I’ve always had a special fondness for the Catalonia region a place with an unrestrained love for the arts, festivals, and where the locals are seemingly very interested in living their best life. Most head to the region for the buzzing beauty Barcelona, but it was the smaller and much more laid back Girona that captured my heart when I explored this region. Relaxed, tranquil but filled with history, style, beautiful architecture, and a with a healthy appreciation of art and good food, the refined but under-the-radar city Girona in Spain is the place I long to return for a break when travel restrictions have been lifted. It’s a place that forces you to slow down and appreciate life and after the rhythms of life have been dramatically altered through an endless chain of lockdowns, to me, it offers the perfect place to be eased back into the wonders of travel.
Game of Thrones associations
Since my last visit, the city has gained a new-found fame among Game of Thrones fans. The beautiful and immaculately preserved historic streets were used to film parts of both Braavos and Kings Landing scenes. The striking cathedral where I sat at the foot of its long steps one hot July evening was used as the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing in Season 3. At the top of the stairs is where sinners were judged by the gods as baying crowds gathered below.
Sadly I didn’t get to visit to The Arab Baths on my first visit but now it’s at the top of my list for when I return, not only for its intriguing beauty and because its the best-preserved Moorish bath complex in Catalonia, but also because it was where the feisty Arya (one of my favorite characters) attempted to escape The Waif in Season 6.
Love for Salvador Dalí
The world’s most famous surrealist artist was born in the Girona province and lived in the region for many years. I’ve always a soft spot for the legendary artist and I love that Sr Dali has led his mark in many corners of the Spanish city from museums and castles to houses and street walls and adds a special uniqueness to the already charming travel destination.
On my return, I will take the train from the centre of Girona to Figueres, the actual birth town of Dali. Here I’ll visit the weird and wonderful museum dedicated to the artist that I missed on my first visit, and will spend a few hours absorbing the interactive exhibits, sketches, and films on display here.
The atmosphere and architecture
Girona is a place that forces you to slow down so on my return visit I plan just to wander the streets just soaking up the unique atmosphere and gazing at the beautiful buildings.
Known for its modernist and noucentist architecture, there is plenty of intriguing and understated beauty to uncover in the city from its wide open squares gently buzzing with the sights and sounds of everyday life to the perfectly preserved narrow streets of El Call, the old Jewish ghetto – a place where you can get a feel for Girona’s medieval heritage.
Although some of the places I long to see again is firstly the very impressive mile-long length of intact Roman city walls which encapsulate the town and is also surrounded by a beautiful tiered garden. Walking along the wall offers beautiful views of both the nearby gardens, the surrounding mountains, and coastline, and on a clear day, you can see France.
The second is Masó House one of the famous colourful houses located on the Onyar River which is both the birthplace of Rafael Masó i Valentí and one of the most important works of architecture in Girona.
Girona’s restaurants and love of food also deserve a special mention, and even in this small city, there are many stand out places. The city is even home to the ‘Best Restaurant in the World’ (50 Best Restaurant Guide). Just outside the city walls lies El Celler de Can Roca which is run by brothers Joan, Jordi and Josep Roca, and the proud owner of three Michelin stars.
In their striking glass atrium restaurant, have a metaphysical and spiritual approach to the food and wine they serve and remains the place to taste the finest in modern Spanish cooking. Their restaurant is designed to allow 45° angle of light to come through the windows which, Gaudi believed was the best angle of light when looking at a masterpiece.
The nearby beaches
While the tourist masses head to Costa Del Sol, nearby Costa Brava offers a quieter and more discerning beach getaway. It glistens and sparkles for more than 100 miles stretching all the way to the French border and is much more of my idea of a European beach holiday. There are many gorgeous gems to discover here – the easy-on-the-eye ports of Sant Feliu de Guíxols and Palamós (where legendary American novelist, Truman Capote once escaped to write and bask under the sun), the pretty coves near Cap de Begur and the beautiful town of Cadaqués which is home to whitewashed houses.
One of the coastal towns located in the Girona province is Llfranc, a quaint, quiet, and relaxed beach town flanked by a strip of golden sand and colourful façades which line the town dock. I plan to take a walk the rocky path which follows the coastline, stopping at one of the many cool little coffee shops or independent shops selling locally crafted souvenirs along the way.
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