Looking for a quick, easy, and historic day trip from Barcelona? Girona is calling your name! With Game of Thrones filming locations, the gorgeous Girona Cathedral, and more than a few Michelin stars, Girona more than lives up to its reputation as a highly recommendable day trip from Barcelona.
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Is Girona worth visiting?
In a word, YES! Girona could not be a more rewarding day trip from Barcelona. Narrow streets, friendly locals, and not as many tourists as you'd frankly expect, when you're visiting the next stop on the high-speed train from one of Europe's most (over) visited cities. Girona is a welcoming, high-end city with plenty of tourist attractions to fill any tourist's dance card for a fun day outside of the hustle and bustle of Barcelona.
How to get to Girona from Barcelona
How long does it take to get to Girona from Barcelona?
Getting to Girona from Barcelona for a day trip could not be easier. Spain's high-speed train system can get you from Girona to Barcelona in less than 40 minutes. Yes, you read that correctly. You'll essentially hop on the high-speed train that came all the way from Madrid, stay for just one stop, and jump off in Girona!
Catching the high-speed train in Barcelona
The only option for grabbing the high-speed train is at Barcelona's Sants train station. Be sure to buy your tickets in advance, to guarantee yourself a seat on these often crowded routes. Do plan to allow plenty of time to grab the train, as due to security concerns, train travel in Spain is increasingly feeling like air travel in other countries. You'll need to go through basic security to reach your platform, and wait in a couple of lines to have your ticket scanned. It's *NOT* like the UK where you can just hop on a train.
Getting from Girona's train station to the historic district
When you arrive in Girona, you'll be in their remarkably pristine, less-than-10-years-old train station, which is about a 15 minute walk from the historic area where you'll spend most of your time. There are cabs waiting at the station, if you're not ready to start the walking quite yet, but it is a perfectly pleasant walk, with coffee shops, etc., along the way, so there's really no need to spend money on a cab.
History of Girona, Spain
No visit to this blog would be complete without a full historical rundown of the city before you visit! Today's Girona simply brims with history, and with good reason.
Founded in 79 B.C., this former site of a Roman citadel carries its age well, blending historic buildings with modern ones, without losing its historic flare. Today, it's a proudly Catalan area - with the ubiquitous yellow ribbons adorning even more balconies than in the region's capital of Barcelona. The city has a long history of sieges (!!), having survived 25 - and not a bad rate of victory...it's fallen 7 times out of those 25.
Girona has a large, historically Jewish quarter the "Call" - where you'll find the narrowest streets in the city. Girona's Call once housed on of the world's main schools of Kabbalah during the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, the city's Jewish population was forced to leave in 1492, as a result of the Alhambra Decree, through which Ferdinand and Isabella expelled all Jews from Spain.
Modern Girona is certainly not a large city, with a population of just over 100,000 as of 2019, but it really doesn't feel terribly small (aside from the fact I keep seeing people run into friends on the street as we sat at a cafe). It's a proudly Catalan area, and this winter you could hardly walk a few steps without seeing yellow ribbons waving in the breeze.
Is Girona walkable?
Absolutely. Girona is relatively small, and hugely pedestrian and tourist friendly. Once you're in the historic core, a car would be a massive burden.
How long should I spend in Girona?
Personally, I thought seeing Girona on a day trip from Barcelona was enough time to enjoy the city. We hugely enjoyed visiting. If you wanted to spend more time, Girona boasts a number of hotels that would be happy to have you, but there probably aren't enough "tourist" sites to jam pack too many days.
What is there to do in Girona?
Let's go through a few of the major attractions that you can visit during a day tip from Barcelona to Girona.
Basílica de Sant Feliu
One of your first stops on a walking tour of Girona would be Basilica de Sant Feliu, which is situated as the walk starts to cross out of the more commercial centre up to the historic core of the city. Girona's original cathedral is gorgeous and historic - not to mention home to some 4th century burial sarcophagi.
On the day we visited, the Basilica de Sant Feliu was free to enter, however, one tourism website lists the same cost as Girona Cathedral. If they are charging that day and your'e looking to save, visit Girona Cathedral instead. It's not heated, but don't worry, they've packed it full of those heaters normally used to allow patio dining during shoulder season. For a little more on Spanish weather and packing for Spain, check out the full post: What to Wear in Spain.
History of Girona Cathedral
For many people, Girona's main attraction is its historic cathedral. A model of Catalan Gothic architecture, the current Cathedral was constructed between the 11th and 18th centuries (yes, you read that correctly). Girona Cathedral proudly features the widest Gothic nave in the world, which caused much consternation among its architects during construction, to the extent that a meeting was called to determine whether the proposed construction should be called off.
Buying tickets to Girona Cathedral
Tickets to Girona Cathedral are available for 7 Euros, which includes an audioguide. Amazingly, tickets are purchased in the visitor's centre, which is accessed across an amazing stone bridge from the Cathedral.
During our visit in early January, we did notice a large number of people taking pictures of the exterior of the Cathedral, but only a very small number actually paying to enter. I would *highly* recommend that you fork over the 7 Euros so you can enter the Cathedral - it's well-worth paying to support the landmark, and the interior is gorgeous. There's also a cloister and a nice, public restroom. While the exterior is enchanting (and featured in Game of Thrones, more on that, below), merely looking at the exterior of the Cathedral doesn't give you a feel for the grandeur of the building.
Before or after your visit, be sure to take in the views from the area surrounding Girona Cathedral (to the right, if you're facing the Cathedral). You'll also want to head down into the historic district that way, assuming you came up from the train station and walked up the main steps before your visit!
Girona's Arab Baths
At only 2 euros/person, a visit to Girona's Arab Baths certainly won't break the bank! *At least* as old as the 12th century (apparently the first recorded mention of the existence of the Baths), the Baths, like Girona, has weathered sieges, became part of a convent, and, much more recently, made a cameo on Game of Thrones.
The Arab Bath's official website has additional information.
Girona's City Walls
I am *told* that there are incredible views to be had from Girona's city walls! Sadly I cannot speak to this personally - one of the drawbacks of traveling to Europe over the holidays. Everything isn't always open! I feel a blog post coming on...
Game of Thrones sites in Girona
Girona has experienced a recent uptick in visitors from Barcelona due to its recent use as a filming site in Game of Thrones. It's worth looking up a good list of filming sites before your visit. we used this Game of Thrones filming sites list during our time! We've discussed several of them above.
Where to eat & drink in Girona
Girona has more Michelin stars than you'll really believe! Known for fine dining, if you are in the market for a fancy dinner, this is the place to do it. That said, definitely book in advance, as it's a small town, and a foodie destination, so you'll want to be sure you can visit all the right spots during the brief time you're in Spain!
If you aren't looking for Michelin-starred dining, of course you can find that as well. We just popped into a random restaurant in the historic area and were perfectly happy with our food! As always, do be careful. On our way out of town, we stopped to grab a beer at a cafe on the very commercial strip leading out of town. Aaannnnd....we got short changed. We chose not to say anything, as it was only 1 Euro (and of course it "could have been a mistake," which is why this is such a great con in tourist towns). Certainly no reflection on Girona specifically, but just a general warning for my fellow travelers.
For more ideas on where to eat and drink in Girona, check out my friend Kathy's post from Tasty Itinerary!
Thanks for stopping by!
We simply loved our time in Girona. It's a historic town that hasn't lost its sense of self - you'll get a better feeling of Catalonia than I would have expected. While you're learning about Spain, check out:
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