Girona is the capital of the Girona Province in Catalonia. At least for me, Ryanair has damaged the image of Girona by initially calling Girona airport Girona Barcelona. But Girona is a city in its own right and almost 100 kilometres away from Barcelona. So if you arrive in Girona, stay there for at least half a day. Alternatively, it is a great day trip from Barcelona. Girona is a city with a rich historical and cultural heritage. The old town stands on a hill on the bank of the River Onyar. Girona was one of the filming locations for season 6 of the Game of Thrones series. It’s not a bad idea to visit Girona in winter because the city is not dependent on tourism and so it isn't empty in winter like many coastal towns.
Its winter climate is mild and so Girona is a great destination to visit at this time. During your short visit, you are likely to concentrate mostly on the picturesque old town with the majority of places of interest. Your best way to get around is on foot to discover its cobblestone streets and squares, old town, museums, cafes and restaurants. If you arrive in Girona from the bus or railway station, your logical start of exploring the old town is to cross the Pont de Pedra Bridge and start with
Walking the city walls of Girona
If you want to be more prepared, ask for advice about the best sites and grab a city map at the tourist information centre next to the bridge before you start your walk.The walkway follows some sections of the longest Carolingian empire period walls in Europe (9th century). You will be rewarded with great views of the old town, the city and the mountains nearby.I think a good place to come down from the wall is at
The Cathedral of Girona
Located at the heart of the Força Vella district of the highest point of the Old Town. Built between the 11th and 18th centuries, it includes a series of walls and spaces in different styles, from Romanesque (the cloister and Charlemagne tower) to the baroque façade and steps. Its single nave is the second largest in the world (only surpassed by St. Peter's in the Vatican). By the way, the temple hides many treasures beyond its dimensions. The cathedral appears in episode 6 of the Game of Thrones when Jaime Lannister and Mace Tyrell confront the High Sparrow outside the Great Sept of Baelor, with Jaime riding his horse up the cathedral’s steps. If you have bought a combined ticket for Cathedral visit, continue your way to
The Basilica of Sant Feliu
It was Girona's first cathedral until the 10th century. The basilica is one of the city’s most representative Gothic buildings with its castle-like appearance, and above all with the slender bell tower from the 14th-16th centuries. The basilica houses some remarkable works of art, such as the eight pagan and early Christian sarcophagi (4th century) and the Recumbent Christ (14th century) by sculptor Aloi de Montbrai.Then continue your way to the nearby
Banys Arabs in Catalan, despite the name, are in fact a 12th century Romanesque building. The distinctive cupola covers the central pool of the changing room, as shown in the photo above. From the changing room, visitors can move into areas with hot or cold water. Take the stairs up and see baths from a roof level as well. The Arab Baths are also featured in the Games of Thrones movie.Then continue your way to
The Monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants
This 12th century building is one of the most important Romanesque monuments in Girona. The Benedictine Abbey is unique for its chancel and bell tower. From the middle of the 19th century, Sant Pere de Galligants was used as a museum of archaeology and fine arts. Currently, it is the Museum of Archaeology of Catalonia showcasing archaeological materials found in the excavations in the Girona region, from prehistory to the Middle Ages. The Monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants also appears in season 6 of Game of Thrones as the citadel in Old Town. After visiting the former monastery, head to the river bank and don’t pass by
A Lioness statue
As the legend goes, if you visit Girona, you have to kiss the bottom of the lioness statue to show that you want to come back to the city.
Address: Carrer del Calderers, 8.
Make your way through El Call to Pujada de Sant Domènec
El Call, the Jewish quarter of Girona, is one of the best-preserved in the world. The Jews who lived there were not integrated with the rest of the city. They had cultural differences, a different religion, traditions, habits and the Jewish community of Girona was confined to a specified area called "El Call", the Jewish quarter.Soon you will reach one of the most romantic and most photographed spots in Girona the
Pujada de Sant Domènec
It is a flight of stone steps leading up to the Sant Martí Sacosta church, with a lane framed by an arch leaning off to the left. Scenes of Games of the Thrones and psychological crime thriller Perfume were filmed there. In Perfume, Girona was standing in for the 18th-century French town Grasse.Continue your way to the nearby
Atmospheric Sweet Books shop
I love to visit bookshops with a character when I travel and Sweet Books is definitely one of those. The bookstore specializes in second-hand books and discontinued books. The owners combine the love for books as beautiful objects in their own right, with love that is even sweeter because at the bookstore you can also buy sweets.Address: Carrer de les Ferreries Velles 14.
