The Catalonian City of a Thousand Sieges
Girona is a picturesque medieval city, which sits astride the River Onyar in Catalonia. Located in north-eastern Spain, it’s positioned north of Barcelona and south of the French border. Established by the Romans, it fell into the hands of the Visigoths, then the Moors, before becoming Catalonian in the year 878. Catalonian people tend to feel more Catalonian than Spanish. You can see traces of 25 sieges in the ancient city walls; nowadays, the only invaders are stag parties from Northern Europe. The Old Town, including the fascinating Jewish Quarter and numerous cafes and restaurants lie on the east bank. The newer part of town, on the west bank is where the shops and hotels are found. Girona is not only a pleasantly subdued complement to nearby Barcelona, but also the gateway to the Costa Brava. Please bear in mind the cobbled, steep streets when choosing footwear!
The centre of town is mostly pedestrianised, so you can explore it on foot; in particular, you should walk the ancient City Walls. It is worth spending some time exploring the Jewish Quarter. The Salvador Dali Museum, in nearby Figueres, is only a 30-minute train-ride away.
When to go?
Temperatures can drop to -5°C in winter and can rise as high as 40°C in summer. In May, the Wool and Country Wedding Festival in nearby Ripoli is a good opportunity to soak up some Catalonian culture; watch sheep-shearing, sardana dancing and try your hand at drinking local wine from the long-spouted porron. In September, go to the Festes del Tura in nearby Olot to see towering costumed giants dancing in the main square.
How to get there?
Girona-Costa Brava Airport (GRO) lies 10km north of the town; a 15-minute bus-ride will get you there. The majority of flights are operated by Ryanair, taking in destinations all over Western Europe. The only other airlines using the airport are Transavia and Jetairfly. The train journey from the airport to Barcelona takes one hour.
Girona Cathedral is regarded as one of the finest specimens of Gothic architecture in Spain. The Museu d’Historia de la Ciutat is located in the 18th Century Capuchin Convent de Sant Antoni. The Museu Arqueologic is housed in an 11th Century Romanesque church. For more informal entertainment try the Saturday Market or the Banys Arabs (Arab Baths). The nearby medieval village of Madremanya has a Michelin-rated restaurant.