What To See in Girona When You've Less Than a Day
Taking a day trip from Barcelona? Have a look at what to see in Girona, an quiet Catalan alternative. Includes how to get from Barcelona to Girona by train.

Every time we write a new post we talk about how fantastic slow travel is and how integral it is to our journey, but on one day trip to Girona this year we decided to make an exception and allow the pace to be set by not just one other person, but several other people.

During the month we spent in Spain this year we tried our best to take things slow and see life more “like a local” as best we can without getting a 9-to-5 job or paying taxes (one of the bonuses of being nomadic); but when the invitation came from our friends Nomad is Beautiful to join them, The Crowded Planet, and a number of other travel bloggers for a photo walk around the old Catalonia city of Girona; we couldn’t say no.

Houses on the River Onyar in Girona, Spain

A Photo Walking Tour of Girona

We’ve always been keen to take more photo walks and have joined up to a number of groups online on websites such as Meetup.com or within Facebook, but haven’t joined as many as we’d like.

For those unfamiliar with the idea of photo walks the way it works is simple.

A group of camera carrying participants wander around a destination whilst talking, exchanging photography tips, and stopping to take photos wherever they find inspiration along the way.

Following a walk people will either meet in a bar for a drink and to share their pictures on their computers (if they bring them), or they’ll all share their pictures in the online group once they’ve had a moment to review and touch up their pictures when they return home.

Sometimes the walks are guided by the organiser along a set route, other times the route is random.

What’s most interesting about the whole experience isn’t just the fun you can have or the connections you may build, it’s the differences in shots that people take because of how differing the “photographic eye” can be from one person to next – and let’s not forget that the differences in equipment can play their part too.

On our day trip to Girona we’d be following the rough route set by our friends Gianni and Ivana who’d organised the trip before we’d all arrived. They’d done their research and had already visited the city a few days before hand to preview what to see in Girona, but also which route might offer the best potential for photographs.

The route they chose from the train station through Girona was perfect and enabled us to see some of the best sights in the city, whilst at the same time also giving both Franca and myself an enormous desire to return to turn the day trip into a month-long stay.

As you’ll see, there’s plenty to take in and enjoy.

Travel bloggers gathered for a photo walk in Girona

Things To See in Girona

We all arrived from Lloret de Mar – the site of the travel bloggers conference we were attending – following a bus journey that was both short and simple. The bus station is right next to the train station so it’s incredibly convenient no matter which you choose to take.

River Onyar

Cutting through the centre of the city and once the major trade route of Girona, the Onyar River is a wonder in itself and caused a number of our wandering party to stop at it as soon as we came to a bridge across it – but it wasn’t just to watch the water that rushed below it, or to watch the hundreds of fish we saw passing along it; no, what really caught everyone’s eye were all of the houses along the river painted in the same reds and yellows that make up the flag of Catalonia.

Houses on the River Onyar in Girona, Spain

Eiffel Bridge

The faded and repainted colours of the houses are striking and make for a perfect postcard picture or snap for Instagram, but on the river you’ll also see the Palanques Vermelles bridge, built in 1827 by the same Eiffel company who constructed one of Paris’ better known landmarks.

It’s a simple construction offering only a footpath to cross the river, so feel free to take your time capturing more pictures for your album without the worry of any passing cars; but the architecture of the bridge itself isn’t simple in the slightest.

If only more bridges today were constructed with as much imagination as this blood-red beauty.

The Eiffel Bridge across the River Onyar in Girona, Spain

Rambla de la Llibertat

At one end of the Eiffel Bridge you’ll find one of the main pedestrian streets of Girona and all the way along it you’ll find a course of towering trees that provide shade for the numerous cafes, restaurants, and bars that line the route.

Whilst cafe culture and shops line the route today, the Rambla de la Llibertat was once the heart of the commerce sector and from the 13th Century was where most of the local and incoming travelling traders would sell their goods.

Apart from stopping for several photos, our company of camera-touting bloggers didn’t stop for a mid-morning espresso or early lunch here, however you could see many local Gironians enjoying the first of many meal stops that tend to make up the rhythm of many a Spanish person’s day.

Walking along the Rambla de la Llibertat

Independence Place / Plaça de la Independència

Another area of the city in which people will seek shade from the hot summer sun is within the Plaça de la Independència, or Independence Place.

This large open square is surrounded on all sides by a number of Girona’s most beautiful buildings and collectively presents one of the nicest spots in which to sit in the shade and enjoy watching people pass by.

We too also decided to seek some shade here and as a group headed into one of the bars situated beneath the shaded arches of the arcades around the plaça’s edge.

If you’re looking for somewhere luxurious to pass some time whilst sipping on a caña, the tapas filled bars here are a primary choice.

Plaça de la Independència or Independence Place in Girona, Spain

Girona Cathedral

Whilst empty tapas plates were being cleared from our table we all made our way back onto the path of our walking tour of Girona and the process of filling up every memory card we were carrying.

The streets away from Plaça de la Independència are highly interesting themselves and allow you to see not only the ageing city, but also the local people go about their day-to-day – and the next highlight of our day trip trumped it all.

