Experience Girona: History and Culture in Catalonia

If you enjoy a casual stroll through tranquil and immensely aesthetic streets while surrounded by cultural landmarks of great significance, then Girona should be a top consideration for your next travel destination. Here, you can walk along the ancient walls, lose yourself in the splendor of the wonderfully preserved Jewish Quarter, tour the numerous historic landmarks, or simply enjoy a cool breeze while people-watching in the parks.

Overview of Girona

About 100 kilometres from Barcelona, this charming town in the northeast of Catalonia offers a comprehensive tourism agenda without the typical headaches of other popular destinations. Unlike more crowded holiday spots, Girona exudes tranquillity. Here, you can forget about long lines, the hustle of mass tourism and crowds of selfie-stick waving foreigners.

Discover the magic of Girona with its cultural delights and historical treasures as you walk among the numerous squares, gardens and narrow streets.

Stroll Along the Most Extensive Carolingian Wall of Europe

Girona is a city rich with the historical and cultural heritage of Catalonia. The valley was settled and developed by various communities and empires throughout its history, including the Iberians, Romans, Arabs, Jews and Carolingians. Present in the old town are several architectural vestiges representing a variety of styles which reflect the different historical periods the city has gone through.

Carolíngeas Castle in Girona

The ancient walls are probably the most striking among the historical structures. Originally built during the Roman period in the 1st century BC, the fortifications were later expanded throughout different historical periods. We recommend tracing the outline of this historical border, now known as Passeig de la Muralla. Along this ancient pathway, you'll cross some of the longest sections of 9th Century Carolingian walls in Europe.

During your walk, you'll have plenty of opportunities to pause and enjoy the view. Excellent vantage points to take in the picturesque cityscape are found all along the pathway. Pause to scan the scene below, with its various courtyards, gardens, balconies and steeples contrasted by the mountains in the background. From here, the four rivers that cross the city and numerous cultural landmarks will be in sight. Atop these ancient walls you'll get an idea of the city's layout and have time to contemplate its many stages of development.

Walled Park

Lose Yourself in the Ambiance of the Wonderfully Preserved Jewish Quarter

In the heart of the old walled area, known as La Força Vella, is a must-see attraction for all visitors to Girona: the Jewish Quarter. Characterized by a maze of narrow alleyways, stairs, small corners and courtyards, the area once served as a meeting point for trade during the height of Jewish rule in medieval times.

Call in Girona

Let yourself get lost in the maze of cobbled streets where the unique atmosphere is sure to transport you to a different time from long ago. On your stroll, you're sure to discover a multitude of shops selling local produce and handicrafts, as well as bookshops and restaurants that keep the old-world feeling alive and do well to maintain the tranquil surroundings that characterise the area. The scenery is so evocative and unique that in 2015, it was selected as a location for filming the hit series Game of Thrones.

In this area of the old town, you can also visit the Museum of Jewish History. Here you'll find an interesting collection of pieces belonging to the Jewish community which settled here from medieval times until they were expelled in the 15th century.

Jewish Museum in Girona

Stairs to The Sky

North of the museum, on the same street of Carrer de la Força, you will find Plaça de la Catedral, or Cathedral Plaza. Here a spectacular Baroque staircase combined with the facade of the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Girona form a unique and grandiose public space. When viewed from the square, the towers seem to reach right into the heavens. The Cathedral is most notable for its Gothic-style nave which is the widest in the world.

Girona Cathedral

In the construction of the cathedral, mixed styles including Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical can be seen. The unique beauty and spectacular Gothic nave make this monument a must-visit on your tour. While you are here, be sure to check out the adjacent cloister. Constructed in the 12th century, it is one of the only remaining parts of the original Romanesque edifice.

Behind the cathedral is the Passeig de la Reina Joana, where you'll be able to find some relaxation in a pleasing natural setting. Encompassing a wooded area where the Galligants River flows, there are several trails and shaded rest stops that make great places to cool off while enjoying a nice scent of pine and cypress.

Gardens in Girona

Close to Plaça de Santa Llúcia, there are some buildings well-worth knowing: the Church of Sant Nicolau and the monastery of Sant Pere de Galligant. The latter currently houses the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia and is considered one of the most remarkable examples of Catalan Romanesque architecture.

Arab baths in Girona

An Ancient Spa

Another highly recommended item on your itinerary are the Arab baths, also known as Banys Àrabs. Located behind the cathedral, they date all the way back to the 12th and 13th centuries. A tour through this amazing historical sight will have you walking through several rooms used for differing purposes in the past, which today serve to impress with their unique features.

Arab baths in Girona

The Colourful Modernist Riverside Landscape

Besides the wonderful atmosphere of the old town, Girona also has many notable examples of modernist architecture, providing a veritable pallet of colour and sophistication to the urban landscape. We recommend spending some time exploring the area around the old town where you're sure to spot several famous buildings known for their architectural quality and exquisite beauty.

A selection of these landmarks include the Farinera Teixidor, the Puig pastisseria, the Norat House, and the Rigau House. Also located here is the Masó House, situated within a set of colorful facades perched on the river Onyar. Together with the cathedral and Basilica of Sant Feliu, it constitutes a recognizable icon of the city.

On the River Oñar

The houses along the Onyar river are an absolute must-see for any visitor to Girona. Most of them were built during the 19th and 20th centuries and offer a picturesque setting where the mosaic of home fronts is nicely reflected in the river. In 1983, the facades were restored with a colour palate based on the spectrum found in the surrounding landscape (yellow and red ochre, and sienna). With the beautiful colours reflected in the quiet river passing underneath, the row of houses is reminiscent of a postcard you'd find in Florence.

Some interesting local legends surround the river bridges found throughout the city. It is said that if you go at night during a full moon, you may glimpse the Cocollona, which is said to have been an imprisoned holy figure who, after years of solitary confinement, morphed into a crocodile with butterfly wings.

Bridge over the river Onar

Discover Girona All Year Round

Girona has all the amenities of larger, touristic and cosmopolitan cities, yet still manages to maintain the charm and warmth of a tranquil town. With its own airport, train and bus stations, it is very well connected. Its broad range of cultural events and recreational activities make it an excellent holiday destination at any time of year.

Most of most delightful spring-time events in all of Spain is the Temps de Flors flower show. Summer is a great time for touring the city, attending a concert, or experiencing the surrounding parks. Autumn and winter offer a great number of cultural and film festivals, which take place in the city's historic buildings and public spaces. Highly praised art exhibitions can be seen year round.

Views of Girona

In addition to its cultural and architectural wealth, Girona is also surrounded by beautiful natural scenery. A few of its natural parks are even found within the heart of the old town. Owing to its location at the confluence of four rivers, the local topography also accommodates a diverse range of sporting activities. Here you're able to choose from many options including hiking and biking, canyoning, and kayaking via the Ter River.

Adventure and Culture in the Surrounding Area

While you're visiting Girona you should also take advantage of its proximity to other places of interest. Taking a tour outside the city can be a great way to complete your experience in this beautiful region of Spain.

Heading an hour towards Costa Brava will land you on the beautiful and unique beaches of Cadaques and Portlligat, the latter of which was the scene of inspiration for the surreal work of Salvador Dali. A little less than 40 minutes north of Girona, in Figueres you can visit the Dalí Theatre-Museum. And, in the small sea-side village of Portlligat, in what used to be Dali's residence, you can visit the Salvador Dalí House Museum.

Dali Museum

Feeling the urge to see these cultural wonders in first person? If you're planning to spend your next holiday in Catalonia or any other region in Spain, let us help out with our great selection of accommodations for rent.