22 Things to do in Girona
Given there are so many things to do in Girona, you will hopefullly find this structure useful. First, an overview over the must-see attractions in Girona, Spain, followed by a list of the museums (cinema museum, anyone?). Finally, a few ideas for day trips from Girona, as it is the gateway to the Costa Brava.
In the end, I include a section on how to get there, also how to get from Barcelona to Girona as many travelers will likely start their journey there.
Where appropriate, I highlight things to do in Girona for families and tell you some of the legends of this historic city.
Top things to see in Girona
Old Jewish Quarter
The surpringly well preserved Jewish quarter of Girona is called El Call and part of the Old Town. Jews lived here between the 12th and 15th centuries, up until 1492 to be exact. That is the year when all Jews were banned from the Iberian Peninsula.
You can walk these streets and see where they once lived, before they were confined to this area and finally expelled. One of the former synagogues now houses the Museum of Jewish History (see below). There is lots to explore and lots to learn.
Cathedral of Girona
Carl the Great, aka Charlemagne, was considered the Father of Europe, because he united many European countries to an empire for the first time since the Romans.
At the beginning of his reign, Girona was occupied by Arabs. Where we now see the cathedral, was a mosque. Carl the Great took his army to Girona, defeated the Arabs and returned it to Christianity. Along with its place of worship.
Prices start at 7€ inlcuding audioguide and entrance to the Basilica St. Feliu.
From Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m
Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m
Sunday from 12 to 7 p.m
Going to Spain with your most beloved and looking for romantic things to do in Girona? There are so many legends about this cathedral, I cannot possibly tell all. But let me mention two of them, the first of which may inspire you to take a picture, side by side.
At the cathedral you will find Charlemagne’s throne. It is wide enough for two people to sit next to each other easily. Legend has it that if a couple sits on it, they shall marry within a year. However, if a person sits on it alone, he or she will never marry. That’s why the church made their seminarians and bishop sit on the chair, so they would follow their vow of celebacy.
Another legend surrounds the socalled Charlemagne’s Tower. Supposedly, one winter it snowed very heavily on Girona and Charlemagne climbed up on the tower to better admire the snow that had fallen meters high. While leaning out of the window, his sword fell down into the cloister.
None of the soldiers he sent could ever find it. So the legend says, that because it fell on its tip, it pierced the ground and is travelling all the way to the earth’s core. And the day it reaches the core, the earth will split into two and the world will end.
Basilica of Sant Feliu
Next to the cathedral, the Basilica of Sant Feliu is the second important catholic place of worship in Girona. Tickets include entry to both churches. And if you get the Episcopal ticket, even entrance to the Girona Art Museum.
At the time of writing entrace fees start at 7€ including audio guide and opening hours are:
Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m
So, who was this Sant Feliu, or Saint Felix? Apparently, he was a missionary who travelled from Africa to Spain and was martyred in Girona. In his honour, they build him a church. He was friends with another local saint, called Narcissus, whos tomb is located inside the church.
And that is where things get interesting. This may be my favorite one of Girona’s legends: In 1286 the French occupied Girona and when they came to this church they opened the tomb. Out came an army of flies that caused the French to flee not only the church but also the city. So, they made the fly their mascot and Narcissus their patron saint, St. Narcís.
There is even a street in Girona, called Fly Street (Carrer de les mosques) and you can buy all kinds of fly souvenirs. Sant Narcissus Fair is the biggest festival of Girona, celebrated every year on October 29.
Kiss the lion – Cul de la Lleona
At the bottom of the steps leading up to the Basilica de Sant Feliu in Carrer Calderers you will find a replica of the a lion statue. The original is in the Art Museum (see below). Legend has it, it used to be mounted outside an inn called Hostal de la Lleona on this street.
It became a local custom to touch the lion, and so did many visitors, who stayed at the inn. Kind of like throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome, touching this lion’s butt became the local tradition meaning the person would return to Girona or even stay for good.
Over time, things escalated from touching the lion’s butt to kissing it. And even though the statue has been moved and the inn no longer exists the legend and the custom survived.
