Girona Is the Underrated Spanish Town You Didn't Know You Needed to Visit
When you think of Spain, your mind may go to Madrid, Barcelona or even Ibiza. While those fabulous cities have more than plenty to offer, travelers looking for a unique and relaxing destination might consider a stay in the gorgeous Catalonian town of Girona.
The medieval town is famed for narrow cobblestone roads and the bridges that criss-cross the rivers surrounding it. (The Pont de Ferro was designed by France's Gustave Eiffel.) Given this layout, walking is the preferred method of transportation — and there's nothing like getting lost among the stone streets of old town, or the vibrant bar scene around the popular Placa de la Independencia.
When in Spain, one should do as the Spaniards do — and that means enjoying a cold glass of Vermouth. You can opt for a more authentic version of the Spanish aperitif at Ca la Pilar Dumingu with its charming history as a former grocery shop and a never-ending selection of the classic drink. If you want something more up-scale, head to Restaurant Mimolet for their smokey cocktail interpretation.
You won't be able to miss Girona's grand 11th-century church, nor its monster rows of steps. Cue the slow-motion music and work your way up to check out the intricate architecture along with the bright stained glass windows. The distinct interior will reward your effort in ascending the stairs.
The city walls built in the 14th century to protect Girona were destroyed in the late 19th century to prioritize city expansion. However, the structure — known as the Passeig de la Muralla — has been reconstructed, so you can leisurely stroll along the entire path and gaze out on views of the entire city.
“Game of Thrones” fans have another motivation for visiting Girona: The city served as a backdrop in the sixth season. You can sign up for Girona's very own “Game of Thrones”-themed half-day tour to be taken through iconic set locations of the Lannisters and Starks from the series. (The tour actually kicks off in Barcelona's city center, so this is a great way to make a day trip out of Girona if you're pressed for time.)
And “Game of Thrones” isn't the only TV show tied to the Catalonian hot spot. Jordi Roca of the renowned Roca brothers culinary trio redefined the idea of traditional desserts with innovative creations at his ice cream shop Rocambolesc. He serves everything from sorbet with honey caviar to Darth Vader popsicles that will bring out your inner force.
As if that isn't special enough, the three Roca brothers built a restaurant in their hometown — which was awarded the "Best Restaurant in the World" twice. While El Celler de Can Roca's tasting menu and impeccable wine pairings don't come cheap, it exudes a humble and refreshing atmosphere that goes against the standard ambience of stuffy fancy restaurants. (Fair warning: Given their success, it can be difficult to get a table.)
It's common to start eating dinner between 9 to 11 p.m. in Spain, but smaller cities don't necessarily follow this tradition. Most places along Girona's side streets stop serving food earlier. If you want to follow the common Spanish schedule, make your way to the Placa de la Independencia for restaurants that are open later.
Before you depart, make sure to find the Roman-style column with a lioness on it that's known as El Cul de la Lleona. Once there, you'll want to kiss its bottom — doing so assures you a return trip.