After enjoying the atmosphere of the Sweet Books, head to the Onyar river to be carried away by the views of colourful houses on the river bank and also admire the bridges crossing the Onyar river. Perhaps the most famous of them is Peixateries Velles Bridge, also known as
The River Onyar runs through Girona and has over time become an integral part of the city. Eleven bridges connect the riverbanks where a row of colourfully painted buildings is reflected in the water. The amazing Peixateries Velles bridge, built by the Gustave Eiffel famous team just before the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, is one of the trademarks of the city, and its red colour nicely contrasts with the river.OK, now after this short visit to the Old Town you are ready to cross the river and head to the railway station to catch a train to Figueres and visit the world famous Dali Theatre Museum. But before you go, stop at
La Farinera Teixidor building
La Farinera Teixidor is one of Girona's most representative modernist buildings. Industrialist Alfons Teixidor commissioned its construction from architect Rafael Masó, asking for it to include: a family home, a suite of offices, and industrial warehouses to be used as a flour mill and for storage. It might seem strange to find a factory right in the middle of the city, but in 1910, when it was built, it was actually located in the town of Santa Eugènia de Ter. The purpose of the building can be seen from the outside, thanks to its white roof and dome: all snowy! “I want it to really be the house of flour, “ said Masó. The building, which has influences ranging from Gaudi and Charles Rennie Mackintosh to the Vienna Secession, is currently the headquarters of Catalan newspaper El Punt Avui.At least in winter time, trains from Girona to Figueres depart just once an hour, so it’s better to check departure times in advance to make sure you leave Girona before 4 p.m. and have enough time to see all that the stunning Dali Theatre Museum has to offer. In the summertime, it is very advisable to book your museum ticket in advance. So after a half an hour train trip you are in Figueres. Take a fifteen-minute well-signposted walk to the Museum.
The Dali Theatre-Museum
The Dali Museum is the second most visited museum in Spain, after the Prado. The Museum designed by Dali himself has a very special feel because of that and stands apart from every other museum. It includes some of the painter’s greatest masterpieces as well as pieces that range from his first artistic creations through to his last works. Before going inside, walk around the Museum building and notice the exterior walls covered with decorations made of plaster, and on top of the museum, it is beautifully decorated with golden mannequins and giant eggs. There also several sculptures in the yard of the museum. There are 5 stories in the circular building, all filled with Dali’s artwork.You can exit through the basement gift store, where you can also purchase souvenirs on the way out. There is also the Dali Jewels Museum you can visit next to the Theatre Museum.
Address: Plaza Gala-Salvador Dali 5, Figueras
After finishing your museum exploration in Figueres or most likely already before the trip, you can make a decision to take a two hour trip to Barcelona by train in the evening. It’s 140 kilometres away. By the way, a more recent option is the new high-speed AVE train from Barcelona to Figueres, the journey now takes just under an hour! If you decide to stay at least for a meal, I recommend
Duran Hotel & Restaurant
It was 1910 when Duran family decided to rent the inn in the centre of Figueres and also established a restaurant there. The place is run by the Duran family to this day. Just think it’s been more than 100 years. Duran Hotel & Restaurant is the most emblematic hotel in the area, with a long history and renowned prestige. The cuisine served is a blend of tradition and modernity, always using top-quality local produce. Restaurant Duran has hosted renowned guests like Salvador Dali and writer Josep Pla. Try their set menu to get a feel of what this place can offer.Address: C. Lasauca, 5 17600 Figueres
If you have more time you can stay overnight in the hotel here. If you are busier, go back for getting ready to see the top attractions of Barcelona.
Practical information: There are luggage lockers at the high-speed AVE train station in Girona for your convenience.
Like it? Pin it?
What did you think? Have you been to Girona? Or perhaps you’re thinking of visiting there in the near future? Either way, I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
Author: Anita Sāne
About the author