There are so many amazing things to do in Girona, Spain. While many opt to visit this city as a day trip from Barcelona, there is enough to fill several days if you have extra time.
I spent a week with Girona as my base on a recent trip to Catalonia and I got the chance to get to know all of the best tapas spots, the cool side streets, and of course, to visit the different historical sites that draw many to the city.
How to Get to Girona
One of the main reasons that I ended up in Girona is because of the Girona Airport. It is a hub for budget airlines and is one of the cheapest ways to get from Northern Europe to Spain during the summer months.
The Girona Airport is officially called the Girona-Costa Brava Airport. It is located 11km or just over 6 miles from downtown Girona. There are buses from the airport to the city center that coincide with the flights that land here.
You can purchase tickets from the ticket counter outside of the airport and they cost €2.75 per person. If you are flying home from Girona Airport as well, you can purchase a return ticket for €5 per person.
If you are coming from other parts of the country like nearby Barcelona, the easiest way to get to Girona is to take the train. There are regional trains that operate constantly throughout the day as well as a few fast trains that can get you from Barcelona to Girona in about 35 minutes.
Tickets vary in price from €13-17 depending on which train you choose. Always check the Renfe app or the Renfe website for train times. You can purchase tickets online or at the train station. Roundtrip tickets tend to be cheaper than singles.
How Many Days in Girona?
While you can see a lot of Girona on a day trip from Barcelona, I highly recommend giving the city 2-3 days if you have more time available.
One of the best things about Girona is the tapas bars and restaurants that you can enjoy in the evenings. There are also quite a lot of things to see and do besides the main sites in the old part of the city.
However, if you only have one day, Girona is small and you can see a lot in a day trip to Girona from Barcelona.
Where to Stay in Girona
If you are able to spend a bit more time in Girona, then you have a lot of options for places to stay in the city.
Girona is a small and walkable city, so as long as you book a place close to the center you are going to be able to get around and see all of the best things to do in Girona with ease.
If you want more for your money when it comes to hotels in this region, you can easily base yourself in Girona and take day trips to Barcelona instead of the other way around.
Renting a Car in Girona
If you want to make the most of your time in Girona and get out to explore more of the stunning region of Catalonia, the best thing to do in rent a car.
While I usually find in many parts of Spain, the train and buses allow you to get even to the smallest towns, it doesn’t seem to be as easy to explore Catalonia by public transportation. You can reach major cities and hubs like Barcelona, but if you want to visit hidden beaches on the Costa Brava or old Roman settlements near Girona, your best bet is to have a car.
I always use Discover Cars when I rent in Spain. They always list the best prices available and allow you to have very affordable full insurance coverage. It is easiest to pick up and drop off from the airport as well which means you avoid the always-late airport bus. You can check prices and book with Discover Cars here.
Awesome Things to Do in Girona
These are some of the absolute best things to do in Girona whether you have 24 hours in the city or a week. Once you get here, I think you’ll be convinced to return again for even longer (at least, I was!).
1. Girona Cathedral
Girona Cathedral, officially called the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona, is a Roman Catholic cathedral located in the old town of Girona.
It is one of the main Girona attractions and will be a familiar place for those who love Game of Thrones. The steep stairs that lead to the cathedral’s front entrance were used in the filming of the show.
The entrance fee to the museum includes a fantastic audio guide that takes you around the different chapels of the cathedral and helps you understand not only the history of the church but of the entire city of Girona. Of all of the things to do in Girona, this is one of the can’t-miss spots.
Take special note of the interior nave of the church, which at 75 ft (23 meters), is the widest Gothic-style nave in the entire world and the second widest of any kind in the world after St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
You can purchase a ticket to the Girona Cathedral that also includes a visit to the Basilica de Sant Feliu as well as the Girona Art Museum. It is valid for 48 hours and can be purchased in advance here.
If you would prefer to explore the old town with a guided tour, you can check out a tour like this one which includes a stop at the Girona Cathedral.
2. Basílica de Sant Feliu
The Basilica of Saint Felix was actually the main church in Girona before the Girona Cathedral was built. It is home to some 4th-century paintings as well as an incredibly ornate baroque exterior.
Entrance to the Basilica also includes an audioguide. It is packed with history and information about the different art that is displayed around the church. I found this smaller Basilica to be more interesting and even more beautiful than the grander Cathedral and I loved learning about the history of the basilica.
I recommend not visiting the Cathedral and the Basilica one after the other. Both of the audioguides are very dense with information, so you will want a little bit of time to digest the tour between visits.
If you only have one day in Girona, spend the morning at one of the churches and stop into the other one in the afternoon after you have explored other parts of the city or had some lunch.
3. Arab Baths
History lovers will not want to miss a trip to the well-preserved Arab Baths, which are right around the corner from the cathedral and basilica.
