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7 Reasons to visit Girona, a real gem in Catalonia, Spain

9 min read
7 Reasons to visit Girona, a real gem in Catalonia, Spain

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Pretty much everyone who goes on holiday to the Catalonia region in Spain makes the capital, Barcelona, their primary (and sometimes only) destination and even don’t think about visiting Girona. And that’s a real shame, as there are so many incredible reasons to visit Girona, not only once but a couple of times.

Girona is a magnificent city with a rich history, beautiful architecture, and a vibrant food scene. You probably don’t know much about Girona, but it’s definitely one of Catalonia’s most underrated cities.

With that in mind, we’re here to enlighten you about why you should include this medieval city on your next travel itinerary in Spain. (Just remember, if you’re planning to visit Spain from the end of 2023, you might need to register for an ETIAS travel Authorization)

7 Reasons to visit Girona, a real gem in Catalonia, Spain
Girona is a must-visit city in Catalunya.

Why is Girona worth visiting?

Before telling you why it is worth visiting Girona, let’s answer another common question: Where is Girona?

Girona is just an hour and a half drive from Barcelona to the north in the Catalonia region of Spain. And you can easily travel from Barcelona to Girona by train or bus. Check the timetables and book your bus or train to Girona here!

The Romans founded the city in 218 BC as Gerunda, then became a major town in the Roman Empire during its heyday as the capital of Hispania Citerior (the province that comprised present-day Catalonia). It also served as a center for Jewish life at this time, boasting a population of 7,000 Jews.

Its rich history can be seen in every corner of this Spanish city, particularly in the Medieval Quarter with narrow streets, which alone is worth a day trip from Barcelona. But there are many other reasons why you should consider making Girona your base for exploring Catalonia instead (or after visiting) Barcelona.

For one, Girona is much cheaper and far quieter than Barcelona. Although tourists flock to its historic attractions, the crowds are much more manageable than in BCN. Like Barcelona, Girona is also a great city to visit solo.

Let’s dig into Girona attractions and highlights in greater detail.

7 Reasons to visit Girona, Spain

1 – Girona Cathedral

The first big reason to visit Girona must be the city’s Gothic Cathedral which dates back to the 18th century. The Cathedral of Girona is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest Gothic church in Spain. It’s also the main church of the Archdiocese of Girona, which was founded in 1222.

Photo of the Cathedral of Girona and its gothic style facade. It was a filming location for the Games of Thrones series.
The beautiful Girona Cathedral.

The Cathedral’s construction began in 1298 and finished in 1324, and it has a total of three naves with vaulted ceilings supported by massive buttresses. The Cathedral houses the widest Gothic nave in the world, measuring 23 meters in width. It’s one of the must-visit attractions of Girona Old Quarter’s winding cobblestone streets.

A good option is to get the 3-in-1 pass to visit the Girona Cathedral, the Church of St. Felix, and the Girona Art Museum. You can book this combo here, and it will include the three entry tickets + audio guide at the Girona Museum.

While the Cathedral is Girona Old Town’s main attraction, other beautiful buildings in gothic and romanesque styles are worth seeing. Some of Girona’s historic sites are the Arab Baths, the Monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona History Museum, Plaça Independencia or Independence Square, and the Museum of Cinema. The entire city and its iconic sites are worth visiting!

2 – Girona Jewish Quarter

One of the most interesting things about Girona is its history as one of Spain’s main Jewish communities during Medieval times (until 1492). With so many museums in the Jewish Quarter dedicated to the history of this community, it’s an ideal place to learn about the forgotten cultural heritage of Spain from the 14th century.

Here are three interesting tours that you can join while in Girona that focus on the Jewish quarter and Jewish History Museum:

3 – Girona Medieval Walls

The medieval walls are another of Girona’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and one of the best preserved medieval city walls in Europe.

They were built in the 12th century when Girona was threatened by external forces (the Moors and Aragonese), who wanted to take control of Catalonia. The ancient walls are 4.5km long, surround most of the city, and make for a spectacular sunset stroll with wonderful views.

Beautiful view from Girona Medieval Walls. It shows the city in the background and the mountains. The Walls are one of the reasons to visit Girona in Spain.
Don’t miss the tours around Girona’s Medieval Walls.

Some walking tours will take you to Girona Medieval Walls while learning about the city’s historical sites. Check this walking tour out. It’s a small group tour that visits the most impressive attractions in Girona.

4 – It looks like Westeros

If you are a fan of the HBO series Game of Thrones and have ever dreamed of visiting the fantasy world of Westeros, then Girona is the place to go.

The city was used as a key filming location for the hit TV show, as producers were after a medieval town with gothic buildings that could double as King’s Landing (the capital city of Westeros). They also wanted a place where they could film scenes set in other medieval villages, towns, and cities in the fictional realm, such as Casterly Rock, Highgarden, and Meereen.

Aerial photo of Girona Old Quarter with its impressive cathedral in the background. Girona was a film location for the Games of Thrones series.
Waiting for the Dragons.

Consequently, if you visit Girona, you can go sightseeing around a number of locations that were used as iconic backdrops for the series. These include the cathedral steps where Cersei Lannister was publicly humiliated and some of the favorite haunts of plucky young heroine Arya Stark.

Due to the series’s popularity, many Game of Thrones walking tours are now operating around the city – if you’re a fan, then you should sign up for this Girona Game of Thrones Tour!

5 – Girona cuisine

Another good reason to visit Girona and stay longer is its local cuisine. Like the rest of Catalonia, Girona’s local cuisine is a mix of French and Spanish influences. But if you are sick of eating paella on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, you’ll be delighted to know that there are many delicacies unique to the city to sample.

