In the heart of Catalonia, just 1 hour's drive from the region's capital, lies a magnificent city worth exploring for its rich history, delicious food and fantastic ancient architecture.
Many travelers decide to visit Girona from Barcelona on an exploratory trip of a few days; as it is a rather small city it is possible to exhaust the entire itinerary in just a few days of exploration.
Here are the highlights so you can create the perfect travel plan and discover a jewel of Spain that not everyone gets to see.
Have fun exploring Girona!
1. Climb the stairs to the Girona Cathedral
Dominating the skyline of the city of Girona is one of the most important visits you will make on your tour of the city: the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Girona. This architectural gem was built in 1038 in a combination of Gothic and Romanesque styles.
Take the time to explore this jewel of medieval architecture, on your tour I recommend paying attention to a few highlights.
The interior architecture...
Inside you will find a structure of impressive dimensions. At 23 meters wide, Girona Cathedral has the widest Gothic nave in the world. Here you will also be able to appreciate the Romanesque style cloister and the beautiful capitals sculpted with an impressive level of detail.
The church houses a museum and treasury with many important and historical artifacts, as well as several tombs dating from the 14th to the 17th century. The treasure of the cathedral is made up of objects such as: the Tapestry of the Creation, the Beatus of Girona or the Figure of St. Charlemagne.
The access staircase...
Like its interiors, the staircase leading to the Cathedral of Girona is impressive, a place that is an obligatory stop to take a photo of the memory.
The steps of the Cathedral are also a common meeting point so you will always find people sitting hanging out.
2. Meet the Banys Àrabs, the traditional Arab baths of Girona
Take your steps to the Banys Àrabs, a structure built in 1194 and where once functioned an ancient Arab baths of Girona. It is surprising how well preserved the spaces are, a fact that allows visitors to fully understand how they functioned in centuries past.
The ancient baths are within walking distance of the Cathedral; you will soon find that many important attractions in Girona are close to each other, making it easy to explore the city in a short time.
Some highlights of the visit include the following.
For many travelers the favorite part of the tour is the apodyterium, the name given to the space used as a common dressing room.
Here you will find a small hexagon-shaped pool over which stand 8 beautifully carved columns, over the columned structure was placed a dome that filters natural light into the interior and illuminates the entire room.
The mix of styles...
On the aesthetic side, the design of the Arab baths in Girona may be different from any other similar space you have known. The space is characterized by a mix of styles that includes ancient Roman baths, Turkish baths and Jewish mikvehs, taking aspects from each of them.
3. Walk along the Medieval Walls of Girona and enjoy the best views.
The iconic Walls of Girona were built at the same time as the foundation of the city, around 79 BC. When the Roman Empire was established in these lands. Here they built an enormous fortress: the Força Vella, surrounded by huge walls that remained almost intact until 1000 A.D.
However, the construction of the wall that we can walk along today dates back to the Carolingian period in the 9th century A.D. Its walls were built along the lines of the original Roman walls.
Visiting the ancient Medieval Walls is one of the reasons why many visitors are encouraged to explore the city and is undoubtedly rated as one of the best things to do in Girona.
As you walk around the city you can see how the impressive construction of the original walls was gradually integrated into the urban fabric and how remarkable remnants remain from where you get fabulous views of the entire city center of Girona.
4. Go to the Eiffel Bridge and take some nice pictures
Girona is a city crossed by different rivers and connected by different bridges, one of the most famous is the Eiffel Bridge of Girona, located over the Oñar River that crosses part of the city in a south-north direction.
Locally it is known as "Pont de les Peixateries Velles", which means "Bridge of the old fishmongers". You will find a beautiful red structure, designed and built in 1877 by Gustave Eiffel, the renowned engineer who created the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris; erected in the City of Light years later in 1889.
If you have been fortunate enough to visit Paris and take a close look at the Eiffel Tower, you will notice the imprint of its author in the similar design of the lattices and the use of materials.
In addition to the historical and cultural aspect, it is worth a visit to the Eiffel Bridge for fabulous views of the Girona skyline and its interaction with the Rio Oñar. From this point it is possible to see the beautiful buildings along the river, the houses of the old town and the towers of the Cathedral.
Other bridges in Girona
Although the Gustave Eiffel Bridge is the most famous, the city of Girona has 11 bridges that serve as a connection point for the entire urban fabric. If you have time to dedicate part of your itinerary to visit the highlights, use this small list as inspiration.
- Pontde Pedra: One of the bridges that provides access to the Old Town of Girona. Pedestrians are not allowed on this bridge because it was enabled for the exclusive use of bicycles.
- Pontde Sant Agustí: One of the busiest and most important bridges in Girona that connects the Barri Vell (medieval area of Girona) with the Plaza de la Independencia (neoclassical area of Girona).
