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Girona, which lies less than 100 kilometres from both Barcelona and Perpignan, has over the years been under Roman, Moorish and French control, and was once one of the most important Jewish centres in Europe, until their expulsion from Spain in 1492. Even though the Jewish community never returned, much of the old Jewish quarter in Girona and its labyrinthine streets have been beautifully preserved while the medieval heart is now surrounded by modern Spanish architecture. Today it is a thoroughly modern city with a large student population, a thriving art scene, hip bars and chic boutiques. The River Onyar, lined by buildings in red and ochre, divides the old city from the new, and though it rarely amounts to much more than a trickle these days, is a good place to begin exploring. The numerous unique bridges that stretch over the river, from the old stone bridge to its modern steel counterpart designed by Gustave Eiffel, ease communications between both sides of the city, and provide some of the best views of the iconic facades along the river.
Girona is above all a city to be walked. The medieval beauty of the Old Quarter, with its winding cobblestone alleys, pleasant plazas and the unique facades hanging over the River Onyar, is compact enough to explore in depth on foot, and beautiful enough to keep you wandering in circles for days. But don't miss the chance to visit some of the wonderful museums and nearby attractions and activities, including skiing, ancient monasteries and the unmissable Costa Brava.
Girona stands tall among the strong tradition of Catalonian food culture, not only as the home of El Celler De Can Roca (the second-ranked restaurant in the world in 2015), but as an overall top foodie destination. Pa amb tomàquet – tomato bread – is a common starter, while the Crema Catalana is an obvious and delicious choice for dessert. Mar i Montanya – a mix of poultry and seafood – and Calçotada are other traditional dishes that are worth trying. For celebrations, you have a go with some bubbly Cava.
Cafes in Girona are all about outdoor seating on pleasant plazas or narrow alleys under the shade of trees and stone arches. Coffee, pastries and ice cream are all on offer, alongside local wine and plenty of tapas. Cafes here are also gathering places and lively centres of urban life at any time of day or night.
Girona’s nightlife is heavily influenced by the many students that call the city home. Diverse bars, pubs and nightclubs can be found throughout Girona, with the numerous establishments based in and around Plaça de la Independència being a particularly popular gathering point to get the evening started. The weekend is naturally the busiest time for nightlife, but lively venues can be found any day of the week, especially on Thursday, which is a popular night for students.
Girona has a full range of shopping options, from designer fashion to traditional handicrafts and everything in between. Delicatessen is a particular strong point, with artesanal cheese shops, speciality chocolateries and great markets. There are also many craft and antique shops throughout the different shopping districts that showcase some unique items that make for perfect souvenirs and gifts.
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