About an hour from Barcelona is the city of Girona, Spain. The medieval gem is full of perfectly preserved architectural marvels and offers visitors just so much more than a day trip dash from the big city.
Did I mention it’s actually the location Game of Thrones?
In this Girona tourist guide you’ll learn how to get to Girona, what the major points of interest are, how to grab a good bite to eat, and much more.
A Girona One Day Itinerary
If you’re in Barcelona and you’ve got one day you can grab one of the many trains that connect the two cities (this will be explained in the last portion of the article).
Once you’ve arrived in Girona you’ll have to get central: from the train station it’s a brisk 15 minute walk.
To get there you’ll have to cross the Onyar River: one of the city’s four rivers. The river is crossed by various bridges but you can take whichever to get central.
Girona’s Bridges and Markets
I like Pont de les Peixateries Veilles (the ‘Bridge of Old Seafood Shops’) for its famous rust-coloured cage ironwork and because it was built by the same company who built the Eiffel Tower. The ‘eiffel bridge’ is a great place for photos.
There’s also Pont de Pedra (‘Stone Bridge’) where every Saturday between March and June (and October to December) you’ll find a market full of crafts and artisan products.
Les Cases de l’Onyar
The first attraction on our Girona tour are the Onyar River Houses.
These peculiar houses look as if they’re hanging above the river, their facades following a very specific autumn colour scheme by the Catalan painter Enric Ansesa. Their reflection on the river is breathtaking.
The Girona Jewish Quarter + Museum
Continuing the walk you’ll pass the Jewish Quarter, one of the most well-preserved in Spain.
Here you’ll admire traces of the original streets like Carrer de Sant Llorenç and Carrer Cundaro. If you’re really interested it’s also worth a visit to the Jewish History Museum.
In July and August the museum is open weekdays from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm while Sundays and holidays it’s open from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. The rest of the year it’s open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and Monday, Sunday, and holidays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
Tickets cost 6 euro and it’s possible to enter up to 30 minutes before closing time.
The museum is closed New Year’s Day, January 6th, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day.
The Girona Cathedral
Further down the road at Carrer de la Força we reach the city’s 11th century cathedral in just a few minutes. The original name of the church is Saint Mary’s of Girona.
Head up the stairs and see it from the inside to admire the masterful nave that’s famous for being the longest Gothic nave in Europe (22.98 m or 75 feet) and the second longest nave in total behind Saint Peter’s at the Vatican (25 m or 82 feet).
Keep on going to the Esgelsia de Sant Feliu (Church of Saint Felix), the seat of the old bishop of Girona before the position was moved to the cathedral. The bell and the monumental staircase found here are undoubtedly two of the city’s greatest symbols.
La Lleona (or the “Lion’s Bum”)
Head over to the little square that opens up in front of Sant Feliu and pay homage to Leona, one of the essential things to see in Girona for any tourist.
Leona is a neo-Gothic lion sculpture left over from the 12th century, famous with Gironians for their local mantra: “he who doesn’t kiss Leona’s bum doesn’t love Girona”.
Visitors line up by the hundreds to have the privilege – so get in line.
At one time there was a little staircase leading up to the statue’s behind (which is a couple meters above the floor) for easy access but this was removed after a French tourist fell to their death in 2015.
The Arab Baths
I would dedicate the afternoon to visiting the Arab Baths (Els Banys Arabs in Catalan) which date back to 1194. The simplistic Romanesque building is divided into various rooms from cold water to hot. The 8 sided pool outside the vestibule is the centerpiece.
The visit of this very well preserved monument should last about 20 minutes.
From March to October you’ll be able to access the baths from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm from Monday to Saturday and from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm on Sundays and holidays. From November to February they’re open only from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
The baths are closed New Year’s Day, January 6th, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day.
Girona’s Arab Baths cost 2 euro to enter.
The Medieval Walls
The longest Carolignian walls in Europe date back to the 9th century and are connected via various towers: from here you’ll get great views of the city and even the snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees.
Though many were destroyed in the 19th century to allow for city expansion, you’ll be happy to know that they’ve been recently reconstructed as part of the Passeig de la Muralla (‘the wall walk’) – one of Girona’s top attractions.
The Girona Game of Thrones Self-Guided Tour
First off I need to issue a spoiler alert – skip this if you haven’t seen season six! If you didn’t know, Girona was selected by Game of Thrones producers as a set of many season 6 scenes.
You’ll see it a ton in the first episodes as the city of Braavos, the village where Arya Stark trains to get powers from the Faceless Men in order to become a trained killer.
Some notable locations:
- Carrer di Bisbe Cartañá. This little street is where a blind and begging Arya has her fidelity to the faceless men put to the test with a series of beatings.
- Carrer di Sant Cristòfor. It’s here where the young Arya fights her tormentor “the Orphan”.
- Plaça dels Jurats. This is the square where Arya attends the play which later traces the episode of her father’s death and other scenes related to her family.
- Pujada de Sant Domenech. While trying to escape the Orphan, Arya falls and tumbles down the stairs in front of the market. The youngest Stark however is able to escape and reach the Arab Baths where she’s finally able to kill her nemesis.
Other than playing the city of Braavos, Girona is also the backdrop to a beautiful scene depicting the arrival of the king. In the sixth episode Jamie Lannister rides in on horseback to confront the High Sparrow and demand the release of Queen Margaery without being subjected to the Walk of Atonement.
This fantastic scene takes place right on the stairs of the Girona Cathedral, which is clearly visible in the background. The sea and harbour that you see were recreated digitally.