Entry is only €3 and you can walk through the different rooms that used to be the cool room, the warm room, and the hot room. They were built during Moorish rule but were designed in the Roman bath style.
There are plaques to read in English and Spanish. It’s a quick visit that only takes about 20 minutes if you take your time exploring. It’s a great place to escape the heat if you are visiting during the steamy summer months.
4. Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya-Girona
The Archaeology Museum of Catalonia is located inside the stunning Sant Pere de Galligants Benedictine Abbey building.
A visit to this museum is worth it for exploring the old abbey alone, but it’s also a very interesting museum to explore if you want to learn a little bit more about the different peoples and cultures that have called this region of Spain home.
Some of my personal favorite exhibits here are the Roman tiles and mosaics. There are several places around Spain where you can see ruins like this, but this museum has a stunning collection of them.
The hours of the museum vary depending on what time of year you are visiting, so be sure to check the website for up-to-date prices and times.
5. Walk the Girona City Walls
The city walls of Girona were originally built in the 9th century and are completely free to walk around.
There are several different places where you can join them, but I recommend starting at this point which is the furthest point south that you can enter the wall.
From here, you can walk towards the cathedral, taking in the views and stopping at all of the different towers along the way.
The wall itself has been restored in many places, so it’s a complete path from the starting point until you reach the cathedral. Some parts of it are nicer than others.
It seemed like the towers that were further from the cathedral probably received some nighttime visitors who weren’t there to enjoy the views. However, during the day it felt completely safe, and getting high up above the city was a real highlight.
6. Take a Girona Walking Tour
If you want to get the most out of your time in Girona, you may want to consider exploring Girona on a walking tour.
If you like the style of free walking tours, where you pay what you feel the tour is worth at the end of it, then Free Walking Tours Girona is a great option. They simply require you to prebook so that the tours don’t get too large or so that they’re not too small.
For small group tours of Girona, this is a great tour option. It is a 3-hour walking tour that will take you around the city walls, the cathedral, past the famous bridges over the River Onyar, and all with a knowledgeable guide to tell stories and share interesting facts. Book onto that tour here.
7. Eat some Xuixos
A Xuixo is a pastry that is a specialty of Girona. You’ll spot plenty of bakeries with signs proclaiming that they make the best Xuixos in the city. I sampled several during my trip to Girona and my absolute favorites were from Casamoner.
There are several locations around the city, with the most convenient being this one, located a few steps from the Basilica and Girona Cathedral.
The traditional Xuixo is made with fried pastry that has been filled with crema catalana. Crema Catalana is a custard that is made with egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and usually vanilla.
However, at Casamoner, they also have different flavors like Nutella, chocolate, cinnamon, and my personal favorite, orange with chocolate. The crema catalana is cold and sweet and goes perfectly with a cup of coffee.
8. Museu d’Història de Girona
The Girona History Museum is one of the must-visit Girona attractions for history lovers. Girona has so much history and visiting this museum is a great way to sort of put it all together.
You will learn a little bit at different stops like the cathedral and basilica, but at the Girona History Museum, you will get more of a timeline and understanding of just how rich the history of this city and region really is.
One of the things I love about this museum is that you get more personal stories and quite a lot of history about the Roman times of Girona, which is particularly interesting to me.
Entry is incredibly reasonable at under €5 for adults. You can read more about the museum and its exhibitions on their website.
9. Museu d’Art de Girona
The Girona Museum of Art is housed in the old Episcopal Palace, which is mentioned in writings as early as the 10th century. In addition to the extensive art collection, you can explore some of this old palace like the jail that was used for priests who were serving sentences after being condemned by the church.
The museum has one of the largest collections of art in Catalonia outside of Barcelona. In it, you will see art from Catalan artists as well as international artists of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Realist, and Art Nouveau. There are also some ceramics and sculptures.
There is a lot of religious art here more than anything else, so if that’s not your style, you may simply want to come to see the palace and its exceptional gardens. It’s especially worth coming to if you already have it included in your ticket from the cathedral and basilica.
10. Jewish History Museum (and the old Jewish Quarter)
The Jewish Quarter of Girona, known as El Call, dates from the 12th-15th centuries when this was home to the city’s Jewish community. Jews around the country were expelled from Spain in 1492.
In the center of El Call is the old synagogue building which is now home to the city’s Jewish History Museum. The aim of the museum is to preserve the history of the Jews of all of Catalonia, with a special focus on the history of El Call and what like was like for the Jews living here during the different centuries that they called Catalonia home.
11. Mercat del Lleó
Mercat del Lleó of the market of the lion (in Catalan), is the city’s central market and is a must-visit on the list of things to do in Girona.
This was one of my favorite places to go in the morning to pick things up for lunch and dinner. There are stalls with fresh fruits and vegetables, a bakery, butchers, fishmongers, and my personal favorite, prepared food vendors with salads, paella, olives, and plenty of cheese and cured meats.
