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Saying Girona is a mini-Barcelona is oversimplifying this ancient Catalan city. First it was Roman, then Muslim, then it was taken by the Franks, then it became Catalan - under the guidance of Barcelona. And somewhere in there it acquired a medieval Jewish quarter - now one of the best preserved in Catalonia.
So along with wonderful food and fine examples of Modernisme and Art Nouveau architecture, Girona also has grand churches, impressive defensive walls, medieval baths, wonderfully designed arcaded houses and colourful people.
Things to do and best places to stay in Girona for a City Break
Girona is much smaller than Barcelona, so it's far more manageable as a city break destination. Its squares are small and the prettiest bits of the city criss cross the Onyar river on pedestrian bridges.
Most people start their adventures in the Old Town, around the maze of narrow, upwards climbing streets and alleys of the ancient Jewish quarter. This area reeks of wonderful atmosphere, which you can explore more thoroughly at the Museu d'Historia dels Jueus de Girona - Spain's centre for Jewish studies.
For more of Girona's history - the stuff about the Romans and the Visigoths - visit the City History Museum.
- With only five bedrooms, the Casa Migdia guesthouse is one of the best places to stay in Girona for families and groups. Its owners have children themselves, and the Papa, Sebastien, used to run a Thai-French restaurant in Paris. So it's also one of the best places to stay in Girona for foodies. With rooms starting from only £63 a night, it's also perfect if you're on a budget.
Things to do and best places to stay in Girona for Romance
Just like Barcelona, Girona has plenty of excellent places to eat, and there are numerous cosy bars and cafes on charming squares. So you could easily spend a romantic time just strolling around admiring the city itself.
If you want to direct your wanderings, head for the Museu d'Art. This lovely building was once the Bishop's Palace, and is now home to 8500 works collected from the region. It is right next to the unmissable beauty of the Cathedral, at the top of a majestic flight of steps.
Another nice strolling route is along Girona's medieval walls. You walk the top of them, amongst gardens. With a view of the whole lovely city.
- For those who crave luxury, book the Castell d'Emporda. A beautifully restored historic castle, this wonderful hotel has spectacular views of vineyards and gardens. And is definitely one of the best places to stay in Girona if you're looking for a country escape. Everything feels taken care of in these elegant surrounds, and if you want your trip to be relaxing then this is the place to be.
Best Hotels in Girona
Bellmirall 7 rooms from $51Girona
An intimate B&B in Girona, close to the Cathedral and Musee d'art. Charming rooms have parquet floors and stone walls. Lovely breakfast terrace and walking distance to restaurants. A great choice for those on a budget.Value chicSights nearby - Located in the centre of the old town just 100m from the cathedral.Local markets - Good for local colour.Recommended by - CN Traveller
Casa Migdia 5 rooms from $86Sant Jordi Desvalls, Catalonia
This five-bedroom cheerful guesthouse is perfect for families, or for a large group - you can rent the whole house. Colourful decorations bounce off influences from Cuba, India, Marrakech, and Paris. A secluded family setting from which to explore the area.Child friendly - Babysitting on request, creche available, plus kids activities on site - badminton, table football, ukelele.Communal Dining - Communal feasts in the evening - Sebastien used to run a Thai-French restaurant in Paris.Families - The owners have four children.Exclusive use - Available for exclusive use.Recommended by - I Escape, Sawdays
Ses Garites 6 rooms from $87Girona
A spectacular 16th century fortified house, lovingly restored as a boutique country retreat. Each characterful room has its own charms, with exposed wood beams, stone arches and elegant furnishings. Perfectly located to explore the beauty of the Muntanyes de Begur Mountain Range.Sights nearby - Torroella de Montgrí, Figueres, Girona and Perpignan are all less than an hours drive and offer a range of sights.Great walks - Beautiful Costa Brava beaches are within a 10 minute drive and the beaches at Pals are 20 minutes walk.Swimming Pool - Outdoor heated pool.Remote - Off the beaten track.
