Girona Mini Guide
Situated in the mountainous region of north east Spain
near the French border, Girona is one of the most beautiful places in the country and a cultural, gastronomical and natural haven. It has a lush landscape with four rivers which run through the city keeping the surrounding hillsides green and verdant, while Girona's proximity to the sandy beaches of the Costa Brava has made it a favourite destination for tourists.
Girona is a Catalan city and though it is not as big as the capital Barcelona
, it has much to offer and also oozes affluence and style. The historical centre of the city is divided from the modern part by the river Onya.
Walking through Girona along the river banks of the Onya is a great way to appreciate the city's rich architectural history which dates back to the 11th century including the cathedral with its Romanesque tower and its tapestry which details the story of the creation. The cathedral stands within a walled fortress called the Forca Vella, and is also noted for its huge Gothic nave, said to be the largest in the world. Like Barcelona the old streets of the town's thoroughfare, La Rambla, become a thriving market place at the weekend where flowers and food are sold. Iberians, Visigoths and Romans have all lived in Girona, while a large Jewish quarter is all that remains after the Jews were thrown out of the city by the Catholic kings in 1492.
The Museo Historica del Jueues tells the fascinating story of how the Jews flourished before succumbing to their plight, and how the religion of Kabbalah is thought to have started in Girona. Another cultural sight of Girona is the Arab baths which are housed in a convent.
Food in Girona combines the best of Mediterranean and seasonal dishes and uses a wide range of ingredients from the sea and the countryside. Many of these will be put into the same dish, such as a main course of chicken and lobster or pig with crab meat. The availability of Catalan and fusion food also means that this is one of the most dynamic and creative places to eat in the world. Many of the restaurants have reasonably priced food as well as large cellars of wine to choose from. Eating out in the countryside is a good way to experience the provincial charm of Girona and the food is simple but extremely satisfying. Don't miss the hearty Catalan stews, especially during the winter months.
Girona is a small city with a population of under 100,000 people, but it can still provide good nightlife and if you look in the right places it can compete with anywhere else in Spain for atmosphere and excitement. Try ballroom dancing at the Sal de Ball in the Paseo de la Devesa or head to the Platea club on the Placa de la Independencia which has been converted from an old theatre and so is spacious to say the least. Girona has hotels, hostels, apartments and guesthouses but it is also one of the best places to camp in Spain so if you really want to get to grips with the great outdoors, taking a tent is a good way to do so.
In you prefer a roof over your head, the modestly priced Hotel Penisular is near to the river and exemplifies the new modern architecture of Girona, as does the four star Hotel Carlemany. Girona-Costa Brava is the nearest airport to the town, only a short drive away, and it is served by Ryanair as well as a number of chartered flights. The airport can be accessed by bus from Barcelona. At the airport be sure to hire a car as it is the only way of exploring the countryside and getting out into the windy roads of the Pyrenees. The Garrotxa is a national park whose volcanic origins have created dense, lush vegetation including every kind of deciduous tree imaginable.
Bird watchers can see a variety of eagles, owls falcons and woodpeckers but keep an eye out for vipers and other reptiles on the forest floor. There are two other major national parks in the countryside surrounding Girona, including the Cap de Creus on the Costa Brava.
Make sure you take a couple of days during your visit to see the magical beaches and coves of the Costa Brava as well as the sleepy fishing villages which lie along this coast. The port town of Selva is worth seeing for its ancient monastery alone, as is the walled seaside town of Tossa de Mar. Cycling is very popular in this area and many cyclists use the steep to do their training on. Whichever mode of transport you choose, no visit to Spain would be complete without going to Girona, the surrounding countryside and the Costa Brava.