The market isn’t too large, so you can easily explore it in about 10 minutes, but if you are staying in Girona for a few days or you want to have a nice picnic lunch, this is the place to come for all of the best charcuterie in the city.
12. Take a Game of Thrones Tour
Game of Thrones has put many cities on the map over the years and Spain is full of great filming locations for those that are interested in reliving scenes from their favorite show. My favorite filming location in the country is definitely in Cabo de Gata!
This Game of Thrones Tour includes stops at all of the different filming locations. You will learn about the real history of these locations as well as hear stories about some of the reasons these locations were chosen for filming.
The guide will have an iPad with them to show you the different scenes that were filmed in the locations around the city which will allow you to recall exactly which part of the show was made in each setting.
Get to know Girona and its colorful history in a fun way with a group of Game of Thrones-loving travelers (including the tour guide, too!). Book that tour here.
13. Admire the Colorful Buildings Along the River Onyar
When I checked into my Airbnb at the start of my week in Girona, the owner of the house, who has lived in Girona his whole life, told me that many visitors come to Girona and say “it looks just like Florence.”
But what people should really be saying, he went on, was “Florence looks just like Girona,” because Girona painted its buildings this way long before the Florentines.
Whoever painted their buildings first, walking across the bridges that span the River Onyar is one of the most beautiful things to do in Girona. I particularly loved coming at sunset as the light changed the colors of the buildings and they reflected in the shallow waters of the river (it’s quite shallow in summer at least).
14. Take a Food Tour of Girona
Catalonia is a region that is absolutely packed with incredible cuisine and if you only have a short time in the city, you will want to take a food tour so that you don’t miss out on the best spots.
This food tour is both a historical walking tour and a food tour that will help you dig deeper into the food culture of Girona. You will explore some of the city with a knowledgeable guide and then sample charcuterie and wines from around the region. Book onto the food tour here.
15. Enjoy Local Cuisine
If you have more time in the city, you can spend your evenings sampling the different restaurants and tapas bars. A few of my favorites are:
- La Taverna d’El Foment: This is the best place to come to sample Catalan ingredients, amazing cheeses, and meats from around the region, as well as local drinks like ratafia. Book in advance for weekends.
- Txalaka: A fantastic tapas bar that has both local ingredients and Basque-style foods. I had the best mussels that I have ever had in my entire life at this restaurant.
- Brots de Vi: Delicious upscale tapas spot serving local Catalan dishes with an amazing wine selection. Booking in advance is a must.
16. Go Hiking or Mountain Biking
Girona is a haven for cyclists and hikers. There are tons of trails that you can access right from the city center. While I did do some hiking in the hot summer months, I really recommend enjoying this activity during the shoulders seasons when it’s not quite so hot.
The easiest trails to access from downtown Girona are in the Natural Protected Area of Les Gavarres. A nice 2-hour hiking out-and-back trail goes from the entrance of the park to the Castell de Sant Miquel. It’s a moderately challenging uphill hike and the views from here are exceptional. It’s an easy downhill along the same paths on the way back down.
You can check out some of the different trails in the park on All Trails here.
If you want to extend the hike, you can walk from Sant Miquel to the village of Celrà where there are beautiful cobbled streets, a church, and a place to refill your water bottles. It takes about 4 hours in total to do this hike.
17. Visit the Costa Brava
You can’t come to Girona and not take a day trip to the Costa Brava. This is one of the best things to do in Girona if you are visiting during the summer months, but this coastline is magical all year round.
The easiest beach to visit from Girona if you don’t have a rental car is Lloret de Mar. You can take a bus from the main bus station in Girona and in about 45 minutes you will arrive at the beach.
This beach is a very popular one both with Spanish people as well as other Europeans who are looking for great beach weather. While you’re here, you can walk along the Cami de Ronda, a beautiful coastal path that actually runs for much of the Costa Brava coastline.
18. Take a Day Trip to Besalú
You will need a car or to take a tour to get to Besalú. Despite being very close to Girona in proximity, it’s not possible to get here by public transportation.
However, if you are able to get here while you are in Girona, it is an absolutely wonderful place to explore.
The name Besalú comes from the Latin word Bisuldunum, which means a fort on a mountain between two rivers. While there is no longer a fort anywhere to be found, the name remains.
The history of this city is immense. Some parts of the ancient city walls still exist and the Romanesque Bridge that takes you through the city’s main gate is one of the most impressive things I have seen in this region of Spain. It feels like you’re on a movie set rather than in a Medieval city.
If you are based in Barcelona and only visiting Girona for the day, you can actually visit Besalu on a tour directly from Barcelona. Check out that tour and book here.
If you are based in Girona, you can join this tour which includes a lesson on the Jewish history of both Girona and Besalu as well as a visit around the Medieval city with a knowledgeable guide. Book that tour here.