Girona’s top 20 sights worth seeing
Girona is a city in the autonomous community of Catalonia and the center of the province of Girona. It is about 100 km northeast of Barcelona. Those who come to Catalonia should definitely visit this amazing city filled with historical monasteries, fascinating museums and ancient narrow streets – there really is a lot to see in Girona. Here’s a detailed overview of the best Girona attractions recommended to visit.
The majestic cathedral towers over the 86 steps leading from the Plaça de la Catedral. It is a much older building than its baroque facade would suggest. The cathedral was built on the site of a Roman forum; fragments of its foundations were found dating back to the 5th century.
Today the architecture of the cathedral is dominated by the Gothic style – the construction began in the XI century and was completed in the XIV century. However, some elements of the building still remind of the Romanesque style, for example the beautiful two-column cloister of the XII century.
The ancient columns in the southern gallery of the cloister, richly decorated with sculptures of fantastic beasts and biblical scenes, and the silver altar with images of 16 scenes from the life of Christ filled with precious stones are especially noteworthy.
Address: Catedral de Girona, Plaça de la Catedral, s/n, 17004 Girona, Spain.
Girona Museum of Art
Girona Art Museum.
The Museu d’Art de Girona is located next to the Cathedral in the former Bishop’s Palace, which was built over several centuries, from the 12th to the 16th centuries. The Art Gallery of the museum is impressive in scale and variety of its collection.
There are around 8,500 works of art ranging from Romanesque frescoes and woodcarvings to 20th century art: paintings by contemporary artist Mela Mutter depicting the city, sculptures by famous Catalan architect Rafael Maso y Valenti, and works by leading modernist artist Santiago Ruzinola.
Address: Museu d’Art de Girona, Pujada de la Catedral, 12, 17004 Girona, Spain.
St. Felix Church in Girona
Church of St. Felix in Girona.| Photo: Joan / Flickr.
Just below the Cathedral on the slope stands Girona’s second-largest cathedral with its remarkable truncated bell tower. The majestic nave is adorned by a Gothic ribbed vault and a huge late Baroque chapel was built in marble and jasper in honor of one of the city’s most revered patrons, St. Narcissus.
To the right of the chapel is the Gothic tomb of the saint, built in 1328. The tomb is decorated with a sculpture of the deceased and scenes from his life.
Address: Basílica de Sant Feliu, Carrer Trasfigueres, 4, 17004 Girona, Spain.
History Museum | Photo: wikimedia.
The covered galleries of the 18th century give a special atmosphere of antiquity to the Museu d’Història de Girona. The museum exhibition offers a journey into the history of Girona: from Roman times to the Middle Ages and then to modern times.
The most important exhibits of the museum include a Roman mosaic from the 3rd to 4th centuries depicting scenes of chariot races and historical materials on the siege of Girona by Napoleon’s troops in 1808-1809.
Address: Museu d’Història de Girona, Carrer de la Força, Gerona, Spain.
Girona Film Museum
Girona Film Museum | Photo: wikimedia.
The exhibition of this one-of-a-kind museum is not just an excursion into the history of theater and cinematography. The skillfully selected collection of exhibits makes visitors wonder why people have always sought to express themselves using their creative imaginations. For example, by visualizing stories, as in ancient Chinese and Indian shadow theaters.
In the museum you will see such rare exhibits as the camera obscura; the first film projector of the Lumière brothers, which appeared in the 19th century; and the optical illusions created by mirrors and the play of light.
Address: Museu del Cinema, Carrer de la Sèquia, 1, 17001 Girona, Spain.
Arab Baths in Girona
The Arabian Baths in Girona.
Although the Banys Àrabs were modeled on the earlier Islamic baths and Roman thermae, outwardly they look like perfectly preserved Christian structures in the Romanesque style. The Arab baths were built in the 12th century and then rebuilt in the 13th century after being destroyed.
The baths had an apoditherium (room for undressing) with a small octagonal pool surrounded by narrow columns. It was followed by frigidarium and tepidarium – rooms with cold and warm water, respectively, and caldarium (a kind of sauna) – a room with hot water and a warm floor heated by a stove.
