Barcelona to Girona: Three Days in Girona, Spain

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What to do after your Western Mediterranean cruise is over and you disembark in Barcelona? You plan an extended week! From Barcelona to Girona, we spent three days in Girona, Spain.

Why Girona, Spain?

Really, the question should be, why not Girona, Spain? 

When we first started planning our trip, I didn’t realize how massive Spain is. I had this crazy idea that I was going to explore Barcelona for a few days and then jump on a train to Madrid, Seville, or Granada. It all would have worked out if we had not booked a cruise.

You can’t do the entire country of Spain in a week and you can’t do all of Catalonia in a week either. There is so much to see and do in this beautiful country that you just have to point at a map and say, this is where we are going. That’s sort of how we ended up in Girona. 

We decided we’d see a few parts of Catalonia with the week we had. I wanted to leave Barcelona and get into the countryside. Upon my research, I came across Girona quite a number of times and I remember what caught my attention was someone describing it as the Florence of Spain.

If you have been reading my blog, you probably know how much I love Firenze, Italy. You can say, I was sold.

Girona is located in Northern Catalonia. Not too far from the border of France. It’s only an hour and a half drive from Barcelona and from Girona, an hour drive to the coast of Costa Brava.

barcelona to girona | blog post cover

The Catalan city is rich in history, dating back to over 2,00 years. It’s a beautiful mix influence of Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque style architecture that will have your swooning throughout your stay.

Fun fact: Did you know that the Catalan language is a mix of Spanish and French?

view of colorful homes and river in Girona, Spain
View of Onyar River and colorful homes in Girona, Spain from the Eiffel Bridge.

Please note: this trip and post was written pre-Covid.

Barcelona to Girona

Is Girona a Great Day Trip from Barcelona? 

Absolutely. Whether you are in Barcelona port for the day or passing through Barcelona on your vacation and you’re figuring out where to go to next, Girona is doable.

You can drive or take the train in the morning, explore this quaint European town for the day and then return back to Barcelona. The drive to the countryside and away from the city is a treat. It’s definitely a great off-the-beaten-path adventure to take from Barcelona.

How to Get from Barcelona to Girona?

Train

The train is the cheapest and fastest way to get to Girona. I highly recommend it if you plan to do a quick day trip or planning a weekend getaway to simply stay within Girona.

Take the high-speed AVANT train from Barcelona-Sants station and get to Girona in less than 40 mins. Check Renfe for a schedule and to book tickets in advance.

Car

The drive from Barcelona to Girona is only an hour and 15 mins. We chose this route because our three days in Girona included other spots in Costa Brava that were best to be explored by vehicle.

Book a Tour of Girona
  • Private Girona and Costa Brava Tour from Barcelona [book here]
  • “Games of Thrones” Small-Group Tour in Girona from Barcelona [book here]

Three Days in Girona Itinerary

Here is a rundown of how we spent 3 days in Girona, Spain with a couple of day trips included. Perhaps it will help inspire your next Tasty Itinerary.

Day 1: Barcelona to Girona

After we disembarked our cruise, we picked up a rental car I reserved in advance and started a drive from Barcelona to Girona. During this entire trip, we used the GPS from our mobile phones connected to our Solis WiFi Hotspot and you can read more about this device: here

Driving outside of Barcelona is nothing to be afraid of. Hubby drove the entire time, but I thought the traffic and navigation are pretty easy compared to what we experience here in Los Angeles

Pit-stop in Besalú, Spain

We made on pit-stop for coffee on the way. Since it was still so early in the day, we decided we’d take a detour and stop in Besalú.  

Enchanting european city of Besalu in Spain

Besalú is another great day trip from Barcelona. This small medieval town resides in the district of Girona. It honestly felt like we were on a movie set as we walked the Romanesque bridge which crosses the river to enter the town.

My least favorite part was the flies attacking us on our way in. Not sure if it is always like that, nevertheless, sans flies, it was quite a charming place.

Our stop was short as not long after we arrived it rained buckets and we had to jump into the closet cafe we found in the town center.  If it weren’t for the rain, we wouldn’t have had a wonderful lunch at this little cafe called Can Cintet.

