Girona, what to do in the capital of Northern Catalonia

Girona is an impressive medieval city in the North of Catalonia you can not miss on a Spanish car route. In this post we will learn what to visit and what to do in Girona. The city is located 99 km northeast of Barcelona city. It’s an ideal destination for a day-trip, even for a weekend, from Barcelona. It provides many interesting and historical places to visit and a very authentic perspective of Catalonian cultural singularity. 

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.

About Girona

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. 

The town and even the whole Girona province has a very strong and particular identity. This is the capital of Northern Catalonia and an excellent hub to visit either the Pyrinees, beautiful medieval villages and the amazing Costa Brava. That may depend on your preferences. 

Girona is a small city but with the appeal and the services of the big ones. You can take a quiet walk through the historic center and stop for a drink in one of its many small and cute medieval squares and hidden corners. You will be able also to visit monuments and museums, enjoy the cultural offer, festivals, and its amazing gastronomy in one of its many excellent restaurants. Don’t forget to go to a bakery and ask for a xuxo! (you won’t regret and you will be tasting a local pride)

What to do in Girona

The Jewish past: El Call

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.

Jewish Quarter in Girona, Spain

Recall Game of Thrones

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 Medieval Girona Cathedral

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.

Get into the Arabic past: Els Banys Àrabs

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 replicate Muslim and Roman bathhouses. However, they actually date back to the 12th century, Christian-era Girona, using 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. (After) 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.”

Plaça dels Raïms: The smallest square in Europe

Just walking around is always a nice plan in Girona. It’s peaceful and charming and the touch of history is there at 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.

Eat a Xuxo!

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. Locals believe the pastry dates back to 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 it became very popular in the surrounding areas and you can also find it in Tarragona, Valencia, and even in Barcelona.

River views: Les cases de l’Onyar

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.

Festivals and festivals

In Girona there are plenty of festivals and cultural activities with unbelievable performances so as not to get bored. The Town Hall is making an interesting effort to promote what is already naturally awesome in Girona. The offer is spread along the year so any period is good for a visit to Girona. Just take a look at its official website and keep enjoying the city!

How to get to Girona

Girona city is 65 km from France and 100 km from Perpignan and 100 km also from Barcelona.

By plane

Girona-Costa Brava Airport has regular flights from cities in Europe and other parts of Spain. The airport is about 12 km from Girona city, well-connected by road with the city centre by car, coach or taxi. At the airport there are several car hire companies, an official taxi rank, and a coach service into Girona bus station.

For further information:

By train

Adif Girona railway station, located in the centre of Girona city, offers regional, national and international rail services.

For further information:

  • Trainline: Ticket fares and reservations
  • Adif: Train and stations informatio

By bus

Girona has good connections by bus. There several companies for national and international routes.

  • Flixbus: Probably the cheapest and most flexible bus company.

By car

At Barcelona Airport or Girona Airport is very easy and convenient to rent a car to be flexible on your trip.

Where to stay in Girona

Girona is very well-equiped with hotels and apartments for all kind of budgets. Check on our map or link your most convenient options of accommodation in Girona.

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7 Replies to “Girona, what to do in the capital of Northern Catalonia”

  1. Interesting article on ‘Girona’!Feeling sorry to have missed visiting it in my recent trip to Barcelona in Sept 22 due to paucity of time!Thanks for sharing!Kindly find time to go through my Barcelona blog on my site ,you may like it?💕

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