Address: Banys Árabs, Carrer del Rei Ferran el Catòlic, s/n, 17004 Girona, Spain.
Archeological Avenue. | Photo: wikimedia.
A walk along Girona’s majestic medieval walls is a great opportunity to admire the cityscape. There are quite a few beautiful spots, but one of the most popular is opposite the Arabian Baths, at the northern end of the old town.
From here the steps lead up to the Paradise Gardens, where the city and the plants blend seamlessly into the picturesque landscape. The southernmost part of the wall ends near Plaça Catalunya and the viewpoint on the Torre de Sant Domènec offers spectacular views of the city.
Address: Passeig Arqueologic, Gerona, Spain.
Museo Arquéologico de Catalunya
Museu d’Arqueologic de Catalunya.
The Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya is famous primarily for its collection of archaeological exhibits dating from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages. These include Iberian amphorae, Roman mosaics and a 4th-century sarcophagus, as well as artefacts from the excavations of L’Escalet’s Ampuria.
Address: Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya-Girona, Carrer de Santa Llúcia, 8, 17007 Girona, Spain.
The Onyar River, flowing through the center of Girona, has over time become an integral part of the city. The banks of the river are built up with famous houses with colored facades that give the city an original look.
Also worth seeing are the beautiful bridges that cross the river. In particular, the stone bridge Pont de Pedra, as well as the metal bridge Pont de les Peixateries Velles, designed by Gustave Eiffel, creator of the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Address: Pont de Sant Feliu, Pont de Sant Feliu, 17001 Gerona, Girona, Spain.
Monastery of St. Peter Galligans
Monastery of St. Peter Galligans.| Photo: Joan / Flickr.
The Benedictine monastery of St. Peter Galligans is one of the most striking examples of Romanesque architecture in all of Catalonia. It was built during the XII century, although there is evidence of an earlier construction dating back to the X century.
Address: Monasterio de Sant Pere de Galligants, Carrer de Santa Llúcia, 8, 17007 Girona, Spain.
Monastery of St. Dominic
Monastery of St. Dominic. | Photo: wikimedia.
The Convento de Sant Domènec was built between the 13th and 14th centuries, it is one of the oldest Gothic buildings in Catalonia. In addition to the monastery, the architectural complex includes a majestic church with covered galleries and a chapter house, standing atop a high flight of stairs. Today a part of the cloister is occupied by the University of Girona.
Address: Convent of Sant Domènec, Plaça de Sant Domènec, 11, 17004 Girona, Spain.
Rafael Maso House Museum
Rafael Maso House Museum | Photo: wikimedia.
Among the famous colorful houses along the banks of the Onyar River is the former mansion of Rafael Maso (1880-1935), now turned into a house-museum. Here everything is preserved as it looked when the famous Catalan architect was alive.
The house-museum belongs to those few buildings where visitors are allowed to enter (most of the colorful buildings in the riverside area are privately owned).
Address: Casa Masó, Carrer de les Ballesteries, 29, 17004 Girona, Spain.
Parque de la Devesa
Parque de la Devesa.
The Parque de la Devesa, covering an area of 40 hectares, is the largest urban park not only in Girona, but also in the whole of Catalonia. There are many huge old trees, a beautiful botanical garden and even a banana grove.
The park abounds with cool shady areas, paths and wide alleys, making it ideal for walks and picnics during the sweltering heat.
Address: Parc de la Devesa, Passeig de la Devesa, 38, 17007 Girona, Spain.
Saint Daniel Monastery in Girona
St. Daniel Monastery in Girona. | Photo: Teresa Grau Ros / Flickr.
In a green valley on the outskirts of the city stands the Convent of Saint Daniel, a magnificent example of Romanesque-Gothic architecture. Here is the tomb of the revered saint, created by the sculptor Aloy de Montbray. The covered Romanesque and Gothic galleries, built between the 12th and 15th centuries, are also worth seeing.
Address: Monasterio de San Daniel, Carrer de les Monges, 2, 17007 Girona, Spain.
Independence Square. | Photo: Joan / Flickr.
