Girona
© Iakov Filimonov / 123RF
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Girona

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile

Our Editorial team's advice

Girona is a city built on Roman foundations, located on the famous Via Augusta, the main artery of the Roman road network, and it now has some 200,000 inhabitants.Restoration work began on the historic centre, which had long been left to ruin, during the 1980s, driven by a major European movement towards heritage preservation. The Call, the city's Jewish district, is a maze of Medieval streets and remains one of the best-preserved in Spain and even Europe, with the narrow side streets of the historical quarter bearing names such as 'Plaza del Vino' ('Wine Square'), 'Plaza del Aceite' ('Oil Square') and even 'Calle de la Plata' ('Silver St.'), in tribute to the various Medieval crafts and markets which once thrived there. The cathedral and its imposing Gothic nave, the second largest in the world after Saint Peter's in Rome according to several experts, dominates the old town, whilst the square just in front of it, which is also built on Roman ruins (cloister and steeple) faces the Pyrenees. The monumental staircase leading up to this point is similar to that of the Piazza di Spagna in Rome, and the old watchtowers here enjoy panoramic views across the entire valley and the areas surrounding this charming city. You can get up here by climbing up through the narrow streets, crossing the Francesca Gardens and walking along the wall. Another of Girona's assets is its architecture. The colourful houses at the foot of the Onyar river stand alongside monumental buildings from the Baroque period, such as the cathedral and austere Roman constructions like the thermal baths. Girona is the perfect destination for a weekend or short break. Beyond the boundaries of the city, the region is also the birthplace of one of the masters of surrealism, Salvador Dali, as testified by the museum in Figueras and the Port LLigat museum in Cadaques, whilst just a few miles outside of Girona you will find the house which the artist dedicated to his muse - Pubol Castle.
Photos: Tourism in Catalonia:

To see

The cathedral and Arab baths are worth a visit, as is the cinema museum, the only one in Spain, housing a collection of interactive replicas telling the story of 400 years of history of the 7th art. Another interesting collection is that which is housed at the Jewish History Museum which tells the story of the Jewish community, their relationship with the Christians and the historical district itself. If you'd like to get to know the local architecture a little better, the buildings of Rafael Maso, which represent the modernist trend, are a good place to start - in particular the Casa de la Punxa, located on Carrer de Saint Eugčnia.

To do

Why not enjoy a stroll along the wall at dusk, or even cross the old town via the bridge built by Gustave Eiffel, stopping on the way to admire the views and, of course, the beauty of this red steel construction! If you like flowers, try and plan your visit to coincide with the famous Tiempo de las Flores festival in May, when the city is transformed into a multi-coloured garden, or for something a little different, how about a morning hot-air balloon ride?

pros

  • +  The architectural wealth of the historical centre of the city
  • +   The region's rich green landscape

cons

  • -  The modern buildings on the outskirts of Girona

To think about

Hiring a car can be a good way of exploring the Catalan countryside and going on a few day trips, depending on your budget.

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To avoid

Some of the restaurants located inland claim to serve traditional cuisine which often turns out to be rather bland.

To try

It really would be a shame to come to Girona and not sample the various fruits and vegetables grown here, together with the Catalan specialities like artichokes, tomato bread seasoned with oil and salt, and Viennese puff pastries filled with pastry custard. The restaurants belonging to the Girona Bons Fogons association promote the use of local and seasonal produce.

To bring back

Many typical Catalan products, such as butifarra sausage, black pudding and chocolate (the famous flies of Saint Narcissus) can be taken on the plane without any problems. Black pottery, which was popular in this area for decades, is still produced today in the town of Quart, 3 mi from Girona. If you like cinema, you will find a large selection of films, books and even projectors at the museum.

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