Girona, Top Tourist Destination in Spain's Costa Brava Region

Girona, Spain – A Little Something for Everyone

Some cities beckon sports lovers, others are the darlings of festival lovers. Some delight the palate while others offer up a smorgasbord rich in history, art and architecture. Girona, Spain is all of the above.

I first arrived in this Catalonian capital back in September to attend the Travel Blog Exchange Conference, sponsored by Costa Brava Tourism. My plan had been to spend a few days in Girona, followed by several weeks traveling around France, ending with two weeks in Iceland before heading back to the U.S. to spend Christmas with my family. As often happens, my plans were thwarted.

Kayaking the River Ter with two local adventure sports companies, Kayak del Ter and Caiac i Natura

Kayaking the River Ter with two local adventure sports companies, Kayak del Ter and Caiac i Natura

Post-conference, the tourism board went into high gear, chauffeuring me to Vall de Nuria, high in the Spanish Pyrenees for a day, followed by a three-day press trip that promised to make me “feel like a local.” I milked a cow at an organic farm, hiked to the top of a ring of volcanoes, enjoyed a traditional Catalonian breakfast of tomatoes rubbed on fresh bread and slathered with olive oil at a 700-year old farm. I explored a natural spring at Canet d’Adri and spent a day with one of the city’s top chefs, learning about the gastronomic delights of Catalonia. One morning I kayaked the rapids of the Ter, one of four rivers that converge in Girona, then joined an afternoon walking tour of Barri Vell, the old town in Girona where eye-poppingly colorful houses reflected in the mirrored surface of the River Onyar.

Colorful old houses along the River Onyar in Girona, Spain

Colorful old houses along the River Onyar in Girona, Spain

A little taste of a place can be a dangerous thing. My appetite whetted, I craved more. About the same time someone pointed out to me that there are only three or four hours of daylight each day in Iceland in December. In the blink of an eye I had rearranged my schedule; Iceland was put on hold until spring and I decided to return to Girona after my travels in France.

I returned two weeks ago and have been exploring ever since. Passieg de la Muralla, the Medieval wall that still surrounds much of the city, offered spectacular views across the valley to the Pyrenees, already blanketed in snow. Inside Girona’s magnificent cathedral, I marveled at its cavernous nave, said to be the broadest Gothic architecture in the world. And at the Museum of Jewish History I learned that at the beginning of the 13th century, Jewish scholars from Girona came in contact with the Kabbalist known as Isaac the Blind (Sagi Nahor), from the south of France. They brought his theosophical doctrine back to Girona, where the leaders of the Jewish community developed it so well that the city became known around the world as the “Mother City of Israel.” Today the Kabbalah is an important Jewish mystical tradition that examines the concepts of creation and spirituality.

View over Girona and to the snow-capped Spanish Pyrenees from atop the Medieval city wall

View over Girona and to the snow-capped Spanish Pyrenees from atop the Medieval city wall

Frankly, I am fascinated by this city and I am not alone. National Geographic chose this rugged Catalonian region known as Costa Brava as one of their top 20 travel destinations in 2012. In my all-too-brief time here I have tried unsuccessfully to exhaust the opportunities that Girona offers but for each item I tick off my list three new ones appear. With only two days left, I have admitted defeat and admitted that I will just have to return, perhaps for the Temps de Flors (Flower Festival), when the city is bedecked in flowers for a week in May. The proposition is a bit scary. If I am enchanted when it is uncomfortably cold and slightly dreary, how will I ever tear myself away in the springtime?

Can’t view the above slideshow of Girona, Spain? Click here.

My tours of Girona and the surrounding Catalonia countryside were jointly hosted by Costa Brava Pirineu de Girona (Costa Brava Girona Tourism Board), the regional Girones Centre de Visitants, and the Ajuntament de Girona (Girona City Hall). However, the receipt and acceptance of complimentary items or services will never influence the content, topics, or posts in this blog. I write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

13 Comments on “Girona, Spain – A Little Something for Everyone

    • Wishing you a great time in Girona, overland. There’s so much to see and do, for people of varied interests.

  1. Hello, Barbara,
    I, too, am a reformed workaholic who has been traveling the world and living abroad for 8 years now. It is addictive to say the least. However, Spain is at the top of my list of favorite places to return to, over and over again. I haven’t been to Girona yet, but I have lived for almost a year and a half, off and on, in various parts of Spain and plan to continue exploring the riches of Spanish culture for many years to come. In fact, I will be back in Spain again in February 2013 to attend language school in Malaga. Time to mejorar mi Espanol. Hats off to your travels and viva Espana!

    • Thanks Teresa! So good to hear that you are also following your dreams. I echo your sentiments about Spain – it’s a wonderful country.

  2. I love your photos and love them even more when they are accompanied by your blog. I live and work inside a high security compound in Kabul, Afghanistan, and your travel blog is one of my windows on the world. I especially appreciated recent photos of Marseille and Girona. Keep up the good work!

    • Hi Stephen:What a nice thing to say! Thank you so much. Glad I can brighten your day a little. I wish I could write articles more often, but with this life of perpetual travel it is sometimes hard to get even one per week done, as I have to do a lot of touring, interviewing, and research before I publish. But it’s always good to hear that my work is appreciated!

  3. Hi Bill: Unfortunately, there was very little information about the Kabbalah in the museum other than what I wrote. They have a bookshop but the books are all in Catalan or Spanish – only three or four in English – so it’s probably not the best place to delve into the Kabbalah. I just thought the history was fascinating, and a bit sad, since there has been no Jewish community here since the purges in the 1400’s.

  4. Hi Barbara! I love all of your pictures and description of Girona. I was there this past summer and it was a delight. I loved all those small towns from Girona north (I see that you have been to Besalu). You have captured them all so beautifully in your photos. Enjoy your Christmas back in the States. Where are you headed in the new year?
    Safe travels, Fran

    • Hi Fran: Good to hear from you and to know you loved Girona. It really is a great place, especially for families, since it offers something for everyone. I’ve been to Besalu, Banyoles, Figueres, Palau-Saverdera, Cadaques, Campllong, Canet d’Adri, the Llemena Valley, Vall de Nuria in the Pyrenees….and I’ve just barely scratched the surface! Next year will tentatively take me to Iceland, England, Vienna, Prague, Hungary, Romania, Craotia, Greece and Turkey, after which I’ll head back to Nepal for a few weeks, with maybe a little time in northern India. But as always, it’s a fluid itinerary. It will change a hundred times. Glad you’re getting out there yourself a bit! Have a lovely Christmas.

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