Girona, located in the northeast of Spain has all the charm of a large city, but without the crowds. A unique city, its Old Town is one of the most evocative historical centres in Catalonia, including the Carolingian Wall, an exceptionally well conserved Jewish Quarter and the grandeur of the Cathedral’s gothic nave. Not forgetting the city’s brilliant cuisine, excellent array of museums and art galleries, as well as interesting markets and fairs.
Much like the rest of Catalonia, Girona has had a rich and detailed history; a history which in turn has contributed to Girona’s character and atmosphere today. Originally inhabited by Iberians and occupied by a number of cultures throughout the early centuries such as the Romans, Visogoths and Moors it was during the 12th century that Girona derived its well known Jewish community and heritage. Centuries of sieges and battles followed, with the Spanish finally regaining power in the early 19th century.
Each culture has left their mark in Girona, but the Jewish community of Girona is most honoured. The history of the Jewish community of Girona ended in 1492, when the Spanish expelled all the Jewish from Spain. Today however, this area of Girona is much celebrated and attracts thousands of tourists from around the world looking to capture an authentic experience within the city’s narrow and winding alleyways and lanes which snake around medieval stone buildings, once housing the Jewish community in Girona. The Jewish quarter or ‘Call’ is one of the best preserved in Europe with many restored buildings now housing art galleries, upscale boutiques and trendy restaurants. As a member city of the Spanish Network of Jewish Cities Path of Sepharad, Girona harbours the Museum of Jewish History, located within the Centre Bonastructa Porta. This is a building rich with the history of Jews in Girona and a vast collection of Hebrew tombstones from the Jewish cemetery, as well as a collection of exhibitions and guided tours throughout the year.
Girona’s old quarter, Barri Veli is one of Girona’s most attractive assets and best viewed on foot. Separated from the modern part of Girona by the River Onyar, visitors can marvel at the old buildings and soak up generations of history. Most of Girona’s museums are found here, including the Museum of Art and the History of Girona City Museum as well as countless eateries and local small shops dotted around the old quarter’s cobbled streets. Like most cities, Girona has a good mix of restaurants that serve familiar Spanish dishes including tapas and traditional Catalan food best found in hidden, neighbourhood eateries.
Another piece of Girona’s heritage that must not be missed is the iconic Girona Cathedral. Towering above the cobbled medieval Jewish quarter, the cathedral dominates the panorama of Girona, amongst the ‘Casa penjades’ lining the River Onyar and the church of Saint Feliu. This cathedral has been a significant work of Gothic architecture since its construction began in the 11th century and boasts the largest Gothic nave in the world and the second largest nave overall, just smaller than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Inside visitors will find a museum, where a 12th century Tapestry of the Creation and the 10th century Beatus are kept as well as a rich collection of medieval gold and silver work.
Visitors will be surprised by this unassuming city’s charm and myriad attractions as well as its rich, dramatic and ever present history rendering it one of the most varied provinces of Spain. Girona has a peaceful feel all year round and escapes from the throngs of tourists and hustle and bustle of the coast, making it a great destination at any time of the year.
For a great overview clip of both Girona and Barcelona, click here.