Flan covered in caramel

Can Cintet

Great spot for lunch in Besalu.
If flan is on the menu, have it. It will be one of the best flans.

Carrer Major, 7, 17850 Besalú, Girona, Spain (Google Map It) | Website | Tripadvisor

Eventually, by the time we ate, it sort of stopped raining. We tried to explore for a while longer, but it started to rain again. My hair was just not having it – ha! Since it was getting close to check-in time, we decided to continue our journey to the town of Girona. 

Finally in Girona

We booked an Airbnb inside the old town of Girona. To my surprise, it was located down the street from the Girona Cathedral, another spectacular sight that is a must-see.

The moment we entered the old town we were rendered speechless at the sight of this massive Cathedral, “Wow, wow, wow,” was all I said losing the rest of my vocabulary. With our luggage, we stopped with everyone else at the bottom of the stairs to gawk. Photos and not even the scene from Game of Thrones do not do this cathedral justice.

We did check in to our Airbnb in as instructed and settled into a lovely apartment that was exactly as described on the site.

We ventured out to the Girona Cathedral for a little before it started to downpour again. At this point, it had been a long day for us, so we decided to get take out and stay in for the night. After being on the go for a week, we enjoyed some TV time with some awesome empanadas from Volver. 

Volver

All the empanadas are delicious.
But the roasted eggplant really stood out to me. We ate there twice.

Carrer de la Cort Reial, 13, 17004 Girona, Spain (Google Map It) | Website | Tripadvisor

Day 2: Exploring Girona

Whenever I’m in a city for more than a few days, I try to find a food tour to book. I believe it is a great introductory and a great way to learn about the local culture.

When I came across Girona Food Tours, I knew I had to book a tour for our first full day there. That day ended up being a Monday. I mention this because normally they do not do tours on a Monday, but they never disclosed that, and yet, they still graciously accommodated our request.

Where to Eat in Barcelona, Spain

Spending time in Barcelona? Don’t forget to check out these great eats and one of the best food tours in Barcelona.

This tour was the highlight of our time in Girona. It took up half of our day and we were fed very well.

Our guide, Patricia, was FANTASTIC. I say this with the same enthusiasm she had introducing us to her city and the traditional foods she grew up with. As a foodie and a local, she was the perfect guide for the job.

One of the things I loved about this tour was all the legends told and associated with many of the places we visited or some of the things we ate.

It was a great walking tour that took us around all the highlights like Eiffel Bridge, the Jewish Quarter, the Farmers Market, and all the while making stops along the way to learn about the local foods and treats. She also gave us the Games of Thrones scoop.

Yes, that’s right, Games of Thrones filmed in Girona in Season 6. However, we didn’t find this out until after the fact. And at the time of this trip, we had yet to watch Games of Thrones. The locals were very proud to tell us all about it.

I will say, the most exciting part for me was the introduction of local Girona pastry, Xuixo, and it’s to die for.  Hubby had a lot of fun eating jamón, learning all about the culture, and was even given a lesson on how to slice jamón – it’s not as easy as it looks!

At the end of the tour, they recommended some great places to eat.

WTF (Where's the Food) - tagline from Girona Food Tours

Girona Food Tour

I highly recommend booking the FLAVOURS OF GIRONA tour. We did a great walking tour of the city with local flavors included.

And I stand behind anyone with this motto on their business card: “WTF (Where’s the food)”

Website | Tripadvisor

Later that day we visited the Cathedral on our own and explored the interior of it, something we almost skipped. Sometimes when we are in Europe, we are overwhelmed by all the churches and after a while, they become a blur.

If you’re like me and have a thing for gothic cathedrals, this one will impress you as soon as you walk in. It’s not to be missed, especially after you’re wowed by the 100 steps (not an exact number) that lead up this magnificent cathedral. Worth the hike.

old brick narrow wall that is part of the old city wall of Girona and it's surrounded by trees and shubbery
Part of the Old City Wall of Girona

When we were done gawking inside, we then walked the city wall which offers stupendous views of Girona. You can find one of the entrances behind the Cathedral of Girona where we started.