Plaça de la Independencia is a large square on the edge of the old part of the city. There are many restaurants, cafes and bars with open terraces where you can relax with a cup of coffee or try the local tapas.
Independence Square was designed by Martí Sureda on the site of the monastery of St. Augustín. It is surrounded by neoclassical buildings with arches and in the center there is a monument by sculptor Anthony Párera to the defenders of the city from the siege of Napoleon’s troops in 1809.
Address: Plaça de la Independencia, 17001 Girona, Spain.
The old St. Catherine Hospital
Old building of the hospital of Santa Caterina. | Photo: wikimedia.
Hospital de Santa Caterina, founded by a monastic order, was moved to another building in 1666. From the 17th century until the beginning of the 21st century, the hospital was an active medical institution. At the end of the nineteenth century, the hospital was taken over by the state and now houses the government offices of Catalonia.
Inside, there is an ancient pharmacy that is open to the public. Today the building of the former Hospital of Santa Caterina is considered one of the best preserved ancient structures in the south of Europe.
Address: Antiguo Hospital de Santa Caterina, Plaça Pompeu Fabra, 1, 17002 Girona, Spain.
The Jewish Quarter on Calle Forza is an old neighborhood of the city where a fortress built by the Romans stood in the first century B.C. The El Calle neighborhood is one of the most iconic places of Girona. Between the 12th and 15th centuries it was a maze of cobbled alleyways and stone stairs, where you could easily get lost.
Address: Jewish Quarter, Carrer de la Forca, 8, 17004 Girona, Spain.
Las Ramblas de la Libertad
Boulevard Rambla de la Libertad. | Photo: Joan / Flickr.
Rambla de la Llibertat is a wide, picturesque boulevard of Girona with two-way traffic, equipped with pedestrian sidewalks. It stretches parallel to the bank of the Onyar River and is one of the most popular places in the city. Here locals and vacationers love to store, meet friends, drink coffee or just stroll.
On Saturdays, there is a wonderful flower market on the boulevard. The current layout of the boulevard dates back to 1885, when trees were planted in the area. Later, the road was widened by the demolition of some buildings. There are Gothic, Baroque, and Neoclassical historical buildings on the boulevard, and arcades where you can find shelter from the scorching sun on a hot summer day.
Address: Rambla de la Llibertat, 17004 Girona, Spain.
Jewish History Museum of Girona
Jewish History Museum in Girona.
The exposition of this unique museum acquaints visitors with the history of Jewish communities in Catalonia and the Kingdom of Aragon, covering the period from the IX to the XV centuries. Among the artefacts on display, the collection of medieval Jewish tombstones is of particular interest.
The address is: Jewish History Museum, Carrer de la Força, 8, 17004 Girona, Spain.
Game of Thrones set
Steps leading up to the Cathedral.
Not everyone may know that many scenes in Game of Thrones season six were filmed in Girona. Those who wish can go on a special tour of the city to see some of the locations where the filming of the popular series took place. For example, the steps leading to the Cathedral, the monastery of St. Peter Galligans and the Arab baths.
Address: Catedral de Girona, Plaça de la Catedral, s/n, 17004 Girona, Spain.
Girona, with its striking Romanesque and Gothic period architecture, is romantic and majestic. Nowadays, the standard of living here is one of the highest in Spain. Tourists are advised to take at least a few days to get to know the city. Great pleasure will bring an unhurried walk along the sidewalk, looking at the frescoes on the multi-colored houses of unusual shape. A visit to a cozy cafe on a quiet street will help to feel the atmosphere. And after that the historical heritage of the city will open to travelers in all its charm. So let’s learn about the most interesting sights of Girona.
The fortress wall
The main part of the attractions is in the old town. The powerful fortress wall surrounding it is an architectural monument in itself. These fortifications were built more than ten centuries ago, and have withstood many battles. Drowning in the greenery of the gardens, from its top you can clearly see the maze of beautiful passages between the buildings, through which the heroes of the great number of legends born here walked. Looking closely at the buildings, you can find inconspicuous decorations at first glance. Heraldic coats of arms with images of bats, mythical women birds and men with lion’s faces, sculptures of couples in love.
