Girona. The main sights of the city
Girona is the second largest city of Catalonia in eastern Spain. It is a great city for leisure and leisurely walks.
The medieval beauty of the old quarter with its winding cobbled streets, beautiful squares and unique facades of the houses overhanging the Onyar River leaves a lasting impression on tourists. This part of the city is quite small. You can walk around it on foot. But at the same time it is so beautiful that you can wander here all day long, enjoying the amazing views.
Of course, Girona has plenty of attractions. This medieval fortress, museums, ancient monasteries and many other interesting things.
No wonder that many Spaniards for many years recognizes Girona as the best place to live in Spain.
In the meantime, let us tell you about the main attractions of Girona.
Plaza de la Independencia
Neoclassical Plaza de la Independencia is the central square of the city and actually the center of social life in Girona.
Placa de la Independencia
A small and neat square always full of tourists and locals. There are many restaurants, cafes and bars that are open day and night.
Houses on the Onyar River
Walking across the city bridges on the Onyar River, you can see pastel-colored houses. They are lined up along the bank in place of the old city walls. It is interesting to see how the facades of the small houses literally overhang the river.
Houses on the river Oignard
Pont de les Peixateries Velles, an iron bridge built by Gustave Eiffel, offers a beautiful view of the exclusive facade of the city, typical of Girona.
In Spain you can still find houses that overhang right above the abyss. These are the famous hanging houses of Cuenca.
Girona’s majestic and imposing Baroque cathedral of 1680 has beautiful statues on its facade. Girona Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary.
The Cathedral is probably the main attraction of the city. This place is visited by millions of tourists from all over the world every year.
The ancient building is filled with history and legends. It stands on the highest point of the central part of the old city of Girona.
The imposing building was designed in styles of different periods, from Romanesque (monastery and tower of Charlemagne) to Baroque (facade and massive staircase dating back to the 17th century).
Nowadays only the Gothic nave (the widest in the world, 22.98 meters), the Charlemagne’s Tower (Lombard style), the cloister with sculptures and the sacristy remain from the Romanesque period of the mid-11th century.
In the museum of the cathedral you can see an ancient tapestry “The Creation of the World” of the XI century.
Learn more about the cathedral on its official website.
The Jewish Quarter of El Cal is one of the best preserved Jewish neighborhoods in Europe. It is among the main tourist attractions in Girona.
Jewish district of El Cal
Take a stroll through the old quarter with its many staircases, arches and narrow streets.
The roots of the ancient Jewish community can be explored at the Museum of Jewish History, built on the site of a 15th century synagogue. The Museum of Jewish History exhibits displays of stone and pottery. The museum’s green courtyard hosts concerts of Sephardic music.
On Carrer de la Forca you will find stores selling books, religious jewelry, Catalan ceramics and kosher wine. There are bars, simple cafes and cozy bistros with Jewish, Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine in the area.
Passeig De La Muralla
This is a hiking route along the remains of the old city walls. They were demolished in 1892.
Passeig De La Muralla
In recent years, the remainder of the eastern city walls have been reconstructed to offer a spectacular view of the sights of Girona.
According to historians, the Passeig de La Muralla (i.e. actually the first city walls) were built by the Romans in the first century BC. However, most of the city walls were built between the 9th and 17th centuries.
It is noteworthy that the walls were not only fortified over the years to protect the city from enemies, but also deliberately destroyed when the city expanded.
Fundacio Mona is an institution dedicated to the protection and conservation of various primate species. Here you will see macaques and chimpanzees being carefully protected by biologists.
In this rehabilitation center, chimpanzees and macaques, former circus performers, television performers, advertising models, or even pets, are recovering from abuse.
Many of them have lived for years in loneliness and terrible conditions. The Mona Center has become home to these rescued primates. Here they recuperate and socialize with their fellow animals in their natural environment.
Church of St. Felix (Basilica di San Felio)
San Felio is the oldest church in Girona. It served as the city’s cathedral until the 10th century.
Church of Sant Félix
The Basilica is an impressive Gothic building with an imposing bell tower built between the 14th and 16th centuries. The church regularly holds services and houses ancient works of art.
This intriguing museum is the only one of its kind in Spain. It has more than 25,000 artifacts on display and also houses a library with information about many films.
St. Daniel’s Monastery
According to legend, St. Daniel, an Armenian hermit monk, was murdered in 888 during Arab rule. His followers moved his body south and buried it near Girona. Later a small church was built there and later a monastery was founded.
