Girona

Colorful houses hanging over the Onyar river

Girona is an ancient town several thousand years old in Catalonia, Spain. The city has approximately 100,000 people and serves as the capital of the Girona Province in Catalonia which includes the counties (or comarques) of Alt Empordà, Baix Empordà, Garrotxa, Gironès, Pla de l'Estany, Ripollès.

The town has an attractive Jewish quarter and is often overlooked by budget fliers arriving at Girona-Barcelona airport. Girona makes an excellent stop-off as part of a tour of Catalonia or escape from the noise and speed of Barcelona or as a long weekend getaway with one of those budget airlines.

Understand

Girona is said to consistently win a country-wide poll of citizens on preferred city to live in. Geographically set at the confluence of the Ter, Onyar, Galligants and Güell rivers, it has been a focal point of this region in Catalonia since prior to being part of the Roman Empire.

The Old Town is on the east bank of the river, with pedestrianized narrow streets surrounded by the old city walls. The "Rambla", running parallel to the river, contains many street cafés and touristy restaurants. Tourist information is at the south end of the Rambla, beside the river. The newer town center on the west bank has wider streets contains more shops and hotels, plus slightly cheaper restaurants.

In August, the city becomes very quiet on Sat and Sun, as most citizens escape to the sea.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 13 14 16 18 22 25 29 29 26 20 16 13
Nightly lows (°C) 1 2 4 6 10 13 17 17 14 10 5 2
Precipitation (mm) 65 44 53 67 80 66 30 48 68 83 70 63

Girona has a mild climate. In winter temperatures can drop to below −5 °C (23 °F). In summer temperatures often soar to 30–40 °C (86–104 °F). Rain is common in winter and spring and thunderstorms often occur.

If you want to see the near Costa Brava plan your trip for the months between May to October.

Get in

Girona is located north of Barcelona and can be reached from there by bus, train, or one's own car. There is an airport close to the town with a wide range of connections on Ryanair. It is also 98 km (61 miles) away from Barcelona.

By plane

Girona Airport is 1hr bus ride from Barcelona center. Ryanair mentions "Barcelona" in their description of Girona airport to suggest it being closer than it actually is. You can make connection between the airport and Barcelona. There is also an hourly bus into Girona from the airport, which is a 25min ride and connects the airport with Girona's railway station.

By bus

If you want to travel to Girona from Barcelona city you can take a bus. That bus stops in the center of Barcelona, in Estació d'Autobusos Barcelona Nord (Barcelona's main bus terminal). However, service is scarce (at most 5 buses a day, 2 on weekends) and more expensive than train. Reaching Girona from other sites than Barcelona or Figueres like Costa Brava, Banyoles or Olot will require a bus trip. The main bus operators are Teisa and Sarfa. There is also a bus service from Perpignan to Girona and its airport (Frogbus)

By train

There are commuter trains to Girona leaving from Barcelona every 30 minutes in peak hours, hourly otherwise. All trains start at Barcelona Sants station with other stops at Passeig de Gràcia and Clot Aragó. Trains run 6am-10pm on weekdays, 7am-10pm Saturdays, 8am-10pm Sundays. The journey takes between 1h20m and 1h35m from/to Barcelona Sants and the ticket costs between 8,5€ and 12€: MD trains are faster, more comfortable but quite expensive; R trains call at almost all stations and its seats are not designed for long trips but are 30% cheaper. There are no round trip discounts but 10 trip travelcards are available, 60€ for R trains only, 70€ for R and MD trains, valid for 90 days after purchase and allowing multiple passengers on the same trip, so it's convenient for small groups from 4 people onwards or repeating trips. On weekdays there are also some direct trains from the Maresme coastal zone to Girona (Mataró, Arenys, Calella, Santa Susanna...), on weekends changing trains in Maçanet is required and due to poor schedule coordination you may find yourself waiting for 50 minutes in a station far away from everywhere. Timetables (line R11 from Barcelona, RG1 from Maresme region). As almost all trains continue to Figueres, there's also one train every 30 minutes on peak hours. From Portbou and the French border, however, trains run only once every two hours.

On the other hand, you can use high speed trains coming from either Madrid and Barcelona (AVE) or Paris, Perpignan and several other southern France cities (TGV). The schedule is quite irregular and changes frequently, check with Renfe and SNCF respectively. Both AVE and TGV trains have all compulsory reservation. AVE trains on Barcelona only stop at Sants station and take 40 minutes to reach Girona. Fares are 16€ single with a 20% discount for round trips. Note that a round trip is only slightly more expensive on AVE than MD but the travel time is sharply shorter, however there are no convenient travelcards usable for small groups. From places farther than Barcelona and from France tickets are cheaper if bought well in advance. Also note that if boarding an AVE train in Spain you'll need to pass through a security scan and all luggage will be X-rayed: take this into account to get to the station with enough time.

Other than Madrid, Zaragoza, Lleida and Tarragona, there are no direct trains from other Spanish cities.

Get around

On foot

Both the Old Town and the New Town across the river are highly pedestrianized.

