If you are looking for a destination for a weekend getaway or to escape the cold winter, you may consider visiting Girona. The capital of Costa Brava, in Catalonia, Girona has made itself a reputation for being one of the country’s budget airlines’s hubs. Many fly there to then head to Barcelona, or – in the summer months – to visit the beautiful beaches of Costa Brava.
But the city is honestly so pretty that you’d miss out if you didn’t go. Have I tickled your interest? Here are a few things you should know before visiting Girona.
Things To Know Before Visiting Girona
Girona is incredibly well connected
As I have said at the beginning of this post, Girona is well connected to Europe and the rest of Spain via budget flights, and if you know where and how to look you can travel there for as cheap as €20 roundtrip! The airport is well connected to the city, and you have several ways of getting to town:
BY CAR – If you’d rather rent a car when visiting Girona, you’ll be happy to know that the airport is just at 20 minutes drive from town. You can get a quote for car rental here.
BY BUS – Public buses connect the airport to the city. Sagalés run services n. 605 or 607. The ride takes about 20 minutes and buses depart in connection with the arrival of Ryanair flights.
BY TAXI OR PRIVATE TRANSFER – If you don’t want to rent a car, but don’t want to use the public bus, you can hop on a taxi, which will cost you around €30. Private transfers cost pretty much the same, and can be booked here or here.
Moving around town is very easy
Girona is small and truly pedestrian friendly, and you won’t have to bother trying to navigate the local public transportation system. Indeed, all the attractions are in the medieval center or in the more modern parts of the city, right across the river, and easy to walk to. Indeed there’s nothing better than walking around to appreciate everything that it has to offer – one of the best things to do is actually walking along the old city walls in search for the best photo opportunity.
It’s a Game of Thrones filming location
If you are a Game of Thrones fan you will surely know this – Girona was the filming location of the sixth series. You can go in search of the most iconic places by yourself, or alternatively join a Game of Thrones tour such as this one or this one.
It’s Foodie’s Paradise
Girona is one of the prime destinations in the country for food. El Celler de Can Roca, a local restaurant, is one of the best in the world. It was founded by the Roca brothers – Jordi Roca who also owns Rocambolesc ice-cream place; Joan Roca, the head chef; and sommelier Josep Roca. Dining there is a fantastic experience, but you will have to book in advance.
If El Celler de Can Roca is out of your league or you haven’t been able to reserve a table, worry not: there are plenty of other good restaurants in town. Here are my favorite places:
BIONECTAR – Vegan food in a lovely atmosphere with excellent service.
LA FABRICA – The best breakfast and brunch spot in town, it’s a popular hangout spot for cyclists.
EL CUL DE MON – Catalan-Moroccan fusion in an incredible location.
MIEN – Excellent ramen in the heart of the old town.
GOOD TO KNOW: Most restaurants in the country have set lunch menus and a full meal can be as cheap as €12.
You can visit on day trips from Barcelona
My recommendation is to spend a couple of days in Girona to take in all that it has to offer, but you actually can visit Girona on day trips from Barcelona too. Catalonia’s capital is at about one hour drive from Girona, but the best way to travel from Barcelona to Girona is actually by train. The fast train takes literally 35 minutes; whereas the slow train takes 90 minutes as it makes several intermediate stops.
If you’d rather opt for a guided tour, you may wish to consider the following options:
The best time to visit is the spring
Any time is a good time to visit Girona. The first time I visited was in July for the first time, and it was hot, though one day a mighty thunderstorm brought some much needed relief. I went again in October, and the temperatures were definitely more pleasant.
Spring and summer are generally good seasons to visit Girona, but keep in mind that the Temps de Flors festival in May, and the Sant Joan festival in June mean the city is incredibly busy and you’ll have to book your accommodation well in advance.
You need to get used to local business hours
Coming from Southern Italy, this hardly came as a surprise to me – business hours in Sardinia, where I am from, are pretty much the same. But if you are accustomed to the Northern European or North America schedule, the local business hours may look completely random!
You see, Girona is a city that still observes the working times of southern Europe for the most part, so shops and businesses close between 2:00 and 4:00 or 5:00 pm. During the summer time, it really makes sense: it’s too hot to be wandering around anyways and many go back home to enjoy their lunch break and some even take a short siesta – a nap.
Just as well, meal times are much later than in other places. Lunch is normally eaten at about 2:00 pm, whereas dinner time won’t be before 8:00 pm (in fact, that’s early by local standards). If you are hungry before then, do what the locals do: have a merienda, or a snack. Even better, have a gelato at Rocambolesc!
The official language is Catalan
The official languages in Girona are Catalan and Castillan (which we simply know as Spanish), and what you’ll hear the locals speak is Catalan. Everyone does speak Spanish, and most people in the business and tourism industry speaks English, so you’ll be able to get by without any issue. Menus at restaurants are usually in Catalan, but most of them have an English copy as well.
Nationalism is real
One thing you will immediately notice when visiting Girona is that Catalan flags are hanging everywhere. Most people in this part of Catalonia are quite nationalistic, and there is a strong move to press for independence from Spain. This post by the BBC explains the basic facts, in case you are interested to find out more. In general, your experience as a tourist won’t be affected by the independence movement, unless you happen to visit during one of the major protests when transportation strikes may cause interruptions.
Are you traveling to Costa Brava and the Pyrenees? Make sure to read my other posts:
- The Best Guide To The Things To Do In Girona
- The Best Places To Visit In La Garrotxa, The Volcanic Region of Catalonia
- The Most Beautiful Hikes In Garrotxa: A One Week Itinerary
- 10 Fantastic Attractions In Besalu, Spain
- Hiking In The Pyrenees: The Best Trails
- The Best Hikes In Spain