During the same siege by the French much of the Arab Baths were destroyed, that had been erected in the 12th century. They were restored in the early 20th century and are open to visitors for 3€ general admission during the following hours:
Monday to Saturday, from 10 am to 6 pm
Sundays and bank holidays, from 10 am to 2 pm
Closed on 1 and 6 January, and 24, 25 and 26 December
They are a fabulous example of the mix of cultures that occupied Spain over the course of history. Arab elements blend with Roman tradition. The rooms you can visit are named in Latin: Apodyterium (changing room), Frigidarium (cold room), Tempidarium (warm room), Caldarium (hot room) and the furnace.
It seems it was also used as a mikveh by the Jewish community in the middle ages and as a convent by some Capuchin nuns later.
Finally, one of the free things to do in Girona! You can walk along the old city walls, built in the 9th century. There are several access points and many towers from which you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.
As with all walkable city walls down here in the Mediterranean, please remember it gets hot in the summer and you will be exposed to the elements. So if possible, try to do this as early in the morning as you dare to wake up. That’s also a great way to avoid other tourists 😉
Angel’s Garden – Jardín del Ángel
How about a bit of nature after all this walking on stone? A place to calm down and rest for a moment under orange trees and a 100 year old fig tree?
The garden was commissioned by a local poet, Josep Tarrés, inspired by Kabbalah, in 1998. She believes the garden has an angel and that is why you feel so much better as soon as you enter it.
Can you see an angel on top the the cathedral when looking through the small window?
You might accidentally land here, while you explore the monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants that is now the Archeological Museum (see below). Or you can end your walk on the city walls here, after you passed the viewpoint Mirador de Santa Llúcia.
Game of Thrones filming locations in Girona
At this point I am almost embarrassed to admit that I have never seen even a single episode of Game of Thrones. They are episodes, right? So, let somebody who actually knows what he is talking about tell you this part of Girona’s story. Someone like Patrick, who in this little video gives you the filming locations and original scenes, as well as some recommendations for best places to eat in Girona.
I had stumbled upon other Game of Thrones filming locations in Croatia. And now, my dear Games of Thrones fans, did you know this? Girona theological figures Sant Felix and Sant Narcis were both murdered by Emperor Diocletian, the first Roman emperor to ever retire. He is best known to his persecution of Christians. Anyway, the place he retired to is a palace he built for himself in Split, Croatia, where many other scenes of Game of Thrones were filmed! Coincidence? You tell me what you think!
Eiffel Bridge / Onyar River
The Pont de les Peixateries Velles, aka Eiffel bridge over the Onyar river was built by the same architect, who a few years later constructed the Eiffel Tower in Paris. From here you have a nice view of the colorful facades along the river #instagramspot
Museum of Jewish history
The Museum of Jewish history located on 8 Forca street in Call, the Jewish quarter of Girona, aims to educate about the story of the Jewish communities in Catalonia. It takes as an example the jews of Girona and the legacy they left behind in the city.
On the website of the Museum of Jewish history you can find current prices and opening times. At the time of writing this article, general admission is 4€ with free admission every first Sunday of the month. And opening times are the following:
July and August: Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm, Sunday and public holidays from 10 am to 2 pm.
September to June: Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm; Monday, Sunday and bank holidays from 10 am to 2 pm.
Download their audioguide to your phone and bring earphones for a more in depth experience. It is available in 5 languages: Catalan, Spanish, English, Hebrew and French.
Guided tours are available for groups via the museum itself and for individuals through booking a licensed tour guide.
Looking some more quirky things to do in Girona? You can use their interactive map during your walk of Girona to learn about the history of the Jews here and about Kabbalah.
This school of thought tries to explore what is not logically explicable. Originating in Provence, it spread to Girona in 1200 and the city became a hot spot for Kabbalah thinkers and poets.
Who doesn’t love the movies? In Girona, one of the most fun things to do, must be a visit to the cinema museum. With exhibitions about the pre-cinema era the early beginning it was one of the first museum of this subject, when it opened in the 1990s.
The museum is located in a late 19th century building near Carrer de Santa Clara and Rambla de la Llibertat that used to house the offices of he water company.
Current opening hours and prices are available on their website. At the time of writing general admission is 6€ with free admission every first Sunday of the month and opening times are as follows:
September to June: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sunday and Mondays that are public holidays, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Special opening hours during Easter Week
July and August: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Their audioguides are available for download in 4 languages: Catalan, Spanish, French and English. Guided tours are availalbe for groups and families via the museum’s educational staff.
