About an hour and a half train ride away from vibrant Barcelona nestles Girona, a quaint medieval town filled with authentic historic beauty that will instantly take you back in time right through your history books.
Currently home to about a 100,000 people, this little town has many stunning yet enigmatic characteristics that are in total contrast to what you see in Barcelona.
Surrounded with strong classical ambience, meandering cobblestone streets, olden-days city walls and its very own gorgeous river, Girona makes a perfect one day trip destination should you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the modern city life of Barcelona. This is also where the Game of Thrones is filmed.
Getting To Girona
Simply hop on a train from the Barcelona Sant or Estació de Franca station and you’ll be on your way to your mystical tour. It’s that easy! Depending on the train type you choose, a one way journey takes approximately 40 minutes to an hour and half. You will alight at Girona train station which is very centrally situated. The historical town center is just a few minutes walk away from there.
I highly suggest you take an early morning AVE train. AVE is a high speed train that will get you to Girona in about 40 minutes. By the time you reach Girona, you will have a good amount of time to enjoy a sumptuous brunch and to explore the town one pace at a time without rush.
What To Expect
Get ready for an adventurous walking trip. Yes, you’ll be exploring the whole of ancient Girona on foot. So, make sure you are wearing a pair of comfortable sneakers or booties. No slippers please, as the uneven cobblestone streets and steps can get a little challenging.
As the town is built in the early centuries before the birth of cars, you will hardly find or spot a car in the old town area. Do not be afraid of dim alleys or streets. The are many mysterious hidden corners with interesting tales waiting to be unfold.
The first moment you alight at Girona train station, pop over to the tourist centre located along Rambla de la Llibertat, a few steps after Pont de Pedra and ask for a free city map. Landmarks in the form of icons are marked on the map to help you get around the town easily.
What To Do In Girona
There are plenty of beautiful things to do in Girona. The landscape and unexpected quirky uniqueness of the town’s features will keep you in ‘awe and wow’ throughout your visit. Girona is a laid back town, so just relax and enjoy your walk.
◊ Check out the bridges
Start your trip from Pont de Pedra at Riu Onyar where you’ll be greeted by a few stunning bridges ahead with colourful houses on each side. Take a moment to soak in this tranquil scene and have your senses renewed with the simple colours of Girona.
My favourite bridge is the red bridge, Pont de les Peixateries Velles, which literally translates to the ‘Bridge of the Old Fishmongers’. If the shape of its structure is anything familiar, this picturesque bridge is actually one of Gustave Eiffel’s masterpieces built ten years before the construction of his famous Eiffel Tower in Paris. Definitely one of his masterpieces to add in your Instagram collection! But it’s also not all just about the bridges. The unique colourful buildings that reflect gracefully against the Riu Onyar is unique only to Girona, something like the timeless scenes of Venice with its own humble story to tell.
◊ Visit museums
When you’re in a town so rich with its long withstanding historic past, you sure can’t miss visiting at least one or two of its museums. If you are interested to know more about the history and development of Girona throughout the years, Museu d’Historia de Girona is a great place to slowly grasp all the knowledge to help you understand the town better on your tour around.
Another interesting museum is the Jewish Museum that is filled with extensive historic information and artefacts of the medieval Jewish community here in Girona. Even though there are Jewish quarters and museums in other parts of Spain, this museum stands out with its extensive collection of valuable educational resources and well preserved historic buildings.
◊ Wander through the narrow streets
The maze of meandering, narrow cobblestone streets are full of mysteries and surprises. It is a definite joy to slow your pace down and take in each and every single detail your eye catches on. Every corner and street is dotted with its own interesting story and a very picturesque scene.
The streets and architectural structures in and around town are all very well preserved and intact, just like it was 500 years ago. Getting wander-fully lost in time and heading back to the medieval realm for a walk is simply the best enjoyment one will have in Girona.
◊ Walk on medieval walls
To catch a stunning bird eye view of Girona, take a walk on the medieval walls located along the eastern border of the old town. Up from the top of the walls, the glimpse over the city is breathtaking and of course, Instagram worthy.
The spectacular towers, casemates, old school houses and medieval architecture that spans in between and across the city is truly a sight to behold. With the mountains from afar as an endless beautiful backdrop, embraced with the tranquil surrounding ambience, time on the walls of Girona will come to a temporary halt.
◊ Visit Girona Cathedral
Are you a fan of the Game of Thrones? If you are, then you must not miss this. Girona Cathedral is the icon of the city and was the filming location for Game of Thrones season 6.
The cathedral was built between the 11th and 18th century, featuring gothic style architecture. Perched atop the hill, the only way to get to the cathedral entrance is to climb up the long stairway which has today become a popular spot and gathering point for both the locals and tourists working on their panoramic selfies.
Where To Eat In Girona
The gastronomic scene in Girona is impressive and full of innovation. From traditional tapas to local Spanish dishes to fusion cuisines, you name it, they have it. Restaurants and cafes are dotted all around the city area and the lovely Plaça de la Independència.
Be it, if you like, to laze in a cosy corner and enjoy a good brunch, or, be seated in an open area somewhere to watch some human activities run the scenes over a cup of café, Girona is filled with culinary choices.
Here are some of the places in Girona to fix your stomach:
Restaurant Nu – Catalan food with an innovative Asian twist. Definitely the place to go for the super hungry and food fanatics as the restaurant provides affordable menus for both lunch and dinner that will have your tastebuds hooked.
Rocambolesc – A ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ look alike gourmet ice cream parlour establish by Jordi Roca, one of the brothers from the famous El Celler de Can Roca, a 3-star Michelin restaurant. The ice cream comes in six flavours alongside 34 different toppings and cotton candy made on the spot.
Montse L’Artesana – Local’s favourite and a dessert that never goes wrong. A churros over a steaming cup of hot chocolate will sweeten not only your palette, but recharge your energy for another round of exploration.
Casamoner – A popular bakery well known for its freshly baked baguettes. Try xuixo, a longish flaky, donut-like fried pastry coated with sugar and filled with Catalan cream. This is an official dessert of Girona. So, don’t miss it!
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