There are a few dishes that are particular to Girona: xató (a vegetable soup made with black beans), coca (the region’s version of pizza), fesols i naps (beans with garlic), and escalivada (roasted vegetables).

These dishes give you an opportunity to try authentic Catalan cuisine in the city as a local without the expense and commercialization of the gastronomy in Barcelona.

If you want to pair food and history, here is a 2-hour walking tour with food tasting that you can join when visiting Girona.

6 – Girona Temps de Flors Festival

The steps of a church in Girona covered in flowers for the Temps de Flors Festival.
Girona turns into a giant garden in May.

Our 6th topic on this list of reasons to visit Girona might surprise you. If you’re looking for a chance to experience Girona in a different light, then the Temps de Flors Festival is for you. Held annually in May, this festival celebrates the city’s culture and history through an elaborate parade of flower-covered floats that wind their way through the streets of Girona.

7 – The many amazing day trips from Girona

Girona is far better suited for exploring the gorgeous surrounding natural beauty of Catalonia on day trips than Barcelona due to its closer proximity to the Costa Brava beaches, the Pyrenees mountains, and several other local attractions.

Some of the popular day trips from Girona include the beautiful mountain valley Vall de Núria, the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park, and well-preserved traditional fishing villages such as Cadaqués and Llafranc.

Aerial photo of La Garrotxa Natural Park in Catalonia. One of the destinations you can visit on a day trip from Girona.
The landscape in La Garrotxa, Catalonia

However, if you’re looking for one unmissable day trip itinerary from Girona, Figures should be top of your list. The town is just a short drive from Girona, close to the French border, and is home to the spectacular Dali Museum, one of the most popular museums in Europe.

There are over 300 works from Salvador Dali inside de museum. They are from Dali’s most famous periods, including his surrealist period, when he became known as the iconic eccentric artist with impressive eyebrows. 

The building itself is a sight to behold, an imposing bright-red fortress covered with sculptures of bread and topped off with huge stone eggs. You can also visit the famous artist’s final resting place in the town’s cemetery.

We’ve listed below two day trips from Girona to Figures that are worth checking out, plus a 2-hour tour to the Dali Museum. Some of these tours offer hotel pickup, making your experience easy and comfy. And make sure to book your day tour in advance so you won’t miss those incredible places.

In conclusion, while most people choose to visit Girona on a day trip from Barcelona, the incredible wealth of things to do in Girona and in the surrounding area means you can easily spend several days exploring everything the region has to offer! In fact, Girona is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.

So if you take our travel advice and stay in Girona for a couple of days, here are some of the best places to stay in the city.

Where to stay in Girona, Spain

Here is a quick guide about the best places to stay in Girona, a combination of comfort and location to make the most of your Girona trip.

Hotel Nord 1901 

One of the best hotels in Girona, Hotel Nord 1901 has a great location close to the Onyar River and the famous Pont de les Peixateries Velles built by Gustave Eiffel and Girona Cathedral. This 4-star hotel sits in a typical Catalan-style building and offers a mix of rooms, suites, and apartments that have been renovated. Breakfast is included in the hotel rates, and the garden with a pool is one of the hotel’s most loved features.

Carlemany Girona Hotel

Great option of accommodation in Girona for travelers who are arriving or leaving the city by train or bus. The Carlemany Girona is a 4-star business-friendly hotel with a central location, less than 5 minutes walking to Girona train and bus stations. Surrounded by shops and restaurants, it’s perfect for travelers that want comfort, location, and good value for money. It’s also a good option for business travelers that need to be close to Fira de Girona Convention Center. 

Peninsular Hotel

This budget-friendly hotel in Girona offers all the comfort and amenities you expect from a 3-star hotel. Its location is excellent, central, and close to Girona’s popular attractions and medieval streets. The Peninsular has been welcoming guests for more than 150 years, and its helpful staff is known for sharing valuable tips about what to do in the city.

Hotel Costabella

This 3-star property is a bit on the edge of the city, and it will take about 15 to 20 minutes to walk from the hotel to Girona Old Town. The advantage of being outside the city center is that from Hotel Costabella you can admire the nature and the landscape around Girona, plus the hotel offers a pool, garden and comfortable rooms in many different sizes, from double accommodation up to quadruple rooms. Among the hotel’s amenities are a relaxing sauna and jacuzzi, gym, restaurants, and even a dedicated space for your bicycle. On top of all that, Hotel Costabella offers good value for money.

Now you know what to do in Girona, where to stay, and the best places to visit, the next step is to start planning your trip to this beautiful Catalonian city. 

Remember that you can travel to Girona from Barcelona (there are buses and trains daily) and you can fly to Girona Costa Brava International Airport.

Photo of Girona Costa Brava Airport the easiest way to get to Girona is by flying there or taking a train from Barcelona.
Girona’s airport has flights to over 50 destinations.

Check out our Travel Planning Page for all the companies, services, and websites we use and recommend for booking transportation, accommodation, and experiences. And if you are planning a trip to other destinations in Spain, look at our Spain travel page for more tips and inspiration.

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Girona is one of the most beautiful cities in Catalonia, Spain, and it's worth visiting. Here is a guide to the best things to do in Girona, places to visit, Game of Thrones filming locations, and travel tips. If you are in doubt about visiting Girona, this post will convince you to pack your bags and stay in Girona for a couple of days. We listed the attractions in Girona, hotels, the best places to stay, and how to get there.

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