Besalú is a lovely, beautifully preserved small town in Garrotxa, part of Catalonia. At 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, but nowadays, having long lost its independence, it remains a real gem.
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, it’s a favorite place for day trips from Barcelona or Girona, but to do it complete justice you should plan to spend a couple of days there, to enjoy its atmosphere and have dinner in one of the lovely restaurants.
Continue reading this post for the best things to see and do in Besalú, and for some useful planning tips.
A Guide To The Nicest Attractions In Besalu, Spain
Besalú gorgeous medieval bridge
Pont Vell, AKA the medieval bridge 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. The bridge 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 town.
TIP: Before actually crossing Pont Vell, walk down the stairs to reach the bank of the river. The views of the bridge and the village from there are splendid!
The church of Sant Vicente de Besalu
There are several nice churches in town. If you decide to visit just one, make it this! Much like many other churches in Garrotxa, it 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.
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 and a few nice cafés-
The Casa Cornellà (AKA Casa Llaudes)
In the same square as the Monastery of Sant Pere, Casa Cornellà is one of village’s landmarks. Built by the Cornellà family in the 12th century (when they were one of the most important families in the area), it’s 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 it in the 15th century.
The Hospital of Sant Julià
The Hospital of Sant Julià dates back to the 12th century and used to be a pilgrims’ hostel built by the counts of Besalu. The only original bit is the impressive facade.
The Jewish mikveh baths
Girona and Garrotxa used to have a large Jewish community, which inevitably left its mark. Jewish people arrived in the village as early as the 9th century, and as a result there are a few buildings that testimony their presence. The most important one is the mikveh, or the Jewish baths used in religious ceremonies, built in the 12th century.
GOOD TO KNOW: Not far from the mikveh, there used to be a synagogue and a Jewish district.
The Museum of Miniatures and Microminiatures
One of the quirkiest places to visit, it has a full collection of miniatures on display, that you’ll have to observe with a magnifying lens. The level of detail is incredible!
Sagrat Cor Chapel
A bit outside of town, on a hill and offering lovely views of the village, there is the lovely chapel of Sagrat Cor. The hike there is pleasant one.
The Fluvia river
A walk along the northern bank of the river reveals more impressive views of the bridge and will take you away from the tourist crowds. Make sure to look for “the humble chair,” a piece of artwork that comes from a collaboration between people living in Besalu and local artists.
Compared to other villages in Garrotxa, there are many more souvenir shops here, attesting to the fact that this is a more popular place among tourists. The good news is that most sell local products, so it’s a good place to get some small presents to bring home with you.
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 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.
Teisa buses leave regularly from Barcelona and Girona.
Guided day trips
Guided tours of Besalu depart from either Barcelona or Girona and often include visits of other places in Garrotxa. I have selected the best options for you.
- Besalu and medieval towns tour from Barcelona with hotel pick up – one of the longest tours, it’s also one of the best reviewed.
- Catalonia medieval villages day tour from Barcelona – one of the overall best tours of the region.
- Garrotxa day trip from Girona – a great tour that takes you to the best attractions in Garrotxa.
- Besalú, Banyoles lake and the volcanic area near Girona – lovely tour to the two best villages in the area.
Where to eat and sleep
There are some great accommodation options in town, I have selected the best for you:
- CASA MARCIAL – Beautiful boutique hotel with views of the bridge, a nice garden and even a pool.
- CAL FUSTER – Modern, fully equipped apartment. It’s a great options if you like the idea of self catering.
- HOTEL 3 ARCS –Lovely small hotel in the center.
To try the best local food, check out the following restaurants:
- CASTELL DE BESALU – One of the best restaurants in the village.
- PONT VELL – A stylish, cozy place that serves dishes prepared with local ingredients.
- CAN QUEI – Another excellent restaurant serving local food.
More information can be found on the website of the tourism board of Garrotxa.
Make sure to check out my other posts about the Garrotxa Region and Costa Brava:
- 17 Reasons To Visit The Volcanic Region of Catalonia, La Garrotxa
- The Most Beautiful Hikes In Garrotxa: A One Week Itinerary
- The Best Guide To The Things To Do In Girona
- What You Must Know Before Visiting Girona
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.