There are many more things to do in Girona than you’d imagine.
Bridges, cobbled alleys, a mighty looking cathedral, fantastic restaurants and lovely small cafés, and an infinity of small boutiques that will be the blessing (or the curse, depending on how you see it!) for shopaholics: Girona, the main city of Costa Brava, in Catalonia is a gem, and frankly underrated.
You see, most people who visit Catalonia completely ignore Girona. They fly there on a budget airline and immediately head to Barcelona just hour away. When they eventually visit Girona, it’s for a day trip. But I beg to differ and I strongly advise you to pick Girona over Barcelona during your trip to Catalonia.
Curious to find out more about Costa Brava’s best city? Continue reading and discover what to see and do.
20 Fantastic Things To Do In Girona
Cross all the bridges
One of the most iconic images of Girona is that of the colorful buildings along the Onyar river and the bridges that cross it. There are eleven bridges that connect the two sides of the river, each of them different and giving you a different perspective and slightly different view of the city. The most famous ones are the Pont de Pedra, a beautiful stone bridge with three arches; and the Pont de Ferro, also known as Eiffel Bridge because it was planned by Gustave Eiffel and built in 1877, only two years after the construction of the Eiffel tower.
Then walk the city walls
For more beautiful views of Girona, walk the city walls. The Passeig de la Muralla affords you views of both the Old City and of the newest part of town, and you can even see the Pyrenees in the distance.
The walls are part Roman and part dating to the 14th century, and there are various watchtowers along them, from where you can get even better views. The best time to walk along the walls is the early morning or the late afternoon – so that you can either enjoy sunrise or the beautiful sunset light.
There are three access points: one at the gardens behind the Cathedral of Girona; another by the Spanish Civil War Memorial; and the last one by the Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants. You can start in one and finish on the other. It takes between one and two hours to walk the walls, depending on how often you stop.
TIP: Once you get to the Cathedral, continue walking to the Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants, on the last section of the walls: there are less people on this section, and the views are stunning. You won’t regret lingering a little longer!
Go to the Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants
The Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants is a fantastic example of Romanesque style architecture, as there are many in Catalonia. It was built in the 12th century, though there is evidence that the original structure was actually built in the 10th century.
Visit the Cathedral
The Catedral de Santa Maria is one of the most famous landmarks of Girona. It was built between 11th and the 18th century in a mix of styles which include Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque. 90 steps lead to the Cathedral, and a lot of people love taking photos of them and on them.
Inside the church there are beautiful stained glasses and the Cathedral Treasury Museum, where the masterpiece is the Tapís de la Creació (Tapestry of Creation), a Romanesque embroidered panel dating back to the 11th century that is incredibly well preserved.
Then the Basilica de Sant Feliu
Right next to the Cathedral there’s the beautiful Basilica de Sant Feliu, which used to be Girona’s cathedral until the current one was built. It’s a good mix of Gothic and Baroque styles.
Go to the Convent of Sant Domenec
One of the first Gothic buildings of Catalonia was the Convent of Sant Domenec, built between the 13th and the 14th century. Nowadays, parts of the Convent are used by the University.
Explore the Jewish Quarter
Girona used to have one of the largest Jewish communities in the Iberian Peninsula. Here, much like in Besalú, they contributed to the development and wealth of the region. Located inside the Força Vella and dating back to between the 12th and 15th century, the Jewish Quarter is a maze of narrow, cobbled alleys where you will enjoy getting lost and taking endless amounts of photos.
You can even go on a guided tour of Girona and Besalu that takes you through their Jewish history – you can book it here.
Visit the Museums
What should you do in Girona when it rains? Good news! There are some great museums!
JEWISH HISTORY MUSEUM – If you are a fan of history, then visiting the Jewish History Museum is a must. This nicely details the history of the Jewish community of Catalonia and Aragon between the 9th and 15th century. Don’t skip the courtyard at the back!
ARCHEOLOGY MUSEUM OF CATALONIA – Housed in part of the Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants and the church of San Nicolau, you can visit after you are done with the monastery. It has a good exhibit witnessing human activity in the region until Roman time.
ART MUSEUM – Housed in the old Episcopal Palace, it’s a good art museum with pieces that date back from the Romanesque period until the 20th century.
MUSEUM OF CINEMA – Girona became a more popular tourist destination when it started being the set of films and tv series. Visiting this museum is a great way of learn about the history of film and the techniques used in cinema.
Discover the Game of Thrones Locations
Game of Thrones fans won’t want to miss the filming locations of the sixth series that are scattered around Girona. After seeing some GoT filming locations in the Basque Country, I was certainly pleased to see more in Catalonia. You may want to consider a Game of Thrones tour such as this one.
Walk around the Old Quarter
A walk in the Old Quarter in search of the many hidden gems is perfect to enjoy the cobbled alleys, the archways and the many pretty corners of this beautiful city.
Check out the Arab baths
The Arab baths of Girona were built in the 12th century. Their design was inspired by both Roman and Arab influences. They were in use until the 14th century, and can now be visited for a mere €2 – one of the nicest (and most budget friendly) things to do in Girona.
FUN FACT: This is another Game of Thrones filming location!
Kiss the Lion’s bottom
Lots of people – visitors and locals alike – stop at the statue of a lion and kiss its bottom. Apparently doing it means that you’ll go back to Girona. I can attest it works: I have kissed it and have already been twice! There are even have steps to reach the statue’s bottom more easily.
