Besalú is a lovely, beautifully preserved small town in Garrotxa, part of Catalonia. It’s about half way between the Pyrenees and Costa Brava, and right at the edge of La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park. In medieval times it was the capital of an independent state.

Nowadays, the small town has lost its status of independence but it remains a real gem. It is a maze of narrow, cobbled alleys and beautifully kept building, set against the background of two placid rivers (the Capellades to the north, and the Fluvià to the south) and the volcanic landscape of Garrotxa.

Of all the villages in Garrotxa, I find this to be the prettiest. I have visited for a day when I traveled to Garrotxa. It marked the ending point of my one week hike, and it quite easily was the cherry on the cake. Needless to say, I fell in love with it.

Interested in hiking through Garrotxa? Check out my post “The Most Beautiful Hikes In Garrotxa: A One Week Itinerary.”

To do it complete justice, you’d have to spend more than one day there, so that you’d get to enjoy its atmosphere and have dinner in one of the lovely restaurants. But if you are tight on time, you’ll be happy to know that Besalú can be easily visited on a day trip from Girona and even Barcelona.

Pressed with time? Visit Besalú on a guided tour of Garrotxa from either Barcelona or Girona. Here’s a selection of the best tours:

This post highlights the things to see and do in Besalú, either on a day trip or in a couple of days, and shares some tips to plan your trip there.

For more reasons to visit Garrotxa, read my post “The Most Beautiful Hikes In Garrotxa: A One Week Itinerary.” And if you are visiting Girona, make sure to read my post “The Best Guide To The Things To Do In Girona.”

Besalu, Spain

The iconic Pont Vell of Besalu

A Guide To The Nicest Attractions In Besalu, Spain

Besalú gorgeous medieval bridge

The medieval village is the obvious starting point of a visit. It’s the trademark of this lovely small town, and allows you to cross the River Fluvia to get into town. Pont Vell, as it is called in Catalan, was first built in the 12th century in Romanesque style. There are seven arches on the bridge, and two towers, and from there you’ll get a splendid view of Besalu.

TIP: Before actually crossing Pont Vell, make sure to walk down the stairs to reach the bank of the river. The views of the bridge and of Besalu from there are splendid!

The church of Sant Vicente de Besalu

Besalu has a few nice churches. If you decide to visit just one, make it this! Much like many other churches in Garrotxa, this church was built in Romanesque style, though there are also Gothic features. It dates back to 977, when the parish was first created.

This church is what made Besalú a famous pilgrimage site: the remains of the True Cross of the Christian faith are allegedly held there.

Besalu Spain

The monastery of Sant Pere in the beautiful central square of Besalu

The Monastery of Sant Pere

One of the unmissable things to see is the Monastery of Sant Pere. To be fair, most of the monastery is not visible anymore, but the church annexed to it still is. It used to be a Benedictine order monastery, founded in 977. The church that was annexed to it however dates from the 11th century. It’s a fairly big church, in a nice airy square with some other buildings you’ll want to visit (more about those soon) and a few nice places to stop by for a drink or a meal.

The Casa Cornellà (also known as Casa Llaudes)

In the same square as the Monastery of Sant Pere, Casa Cornellà is one of village’s landmarks. It was built by the Cornellà family in the 12th century: at the time, they were one of the most important families in the area. This is thought to be one of the best preserved examples of Romanesque style civil buildings in Catalonia. Llaudes is the name of the family that acquired the building in the 15th century.

The Hospital of Sant Julià

The Hospital of Sant Julià dates back to the 12th century and actually used to be a pilgrims’ hostel built by the counts of Besalu. The only original bit is the facade, which is truly impressive.

The Jewish mikveh baths

Girona and Garrotxa used to have a large Jewish community, which inevitably left its mark: the same is found in Besalú. Jewish people arrived in the area as early as the 9th century, and as a result there are a few buildings that testimony the Jewish history of this beautiful small town. The most important one is the mikveh, or the Jewish baths used in religious ceremonies, that were built in the 12th century.

The Jewish quarter

Though the Jewish community mixed up with the Christians, there are traces of a small Jewish quarter near the mikveh. This is also where the synagogue used to be.

Besalu Spain

A gorgeous view of Besalu

The Museum of Miniatures and Microminiatures

One of the quirkiest places to visit is the Museum of Miniatures. There is a full collection of miniatures on display, that you’ll have to observe with a magnifying lens. This will show you the level of detail that was put into these works!

Sagrat Cor Chapel

A bit outside of town there is the lovely chapel of Sagrat Cor. It’s on a hill from where there are lovely views of the village, and the hike there is pleasant one.

Besalu Spain

The Humble Chair on the bank of the river Fluvia, in Besalu

Go on a walk along the Fluvia river

I have already suggested to head down the bank of the Fluvia to get a nice view of Pont Vell and of Besalú. After exploring the village, I also recommend walking along the other bank. The views of the bridge are impressive from that side, and it is a nice, pleasant place to walk away from the crowds that at times get into town.

On this side of the river, you’ll also get to see “the humble chair,” a piece of artwork that comes from a collaboration between people living in Besalu and local artists.

Shop for souvenirs

The presence of so many souvenir shops, as opposed to other medieval villages in Garrotxa, only goes to show how it became a popular tourist destination in recent years. The good news is that most shops sell locally produced stuff, so it’s a good place to get some small presents to bring home with you.

Besalu Spain

The lovely souvenirs shop in Besalu

Practical Information To Plan Your Visit 

How to get to Besalú

Besalu is easy to reach from both Barcelona and Girona. It takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes to drive there from Barcelona, and little over half hour to drive there from Girona. You can rent a car here.

If you plan to drive, you’ll be happy to know that there’s plenty of free parking on the south side of the village, with a parking lot located near the Pont Vell. That’s also where the Information Office is located – so you can stop there for information and maps before you actually head to explore.

Should you prefer to use public transportation, Teisa has regular buses from Barcelona and Girona to Besalu.

Another option is to visit on a guided tour, departing from either Barcelona or Girona.

Guided tours 

Most tours are part of day trips departing from either Barcelona or Girona, and that include visits to also other places in Garrotxa.

These are the best tours departing from Barcelona:

And these are the best tours departing from Girona

Besalu, Spain

A different perspective of Pont Vell, the symbol of Besalu

Where to eat and sleep 

If you plan to sleep in Besalú, you’ll be happy to know that there are some excellent accommodation and dining options.

Here’s a selection of best places to sleep:

Castell de Besalú is one of the best restaurants in the village. Pont Vell is a stylish, cozy place that serves dishes prepared with local ingredients. Finally, Can Quei is another excellent restaurant serving local food.

Further information

More information can be found on the website of the tourism board of Garrotxa.

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Patronat de Turisme Costa Brava Girona during my trip to La Garrotxa for the #InPyrenees #LaGarrotxa #lagarrotxatotlany and #itinerannia campaign, and wish to thank them for helping me out with the organization. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain my own. 

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