It should be noted that most of the streets in the Old Town have large cobblestones and steep stairs going up the hill upon which Girona is built. Walking in high heels or with rolling luggage is quite difficult at some points, so plan accordingly.

By bus

There are local buses, but their routes can be quite confusing for non-locals. Furthermore, all touristic areas are near one from another. Single ticket is 1,30€

By car

A car is not only unnecessary in Girona, but also quite cumbersome. Rentals are available for those wishing to make day trips to the outlying villages and castles in the area.

Girona have the same problems that plague other major European cities, but in a minor scale; traffic jams and narrow streets in some areas, coupled with a very complicated road system.

Having a driving map is essential as few bridges over the river makes it difficult to get from one riverside to the other.

Navigating with an average tourist map is frequently misleading: many streets are one-way; left turns are more rare than rights (and are unpredictable).

See

Narrow Streets in Girona

The town's architecture is varied and atmospheric resulting from the myriad of occupations and invasions with many narrow streets, a castle, and impressive walled section.

Do

Buy

The old town contains mostly touristy shops. There is also a good selection of modern shops selling the latest clothes.

Market on Saturday. Cheap goods market along river bank in the park north-west of town centre. Craft stalls in the old town.

Eat

In the old town, many touristy cafes offer menu del dia for €10-13, even on Sun. Areas with dense coverage of faceless touristy cafes are: Plaça Independencia; Rambla de la Lliberitat (near cathedrals). However, try to avoid the restaurants at and near Rambla de la Llibertat, they are very touristy, waiters do not speak English and even if you do find menus in English they are usually poorly translated and the dish you get can vary substantially from its description in the menu. Especially avoid tapas at these restaurants, aside that it is not an authentic Catalunian dish, you will get just a poorly styled mish-mash at one small plate.

Like any other Catalan city, cafes are closed from 4PM until dinner time (about 8-8:30PM). Exceptions are only touristy cafes at Rambla de la Lliberitat.

Budget

  • Frankfurter König Girona Nord,  +34 972 297 504. Cheap food such us pizzas, steak, french fries; and also a place to have a drink.
  • Frankfurter König 2, Pl. Independència, 2,  +34 972 202 099.
  • Koenig Sandwiches, c/Calderers 16 (right under Esglesia de Sant Feliu),  +34 972 225 782. Modern minimalistic design interior; two floors; well-airconditioned; some WiFi coverage for outdoor tables. Combined dishes (salad+main+side dish): 5.8-6.5; salads 5-7; focaccia sandwiches 3.8-4.5; hamburgers 2.5-3.5; toast sandwiches: 3.6-4.
  • König Bar-Restaurant, C.C. Espai Gironès, Salt,  +34 972 439 123.
  • Txalaka, Carrer Bonastruc de Porta 4. Very good Basque restaurant serving pintxos (similar to tapas). Can be crowded with locals in the evening after 22:00 (which is a good sign for a restaurant!)
  •   Zanpanzar, Carrer Cort-Reial, 10, 17004,  +34 972 21 28 43. Fantastic atmosphere, good for a quick tapa and beer
  • Lizarran, Plaça de la Independència, 14, 17001. One of the 200 Lizarran restaurants across 8 different countries
  •   Rocambolesc, Carrer Santa Clara, 50, 17001. Ice cream parlor by one of the brothers of "El Celler de Can Roca (3 Michelin star)". 2-3€.
  •   Llagurt, Carrer Argenteria, 3. Wide variety of artisan and organic iogurts.
  •   La Recuiteria, Rambla de la Llibertat, 41,  +34 679 301 059. Curd ("recuit"), iogurt or ice cream from the milk of their own cattle. 2-3€.
  •   Xocolateria l'Antiga, Placa del vi 8. Charming and classical place in the old town where you can enjoy a typical cup of "xocolata calenta" (hot chocolate).
  •   Crepdequè, C/Ballesteries 49 Girona. Grab a crêpe in this tiny and classic place of Girona.

Mid-range

Good quality Restaurants (20€ - 30€)

Splurge

High quality Restaurants (over 40€)

Drink

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

As is typical with these region of Catalonia, it can get quite hot in the summer. Take care and drink plenty of water throughout the day. There are a number of public water fountains which anyone can make use of and they are clearly marked on the city maps you get from the tourists office.

As for crime, Girona is generally a very safe town with a vigilant local population. It experiences crime that is typical of any city its size, but visitors have little to worry about from the town itself beyond possibly pickpocketing in large crowds. However, it is not uncommon to see local drunks and other vagabonds at the entrances to the footbridges across the Onyar River, especially on the Old Town side. While they generally keep to themselves, they will often beg for change.

While not the destination that Barcelona is for "stag" parties from Northern Europe, Girona does see its fair share of them given that many of them fly in to the Girona Airport on their way to Barcelona.

It should go without saying as it would seem obvious, but don't attempt to jump in to the Onyar River from any of the bridges across it. In addition to being difficult to get back out of, the water simply isn't deep enough for the height and you will sustain any number of grievous injuries upon landing.

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