Girona is an ancient Catalan city that will most certainly charm you with its colours, rich history, breathtaking views from above and handmade goods. The old part of Girona is really similar to the beautiful towns in Tuscany, only with a Spanish charm to it.
By the banks of the Onyar river
Start your tour walking down La Rambla de la Libertat and look for a bridge on your left. Get on the other bank of the river Onyar and capture in your memories, as well as in your camera, one of the most emblematic views in town. The houses meandering by the river are glowing in various shades of yellow, red and orange under the beams of the Catalonian sun.
Keep walking in the new part of Girona and following Carrer de Santa Clara get to the Square of Independence (Plaça de la Independència), devoted to the battle for independence from France. Then you can go back to the other bank and fearlessly venture into the labyrinth of cobbled streets. There you will stumble upon lovely shops that sell tea, read books, fragrant candles, natural soaps, artistic jewelries, vintage clocks, brightly-painted toys and much more.
The Jewish quarter
Do not miss the chance to get lost in one of the best preserved Jewish quarters in the world. Its Catalonian name “call” is derived from the Latin word describing a “set of narrow streets”. The local Jewish community used to have its own mayor and council, independent from the authorities in Girona. It was protected by the king of Catalonia in exchange for an annual fee. The Jews had a strong economic influence being experienced money-lenders, landowners, craftsmen and traders.
The Girona cathedral “St. Mary” is located right next to the Jewish quarter. In the past this proximity was a prerequisite for the arousal of problems between Catholics and Jews. Local Christians were rebelling against the independence of Judaists and often attacked them, especially during religious holidays. In time the periods of bad blood were alternating with ones of peaceful coexistence. By the end of the 15th century Catholics had managed to establish a positive relationship with the Jews and even had commerce with them. It all came to an end in 1492 with a royal edict that ordered the expulsion of all Jews in Spain.
The Arab baths
While in the neighbourhood, stop by the illustrious Arab baths. They were built in the 12th century in Roman style but their layout is typically Arabic. The baths consist of a few premises, the most impressive of which is the hall with the main pool and its dome. The relaxed atmosphere will surely give you a spa effect without the need of any treatments. When you have had enough of the cool baths, head back to the burning heat of the street to get to the culmination of your walk in Girona.
A walk over the castle wall
Look for signs pointing to the Passeig Arqueològic, the promenade over the castle wall that dates back to the 1st century BC. During the 14th century the original Roman construction was used as a base for the new fortification. Not long after, though, the structure lost its main purpose because Girona spread out of its limits.
Take the time to enjoy the sunset from this historical viewpoint. You will see the vibrant colours in the sky, the tiled roofs of Girona, the tower of the cathedral and the imposing Pyrenees in the distance. There is only one catch: to get to this dazzling view you need to “fight off” numerous steps.
Resisting the spell of Girona is nearly impossible. You become so impatient to see what is hidden behind every corner that you do not know which way to take first. But the old part of Girona is fairly small and in a day you will have plenty of hours to see each and every nook. However, falling in love with the city takes a lot less time. The narrow, winding streets still create the atmosphere of a long gone past. It would not surprise me if while strolling in the old town you start dreaming about a time machine.
Useful information: Girona is located only 118 km away from Barcelona. The easiest and fastest way to get there is by train. The journey takes only 40 minutes and there are regular trains every hour or so.