Girona is located 99 km northeast of Barcelona city. It’s an ideal destination for a day-trip, but even for a weekend, it provides us with many interesting and historical places to visit. And sadly enough, it was the last stop during our Vuelta a España road trip, before returning home.
Girona is an ancient city of contrasts, from its Byzantine old quarter to vibrant, contemporary city culture. With medieval baths and one of the best-preserved medieval Jewish quarters in Spain, Girona boasts stunning architecture for such a small but easily walkable city. From 982 to 1492, Jews lived in Girona. The area where they lived, called El Call, is a maze of narrow, winding, cobblestoned lanes, still intact and very much like they were over 500 years ago. These narrow streets are a joy to explore. For those who want to learn more, you can visit the Jewish Museum in town.
Girona’s city streets exude an enticing sense of calm, culture, and colour. The well-preserved medieval city walls wrap around the tight alleyways of the old city center, making it an excellent start for a little exploring on foot. While Girona attracts far fewer tourists than Barcelona or some towns along the Costa Brava, its streets are lined with interesting boutiques, exhibitions, and museums.
Yes, I’m one of those weird people, who has never ever seen an episode of Game of Thrones, and I’m not even planning to make up for it. Regardless of not being a fan, I was still very much interested in visiting its famous shoot location in Girona. Since I’m very much engaged overall with film making, and location scouting, it was definitely a must-see.
The shooting of Game of Thrones in Girona ended on 16 September 2015. Since then the city has become a cult destination for fans. Girona was chosen from among many other international candidates for the great conservation of its historical heritage, becoming one of the privileged locations to host the filming of the most expensive series in the history of television.
The present edifice of Girona Cathedral is one of the most important monuments of the school of the Majorcan architect Jaume Fabre and an excellent example of Catalan Gothic architecture. It is approached by eighty-six steps! Among many other GOT shooting locations in the city, this spectacular staircase of the Cathedral was used as the exterior for the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing, where Jaime Lannister has a showdown with the High Sparrow.
The Cathedral is Girona’s most celebrated icon. It features the widest Gothic nave in the world and is the second widest Gothic structure behind St. Peter’s Basilica, overall. Inside, you may view an 11th-century Romanesque tapestry as well as various sculptures, paintings and an illuminated manuscript from the 10th century.
The Banys Àrabs (or “Arabic baths”) are a jewel among Girona’s sights, easily earning their regular place at the top of must-see lists. Just a short walk from the Cathedral, the baths are modeled on Muslim and Roman bathhouses. However, they actually date back to the 12th century, Christian-era Girona, and are done in a Romanesque style. As such, the bathhouse is the only one of its kind to be found in medieval Christian Spain.
“The first mention of the existence of public baths in Girona dates back to 1194. In 1285, the complex was partially destroyed during the siege by the troops of Philip III the Bold of France. In 1294, King James II commissioned Ramon Taialà, a citizen of Girona, to rebuild them. In 1342, they were owned by Arnau Sarriera, the personal physician of Peter III the Ceremonious. It seems that during the Middle Ages, some of the rooms were used temporarily as a mikveh by the city’s Jewish community. In 1618, they were bought by a community of Capuchin nuns, which they turned into part of their convent. In the 19th century, they were an object of interest and study by early travellers, such as Alexandre de Laborde, who then made them known to the entire world by including drawings and engravings in their books. Subsequently, the studies performed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch provided the scientific justification for their purchase by Girona Provincial Council in 1929. The Provincial Council supervised their restoration and they were finally opened to the public in 1932.”
Just walking around is always a nice plan in Girona. It’s peaceful and charming and the touch of history is there every corner. If you are not rushing here you have a Besides the Obvious tip: Go to Plaça dels Raïms. Just to find it may be a challange because it’s well hidden among the streets of the Old Quarter. At just 24 square meters, Plaça del Raïm is the smallest square in Europe. You can access from Plaça de les Voltes d’en Rosés and, although it seems untrue due to its size, some time ago it was located there a grape market.
You can take many steps wandering around Girona, and for sure after a while, you might be hungry. If you are looking for something sweet, ask for “xuxo”, a deep-fried, sugar-coated cylindrical pastry filled with crema catalana. Yummy! Commonly eaten for breakfast, but during the day as well you can find it in any pastry shop. It is honored as Producte de la Terra (product of the home country) by the Government of Catalonia. It is assumed that this pastry originated in 1920s Girona in a pastry shop owned by Emili Puig in the Street Cort Reial. This pastry is very popular not only in Girona but has been also accepted in the surrounding areas and can also be found in Tarragona, Valencia, and even in Barcelona.
To end up the visit don’t miss walking along the river, finding out how many bridges you can cross from side to side of Onyar River and admire Les Cases de l’Onyar with their picturesque colours, and just sit down randomly at any of the cute terraces along the river bank or hidden in medieval squares and corners all around the town. You will enjoy a nice vibe.