Each such piece of jewelry has a history of creation, associated with some interesting event. This is especially noticeable in the Jewish quarter. Here every stone seems to whisper of some amazing event. The uniqueness of the place is fascinating, given that it’s been preserved practically untouched since the ninth century.
Rambla de la Libertat
The heart of the city is the Rambla de la Libertat. For more than two hundred years, traders from all the surrounding area have flocked here. Craftsmen and farmers sell their handmade goods. In this market you can buy all kinds of household necessities or souvenirs. Restaurants, eateries located on this street are comfortable and characteristic of Girona. Street musicians and dancers lift the spirits and entertain residents and visitors. At dusk sometimes a sad song comes from nowhere. In a strange language, frightening and mesmerizing, sometimes loud, sometimes quiet…. It is sung by the ghost of Tolrana, an unhappy woman of tragic destiny.
The cathedral deserves a special homage. Inside, it is awe-inspiring, peaceful and enthralling; the spacious room with diagonal arches, monumental columns, filled with light, enchanted by the sounds of the organ and the splendor of the decorations. The construction of the temple began in 1312, it was built in 1416, and over the centuries there have been additions and changes, with the participation of famous masters. Each of them had left their contribution to the great creation.
In the 17th century the “ladder of repentance” appeared on the west side. It has ninety steps, and, according to tradition, before entering the church, one is required to repent of his sins, one on each step. The outside of the cathedral is no less magnificent than the inside. Even the smallest details in the decoration testify to the skill of its creators. One unforgettable feature will appeal to lovers of mysticism. A marvelous human-shaped drain sticking straight out of the wall. It is said that a woman who lived nearby, who loved to swear and throw stones at the building, was turned into it by heavenly powers. Now only rain water can come out of her mouth.
In summer you can visit the Cathedral from 10:00 to 19:30 and in other seasons from 10:00 to 17:30. The price of the ticket is 5-7 euros and on religious holidays and Sundays you can get in for free.
The Arabian baths, made in the Romanesque style, got its name thanks to the Arabic-style decoration. The building was continually ravaged during the siege of Girona by French soldiers, so since the 13th century, various architects have taken on the restoration work. The last to have a hand in the restoration of the baths in 1929 was the Catalan master Rafael Maso. The huge complex consists of 5 rooms with hot, cold baths, a steam room, a changing room and a room for warming the body with dry air.
The octagonal pool with its bulky columns and stone benches fully adopted the Oriental influence of architecture when the Pyrenees were invaded by Arab tribes. Although the steam rooms are functioning, the baths are presented as museum space and are not used for their intended purpose. If a tour group gathers more than 30 people, a tour of the Arab baths will cost 1 euro, for others 2 euro. On weekends and holidays you can see the attraction from 10:00 to 14:00, and on weekdays – from 10:00 to 19:00.
Benedictine Monastery of St. Peter Galligans
It is considered a striking example of the Romanesque style in Catalonia in the 12th century, despite the fact that the facade of the building is heavily “updated”. Since 1857 it has been a public building, and is now the Archaeological Museum. The octagonal dome of the Church of San Nicolau from the 12th century also holds many mysteries related to ancient tombs. For connoisseurs of art, a visit to the town’s Museum of Art will not be a complete disappointment. The exhibit, created between the 10th and 20th centuries, is housed in the epic Bishop’s Palace, not far from the Cathedral. The Salvador Dali Museum, which he himself designed, is dedicated to his life and work. The most flamboyant works of the eminent surrealist artist are collected there.
Girona Lioness” sculpture
The Girona Lioness sculpture is a statue of a lion climbing a column at Girona’s northern gate. The legend originally told of a she-wolf, who was taught by one of the villagers to signal the guards at the walls of the fortresses of the approaching trading carts and other unexpected “guests”. After her death the grateful people decided to erect a monument to her, but the image of the simple wolf-wolf for the transmission of legends to future generations did not seem very heroic to people, and it was decided to replace it with a more intimidating – a lioness.