Day 3: Day Trips from Girona

I woke up wanting… I mean, needing another Xuixo. We made our way back to the cafe introduced to us on the food tour for a cafe con leche and a Xuixo. Don’t miss trying a Xuixo.

Casamoner

Casamoner is where I met el xuixo de Girona and fell in love.

This is a flaky pastry that is fried, stuffed with Catalan cream (which is like a custard),
and then rolled in cinnamon sugar. Yum, right?

This is a great cafe for a coffee, pastry or sandwich.

Carrer Migdia, 13, 17002 Girona, Spain (Google Map It) | Website

Day Trip to Tossa del Mar

Our plan for the day was a day trip to Tossa del Mar in Costa Brava. It was raining and I feared we would be heading to the coast only for it to be raining, but we got lucky.

As soon as we drove to Tossa del Mar, it stopped raining and the sun came out. Ahhh… I collapsed on my knees on the beach to thank the universe for this wonderful blessing.

Okay, in my mind, that’s how it happened, but I was definitely grateful for the change of weather.

The shore to the left and sand to the right with foot prints leading up to castle ruines perched on a hill in Tossa del Mar
View of the Medieval Castle Hill from Tossa Beach

The beach and views there were more beautiful than I expected it to be. Stroll along the beach, old town and hike up Castle Hill. If you walk behind the castle, on the other side of the bay you will find exceptional vistas of La Mar Menuda.

Rain fell from the sky when we were coming down from Castle Hill, so we decided to get in the car and try to drive away from the rain.

At some point, it stopped raining again. Are you seeing the pattern?

A Quick Stop in Pal

We checked our GPS to see what’s the next closest town nearby and made a stop a quick stop in the town of Pal. If you’re looking for another charming European town, this is it. Cobblestone streets, archways that will make you swoon and plenty of pretty doors.

We stopped a cafe in town here to have a couple of tapas and drinks before heading back to Girona.

Last Night in Girona

We were back in Girona before nightfall because we had to pack and get ready to leave the next morning. That was not the end for us. We wandered the streets of the old town at night, one of our favorite activities during our stay.

Onyar River in Girona | Did you know this river used to be the main road for transport during Roman times?

It became quiet. The tourists that came in earlier in the day only to see the church Game of Thrones was filmed were gone. Stores closed down. Restaurants and bars started to open for the late-night diners. After the sunset, the streets were dimly lit for a romantic stroll with the town.

Read the accompanying blog post: Best Highlights of Girona, Spain.


Have you been to Girona? Were you impressed by the Cathedral? What was your favorite discovery?


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10 thoughts on “Barcelona to Girona: Three Days in Girona, Spain”

  1. Girona seems like such a great place and now I want to spend even more time in Spain. It’s such a gorgeous country. Love your photos too! ? I also have to get back & catch up on things… I enjoy my break a bit too much. The medieval castle on Tossa beach looks magical. Do you know if it’s also a hotel or just for day tours?

    Reply
    • Hi Jella! I loved Girona! It was so nice being away from the city and yet, when you walked around, it sort of had that feeling like I was walking around Florence. You’re going to have to visit and tell me if I was imagining it.

      I am SO behind on blogging, so I’m happy you’re still following along my past fall adventures.

      So that castle in Tossa is just ruined you can explore. You can climb up to get some amazing views and there is also a bar there. There are plenty of beachside hotels nearby, I did not do much research on accommodations, but I”m sure there is an interesting place for you to stay if you visit.

      If I ever make it back to Northern Spain, I’d love to explore more of Costa Brava and the countryside. Absolutely just loved it. Honestly, enjoyed it more than Barcelona. Hope you get to make it there soon but first enjoy Asia!

      Reply
  2. What an incredible and magical place! You’ve seen so many beautiful spots. Looks breathtaking.
    I want to go to the game of thrones cathedral but I might die after walking up all those steps! If I had one of those flakey fried custardy yumminess pastries waiting for me at the top, I could do it. I’d love it if Jon Snow was there to hand it to me. Not really where he’d be hanging but a girl can dream. I know, you don’t know who I’m talking about.??‍♀️
    Seriously that pastry sounds amazing. I’m going to have to write the name down and hope that there’s a chef from Girona in NYC who makes them. I’m going to search!
    Love your post! Glad it wasn’t raining when you got to Costa Brava. Can I please go there tomorrow?
    And I love that you used just your gps to determine what town you’ll stop in. It looked like a sweet spot!
    Thank you for always giving me some great trip ideas!