Chill at Plaça Independencia
This is the biggest square in Girona, and from there you can easily cross the river and walk towards the Old Quarter. It’s a large, airy square with lots of nice cafés where you can have lunch for a real steal. Locals love to go there in the late afternoon, to chill and have a drink. Go there to catch a bit of local action. Hanging out here is what to do in Girona to catch a bit of local action.
TIP: Together with the rambla, right on the other side of the river, Plaça Independencia is one of the best areas in town for a night walk.
Visit Casa Masó
Of the lovely, colorful buildings that cling on the banks of the Onyar river, Casa Masó is one of the very few you can actually visit. It used to be the house of Rafael Masó, one of the most famous Catalan architects of the 20th century. Everything in the house is still set up as it used to be when Masó lived there.
Go to the Hospital de Santa Caterina
Now housing part of the offices of the Catalan government, this was a working hospital between the 17th and the 20th century, and one of the best preserved historical hospitals of Southern Europe.
TIP: You can book a guided tour of the Hospital de Santa Caterina through the Art Museum.
Chill (or run) at Parc de la Devesa
To mingle with the locals go for a run or a walk at Parc de la Devesa. It’s the largest urban park in Catalonia. You’ll definitely pass by it on your way to Plaça Independencia.
Have breakfast or brunch at La Fabrica
La Fabrica is located in one of the many tiny squares in town, near yet another flight of stairs. This lovely café is known in town as the best hang out for cycling fans. It was established by a Canadian couple – Christian Meier, who used to be a professional cyclist, and his wife Amber. It’s the kind of place where you are likely to find other cyclists, see bikes outside (and even inside, to be fair) and you may have a chance to discuss the Giro.
For the non-cyclists, the good news is that La Fabrica is a fabulous place to have breakfast, brunch or a light lunch. For a healthy yet tasty breakfast opt for the breakfast bowl with lots of oats, coconut flakes, honey and fresh fruit.
Then get a gelato at Rocambolesc
Eating gelato is one of the best things to do in Girona in the summer. Come to think of it, why keep it seasonal? Have it whenever you feel like a treat. Rocambolesc is the place to go. It was founded by Jordi Roca, who in 2014 was recognized as the World’s Best Pastry Chef. The choice of flavors is great – though they change daily, apparently. They even have lactose free and vegan ice cream! It you trust the Italian here, you’ll end up eating one of the best gelato out there.
Dine in one of the fabulous restaurants
One of the best things to do in Girona is eating. The city is one of the food capitals of the world, home to El Celler de Can Roca, one of the best restaurants in the world. The restaurant was founded by the Roca brothers, including the same Jordi Roca of Rocambolesc, Joan Roca who is the head chef, and Josep Roca who is the sommelier. You must reserve in advance, but if you fail to find a spot don’t worry: Girona is packed with excellent restaurants were you can dine like a king.
If you happen to visit Girona in the spring or summer, you’ll be happy to dine al fresco. And if you are vegan or vegetarian, you’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of options for you – my favorite is vegan restaurant is Bionéctar.
TIP: For lunch, do like the locals and opt to get a fixed menu. With something between €12 and €15 you’ll get an appetizer, a main course, a dessert and a drink.
Girona is packed with lovely small shops and boutiques were you will love rummaging to find the item you didn’t even know you needed. Whether you are looking for souvenirs to bring to your family and friends, or just want something nice for yourself, rest assured that you’ll have plenty of choice.
Practical Information To Plan Your Trip To Girona
Day trips to Girona
If you are tight on time but still want to visit Girona, you can go there on a day trop from Barcelona. The following are the best options:
From Girona Airport
Girona is easy and cheap to reach from pretty much anywhere in Europe, as it is a hub for budget airlines. The airport is well connected to the city.
BY CAR – From the airport, Girona is a 20 minutes drive. You can get a quote for car rental here.
BY BUS – Sagalés operates buses from Girona airport to Girona city center. You can take bus n. 605 or 607. The journey lasts about 20 minutes. The bus timings follows the arrival and departure schedule of Ryanair flights.
BY TAXI OR PRIVATE TRANSFER – A taxi from the airport to the center costs around €30. You can also book a private transfer for more or less the same price here.
It takes about one hour to drive from Barcelona to Girona. Alternatively, you can opt for the train. The fast train takes a mere 35 minutes, but there also is a slower one that makes various stops and takes 90 minutes.
Where to stay
There are plenty of good accommodation options in Girona, but the city can get busy in pick season so you should book well in advance. I have selected the best places to stay in town, for any budget:
- HOTEL ULTONIA is well located right outside the Old Quarter and with beautiful views of the Cathedral. Rooms are large, modern and comfortable. It’s great for business travelers, but suitable for anyone who wants to spend some time in the city.
- HOTEL HISTORIC is a great find in the Old Quarter, really close to the Cathedral. Rooms – which are all different – are gorgeous and comfortable.
- CAN COCOLLONA has nice, well equipped dorms and a beautiful garden.
- BRAVISSIMO is a beautiful, stylish apartment in the Old Quarter.
Are you traveling to Costa Brava and the Pyrenees? Make sure to read my other posts:
- What You Must Know Before Visiting 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
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Patronat de Turisme Costa Brava Girona during my second trip to Girona, and wish to thank them for helping me out with the organization. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain my own.