Top things to do in Girona

In the heart of Catalonia, the charming city of Girona offers a wealth of historical interest, world-class cultural attractions and gourmet dining. Our guide to the city helps you discover its medieval architecture, walled Old Town and fascinating museums.
Eiffel Bridge over River Onyar in the Jewish Quarter, Girona. Photo: Shutterstock
Eiffel Bridge over River Onyar in the Jewish Quarter, Girona. Photo: Shutterstock

There are abundant things to do in Girona, from cultural activities and gourmet dining to relaxing in attractive hotels and simply soaking up the atmosphere. Originally a Roman settlement, the city was completely surrounded by walls until modern times, and was so regularly besieged that it became known as ‘the city of a thousand sieges’. Today, Girona is a wonderful destination for a Spanish city break. Here is our guide to the top things to do in Girona.

1. Visit the spectacular Cathedral

Girona’s monumental Cathedral, famous for having the widest Gothic nave in the world, stands impressively at the top of a long flight of stone steps. Construction of this superb basilica began in 1312 and took more than four centuries to complete. Several architectural styles, including Renaissance and Romanesque, have left their mark on it. The entrance charge covers admission to the cathedral, its cloisters and the museum. The latter houses a fine collection of ecclesiastical treasures, including medieval tapestries and manuscripts. 

2. Explore the Old City and the Call

Girona is known for its Ciutat Antiga (Old City), especially the 13th-century Jewish Quarter, the Call, considered to be one of Europe’s largest and best-preserved Jewish quarters. A visit to the fascinating Museum of Jewish History reveals the story of Catalonia's Jewish communities. Built on a hill, the Old City is also known for its charming stairways, such as those leading up to the Esglesia de Sant Marti, or the Baroque escalinata of 96 steps climbing up to the cathedral. The River Onyar separates the Old City from the modern neighbourhoods, which lie west of the river. 

Sant Domenec Stairs in Girona. Photo:  Shutterstock Sant Domenec steps in Girona. Photo:  Shutterstock 

3. Soak up history and culture in the city's museums

The city is home to a host of intriguing art galleries and museums including the Museu del Cinema, which traces the history of cinema through a fascinating private collection. You should also pay a visit to the Fundació Stämpfli Museu d’Art Contemporani, which showcases a significant art collection dating from the 1960s up to the present day. Best of all, though, simply wander through the past by meandering along Girona's narrow lanes or following the stretch of 9th-century and medieval walls that skirt the eastern side of the Old City. Appreciate the cultural treasures of selected Spanish cities as part of Insight Guides' Cultural Cities of Spain trip. 

4. Dine in one of the world's finest restaurants

Girona is home to the Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca. Twice ranked number one in the world by The World's 50 Best Restaurants, most recently in 2015, it currently stands at number three on the list. Run by the trio of Roca brothers, this acclaimed gourmet eatery serves creative Catalan cuisine that you can relish across two tasting menus, complemented by expertly paired wines. If you have a sweet tooth, head to the much-loved Rocambolesc ice cream parlour in the centre of Girona, which also offers a menu of tempting artisan desserts. 

Spanish tapas with wine. Photo: ShutterstockSpanish tapas with wine. Photo: Shutterstock

5. Take in the views

The footbridges over the River Onyar provide some of Girona's most unforgettable views, including reflections of the colourful buildings standing on the banks of the river. The 12th-century Sant Pere de Galligants church and monastery now houses a museum exhibiting archaeological artefacts, and features a delightful Romanesque cloister dating from 1154. From here you start a walk around the ancient city walls as far as the central Placa de Catalunya. 

Girona offers both historical interest and a contemporary buzz. Ready to take a trip?

Our local experts can organise fascinating cultural trips for you in Spain. Simply get in touch, letting us know when you'd like to travel and your ideas for the trip. We will then create a personal itinerary for you, which you can amend until you are totally happy with every detail before booking. Browse our existing itineraries for inspiration, and bear in mind that all of our planned itineraries can be fully personalised to meet your own specific needs and requirements.  

Updated 14 December, 2018