Easily reachable from any city of southern France and northern Spain, Girona is the proof that Spain is much more than what you’ll experience in Barcelona and Madrid. If you’ve already visited these or plan on doing so and wish to have some quiet time while still staying in a beautiful and interesting city, Girona is the place you’re looking for.
Although relatively unknown, Girona is a city of wonders
Ranking only the 60th among Spain’s largest cities in terms of population, Girona is usually visited mainly by tourists staying in Barcelona, which is about an hour away by car or train. The city was home to a very important Jewish community back in the 12th century, which lived in the neighborhood now known as El Call, and founded one of the most important Cabalistic schools in the whole Europe. The influence the Jewish community exerted on the city is still present, although Jews were expelled not only from Girona but from the whole Spanish Kingdom by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492. The city was besieged and eventually conquered by the Napoleonic troops in the 19th century and was under French rule for some years, before eventually coming back to Spain.
A city with a huge historical heritage
Girona has many architectural highlights, the most famous of which are Girona Cathedral, the colorful houses next to the Onyar river banks, the Sant Feliu Church and the Jew neighborhood. The Cathedral, whose construction started in the 11th century, is built in a combination of Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic styles. It includes the world’s widest nave, only surpassed by St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, and a Romanesque cloister. The city’s historical heritage is so impressive that the producers of the Game of Thrones series decided to set part of the 6th season in Girona and some surrounding villages. Make sure you visit Girona before the series go on air: in a matter of months, all of the city’s architectural highlights will be displayed in the TV and computers screens of the whole world and Girona will probably lose a bit of its mystique.
Girona’s most colorful side: Les Cases de l’Onyar and the Eiffel Bridge
My favorite spot in Girona, however, has nothing to do with religion or TV series. It is known as Les Cases de l'Onyar, that is, the houses next to the Onyar, which is the river that criss-crosses Girona. The houses standing next to the river banks have been painted in different colors giving the city a very Mediterranean flavor similar to that of the Greek islands. Although it is possible to rent a boat and see the city from the river, the Cases de l’Onyar are best seen from the Eiffel bridge, a metallic red bridge built, yes, you guessed it, by Gustave Eiffel. One would think that such a modern bridge would look anachronical in Girona, a city known for its historical monuments, but the design by Eiffel is somewhat atemporal and its metallic red merges perfectly with the colors of the city.
Don’t settle for the typical choice in your trip to Spain!
Whenever I ask foreign people to name their favorite Spanish cities for me, the names of Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and Ibiza are usually cited. However, there’s a quite small city, located in the northeast of Spain, barely 50 kilometers (31 miles) away from the French borderline. It has been under the rule of different religions but has maintained a certain religious tolerance, a rather strange feature in my country. This city is named Girona and although you probably wouldn’t travel all the way to Spain just to visit it, it is worth a day of your time if you go to Barcelona or any other nearby city.
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