Girona, located in Catalonia, Spain, sits between Costa Brava and Barcelona. Located 99 km northeast of Barcelona, it is a majestic place to visit, with medieval and ancient walls, narrow winding city streets, and one of Spain’s last surviving Jewish Quarters! From the Moorish invaders to Napoleon Bonaparte 800 years later, many wanted to get their hands-on Girona. The surrounding high fortifications of the city have historical significance since Girona has faced 25 sieges in its history.
For all the Game of Thrones fans out there, you’ll have seen Girona’s dignified grey stone streets in Season Six when it appears as Braavos. Girona is popular among day-trippers and a great destination on even the quickest itineraries through Spain. You can take the early morning express train from Barcelona to reach Girona in 40 minutes (It would cost about 16 Euros). The City center is a 10-minute walk from train station. The city has two parts - The old town which stands on the steep hill of the Capuchins to the east of the river Onyar, and the more modern section that stands on the plains to the west.
Here are the Top 5 things to do in Girona!
1. Explore the Onyar River and walk across the Eiffel Bridge
Yes, the Eiffel Bridge is linked to the Eiffel Tower! Gustave Eiffel constructed a bridge in Girona just before the Eiffel Tower was built. The most famous Bridge in Girona, the Eiffel Bridge (aka. the Pont de les Peixateries Velles) spans the Onyar River. Historically, the Onyar River used to be a major trade route.
The most captivating sight for me was that of the cute Yellow and Orange painted houses. These two are the National colors of the flag of Catalonia which has a completely different national identity, and they make for a gorgeously bright photograph background!
The Onyar River runs through the heart of Girona. See it from Pont Pedra, Eiffel Bridge, or one of several other bridges that span the river.
2. Climb the Cathedral Stairs (BTW, Game of Thrones was shot here)
The Girona Cathedral overshadows the skyline of Girona and is one of the highlights of this beautiful city. Sited atop a hill, the only way into the cathedral is to climb the long staircase to the entrance. But it is totally worth the effort if you want to marvel at the astounding architecture of it! From 1310 to 1733, it took 423 years to finish the construction of the Cathedral building. Usually, Gothic Architecture churches have columns to support the roof. But at the Girona Cathedral, there is a single arch spanning the whole width of the church making it the widest Gothic arch ever!
Game of Thrones fangirl alert! This cathedral was used in the filming of Season 6! Recognize it yet? If you do not, shame…shame…shame… Girona is worth a visit for all GOT fans. Many of the filming sites here were used with very little computer-generated imagery, so these places appear almost like they do in the show.
3. Visit Museum of Archaeology
The Museum of Archaeology in Girona has an atmospheric home in the 12th-century Benedictine monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants. You are guaranteed to lose plenty of time exploring all the historic details here, like the beautifully carved capitals on the arches in the cloister.
The monastery was seized by the state in 1835 and the museum was founded here in 1846, blending gorgeously with its splendid location. The Museum has pieces from prehistory up to the arrival of the Visigoths, and a range of exciting finds made at the Roman and Ancient Greek site at Empúries, including tableware, glassware and mosaics.
4. Brunch at La Fabrica
La Fabrica is a quaint little Cafe in Girona that is open every day from 9AM to 3PM. The stone walls along with the aesthetically placed lighting and bicycle decor makes for a beautiful sighting. The food is absolutely delicious, and I had a hearty & fulfilling brunch here! Their coffee is a must try.
5. Get Lost and Wander the Streets
Heads Up before you hit Girona - Get good walking shoes! Girona’s imperious walls (first built by the Romans & expanded in the time of Charlemagne in the early 800s) are in a good state after restoration work and you can set off on a walk along the fortifications around nearly the whole of the old quarter. There are regular watchtowers with stairways up to the best vantage points to see Girona’s skyline.
Pujada de Sant Domenec is another must visit spot which also happens to be a Game of Thrones set! Sitting on these steps with views in every direction is a memory you will not forget.
Overall, Girona is a scenic spot and is highly recommended. There’s more to this than medieval walls, narrow streets, and filming sites…the city itself outside of the main tourist quarter is a joy to stroll through. Browse small shops, have coffee in a cafe, or just wander the city.
Exploring this beautiful mix of cultures ranging from Spanish & Catalan to Moorish and all the way to Jewish and Roman was an amazing experience for me. The city tour ended just in time for me to catch the evening train and head back to Barcelona while sighing enroute at what a spectacular visit I just had!