Neoclassical Plaça de la Independència is the city's central square and the heart of civic life in Girona. The square is always busy with pedestrians, diners and revelers, as the intimate space is lined with restaurants, cafes and bars that are as lively by day with people-watchers as they are by night with party-goers.
By crossing the city bridges over the Onyar River, you can see the pastel-coloured houses that line the bank on the site of the old city walls. Pont de Ferro, an iron bridge built by Gustave Eiffel, offers beautiful views of the city's trademark facade, the quintessential Girona experience.
The Jewish ghetto – El Call – is one of the best preserved in Europe and is a major tourist attraction. Take a walk around the old quarter with alleyways of stairs bordering Carrer de la Força. The roots of the old Jewish community can be explored at the Museum of the History of the Jews, built on the site of a 15th-century synagogue.
Despite the name and the presence of Moorish architecture, the Arab Baths are housed in a breathtaking Romanesque building from the 1100’s inspired by Roman public baths. The highlight is the Apodyterium, a fantastically preserved room with an impressive octagonal swimming pool in the centre.
This tourist walking route runs along what is now left of the old city walls, which was still intact as recently as 1892. In recent years, the remaining parts of the eastern city walls have been reconstructed and magnificent views of Girona’s attractions can be enjoyed from the wall.
Venturing a bit beyond Figueres one can find the beautiful Monestir Sant Pere de Rodes, a former Benedictine monastery perched atop the green Verdera mountain and surrounded by absolutely breathtaking landscapes. The area is also home to the ruins of a medieval town and a pre-Romanesque-style church.
Panorama Trails offers the chance to admire the Catalan countryside on horseback, to wander along sandy beaches, through medieval villages and atop rolling green hills. Take the chance to experience the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean the way they were experienced for thousands of years.
Just north of Girona lies the Lake of Banyoles, a crystal clear body of water about 2 kilometres long, favoured particularly by rowers. Stroll, swim or row your way around the picturesque lake, and stop for a rest, a snack and coffee at the nearby establishments in the town of Banyoles.
The Girona's most ancient church, serving as the city's cathedral until the 10th century, is a spectacular Gothic building with an imposing bell tower built between the 14th and 16th centuries. The church holds regular services and houses some impressive works of art.
The Platja De Pals golf course is located on the farmland of Arenals del Mar, among a stunning pine forest. The club boasts 18 pristine holes, as well as a welcoming clubhouse with dining, a TV room and a games room, as well as a shop and facilities for rental equipment.
The Masella Ski Resort, located in the region of Cerdanya, is one of the premier ski spots in the Pyrenees. It features slopes of varying difficulties, from bunny hills for beginners and children to more challenging slopes for more experienced skiers looking for a challenge.
Parc de la Devesa is a large and lush park just northwest of the city centre, a green oasis in where locals relax in the sun and wander among the beautiful vegetation. There are lovely gardens surrounded by water and a greenhouse displaying various plant species, as well.
El Celler De Can Roca is the internationally famed restaurant of the Roca brothers, three expert chefs known worldwide for their spectacular Catalan cooking. It was ranked second on the 2015 list of World's 50 Best Restaurants, so it is absolutely necessary to book ahead, but if you manage to make a reservation you are in for one of the best meals of your life.
Sushi Bar Girona boasts some of the city's best views, with Plaça Independència on one side and the iconic Girona facades across the Onyar River on the other. They also serve some of the best Japanese staples in town, including sushi, sashimi, gyoza dumplings, udon and ramen noodles, and more.
Casa Marieta is one of Girona’s oldest and most emblematic restaurants, offering traditional Catalan specialities from its central location at Plaça de la Independència. Favourite dishes include Iberica ham, chicken croquettes, salt cod and lamb cutlets, best accompanied by a choice vintage from the wine cellar. It is highly recommended to book ahead, as it can be difficult to find a table unless you're willing to eat very early.
El Pou De Call is located in the heart of the Jewish quarter, serving up traditional Mediterranean cuisine, including some vegetarian and gluten-free options. The menu of the day is always extensive and offers many different choices. The gazpacho, mussles, stuffed peppers and black rice all come highly recommended.