Hotel Historic 15 rooms from $103Girona
A gorgeous collection of rooms and apartments in an historic building. Chic sunlit interiors have parquet floors, exposed stone walls, attractive furniture, some with private balconies. A great choice for groups, families, and local explorers.FamiliesSights nearby - In the heart of the old town just 100m from Girona CathedralLocal markets - Good for local colour.Recommended by - Fodors
La Placa 11 rooms from $119Girona (Madremanya)
A chic hotel set in the rolling hills. Rooms are light and contemporary, featuring white furnishings, stone walls and large bathrooms. Fantastic regional cuisine, stunning outdoor pool and gardens filled with climbing plants. An ideal hotel for exploring the area or relaxing in the surroundings.Hideaway - A secluded village amongst the hills, pretty shaded gardens, pool and terrace to rest in the afternoonsFoodies - Gourmet traditional cuisine, wine tasting and cookery courses available in this regionGreat walks - The hotel can organise walking tours of the charming village of Madremanya and the surrounding countrysideLocal markets - The charming market town of Figueres is a drive away
Hotel Ciutat de Girona 44 rooms from $114Girona
A modern hotel in Girona's historic centre. Bright rooms and family rooms all in white with splashes of red. Excellent business facilities, indoor pool, bar and restaurant. A great value choice for those on a budget.Value chicSights nearby - Central location a few metres from the iron bridge and short walks from the Cathedral and Arab baths.Views - Great city viewsSwimming Pool - Indoor/outdoorRecommended by - CN Traveller
Hotel Llegendes de Girona 15 rooms from $122Girona
A quirky but chic hotel in the historic heart of Girona. Romantically styled bedrooms with light stone walls, parquet floors, attractive fabrics, and large bathrooms. Lots of character and a warm atmosphere.Romantic BreakSights nearby - Situated in the centre of the old town just steps from the cathedralGreat walks - Good for walkers.Local markets - Good for local colour.
Mas Carreras 1846 8 rooms from $126Girona (Bordils)
An exquisitely restored country home in the Baix Empordà countryside. The elegant rooms are the ideal antique-chic, with exposed stone walls, original features, plush linens and handcrafted oak furniture. Rolling gardens, outdoor pool and sun-terraces complete the picture.Great walks - The hotel is only 30 mins from the beaches of the beautiful Costa BravaSights nearby - Figueres, home to the Salvador Dalí Museum, is 30 minutes drive away.Swimming Pool - Outdoor pool.Designer - Uniquely designed interiors.
Hotel Arcs de Monells 23 rooms from $143Girona (Monells)
A lovely country house hotel in a tiny village within striking distance of beaches. Sunlit rooms and suites have stone walls and garden views. Excellent restaurant, terraces, pool and garden. A great choice for total relaxation in the countryside.Sights nearby - Greek and Roman ruins at Empúries.Swimming Pool - Indoor/outdoorGreat walks - Good for walkers.Recommended by - CN Traveller
Castell d'Emporda 38 rooms from $151Begur
This beautifully restored historic castle has also rekindled an elite form of luxury. Incomparable views from the rooms, terraces, and swimming pool of the vineyards, valleys, and herb gardens around. Opulence and wellbeing in an outstanding location.Historic - A former crusader's castle that was owned by one of Colombus' captains.Views - Across the gardens and chapel - stunning.Outstanding location - Between the Pyrenees and the Costa Brava.Roof terrace - Wonderful views of the surrounding area.Recommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, I Escape
El Racó de Madremanya Hotel 12 rooms from $154Girona (Madremanya)
Restored farmhouse in mediaeval Madremanya. Rooms are individually designed and feature exposed stone walls, tiled floors scattered with Persian rugs and four poster beds. Romance is the raison d'etre at El Raco; it is an adults only retreat with the emphasis on peace and relaxation.Swimming Pool - Two outdoor swimming pools - one is saltwater (the other is heated through winter)Romantic Break - It specifically caters to adults on a romantic escapeFarmhouse - Converted 17th century farmhouseRomantic - Good for couples.
Can Bassa 3 rooms from $154Girona (10, 17462 Madremanya)
15th Century country house B&B set in stunning gardens and with views of Madremanya village. Three rooms are rustic and charming and self catering houses are perfect for families or small groups. Lovely outdoor pool and plenty to do from cycling and walking to exploring further afield.Local exploring - Ideally located for exploring the surrounding area of CataloniaSwimming Pool - Outdoor pool shared by both hotel and self catering guestsLocal markets - La Bisbal market is 15km away.Great walks - Good for walkers.