Where to Eat in Girona
Carrer dels Calderers 16 | Daily from 8:00 to midnight | Average price: €10.00
When people ask me where to go in Girona for a quick bite this one always pops up.
It’s really just a Spanish fast food chain that serves tons of local favourites, right in the centre of town, and at miniscule prices.
Some say they serve the best patatas bravas (chunky potatoes with a spicy sauce) in the city. It gets packed during peak hours so I suggest going a little early (this won’t be a problem for non-Spaniards!) like noon or 6 or 7 pm.
Carrer de l’Albereda 15 | Mon to Sat from 8:00 to midnight | Average price: €10.00
Right near the Ponte de Pedra is this delicious place that serves tapas with a great price-quality ratio. Their calling card? Their speed! This is another great place to eat something tasty and quick to get back on the tourist trail.
Here you’ll find bright, fresh dishes using produce only from their own garden. A great spot for craft beer options as well as vegetarian food.
River Café Girona
Carrer de la Barca 2 | Tues to Sun from 9:00 to 01:00 | Average price: €10.00-€15.00
A great choice for people with special dietary needs like those looking for gluten-free dining – and apparently Bruce Springsteen wrote a song about this place.
The midday set menu starts at just €11.50 and is adapt for vegetarians, celiacs, and travellers with other sorts of intolerance. Meat eaters? Not to fear! There’s something for you too so grab a seat on the river-view terrace and dig in.
Plaça de la Independència 5-6 | Daily from 13:00 to 15:30 and 20:00 to 22:30 | Average price: €20.00
Not far from the Saint Augustine Bridge, on the other side of the old town, is this 130 year old Girona institution. The menu is full of traditional Catalan dishes, a must for anybody looking to experience true local cuisine.
Of the more than 40 dishes here the real local flavours are duck with pear, veal sirloin with foie gras, and fideua noodles (a type of Catalan paella).
Girona is a city that usually has a ton of events on no matter the time of year.
Here I’ve included the two biggest festivals of the year – in the chances you aren’t in the city during those times don’t fear, I’ve included a link to the city’s official events page (it’s in Catalan but browser translations are easily understandable).
Sant Narcís Fair and Festival
The Saint Narcís Fair (aka the Girona Fair) is the one of the most important things to do in Girona for locals: it’s naturally dedicated to the city’s patron saint Sant Narcís.
The festival runs the week of the 27th of October and plays host to castellers (human towers), el gegants (paper mache giants), a correfoc (a fire run), concerts, markets, kids games and much more.
For more information visit the Fires de Sant Narcís website.
Temps de Flors (the Girona Flower Festival)
Another beautiful Girona festival is the Temps de Flors (the horribly sounding ‘Flower Time’ in English), a festival that was born in 1955 and has grown in importance every year since.
What was once a simple flower exhibition organised by the San Domenico church is now an event that involves the city turning entire streets into flower art pieces. 200,00 people visit every year. Look for amazing flower installations on the cathderal stairs and city hall.
The 2019 version of this festival runs May 11th-19th.
How to Get from Barcelona to Girona
There are a few trains that offer Barcelona to Girona service starting with the MD (‘middle distance’) which costs €11.25 and takes one hour and fifteen minutes. They depart from Sants, Passeig de Gracia, and El Clot.
There are also two types of regional trains: one which takes an hour and thirty minutes and another which takes 2 hours and ten minutes.
The first costs €8.40 and departs from Sants, Passeig de Gracia, El Clot, and Sant Andreu.
The second one also costs €8.40 and departs from Sants, Passeig de Gracia, Plaça de Catalunya, and Arc de Triomf.
If you’re not looking to spend a lot of time on trains to Girona you can also take the high-speed services (called AVANT or AVE) which will get you there in 40 minutes. The AVANT costs €16.50 per trip while the AVE is much more expensive with prices depending on seat availability. Both depart from Sants.
You can consult Barcelona to Girona train times on the official Spanish rail website – from here you’ll also be able to book your tickets for all trains save the regional ones. These must be bought at the automated ticket machines at every station.
From the Estació del Nord bus station (near Arc du Triomf and the Born District) there are buses to Girona. Trip times vary between 90 minutes and two hours depending on the amount of stops per service.
The return ticket price is €25.00.
For schedules and buying channels consult the Estacio del Nord website.
If you’re looking for more flexibility and don’t mind ponying up a bit more cash this is for you.
The 105 km trip takes about 1 hour and 27 minutes taking the AP-7 highway north. You will encounter a few toll booths costing €1.25 and €0.90 each.
For the best rates on renting a car to go to Girona I always suggest readers use Rentalcars.com.
Girona Airport to Girona City Centre
Girona city centre is connected to Girona airport via a variety of buses that depart from the little square outside the train station.
Ryanair actually has a deal with the bus company called Sagales, with buses departing Girona airport for the city every hour from 4:00 am until midnight. The trip takes about 25 minutes.
If you’re heading to the city from the airport the same service runs hourly at thirty minutes past the hour. The ticket costs 2.75 one way. For more information consult the official Sagales website.
How to get from Girona Airport to Barcelona City Centre
If you’ve got yourself one of those great deal Ryanair flights you’ll be able to get central easily using the shuttle service offered by Ryanair and Sagales. Each shuttle departs timed with the arrival of a new flight.
The travel time is 1 hour and 15 minutes and you’ll arrive at the Estació del Nord bus station.
You can buy tickets online using my link in the button below:
Go for it in the Comments Below
I’ve covered a ton of Girona Spain but what about the things that I missed? If you’ve got any follow up questions about your day trip or anything else regarding your Barcelona holiday I am here to help.
Fire away 🙂