taste and consistency.

3. Divinum

For a more contemporary take on Catalan cuisine, try Divinum which also has some value-for-money options. Known for its extensive list of Catalan wine, Divinum focuses on art, history, gastronomy and the interaction between them. It’s brick walls can often be found adorned with local art exhibits.

4. Ham Session 

It is another great place offering a variety of meat and cheese, central to Catalan cuisine. However this place serves its buffet style lunch only on weekends. Stop here for a snack between monument hopping.

5. El Cul de Món

Set in an off-the-beaten-track location, the walk to El Cul de Món is a scenic one. This Morrocan inspired Catalan restaurant is an experience for your tastebuds. Chef Lotfi Bousatta’s incredible take on Spanish cuisine if sure to impress you. Located beyond the old city walls, this restaurant is priced rather reasonably for the quality of food it serves.

Tips

  1. Schedule the places of visit around the city and look up directions around the area beforehand.

  2. Choosing to stay in Girona for a day is recommended to better explore the winding lanes longer.

  3. The guided tours around the city save time and are very informative.

Best Time to Visit Girona

While you can visit Girona at any time around the year, summers are usually peak tourist season. Most businesses and shops in the city maintain European timings, closing in the afternoon (2 PM- 4 PM) and opening for dinner only around 8 PM.

How To Reach Girona

Reaching Girona from Barcelona takes 40 minutes by Express train. You can also choose to travel there by bus or car, either of which takes over an hour and 20 minutes. While the train makes for easier connectivity from the main cities, road travel is convenient when travelling between smaller towns.

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