Since there were no such predators in these areas and, accordingly, no one had ever seen the representative of the feline family, the resulting sculpture of the animal turned out to be very peculiar. There is also a curious tradition connected with this sight, which dates back to the 13th century, when merchants who didn’t have time to get into town before the gates closed climbed up the pillar and stroked the animal on the buttocks. Such a gesture let the guards know that the late travelers belonged with their people. Today there is a ladder for this purpose, and judging by the scuff marks on the lioness’s body, tourists repeat this custom regularly.
The Jewish Quarter of El Kall
The Jewish quarter of El Kall will suit fans of medieval architecture, which has remained fully intact since the 15th century. Tourists owe the untouched decoration of the squares and alleys to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who evicted the affluent Jewish settlements for refusing to accept Catholicism. The once thriving neighborhood was now populated by Spanish Christians who had no money to develop it. The Museum of Jewish History of Catalonia on Carrer de la Forca, which consists of 11 halls, will tell about the life and oppression of Jewish society.
The ticket price is 2,4 Euros depending on the age of the visitor. The museum is open on weekdays from 10:00 to 19:00 and on Sundays from 10:00 to 14:30 (Mondays are closed). The ancient staircases, narrow corridors of the streets, 12th century Arab baths, exhibition halls and cafes are worth spending a day or more on them, so don’t forget comfortable shoes for a tour of El Kallo.
The Bishop’s Palace once belonged to a local count, after which it was bought by the priests and since the 13th century it has been constantly transformed, incorporating Romanesque, Gothic and, in some places, Renaissance features. Up to the 20th century the building was extended by the towers in which the prisoners were imprisoned, as evidenced by the inscriptions made by the prisoners on the walls of the Prison Hall, chapels and exhibition halls, under which the bishops especially allocated the territory for the storage of rare works of art – paintings by famous artists, jewelry and church utensils.
On Mondays the museum is closed, but on all other days from 10:00 to 18:00 (and on Sundays from 10:00 to 14:00) the palace is open to tourists. The ticket price for students, senior citizens and tourist groups of 20 people or more is 3.5 euros, and for the rest 4.5 euros.
Monastery of St. Dominic
St. Dominic Monastery is a vivid example of the Catalan Gothic style built in the 13th century by a monk of the Dominican Order. Apart from the fact that this style of architecture is not in itself richly decorated, the Catholic brotherhood did not have enough money to finish the monastery. In spite of this the building looks very unusual due to its austerity, expressed in the small number of windows and the simplicity of its design against the background of Spanish colorful buildings with decorative elements of different eras. It is now home to the University of Arts and is not accessible to the public, but you can still admire it from the outside.
Old St. Catherine’s Hospital
The old hospital of St. Catherine began as a poor man’s hospital in the 13th century and was later moved to the city center. Girona needed more land to strengthen the city’s borders and from the 17th century, the hospital became one of the best hospitals in all of Spain under the patronage of the Church and continued its existence until the 19th century when the monks, having no more money to maintain it, transferred the building to the government.
The hospital is now the seat of the government of Catalonia, but some attractions are available for tourists: the “Patio of the Magnolias”, the courtyard with exits to it from the hospital wards, and St. Catherine’s Pharmacy, which has been preserved unchanged to this day. You can visit the hospital on weekends from 10:00 to 14:00 and on national holidays, the ticket costs 3.5 euros.
Church of St. Felix
The Church of St. Felix is a symbol of Girona, namely its spire, destroyed by lightning in the 16th century, which the authorities deliberately did not restore, mistaking it for a sign from God. One of the oldest buildings in this city, it dates back to the 4th century, whose construction was dedicated to two saints who died at the hands of Roman pagans. One of the martyrs was named Felix, and his relics have survived and are still preserved in the church. The church also keeps ancient Roman sarcophagi dating back to the 3rd century, such as San Narciso.
Residents of Girona believe that with his help they were able to repel the siege of the city in 1285 – the insects got out of the tomb of the saint and drove away the French army. Many visitors are attracted here by the sculpture of the Lying Christ for worship, made in 1350. Each century the basilica has undergone changes until the 17th century, combining Baroque and Gothic elements, which you can enjoy every day from 10:00 to 17:30 for the price of 5 (seniors and students) to 7 euros.
