Here’s a list of the 15 best things to do in Girona (Spain), along with famous landmarks, museums, and other points of interest.
Girona is one of the largest cities in the autonomous region of Catalonia, located about 99 kilometers northeast of Barcelona. It’s a historic city that was founded already in 79 BC.
Back then it was known as Gerunda and throughout the centuries, various rulers have influenced the architecture and culture of Girona. Some of the most notable ones are Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, and the Moors.
Nowadays, the city is well-connected to Barcelona, which makes it a great day trip for travelers who enjoy history and old architecture. Girona can be reached by train from Barcelona in just 38 minutes.
In this article, I’m sharing some of the best places to visit in Girona as well as interesting facts and attractions that shouldn’t be missed while visiting.
Monasterio de Sant Pere de Galligants
This Benedictine abbey has loads of history—the dates of the foundations are still unknown, but we are sure the monastery existed by the 900s. The current church and cloister, a gorgeous Catalan Romanesque structure, began construction around 1131.
In 1857, it became the home to the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia. From Tuesday to Sunday, the museum is open, and its exhibits explore the period from the arrival of humans to the late Roman times through artifacts found in the Catalonia region.
Girona City Walls
During the medieval period, the Roman walls of the city were extended, serving at the time as fortification and protection of the city. Today, strolling along the city walls is a popular activity for visitors and residents alike.
During a stroll along the Passeig de la Muralla, you can see the entire city stretch before you. Take in the history of the wall, which was first built in the 9th century before being extended in the 14th century, making it the longest Carolingian wall in Europe today.
Basilica de Sant Feliu
This church’s history dates back to the early days of Christianity. Construction started in the 4th century, and even today the church houses sarcophagi from those times within its Gothic walls.
A bell tower, now visible above the city skyline, was added in the 14th century. The basilica was the city’s main church and cathedral before the Girona Cathedral was built.
The gorgeous baroque façade looks almost like a castle, complete with Gothic naves. The church was built in honor of Saint Felix of Girona, Sant Feliu in Catalán. You can visit the church seven days a week, or even attend mass there.
Girona History museum
The Girona City History Museum is dedicated to showing the history of the city, from when evidence of humans was first noted all the way up to the transition to post-Franco democracy.
Its 14 rooms hold exhibits on the founding of the city, the city’s imagery, and even exhibits dedicated to a traditional Spanish dance from Catalonia, the Sardana.
The building in which the museum is located used to be a convent, and dates back to the 19th century. The museum also holds monuments to the Spanish Civil War, including an air-raid shelter.
This gorgeous 12th-century building was inspired by Roman baths and was used as a public bathhouse until the 14th century. The entrance, covered with a barrel vault, has a striking feel, and further into the building there is a cupola that covers the central pool.
The bathers would move from the coolest water to the hottest, relaxing in the natural light and the shadows of the baths. Today, you can tour the baths, and their beauty is breathtaking, as well as serving as an example of how hygiene worked in the medieval period.
All narrow streets lined on both sides with stone buildings, the Jewish quarter of Girona is proof of the importance of Jewish culture in the city during the 1100s to the 1400s. Called “El Call”, it is considered one of the best-preserved Jewish quarters in Europe.
It is located within the city’s Roman fortification walls, the Força Vella, and it holds a Jewish History Museum (in one of the last synagogues of the city) as well as the City History Museum. To get a bird’s eye view of the quarter, head to La Devesa park.
Convent of Sant Domenec
Originally built in 1253, this monastic temple currently holds facilities for the University of Girona. Its beautiful stone façade, of Gothic style, sits under the shadow of the Sant Martí Sacosta church.
Originally, the monastery was founded by Berenguer de Castellbisbal, a Bishop from the Dominican order. It is a Historical Artistic Monument of National Interest.
Discover the Game of Thrones Locations
The popular show Game of Thrones filmed part of season 6 in Girona in the fall of 2015. Many of the background shots are some of Girona’s monuments and streets, and if you are a fan of the show, be sure to visit them.