Bringing friends and family together over delicious, high-quality food is the core of Nu Restaurant. The decor is elegant but minimalistic, but don't let that fool you; the food is anything but simple. They serve innovative contemporary cuisine with an Asian twist, all options packed with flavour and creativity.
Divinum is another of Girona's best gourmet restaurants, run by top chefs who learned their trade from world-famous chef Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca. They offer sensational tasting menus and ever-changing seasonal menus as well, all of course paired with the finest vintages from the cellar.
Les Magnolies is located in the town of Arbúcies, to the southwest of Girona. Those willing to venture to this beautiful area will be greatly rewarded with mouth-watering cooking. The restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine in a modern style, and both mains and desserts deserve a taste.
Llevataps, a modern restaurant accustomed to pushing the envelope in terms of their cooking, is located on the corner of a small plaza in the Old Quarter. The menu is heavy on meat dishes, with choices including everything from octopus tentacle and pig's head terrine to veal, rabbit, scallop, crayfish, and more.
Txalaka is a much-loved pintxo bar in the best Basque tradition. The huge variety of bite-size pintxos are displayed on the bar and include all manner of topping, like seafood, different meats, vegetables, cheeses and even sweet topping for dessert. Take as much as you like and accompany it all with typical Basque txakoli (fizzy white wine).
Escondido Café is an intimate underground Tex-Mex style restaurant and cantina, complete with sombreros hanging from the walls and cheese-covered Mexican specialities on the menu. They also have a fine selection of Mexican beer (including Corona and Negra Modelo), as well as tequila, mezcal and cocktails.
Tasty, laid-back and inexpensive, Apple Cafe Restaurant serves some of the best sushi in town, along with other Japanese specialities and some other options of Asian cuisine. Being a Girona establishment, they also have a very decent wine list to accompany your meal with a local vintage.
L’Arc sits at the foot of the steps that lead to the imposing cathedral, and has for 50 years provided a first-row seat to the city's most iconic structure. It is especially popular among students, artists and tourists, and is thus always lively. Try the ratafia, a drink made from 80 herbs, best served on ice.
Cafe Context Llibreria is a charming cafe and bookstore in the northern tip of the Jewish quarter. On top of serving small snacks and hot coffee they also often host literary events, such as talks from local authors and poetry readings, as well as occasional live music.
Established and run by professional cyclist Christian Meier and his wife, Amber, La Fabrica is a wonderful specialty coffee shop, the city's high-quality first third wave cafe. The building's original stone walls are exposed throughout the cafe, decorated with cycling photos and memorabilia, making it a unique spot in Girona.
For coffee, a bite to eat or an evening drink at Placa de la Independencia, stop by Imperial Cafe. They have great value set-menu lunches and a range of montaditos (tapas served on small pieces of bread). At night the place comes alive with students and visitors enjoying the great terrace right on the plaza.
L’Antiga is a traditional style 'xocolateriax and cafe in the heart of Girona. They serve rich, thick hot chocolate in the best Spanish tradition, but rather than pairing it with churros, the Catalans opt for 'melindros' (ladyfingers), light and delicate dry sponge cakes.
Piccadilly Coffee is modern coffee house chain in the style of Starbucks or Costa Coffee, but with a London twist. Coffee, juice, snacks and desserts are on offer, as is the opportunity to add vanilla, caramel, chocolate or mocca flavours to your coffee for a more unique experience.
Espresso Mafia may not look like much, a simple open-space concept, white from wall to wall, but behind its sleek elegance might be the best coffee in Girona. They use only the highest-quality, sustainably-sourced beans, roasted with utmost care, and brewed fresh by top baristas.
The city's central square is a meeting place for people of all ages at any hour, but after dark is when it really comes to life, when students, tourists and workers gather in throngs to eat, drink and be merry in the numerous restaurants and bars that surround the plaza. It is by far the best place to experience Girona's nightlife and immerse yourself in the spirit of the city.