Houses along the Onyar River
The houses along the Onyar River offer not only a picturesque view of the river, but are an ancient landmark in their own right. “Suspended houses” began to be rebuilt back in the 17th century from the fragments of walls that once served as the city’s defense against the advances of French troops, and now they divide Girona into the “old” and “new” city. Colorful facades of buildings are reflected in the river and create a landscape so beautiful that it has often been depicted in paintings, and tourists in search of a good shot almost never come to these places. Walking along the embankment is not possible, as it simply does not exist – three-story buildings literally hang over the river, but walk across the many bridges, thrown from one part of town to another, easily.
Opened in 1998, the Girona Film Museum attracts crowds of film buffs who want to trace the history of cinema over the last few centuries. Most of the valuable exhibits are from the collections of Thomas Mallol, which he collected over some 30 years, from engravings and the first cartoons, to vintage projectors and modern film lenses. To put all the 400-year heritage of cinema, and it’s about 30 thousand items, the museum needed four floors divided into thematic areas.
Children in particular will be interested to learn from the educational program offered here how cartoons were created. You can immerse yourself in the world of cinema every day from 10:00 to 18:00 except Sunday and holidays, when the museum is open from 10:00 to 14:00. Tickets can be purchased for between 3 and 6 euros, depending on special offers and the age of the visitor.
Agullan Palace is shrouded in mystical legends about the vampire masters who lived in the castle between the 14th and 17th centuries. The building hides many hidden rooms, providing further evidence of the dark past of the building’s inhabitants. The Baroque architectural style makes the palace even more intimidating and for thrill-seekers it should be one of the first things to see. If you go past the archway stairs you’ll find yourself at the walls of the Catholic monastery, San Martí Zacosta. In front of this medieval complex, it is not uncommon to find artists with easels, painting the “symbol” of the city on paper. A nice bonus of these places is that they are free to visit.
Tower of Gironella
The Tower of Gironella is the only evidence of the 1809 pogroms that Bonaparte carried out in Spain and other European countries during the Napoleonic Wars. But this defensive structure dates back to the period of the Roman Empire, when its purpose was to protect the trade route from Seville to Rome. Everyone can climb the spiral staircase, which survives to this day, and enjoy a breathtaking panorama of the city.
Plaza de la Constitución
Constitution Square is a 4-minute walk from the Onyar River in the new part of the city. The place is notable for its imposing size and sculptures by contemporary artists, especially the bronze statue of the girl born on the day the Spanish Constitution was adopted.
Gustave Eiffel Bridge
Several bridges over the Onyar River connect the new buildings with the old quarters. One of them, the “Red Iron” (1877) is worthy of special attention. The Gustave Eiffel bridge is interesting because of its intertwined red metal rods that do not connect the two banks of the river, but rather the two houses on either side. This design belongs to the hand of the famous French engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose fame came after the construction of the infamous tower in Paris. For 1876 this creation was considered a real miracle. The old houses on the beach look magical, especially at sunset, when under the ever-changing rays of the hiding sun they play with shades of color.
Parque de la Devesa
The 40-hectare Parque de la Devesa is filled with ornamental fifty-meter-long plane trees, palm trees and flowers, with which the area is so densely populated that in hot weather it is really a refuge from the heat of the sun. The perimeter of the park is dug with a moat filled with water, so you can only enter through a gate. The green complex de la Devesa includes a banana grove and a botanical garden, and there are plenty of rides and playgrounds for children.
Museum of Art
The Museum of Art was formed by the merger of two museums dedicated to the cultural heritage of Girona between the 16th and late 20th centuries. According to the official papers, the museum began its work in 1976, but the first mention of it is associated with the Count of Borrel in the 10th century, who owned the building. Tourists can see more than 8,000 church-historical exhibits, which are divided into 18 halls in chronological order.
There are paintings by medieval painters from Spain, and a 17th-century typewriter, stained-glass tables, jewelry, earthenware, ceramic and glassware, sculptures, and even preserved embroideries from the 15th century. Entrance to the museum will cost 3-4 euros and it is open every day from 10:00 to 18:00, and on weekends from 10:00 to 14:00.