Archeological Museum of Cataluña
As one of the oldest museums in Catalonia, this archelogical musem tells you the stories of the area from prehistoric to medevial times. This includes a space about the Roman era and the over 1000 year old Sant Pere de Galligants monastery.
Other spaces display prehistory, the Metal Ages, and the colonisations and the Iberian period.
It is located at the site of this monastery on Carrer de Santa Llúcia, 8, near the Cathedral of Girona.
Being one of the five public archeological museums on Catalonia, you can find current fees and opening times on their website. At the time of writing, general admission is 6€ with free admission every first Sunday of the month and opening times are as follows:
May to September: from 10 am to 7 pm
October to April: from 10 am to 6 pm
Sundays and Bank Holidays: from 10 am to 2 pm, closed: Mondays; 25 and 26 December; 1 and 6 January
As far as I can tell, there is currently no downloadable audioguide available.
Girona Art Museum
Who would have thought an art museum would be fun thing to do in Girona with kids? The Girona Art Museum really makes and effort to look at its collection from different points of view. For children, you can even download discovery games from the museum’s website.
Each of their 5 floors is dedicated to a different time period. Starting with Romanesc, Gothic and Renaissance on the 1st floor to contemporary are on the top floor.
The Girona Art Museum is located in the old Episcopal Palace of Girona. If you get the Episcopal Girona joint ticket, you also gain access to the cathedral and the Basilica of Sant Feliu besides the Episcopal Palace.
At the time of writing the Episcopal ticket is 10€, while the individual ticket to the Art Museum is 6€. Again, admission is free the first Sunday of each month.
Opening hours are as follows:
Weekdays (May-September): 10:00 – 19:00
Weekdays (October-April): 10:00 – 18:00
Sundays and holidays: 10:00 – 14:00, Closed: Mondays (except holidays)
They offer an audioguide in five languages, not only for the general view of the permanent exhibition but also the socalled “in terms of women” audioguide, showing the exhibition from a female perspective. Must have been quite the challenge, given how underrepresented women were in art for centuries. Feminists rejoice!
Girona History Museum
I’ve been to local history museums where they only show you the pretty side of the story. Not so in Girona! This museum offers an extension that includes a visit to the air-raid shelter built during the civil war in the 1930s to protect 700 people from dropping bombs.
Another extension is the coal cellar and cistern of the former Capuchin monastery of San Antoni. Both of these extensions and the main museum are located between the Cathedral of Girona and the river. The third extension, the historic building of Agència Gómez sits further south, near the city hall (Ajuntament).
Back at the main building, an audioguide is availble for download in Catalan, Spanish, English and French.
Check for admission prices and opening hours on this website. At the time of writing general admission is 4,20€ with free admission every first Sunday of the month and opening hours as follows:
October to April: Tuesday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Sundays, public holidays and January 5; December 24 and 31, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
May to September: Tuesday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Sundays and public holidays, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Closing days: non-holiday Mondays; January 1 and 6; December 25 and 26
Not far from the river bank, at Ballesteries, 29 you will find the birth house of famous local artist and architect Rafael Masó (1880-1935). Enjoy unique views of the city and feel like you’re transported back to 1919 wandering through what once were four individual houses, over time aquired by Masó and his family.
All visits are guided, so it’s best to make a reservation in advance. You can find contact details on their website. The tour takes about 50 minutes. For a better idea of what you are going to see, check out their 360 degree virtual tour.
Generally, the house is open for visitors from Tuesdays to Saturdays. General admission at the time of writing is 6€.
April to September: 11.30 am / 1 pm / 5.30 pm / 7 pm
October to March: 11.30 am / 1 pm / 4 pm / 5.30 pm
Side note: this is not only a museum but the spaces, e.g. dining room, are still used to this day! Anybody can book their event or company function at this historic location.
Placa de la Independencia
One of the locals’ favorite places for lunch in the sun is this square across the river from Casa Masó. Beautiful neoclassical architecture and a statue representing the defenders of the city mark the square. You can stop here for a cup of coffee before you get back into the business of the shopping street that is the Rambla de la Libertad.
Rambla de la Libertad
This street is one of the busiest in Girona, and probably has been since its construction in 1885. Decorated with trees and benches it invites the visitor to stroll, shop and eat at one of the many restaurants. It runs north to south in the city center. If you stroll along it you will also pass near the Eiffel bridge.