- Pontd'en Gómez: Also called the Bridge of the Princess, it is one of the most beautiful bridges in Girona. The design is rococo style and on the wrought iron railing you can find locked padlocks left by lovers.
5. Visit the Cinema Museum in Girona
The first museum dedicated to cinema in Spain was inaugurated in the city of Girona in 1998. It is a visit that film buffs or film lovers in general simply should not miss.
As you will confirm on your tour much of the exhibition focuses on the Tomás Mallol Collection, acquired by the city of Girona in 1994. The exhibits date back to the early days of the 7th art covering a period of over 400 years and including its evolution from shadow theater to new technologies.
Other museums in Girona
Although I recommend the Cinema Museum due to its historical importance and popularity, there are other museums in Girona that are worth visiting and are of great interest to understand the history and evolution of Girona.
If you have time to spend in the city consider adding to your itinerary a visit to visit:
- The Museum of Jewish History in Girona
- The Museum of Art
- The Museum of Archaeology of Girona
- La Casa Masó
- And of course, the Museum of History of Girona.
6. Take a tour of the scenes of Game of Thrones in Girona
On the other hand, fans of the popular series Game of Thrones will find in Girona a fascinating environment where several chapters of the series were filmed between seasons 6 and 7. The experience is rated by fans as one of the best tours in Girona.
The Game of Thrones filming locations in Girona were selected for their ancient and medieval appearance that matches the setting of the television series. For this particular experience, I recommend you to hire a tour with an expert guide, it's the most fun way! As all participants are fans of the series.
If you want to do the tour alone, pay attention to the following places: the steps of the Cathedral of Girona, Plaça dels Jurats, the Pujada de Sant Domènec, the Galligants Bridge and Bishop Josep Cartañà Street.
In some places green chromas were used to add landscapes that do not match 100% with reality, for example the scene of the Cathedral of Girona where the surrounding buildings were replaced with a stunning seascape.
7. Relax in the beautiful Plaza Independencia
No tour of Girona is complete without a visit to the iconic Plaça de la Independència, one of the city's most popular and dynamic public meeting places.
Plaça Independència was built in the 19th century in a beautiful neoclassical style; the surrounding buildings also have a much more modern look than the rest of Girona's historic architecture.
It is very popular with visitors and travelers due to the number of restaurants located around the perimeter of the large square. Consequently, it is one of the best places to try traditional food of excellent quality.
The place offers a wonderful contrast between the old stone streets of medieval appearance and the wide open spaces more characteristic of the architecture of the last centuries. I recommend walking from Girona's Barri Vell (the old quarter) in a southeasterly direction to better appreciate the differences.
8. Get to know the Jewish Quarter of Girona
In the very heart of Girona, next to Carrer de la Força, is the Jewish Quarter of Girona. The neighborhood itself is an immersive museum piece because, according to historical records, is the oldest and best preserved Jewish quarter in Europe.
Made up entirely of cobblestone streets, touring Girona's Jewish Quarter is a pleasure for the senses; the winding, narrow alleys and buildings remain much the same as they were more than 500 years ago.
Guided tours are organized in the city, where accompanied by an expert on the subject, you can learn more about the history and evolution of the Jewish people of Girona, who were forced to pay more taxes than other citizens to end up being brutally expelled in 1492.
If you go on your own, you can learn about the history by visiting the Jewish Museum in Girona. Finally, the streets not to be missed on the tour are: Carrer Manuel Cundaro, Carrer de Sant Llorenç and Carrer del Doctor Oliva i Prat.
9. Stroll through the Alemanys Gardens or German Gardens of Girona
Close to the iconic city walls is a garden area that you should not miss: The German Gardens of Girona. The nickname comes from the German barracks that were installed here in the 19th century when the War of Independence was fought against the German army.
Upon arrival you will find a green lung full of trees and plants, nestled amidst ancient ruins. The ruins of the gardens include the remains of the medieval wall built by the Romans and parts of the ancient Roman city that started the enclave.
The way nature and the old stone constructions interact is really beautiful, don't miss it!
10. Explore Costa Brava and Medieval Villages from Girona
From the city it is possible to take a day trip to explore areas such as Costa Brava or the traditional Medieval Villages of this area of Catalonia.
One of the best parts of visiting Girona is how well connected the city is to other important and interesting tourist spots in the region. To my traveler friends who have time to explore beyond Girona, I highly recommend it.
Organized excursions from Girona
There are many excursions from Girona that you can take to different points of interest in the region, guided tours are an excellent alternative if you do not wish to undertake the trip alone or on your own terms.
Although the details of the experience may vary slightly depending on the activity you undertake, in most cases you will find a 1-day trip departing from the city early in the morning to explore areas such as the Costa Brava, Calella, Begur Castle and the coastline.