The Monastery of St. Daniel
There are two parchments in the monastery archives that are considered to be the founding documents of the monastery.
The first, dated June 18, 1015, is the deed of sale of the monastery of Saint Daniel. According to it, Ramon Borrell and the Countess Hermessenda bought the monastery from Bishop Pere Rotger.
One hundred ounces of pure gold (that’s about 2.84 kilograms) were paid for the monastery. With this money the bishopric planned to repair the Girona Cathedral, which was so badly damaged that on rainy days the priests could not hold services there. All of this is recorded in the document.
The second document is dated March 15, 1018. According to it Hermessenda (already a widow at that time) gives the monastery to her son. It is also indicated in this document that a community of monks had already been formed here. Thus we can assume that the monastery of St. Daniel was founded between 1015 and 1018 by the Countess Hermessenda.
An interesting fact is that historians suggest that the monastery was built on the ruins of an ancient pagan temple. So the history of this place can be much older than is commonly believed.
Montjuïc was a bastion built in Girona by order of King Philip IV in 1653. The fortress was intended to defend the northern borders.
The fortress included four defense towers: San Juan, San Daniel, San Narciso and San Luis.
Despite the name and the presence of Moorish architecture, the Arabian Baths are housed in a breathtaking 12th century Romanesque building. The interior and design are similar to Roman public baths.
The highlight here is the Apodyterium. It is a fantastically preserved hall with an impressive octagonal pool in the center.
One of the most photographed places in Girona
To capture Girona’s most photogenic spot, head to Pujada San Domenech. Here you’ll see the arch of the Baroque Agullana Mansion. It is one of the most popular images of the city.
Girona Lioness (La Lleona).
The famous Girona Lioness is a twelfth century limestone sculpture. You will find it on Calle Calderers, at the foot of the staircase of the Church of San Felio, in the Old Town. The figure is ancient, so it already has a damaged part of its snout and tail.
Note the surprised face of the lioness. Why do you think she is like that?
The Girona Lioness is clearly surprised.
The fact that every self-respecting tourist is sure to kiss her in the … loin. Most likely, the Girona Lioness herself is very surprised by this behavior of people.
Any tourist is sure to kiss the lion’s ass.
It is said that kissing the lion’s rear end brings good luck. Locals even claim that just kissing a lion’s butt is a guarantee that you will visit Girona again.
The Girona Lioness is perched quite high on a column, so a small ladder was attached to it. Kissing the lion’s ass is much more convenient now.
St. Dominic’s Monastery
The monastery was founded in 1253. It is a monumental complex consisting of two cloisters in Catalan Gothic style. The building is a cultural treasure of Catalonia.
Sant Pere de Galligants Abbey
Sant Pere de Galligants Abbey in Girona
Sant Pere de Galligants is a Benedictine abbey in the heart of Girona. Since 1857 it has housed the Archaeological Museum of Catalonia. The monastery was built in 992 and became a national monument in 1931.
The 20 best sights of Girona worth seeing
Girona is a city in the autonomous community of Catalonia and the center of the eponymous 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 rises above the 86 steps leading from the Plaça de la Catedral. It is a much older structure 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 covered 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 pieces on display include a Roman mosaic from the 3rd and 4th centuries depicting scenes of chariot races and historical materials relating to Napoleon’s siege of Girona 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
Arabian Baths in Girona.
Although the Banys Àrabs were designed along the lines of earlier Islamic baths and Roman thermae, 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 many 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 12th century, although there is evidence of an earlier building dating back to the 10th century.
Address: Monasterio de Sant Pere de Galligants, Carrer de Santa Llúcia, 8, 17007 Girona, Spain.
St. Dominic’s Monastery
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 multi-colored 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 strolls and picnics during the sweltering heat.
Address: Parc de la Devesa, Passeig de la Devesa, 38, 17007 Girona, Spain.
Saint Daniel Monastery in Girona
Saint 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 became a public property and is now the seat of the government of Catalonia.
Inside there is an ancient pharmacy that is open to the public. Today it is considered one of the best preserved colonial buildings 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 BC. 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
Rambla de la Libertad Boulevard | Photo: Joan / Flickr.
Rambla de la Llibertat is a wide, picturesque boulevard of Girona with two-way traffic, equipped with pedestrian sidewalks. It runs parallel to the bank of the Onyar River and is one of the most popular spots 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.