(Or my 8 top reasons to visit this city)
I’m a big fan of second cities. This Is Barcelona’s little sister and I have to say, I really like this city. It’s small, it’s welcoming and seems to be largely unspoilt by mass tourism.
With its shadowy web of cobbled streets and medieval buildings, to its ochre coloured modernist mansions. From its impressively large Jewish quarter, to its modest 1940s market, there is much to admire…
Here are my top things to do/reasons to visit;
1. Marvel at the colourful merchants mansions which line the east side of the Onyar river (Girona’s iconic image replicated in all the guidebooks). Cross the river via Gustav Eiffel’s (pre- Paris tower) simple, yet beautiful bridge*. (There are numerous bridges linking the medieval streets to the commercial centre on the west side, but this is my favourite)
2. Take in the awe-inspiring cathedral from the base of the (vertigo inducing) steps. If you are a Game of Thrones fan you will probably recognise this as a backdrop from season 6 (I am reliably informed). Somewhat surprisingly, there is very little recognition of this fact in Girona.
3. Get lost amidst the often dark and narrow winding lanes and arches which comprise the medieval centre, the ancient walls and the Jewish Quarter.
4. Visit the modest marketplace for all things fresh and to see what the locals are eating. The bar is a great spot for a breakfast mini baguette and to observe the general hustle and bustle.
5. Grab an ice cream (or a nose shaped popsicle!) at Rocambolesc; a whimsical ice cream shop owned by the Roca brothers, them of the world’s best restaurant El Celler Can Roca fame, also in Girona. (About as close as we’re likely to get to dining at “their place”!) Flavours include baked apple pie and mango with lavender. They also serve a panete, like an ice cream panini.
6. Head for coffee at one of the numerous independent coffee bars. Many are located in the vaulted galleries of the city. They’re big into roasting and blending here (& one or two take coffee very seriously…)
7. Get involved in the city’s annual fair; Fira Sant Narcis. During this week long festival (starts 26th October) marking the patron saint of the city, you will witness not only religious ceremonies, but a parade of giants, human tower building, sardana dancing, fireworks and general partying in the street!
8. There are some great, atmospheric bars; amongst them is Zanpanzar, if you fancy a taste of the Basque country. They roll out an excellent variety of freshly prepared pintxos and sparkling Txacoli wine, served in the traditional high pouring manner!
If you need more reasons to visit; shopping-wise, you’ll find a plethora of indie boutiques, high end interiors shops, amazing food shops and delis.
It’s only 100km from Barcelona (38 mins by double decker fast train).
Even better than that, it’s only 10 hours by train from London (top of our wishlist to do)!
*Just so you know – my idea of beautiful, is Bedford’s iconic county hall building!