There are few places in the world that can take you back to the times of medieval wars by way of powerful structures and historically rich buildings while also completely taking your breath away. Girona has a way of doing all this and more.
Known for having one of Spain’s last surviving Jewish Quarters, spectacular yearly flower festival – Temps de Flors, and most recently for portraying the mythical city of Braavos in a little TV show called Game of Thrones, the city is packed with some of the most interesting things to see and learn about in all of Spain.
Only an hour and a half drive from Barcelona and about a 30-minute cab ride from the airport, Girona is the perfect day or weekend trip to get away from the crowded city streets and overwhelming tourists.
One of my favorite things about this city is that due to its size, you can walk to all of the main points of interest. This means, no need to waste time and money! on trains or buses.
And honestly, you’d be missing out on the little cobblestone alleyways and architectural details that make this city so beautiful.
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WALK ALONG THE CAROLINGIAN WALL
Otherwise known as the most Insta-picture worthy spot in the city.
Girona has faced 25 sieges in its history which explains why it is completely surrounded by high fortifications that are still standing today.
The most amazing of these are the ancient walls built during the Roman period in the first century BC.
If you decide to make your way up, you will be walking on the most extensive Carolingian Wall of Europe and will be awarded the most breathtaking views of the entire city.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE:
Making your way up to the wall is tedious as there are some very narrow stairways and uphill tracks. It’s not recommended for anyone with trouble walking or climbing on an incline.
I was unable to climb up on my most recent trip as I was recovering from an ankle fracture and the stress from the uneven cobblestone streets wreaked havoc on my foot.
The wall images are from my previous trip to Girona prior to my ankle fracture!
CATHEDRAL OF SANTA MARIA DE GIRONA
While walking through Girona, you can’t help but stop and stare at this majestic building. The Cathedral of Santa Maria de Girona stands tall in the center of the city and not only boasts the title of highest point in the city, it is also known for having the second largest nave in the entire world. Its sheer size and intricate architectural details will take your breath away.
As one of the main points of attraction in Girona, the cathedral is often full of tourists taking pictures and admiring the building itself. Want to get a picture completely devoid of tourists? Head to Girona on a weekday, preferably early in the morning.
Do you have a sudden overwhelming feeling of deja-vu? Don’t worry, you’re not crazy!
This cathedral was a main focal point in season 6 of Game of Thrones, where Girona was transformed into the city of Braavos!
TEMPS DE FLORS
My absolute favorite time of year to be in Girona is for the spectacular flower festival, Temps de Flors. Every year since its launch in 1954, the festival transforms the city into a living art instillation for one week in May filling the streets with magnificent colors and flowers from all over the world.
Each visitor receives a festival map that takes you through every single instillation in the city. While some are in plain view, others are hidden in secret underground cave tunnels or museums.
Some attractions, such as the Jewish Museum and the Arabic baths Banys Àrabs, usually charge an entrance fee, but are free and open to the public during the festival!
While you definitely need to take advantage of these exhibits, keep in mind that lines are much longer than usual on weekends during the festival.
I’ve been to Temps de Flors two years in a row now and while I’m there I swear my head spins. The creators have a gift for making ordinary things come to life with beautiful colors and arrangements in the most ingenious ways!
It is spectacular to see and something you cannot miss if you are visiting Spain. The festival only runs for a week, but includes 2 weekends for all visitors to enjoy.
A PEACEFUL RETREAT IN GIRONA
Among all the wonderful things that make Girona the unique and breathtaking place it is, one of its best features is that it is a quiet and peaceful city.
Walking along the Rambla de la Libertad – a smaller, quieter version of La Rambla in Barcelona, you are surrounded by shops and restaurants, as well as trees, green areas and courtyards.
On my last visit, I had the opportunity to speak to some of the locals who mentioned some interesting facts. It seems that although there are many tourists that come yearly, the population of senior citizens moving in has grown considerably over the last 20 years. The beauty, warm weather and overall tranquility of the city has made it the perfect place to retire!
GIRONA'S JEWISH QUARTER
Known as “El Cali”, Girona’s Jewish Quarter is one of the most emblematic and historically rich areas in the entire city. It dates back to the 12th century and is one of the best preserved Jewish Quarters in the world.
The area itself is small and made up of narrow streets, gorgeous staircases and many different types of arches. In the center of it all, you will find the Centre Bonastruc ça Porta, Girona’s last standing synagogue, which today is home of the Jewish History Museum and Institute of Nahmanides Studies.
RESTAURANTS IN GIRONA
It’s important to remember that many places in Spain (and some all over Europe) have a time of day called siesta. This is meant to be a time where business close in the middle of the day for a few hours, usually around lunchtime, to head home and rest before returning back to work.
While some restaurants don’t necessarily close for siesta, most follow a specific timeline for what they serve during the day. For instance, lunch is typically served up until 3pm with dinner starting at 5 or 6pm (specific times will depend on the city). What this means is that in between those times, meals are not served.
Depending on the city and the restaurant, you may be able to get small appetizers or drinks. You will find that in Spain, many restaurants open late and stay open much later than in most other countries.
On my last visit to Girona, I actually got there at this exact time of the day where it was too late for lunch but too early for dinner.
L’Arcada was not only open, they welcomed me to sit and enjoy with open arms! Never one to turn down a chance to try Italian food in any part of the world, I happily obliged.
I had the artisan panini with arugula salad and an incredible stracciatella ice cream dessert.
THE BEST CREPES YOU WILL EVER HAVE can be found here, at Crepdeque. Known for their sweet and savory delights, the small creperie has been around for years and is loved by visitors and locals alike.
Be warned – due to their incredible taste, lines often get pretty long clearly – the rain didn’t even stop me from standing in this line!
Girona is a small, but beautiful city filled with a rich history, breathtaking architecture and many activities to take part in. It is a place I will continue to return to for many years to come.
Have you been to Girona?
What was your favorite part? …I’m torn between the flowers and Arya Stark 😉