La Catedral de Girona – or Girona Cathedral – sits high above you at the top of a large flight of stairs that surely serve as a purposely made “test” of pilgrims to the 1000 year old church. In my eyes they look like a final struggle for pilgrims to climb to see if they’re committed enough to the almighty to reach the top of the 91 worn stone steps.

Girona Cathedral in Girona, Spain

After a number of group photos together at the bottom of the stairs the time came to test ourselves on those same steps and the urge to run up them in the style of the film “Rocky” was too great. Unfortunately the chance to reach the top and claim myself as “Champion of Girona” came short once I realised that I was both overtaken and beaten by the former-smoker, Gianni.

With a red face of shame and exhaustion I stopped for a little while to take in the magnificent 13th Century façade of the church that is soon to be used as a location in Game of Thrones.

I adore Gothic-era architecture for the darkness within its design that it casts even in the brightest of lights, and this must-see attraction in Girona is a fantastic example of it.

The side door of Girona Cathedral, Spain

The Jewish Quarter / The Call

From the top of the steps we decided to take a more gentle way down along a sloped road that leads down further into an area called, “The Call, which is one of the oldest parts of the city and where the Jewish community of Girona once settled before being expelled from both Girona and the region of Aragon during the 1492 rise of Anti-Jewish sentiment.

The maze of small streets, stairways, tenements, and merchants houses today stands as one of the best preserved Jewish Quarters in Spain and example of the types of houses Jewish immigrants once lived in.

There are a number of paths that wind their way around the quarter which flow and cut across each other like tributaries in a stream that all eventually end at the same flowing river of people at the bottom of the hill, and it’s wonderful.

Not knowing where the next turn will take you makes it all the more interesting to walk through and discover.

The Jewish Quarter of Girona includes a number of routes filled with steps which have been worn away over time by the weather. Please do take care with your footing as you explore this wonderful place.

The City Walls / Passeig de la Muralla

Another of the oldest attractions in Girona is the old defensive city wall.

What was once the outer city limit now stands within the heart of the Girona and it is surrounded on all sides by hundreds of newer houses and homes, and eventually where the city limit is today.

The wall is split into two walkable parts that have been painstakingly restored by the town council over a number of years and – thanks to the incredible panorama they offer – of that we’re incredibly grateful.

Built upon the original Roman foundations of the 1st century, most of what you see today was built during the Moorish occupation of Girona and the Medieval period that followed it.

Unfortunately not all of the original wall still stands as over time the wall was removed as it no longer surrounded the city it was once set to defend. Also, some stretches of the wall were either removed to make way for new roads, or were too dangerous to leave standing.

Of what there is to see in Girona, this was probably the most interesting as it lifts you high enough up from the buzz of the city so that you can really get an idea of just how far it now stretches and how beautiful the countryside is.

The medieval wall of Girona, Spain
Panorama from the medieval city wall of Girona, Spain

Street Art in Girona

One of the best parts of our group walking tour of Girona was the number of interesting street art examples we found along the way.

As it is typical with our shorter trips, we didn’t see nearly as much of the graffiti and murals that decorate Girona, but you’ll see them scattered around the bus station, and even down by the river.

If we didn’t have enough reason to return to Girona already for a longer stay, the street art left undiscovered is reason enough.

Street art in Girona, Spain

How To Get From Barcelona to Girona

Whilst our group had taken a bus from the conference in Lloret de Mar to Girona bus station, the most common route people will take to the city is on the train from Barcelona itself.

It’s an easy day trip from Barcelona – if you run out of things to do there – and is best taken early in the morning to allow yourself enough time to not only walk around the city, but to also have time enough to enjoy both lunch and a dinner at one of the local restaurants.

How To Take the Train from Barcelona to Girona

  • Take the train from Barcelona Sants to Girona Station
  • Trains run between 6am and 10pm during the week, and between 8am and 10pm over the weekend
  • Journey time is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes
  • Return tickets are not available, two single fares must be used instead
  • Ticket prices may vary depending on the time of day
  • Single tickets may range from €8.50 to €12 each way

Thanks to Xaxier for giving us this great alternate transport solution in the comments below:

Xavier: You can buy a return train ticket from Barcelona (Mitja distancia trains) and you can also buy AVE train tickets! The AVE train only takes 35 minutes to go from Barcelona city centre to Girona!

Is Girona Worth Visiting?

100% YES! Even though our day trip came a lot shorter than we’d have liked, there was enough about the city to convince us that there’s more to Girona than just the airport outside it that so many fly in or depart from.

There’s simply too much to see than a day trip from Barcelona will allow you, but Girona is far too interesting and photogenic to not make the trip at all.

Even if you have less than a day in which to see it, we highly recommend taking the trip but encourage you to spend as long as you can there if you have the flexibility of time and budget. You won’t leave disappointed.

If ever we have the chance to return to Catalonia again I think we’ll put at least a couple of weeks in our calendar for Girona, just to leave enough time for taking photos!

 

Would you like to visit Girona?