Girona in north-eastern Spain is the perfect weekender destination to dive into Catalan culture. Located just over an hour north of Barcelona via train with Eurail, Girona is both a small vibrant city and large province stretching from the tiny landlocked country of Andorra to the sparkling Costa Brava. Known for its rich contributions to Catalan cuisine, Girona has top-notch produce, farmed from volcanic land or fished fresh from the Mediterranean and Balearic seas.
Not sure where to start in this stunning town? We've got you covered with the best things to do in Girona.
Devour Fresh Eats At The Local Markets
If you want to get a better understanding of a new culture, visit the place where they buy their food. At Mercat del Lleo, on the western side of the Riu Onyar, also known as the ‘commercial zone’ of Girona, you can try (and buy) local olive oil, beer, cheese and more. Here, you can’t go pass the jamón, which comes from all different regions of Spain—the pata negra in particular is quite unique.
Hot tip: Look but don’t touch the produce. In Girona, touching the produce can be seen as a sign of disrespect. Not necessarily because you’re fondling the produce, but because it can be perceived as a sign you don’t think it’s good enough. Instead, tell them if you want to use it today or in three days as a better strategy to test freshness.
Marvel At The Dali Museum
Just north of Girona is Figueres, the town where renowned surrealist Salvador Dali was born. In the town is a weird and wonderful museum dedicated to its homegrown artist, complete with interactive exhibits, sketches, and films that will give art lovers a bit more insight into one of history’s most famous artists. A Eurail pass will allow you to hop onto the local Renfe train, which will have you in Figueres in 30 minutes, plus a 12-minute walk from the station—which is ideal to work off all the cheese and jamón you scoffed that morning.
Go Day drinking In The Town Square
The afternoon golden hour is the perfect time to sit back and enjoy a glass of wine while people watching in an old square. Our faves are wine bars, Placa del Vi 7 or Mon Oncle. Both offer a delicious range of local and minimum-intervention wines. Another tipple the region nails? Vermouth! Our tip is to get lost in a small bar and order a vermouth either neat over ice or with spritz of soda. It will become your drink of the summer.
Dine In An Old Fort
If you can’t afford to stay at the stunning Sants Metges hotel, built atop a mountain in an old military fort, you might (and we said might) be able to afford a meal at its restaurant, Atempo. Running the kitchen is Jordi Cruz, the second youngest chef in the world to be awarded a Michelin star. In a region known for fine dining (three Michelin-starred el Celler de can Roca is also only 15 minutes away), Atempo is the new kid on the block showcasing modern Catalan cuisine. The 17-course tasting menu will set you back 145 Euro or a la carte mains sit around the 50 Euro mark. Is it worth it? Hell yes!
Discover The City On A Walking Tour
It is an incredible privilege to get to know the history of a town like Girona with a knowledgeable local guide. Whether you want to do a history tour, a food tour or a Game of Thrones-themed tour, each will teach you a bit about the city’s mysterious Jewish Quarter, ancient city walls and the colourful buildings along the Riu Onyar. However, if you want to get out of town, track down expert botanist Evarist March of the NaturalWalks team, who can take you on a fascinating flower foraging tour and teach you about the wild flowers and herbs used in the regional cuisine.
Visit The Game Of Thrones Sights
Fans of the HBO mega show will already know Girona was used to film parts of Braavos and Kings Landing. Most notably Girona cathedral (and its very high stairs) form the close-up exterior of the Great Sept of Baelor. Keen viewers will also notice several spots from Arya’s time in Braavos too. The Arab baths (or ‘Banys Àrabs’ is Catalan), where Arya attempted to escape The Waif are also a highlight in their own right.
Sample Parmesan Flavoured Ice-Cream
Not for the weak stomached, chef Jordi Roca, of the aforementioned el Celler de can Roca has created some wild flavours at gelataria Rocambolesc. If the more experimental scoops, like asparagus and truffle or parmesan don’t float your boat take a bite out of the King Slayer’s hand—yep the Games Of Thrones puns keep coming. The blood orange and mango sorbet ‘hand’ popsicle is the perfect summer treat.
Bliss Out At The Beach
What's a holiday without a lazy day at the beach? Fortunately, Girona is just a hop, skip and a jump from the stunning Costa Brava. Clear aqua-coloured waters and wild rock formations await any trip to the beach in this region. While Palafrugell has a great combination of hikes, stunning vistas and restaurants, you can basically take a swing at any coastal town and you won’t miss it. This region is also known for its delicious seafood, so you won’t want to miss the salt cod fritters, anchovies, sardines or the vibrant Palamos prawns.
While you're at it, why not check out these five stunning towns in Spain.
Image Credit: Michael Cadieux, Prisma by Dukas, Chris Kraszewski