    Reply
    • I am laughing envisioning Jon Snow at the top of the steps with a pastry for you. This need to be happen!! The pastry is worth it!

      If you find a bakery that makes these, PLEASR share.

      I’d love to go with you to Costa Brava. Let’s click our heels and make it happen. 😉

      Sometimes looking at a map is so inspiring. I love going on Google maps and zooming in at what’s around me or a city I’m visiting and then be spontaneous. It’s a great tool to have.

      Thank you for your lovely comments!

      Reply
  3. Tossa beach looks absolutely gorgeous! This sounds like a lovely trip, and Spain seems so much more intriguing to me now. I’ve never watched GOT before either, but it’s always cool to be in a place where filming for something major took place!! I can’t wait to visit Greenwich University in England because Les Mis was filmed there, and I adore that musical :’)

    Reply
    • While Spain is beautiful, it is going through a bit of political unrest. Where were in Catalonia, locals were protesting for independence from Spain. I don’t really ever get into politics, but did you know that Catalonia was under a dictatorship until 1977? It blew my mind. Catalonians are proud of their cultures and own traditions, which they should be. So it was very interesting to hear about all of this from locals and see it with our own eyes, rather what someone else feeds you on the news. It was definitely educating and super interesting.

      Greenwich university looks amazing and I wouldn’t mind visiting it either! I saw Les Mis but had to look it up to see. I like visiting film locations, it’s kind of like visiting ruins and being amazed what took place in that very spot I’m standing in. Love exploring this world.

      Reply
  4. Your pictures are just stunning! I am completely sold.

    I agree with you about Spain feeling huge too. We started in Portugal for a 2-week vacation. Eventually, we made our way over to Seville, Spain. I would have loved to see more of Spain, but we barely even saw one-hundredth of Seville. It’s HUGE. I would love to go back and see it ALL. We loved the Andalusian horses nearby, which were about an hour out of Seville. We, of course, wine tasted too.

    “WTF”–where is the food! OMG, you could totally make that your new slogan. It’s awesomely hilarious.

    I am such a sucker for those sole footprints on Medieval Castle Hill. Dreamy!!

    It’s so funny how people flock in just for GOT. I totally missed out on literary travel opportunities there. That and HP. I love when places thin out quickly after the tours have come and gone.

    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful adventure!

    Reply
    • I think it would take a month to get around all of Spain, possibly more. It will be a while before we return again too.

      I would LOVE to see Andalusian horses!

      Well it would be stealing if I made the WTF my motto, but it’s great, isn’t it?

      I feel like it’s a whole new experience when tours disperse. Thankfully the biggest draw in Girona for most was the Cathedral and Eiffel bridge. It wasn’t as crazy as other parts we’d been to. I love the peacefulness of Girona. It was never really chaotic.

      Reply
  5. WOW! Your first line really says it all: “Really, the question should be, why not Girona, Spain?” After reading this, I’m asking myself the same thing! Like you, I always seem to be amazed/surprised by just how large Spain really is. I’ve been to 3 (very different) parts now and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of this country. Since I seem to keep going back there, you have DEFINITELY opened up my eyes to Girona, which I truly never even considered before reading this. Your pictures are so, so beautiful! Really blown away to be honest.

    Reply
    • Did you know that Girona, Spain isn’t even on any of Rick Steves guides? I was honestly in shock. Not sure if that’s changed recently but when I was doing research, I came across comments on how people were surprised it wasn’t in any of his guides and then I noticed they were right. Crazy. So, yes, why not Girona, Spain?

      Girona, Spain was such a great home base for us for the few days we were there. We later returned to Barcelona and wished we were back in Girona. The vibe there was just so different. I have a feeling that exploring different parts of Spain, that we will come to find that some parts may be more our speed than others.

      Thank you so much for your lovely comments. Appreciate them.

      Reply

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