Parque de la Devesa
To catch some shade from your long day of sightseeing, take a quick detour through Devesa Park, the largest of Girona’s parks. Here you can find 40 hectares of trees, mostly rows of banana trees that grew to unusual heights because they were planted so closely. Over 2500 trees here are older than 100 years, planted since the 1850s.
Monasterio de San Daniel de Girona
For a slightly more off the beaten path attraction, you can visit the Sant Daniel Monastery with its 1000 years of history. They offer guided tours of the complex once a month at the moment and they do book out in advance, so make sure to use the contact info on the website to plan your visit.
But what’s even more unique about this place is, that in Benedictine tradition of hospitality, you can actually stay at the guesthouse of this monastery! If you are looking for silence, that is. Might be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience?! Booking information is also available on their website.
El Celler de Can Roca
In 2019 the fine dining restaurant El Celler de Can Roca was named Best of the Best on the list of “the world’s 50 best restaurants” besides many more awards that the restaurants and its chefs have collected.
It is run by the three Roca brothers: Joan, Josep and Jordi. Joan is the chef, Josep the Sommelier and Jordi the pastry chef. They continue their culinary passion, installed in them in the restaurant their parents used the run when they were little boys.
Today, El Celler de Can Rocas is so popular that they make you aware of the exact MINUTE (not kidding!) the next block of online reservations is released. You can book 11 months in advance on their website. If you can afford it.
Day trips from Girona
Excursion to la Costa Brava
Girona, next to its own merit, is also the gate to the Costa Brava, the wild coast of Spain. There are so many things to do here. Let me tell you about some of my favorite things to in Costa Brava.
Some may call it cliff jumping, here we call it Coasteering. The idea is you have guide and a small group and swim from rock to rock / cliff to cliff and jump down into the clear blue Mediterranean Sea. Safety equipment like a helmet is included. This was SO MUCH FUN! I’d do this again anytime.
A concept most likely developed in Italy and used by the Italian army during war time to manouver the alpine landscape is climbing on a Via Ferrata. They also have one of those not far from Girona, where you are hooked onto a steel rod that meanders along the cliffs of the Costa Brava. It’s a beginner friendly climbing experience, but still expect some moments of thrill! Not recommended for people who are afraid of heights.
Over the years, I have written about many of my favorite places along this stretch of coast. Hiking near Palamos was definitely one of those experiences. But also read this article on 3 Costa Brava must-see Towns for Slow Travelers if you have a bit more time on your hands.
Figueres merits a mention of its own because the number one on the list of things to do in Figueres is a visit to the Salvador Dali Museum
A convenient 40min by car or 30min train ride from Girona, Figueres makes for an easy day trip from Girona and boasts one of the most spectacular museums surrealist art has to offer.
How to get to Girona
Girona is very well connected by land and air. The airport is called Girona – Costa Brava Airport (GRO) and serviced by prominent budget airlines.
Driving, Girona is about 1h15min by car along the highway and less than an hour from the French border in Le Perthus.
There are also regional and fast trains servicing Girona. From Barcelona, in under 40 minutes you can get from Sants Station to Girona on the AVE high speed train. Slower trains take about 1h15min. From the French side, the TGV high speed train takes 40min from Perpignan to Girona.
Is Girona worth visiting?
In my personal opinion, YES! Girona is absolutely worth visiting, both during the summer and during the winter. In summer, make time to explore the surroundings. And in the winter, it’s especially worth visiting on the first Sunday of any month, so you can explore the many museums for free. Who doesn’t love free things to do in Girona?
How do I spend a day in Girona?
If you only have a day, you may not be able to see the museums. Focus on the Jewish Quarter, the Cathedral of Girona, walk across the Eiffel bridge and take a picture of the colorful houses along the river. Have some tapas and if you have the time, walk the old city walls.
How much time do you need in Girona?
To really experience all the main attractions I recommend two days, one night in Girona. That will also give you time to take advantage of its culinary delights over dinner. Either in the Old Town or at one of the best restaurants in the world, if that’s in your budget.
What is Girona Spain known for?
Girona has one of the best preserved medevial old towns of Europe. Particularly the Jewish Quarter is uniquely close to its original appearance. Recently, it has also become known as a filming location for Game of Thrones.