I came across the city of Girona while looking up the surrounding areas of Ryanair Airport locations on Google maps. From a satellite view, Girona looked like the ideal destination for travellers who like a little bit of “city-life” balanced with natural areas for exploration. Girona’s location also makes it an ideal base to discover the area – it’s a short distance from some of Catalonia’s best features: the Costa Brava, Barcelona, Banyoles and Besalu (and a ton of unnamed striking pit-stops along the way).
AN OVERVIEW (more detailed post about Girona here)
Girona is the name of the Province and also the capital city of the Province. But Girona is not your typical city. There’s something about Girona that’s particularly heartening and welcoming, especially for someone who loves culture and community. The Catalan spirit is infectious. Girona’s got a little bit of culture, history, a strong sense of community, great eateries and everything you could need all around you.
The closest airport is the Girona Costa Brava Airport (Girona GRO). At the airport, you have two options: renting a car (Goldcar highly recommended) or taking a coach transfer to Girona City. The city of Girona is a straight-forward, tourist friendly drive (20 mins, 30 if you miss the exit) from the Girona Barcelona airport. It’s also only around a 45 minute drive from Barcelona. I don’t recall seeing any taxis at the front of the airport, although there might be taxi-allocated section which I missed since I had a rental.
The hotels in the area are quite pricy for the millennial traveller. I got a feeling that their clientele was your average middle-aged British “holiday-maker”, if you get my drift.
You can find many apartments in the old town on Airbnb, mostly modern ones, at quite a reasonable price. I stayed in a remodelled, old studio apartment that could be described as “charming” – not as elevated way to mean tiny and old, but cause it really was tiny and cute. It’s an open plan apartment, with a bed, sofa, wardrobe (no hangers), and a little table – essentially, everything you’d need for a short trip. There’s no kitchen in this place, but it really isn’t needed – there ware so a load of good and inexpensive restaurants in the area. The bathroom was a little run-down – the ceiling was coming off, there was a little mold and an insect or two were spotted coming out of the drains. Luckily, I was so chilled out by the Catalan attitude, that the seeing an insect (post-shower) didn’t really matter that much. I guess that’s something to expect from old buildings, the cost of loving authentic, rustic buildings. I did suggest some bathroom improvements to the owners, hopefully they’ve acted on them. The place was otherwise perfect. I especially enjoyed the balcony; sipping wine on the balcony, overlooking the lively and yet relaxed quintessentially Spanish street underneath while listening to the buskers was a dream-like experience.
FOOD, ICE-CREAMS & CAFES
You’re spoilt for choice. Girona is one of those places that’s been hit by a wave of hipster-eateries and cafeterias.
- Breakfast: Head to Casamoner – a bakery/pastry shop that’s got all you could possibly dream of, and more. Everything is fresh, delicious, and local. They’ve got a range of bread products, pastries, and sandwiches to choose from. Their sandwiches were made with local products (Iberian ham, local cheeses), mixed with walnuts, cranberries, and more creatively delicious options. It’s also a good idea to buy some sandwiches from here for a day-trip. If you’d like to sit down somewhere, go to Cafe Arts – sit down under the trees and watch Girona go by. They’ve got a selection of toasties, omlettes, and the usual.
- Brunch/Lunch: Once again, Casamoner. If you prefer to sit in somewhere, I have two favorites. First there’s La Terra, a bright and colourful casual brunch place with a selection of veil burgers and toasties to die for. They’ve also got a selection of cakes, and amazing coffee. The place overlooks the river, has a typically Spanish décor, and good-natured staff. Then there’s La Fabrica – colourful granola bowls, plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, hummus-toasties, fresh bagels, croissants, and amazing coffee. It’s a millennial-foodie’s heaven.
THINGS TO DO & SEE:
- Museums: Girona is one big museum filled with smaller, equally intriguing museums. Apart from gawking at the streets, the architecture, and atmosphere in awe, there are also a number of museums to go to. When you go to your first museum, the attendant will give you a booklet with information and a map to all the other ones, and you also get discounts depending on how many you visit – a great cultural iniative which all countries should adapt. Being a Jewish Quarter, there’s a Jewish History Museum within the old city. It tells of tales of the Jewish History, which is quite a touching and educational experience. It’s a good start to the museum-hopping, and if you only have the time for one, it’s the one I strongly recommend.
- Nature Walks: A-top the fortress there’s a path into a forest-like area that you could walk along, or have a picnic. It overlooks the city, looking down at the city through the branches as the sun sets over the brick houses is spectacular.
- Feel Girona: As soppy as this might sound, the most unique experience Girona has to offer is the beauty of Girona itself. Walk the narrow streets, get lost, stumble into a wine bar, find your way out, and fall in love with the city. This is especially easily on a night time stroll.
- Roadtrips/Excursions: The reason I chose Girona as a base was because of its location. It’s surrounded by greener, mountains and lakes, and it’s close to Barcelona and the Costa Brava. Areas to visit: Banyoles, Besalu, Castellfollit de la Roca, The Costa Brava (Platja d’Aro, Palafrugell, Begur, Cadaques), Santa Pellaia.
If you have any questions, just comment below! More posts about Catalonia will be up in the coming weeks 🙂