Girona is approximately 40 minutes from Barcelona by train or an hour and a half drive by car, making it an ideal day-trip to those looking from a break from the bustling city. Though many Games of Thrones fans will also list Girona as worth a visit due to it being home to several filming locations, in my opinion, it’s the historical preservation, hidden gems, and the fact that virtually the entire city is walkable that make Girona most worth visiting.
Our day started off with an early train from Barcelona-Sants. By the time we awoke from our short naps, we were grabbing lattes at the Girona Station café before hopping in an Uber to our first stop in the city center. Our first destination, Girona Cathedral, may be recognized by GOT fans as the Great Sept of Baelor in the city of Braavos. From afar the church seems rather small but the closer you get the more you realize just how magnificent in size it really is.
Our second stop while on our itinerary wasn’t intended to be our second stop. While strolling the narrow streets of Girona we noticed a stone staircase and what appeared to be an old stone castle up above. Of course, we had factored in some time for unplanned explorations and decided to check it out.
It took us about a half an hour of checking out the “castle” and following steps to who-knows-where, hoping we didn’t inadvertently wander onto private property before I exclaimed, “Wait! I think we’re on the walls.” As Girona is a small medieval city, it shouldn’t be surprising that at one point during the 14th century, walls were built to protect the city from any potential outside threats. While some of the original walls have been knocked down for expansion, much of the original still remains and allows for a scenic stroll and new perspective of the city.
I had scoured the internet for the entryway onto the walls also known as the Passeig de la Muralla, unable to find a concrete answer and we had somehow ended up exactly where we wanted to be without trying. The walls do have a few different entryways and exits which make it convenient if you’d rather forego walking the entirety of the wall.
What I loved most about walking the walls was the opportunity to stumble upon a secret “passageway” or viewpoint you could have easily missed. Several of the detours we made happened because someone in our group saw a spiral staircase in the corner of their eye or wandered a side path. With good weather and good energy, you could easily spend a couple of hours exploring Giron from above.
While much of the walk is leveled, there is some occasional incline and certain areas that can only be visited by climbing a few steps. Unsurprisingly, by the time we had seen all that we had to we were completely ravenous. La Fabrica is a restaurant that repeatedly popped up when I searched for brunch spots in Girona. Due to its obvious popularity, we assumed we’d have quite a wait before being seated. Instead, we were seated as soon as we arrived after being greeted by a lovely server, which seemed to set a precedent for how the rest of our meal would go.
I chose the smoked salmon omelet which was also filled with onions and mushrooms then topped with sour cream and some greens, while the rest of my party ordered the breakfast burger. Everything tasted fresh, the coffee had incredible flavor, and we all left satisfied and ready to see what else Girona had to offer.
Post-brunch we explored the area closeby La Fabrica, wandering narrow alleyways and stairwells as we made our way towards Pujada Sant Domenec, another spot recognizable by fans of Game of Thrones. It’s a beautiful spot on its own and we were lucky enough to be entertained by a talented violinist, which added tot he ambiance. Stepping back you can easily remember the episode of GOT where Arya is attempting to escape the Waif and makes her way through a local market.
The Museu d’Art de Girona, our next stop primarily focuses on Gothic and Rennaissance art so it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. While this style and era aren’t typically my favorite it was a must-visit during our trip to Girona and the artwork truly embodied the vibe that the town gives off. And if you’re lucky enough to visit the first Sunday of the month, general admission is entirely free.
Museum of Honorary Mention: Museu d’Història dels Jueus
The Arab Baths may require no more than twenty minutes to visit but is a great piece of history to explore considering the cost of just 2 euros. While the baths were shown as a hiding place for Arya Stark in Game of Thrones, in reality it’s much more important and indestructible. First built in 1194, partially destroyed in 1285, then fully rebuilt ten years later – the baths have stood the test of time even acting as places of meeting for various religious sects through the years.
Our next stop was less of a stop and more of a stroll through the Placa de la Independencia, which is your typical town square surrounded by bars and tapas restaurants. After a full day this was a nice spot to have a seat on a bench, take in our surroundings, and people watch. One thing I’ve always liked about town squares is how similar they are no matter where you happen to be visiting.
If you do a quick search for “Girona” you’ll most often come across dozens of photos of a succession of attached colored houses, otherwise known as The Houses of Onyar which stand along the Onyar River. The brightly colored buildings remind me so much of ones I’ve seen in other parts of the world and yet the area is so unique. We strolled or a bit in the area but one of th best views of the houses is while crossing the Pont de les Peixateries Velles.
Once you cross to the other side, I’d like to suggest stopping for icecream at Rocambolesc. However, since on the day of our arrival the renowned ice cream shop was closed I can’t vouch for a visit in my own right. I can say, however, that the social media photos I have seen have made drool and that the reviews are excellent. Alas, at this point we walked a mile or so back to the Girona Station, sans ice cream but satisfied with our time spent in this beautiful town.