Some of the must-see spots include the Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants, the Bridge over Riu Galligants, the Arab Baths, Carrer de Bisbe Josep Cartañà, the cathedral, and more. You can do a self-guided tour or sign up to be led around by a guide.
Kiss the Lion’s bottom
The Leona de Girona, or the Girona Lioness, is a stone sculpture dating back to the 7th century. Located on Calle Calderers, next to Sant Feliu church, the sculpture is an icon.
On the surface, it may appear to be just a lion, with part of the face and tail broken and chipped, but this sculpture is legendary. There is a saying that “you can only return to Girona if you’ve kissed the bottom of the lioness”, so tourists line up to kiss it, just in case!
For architecture buffs, Casa Masó is a must-see. Catalán architect Rafael Masó i Valentí was born there in 1880, and he went on to be one of Spain’s most celebrated architects.
He himself did work on the building in 1919, and the house’s furniture and decoration is representative of the Noucentisme style. This movement was a Catalán reaction to modernism, and Casa Masó is the only house on the river Onyar that is open to the public.
Catedral de Santa María de Girona
Girona’s cathedral is remarkable for more than its striking façade and gorgeous Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The Gothic nave on the interior is the largest in the world, and the widest in the world as well, after St. Peter’s in Rome.
The cathedral dates back to the 11th century, although construction continued through several centuries, which explains the mix of styles. Visit to see the Tapestry of Creation, one of the masterpieces in the history of tapestry and dating back to the 11th century.
The Onyar River courses through the streets of Girona, and it is lined with fantastically bright homes and buildings. The picture of these blocks of color over the water, and porticos and alleyways, forms the image of the city in the popular consciousness.
Visit Casa Masó, or just enjoy the colorful view walking along the river and crossing its bridges. The Eiffel company constructed one of them, the Palanques Vermelles bridge, which dates back to 1827.
Museu d’Art de Girona
The Girona Art Museum is housed in the Episcopal Palace, a beautiful stone building that dates back to the 12th century, with lovely cavernous rooms that give the best art collection in the province its due.
The museum was founded in 1976 as a combination of the Diocesan Museum of Girona and the Provincial Museum of Antiques and Fine Arts. The museum’s collection consists of nearly 14,000 works, dating all the way back to Roman times.
Museu del Cinema
Girona may not be the first place you think of when you think of cinema, but cinephile and amateur director Tomàs Mallol. His obsession with the archaeology of the cinema led him to collect an incredible number of pre-cinema objects.
These became the Museum of Cinema in Girona, which holds over 8,000 objects and 10,000 documents in its collection. Visit the museum and follow the history of cinema through this collection of all imaginable types of cameras.
El Celler de Can Roca
El Celler de Can Roca is one of Spain’s culinary pride and joys. The perfect example of a family business, it is run by the three Roca brothers—Joan, the chef; Josep, the sommelier; and Jordi, the pastry chef.
Opened in 1986, the restaurant has been named #1 in the world twice by The World’s 50 Best, in 2013 and in 2015. Jordi also won The World’s Best Pastry Chef Award in 2014.
The tasting menu of molecular haute cuisine typically includes around 15 courses, and the waitlist is quite long, so reserve in advance!
Interesting facts about Girona
- Iberians were the first inhabitants of Girona.
- In ancient times, the city was known as Gerunda.
- Girona has been sieged for more than 20 different times and conquered a total of seven times.
- Gerunda was an important strategic location for the Romans.
- The Moors conquered Girona in 715 from the Visigoths.
- Girona was declared a city in the 11th century by Alfonso I of Aragon.
- As of 2019, the city has an official number of 101,852 residents.
- Girona has been a popular choice as a filming location due to its rich medieval history and architecture.
Want recommendations on things to do in Girona, Spain? Leave a comment below!