La Terra is a trendy restaurant and bar with cosy nooks and low tables, definitely a hangout for the hip crowd, bursting with charm and creativity. The greatest highlight is without a doubt the unparalleled view of the emblematic Girona facades across the River Onyar. House specialties include alcoholic slushies and fruit concoctions, as well as craft beer and homemade hamburgers.
Girona’s only jazz club plays live music on Tuesdays to Thursdays, plus Saturdays and Sundays. Both international and national musicians come here to jam in the bar's small and intimate, yet comfortable space, and crowds gather to enjoy the show and sip on the wonderful house cocktails.
This theatre-turned-club is the perfect place if you want to dance to popular music until the early hours of the morning. The space is huge and retains some decorative elements from its days as a theatre. The lower level houses the bar and dance floor, while the upper level has more relaxed areas with sofas and tables for taking a break from all the dancing.
River Cafe is a great option for celiacs, be it for breakfast, a light snack or a larger meals, as up to 90% of their dishes are gluten-free. After dark River Cafe becomes a quite happening spot, with cold beer, brightly-coloured cocktails, football on large screens and occasionally live music.
Yeah! Indie Club prides itself in furiously avoiding anything mainstream, DJs spin exclusively indie and underground music, and live performances always feature the best of local alternative music. It is the place to head for a different sort of night out, a place full of character and originality.
Centrally-located Lapsus, which lies right in the heart of the city on Placa de la Independencia, is as lively by day as a cafe as it is as a bar at night. Hugely popular among locals, visitors can get a taste of local hospitality and nightlife and engage in a little people watching in the plaza.
The best place to start a shopping tour of Girona is on Rambla de la Llibertat and the streets in and around the old quarter, which offer plenty of shopping, and if you walk around you will easily find small and original shops and boutiques selling unique items or clothing, as well as crafts, delicatessen and much more.
Across the Onyar River, you can find high-street shops along the length of the lively Santa Clara street with shops selling everything from shoes and clothing to interior design, homeware, accessories and souvenirs. Explore some of the smaller streets and alleys in the area to discover hidden gems with truly unique items.
Girocentre shopping centre and Girona’s branch of the largest Spanish department store, El Corte Inglés, can be found south of the old quarter. Clothes, accessories, food and nearly anything else you might need or want to purchase during your stay can probably be found here.
Tuesdays and Saturdays are market days at the beautiful Parc de la Devesa with stalls selling clothes, handicrafts and food products. It is a fascinating window into local food culture, displaying fresh produce, meats, jams and nuts, as well as miscellaneous items and knick knacks.
If anything warrants a trip outside of the city, it is Pastisseria Can Xapa. Located in a 13th-century castle in the town of Bordils, to the northeast of Girona, this speciality chocolaterie and bakery boasts some of the finest creations around, including dark chocolate pralines and original recipes, like the gin-and-tonic cake.
Portal del Collecionista sells used books (some truly ancient), postcards from around the world, and a whole range of antiques, ranging from old documents and photographs to household items, trinkets and knick knacks. It hides wonderfully unique items you are sure not to find anywhere else.
Papers is a special gift shop that specializes in paper mache figures practicing all kinds of different professions and tasks, as well as hand painted fans, notebooks and customizable photo albums of all sizes. Though everything at Papers is quirky and unique, the huge amount of Tintin paraphernalia takes first prize in originality and nostalgia.
The Girona Airport is located 12 kilometres from the city. There are buses to the city centre run by Sagalés. The ride takes about 30 minutes, leaving passengers at the central station. Taxis can be found just outside the arrivals terminal for the 15-20 minutes trip to Girona. Avis, Europa, Eurocar and Hertz all rent cars at the airports, but booking in advance is recommended.
Girona is a relatively modest size city and the entire historical centre can easily be covered on foot. For visiting the surrounding area and the neighbouring towns, Girona is a hub for a well-connected transport system of trains and buses. Both the bus and the train station are located on Plaça Espanya where there are regular links to Barcelona, Figueres and the Costa Brava.