If you’re looking for a Spain getaway that’s convenient to Madrid, consider Girona. The small Spanish town offers plenty of things to see plus the day trips from Girona are truly enchanting.
When I booked a train trip from Madrid to Girona for my second visit, I was excited to once again stroll through the Spanish city’s medieval streets and see the famed cathedral, etc. But, since I’d already seen most of the city, I was also thrilled at the idea of exploring some of the wonderful Girona day trips while I was there.
Although some people don’t like to visit the same place twice, I’ve often found that returning to a place I’ve visited before is often more enjoyable than the initial visit. You already have a good mental layout of the place, which makes it easier to get around. Visiting a destination for the second time also gives you the chance to see what you didn’t see the first time.
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My friend and I unknowingly booked our train tickets the same dates as the city’s famed Temps de Flores (Flower Festival). As we quickly discovered when we tried to make hotel reservations, the festival brings people from all over the world, and local people from nearby villages pack the train and bus stations on day visits to Girona.
Great event for the city, but wasn’t so great for our travel plans.
I would like to say that being in Girona during the festival was fun, but honestly, it added a chaotic energy to the city, which I just didn’t enjoy. It’s a nice festival and there are gorgeous flower exhibitions all over the city, but the amount of people was just too much for me and my desire to stroll leisurely through the streets without bumping into people—all the more reason to get out of town on some Girona day tours.
Day Trips from Girona
Girona is a wonderful place to visit, not only because it’s a gorgeous town, but because it’s close to other beautiful Spanish towns! On my first visit, I explored some of the beaches along the coast. But, if you’re looking for a little bit more of the area, check out these places to visit near Girona.
Take a bus ride from Girona to Cadaqués
Cadaqués is a must if you’re in this area. It is a whitewashed town that sits on a bay in the middle of the Cap de Creus peninsula. We traveled on a bus ride that took just under 2 hours. Be forewarned, however, that the last 30 or 45 minutes is on a very, very curvy road so if you’re prone to car sickness, bring on the Dramamine.
Once you’re there, a walk to the Dali House in Portlligat is a good 25 minutes, uphill. You can also take a taxi.
If you’d like to visit the home, make reservations in advance here. Only a limited amount of people are allowed to enter the small home and the surrounding property, which is filled with a lot of crazy oddities. We arrived without reservation and had to pester the grumpy clerk to let us in. Pestering for the win!
Visit medieval Besalu
Besalu is a picturesque medieval town known for its 12th-century Romanesque bridge. It’s about 45 minutes from Girona. A sweet, but compact town, exploring Besalu doesn’t really take more than an hour or so, but the town is beautiful and worth the trip. Besalu definitely deserves a spot on your where to go in Spain list.
Explore the Spanish village of Pals
Pals is another picturesque medieval town that makes a great day trip from Girona. About an hour away, the gorgeous Spanish village is filled with cobblestone streets, narrow walkways and charming arches.
Make sure to check out the large Tower of Hours and the lookout point, which gives beautiful views of the expansive countryside. The Plaza Mayor is a great place to have a bite to eat or a coffee. If you go in August, you’ll find the Catalan Wine and Cheese Fair.
Again, it’s another one of those Spanish towns that are straight out of a fairy tale. But… if you’re already getting a bit sick of picturesque medieval towns, Pals is on the way to the coast. Passing the city, you’ll make your way to a number of quaint beaches and fishing villages.
Fun things to do in Girona
Flower festivals or not, for a fairly small town, Girona has a lot of great things to see, so don’t spend all of your time on out-of-town excursions. The medieval atmosphere gives the town a lot of character. And walking from site to site is really enjoyable because of the city’s layout of winding, narrow streets.
Take a photo from the Eiffel Bridge
We found waking up early was the key to seeing the sights during the crowded festival. Entering the old part of Girona, most visitors will cross thee Eiffel Bridge (Pont de les Peixateries Velles)—a beautiful bright red bridge that spans over the river Onyar.
The bridge was constructed by Gustave Eiffel around 1877, years before the Eiffel Tower was built. It’s a nice place to take photos of the picturesque houses that rise up from the river.
Visit the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona
The construction of the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona was begun in the 11th century and completed late in the 13th century, with additions taking place until the 18th century. Today, it holds the title of having the widest Gothic nave in the world.
The cathedral stands tall over the city’s narrow streets and is the pride and joy of the city. For Game of Thrones fans, the cathedral’s long front stairs (as well as various parts of the city) will be instantly recognizable because the series filmed a lot of season 6 in Girona.
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Appreciate history in the Jewish Quarter
Girona’s Jewish Quarter is known as one of the best preserved quarters in the world. Wandering around the “Call” will lead you through the narrow streets and cobble-stoned patios that go back to a time when Girona’s Jewish community played a vital role in the city.
Starting off at Calle de la Força, you can make your way to the Museum of Jewish History and the Museum of City History. However, I’d really recommend taking a Girona walking tour of this area because the history is fascinating.
Climb the Medieval Walls
Stretching from one side of the city to the other, Girona’s medieval walls (Passeig de la Muralla) make for a great place for an early morning walk or a place to catch a beautiful sunset.
You can also visit Girona from Barcelona. It’s a great choice for cruisers on their second or third time to Barcelona. If your cruise ship doesn’t offer one, here’s how to book a Girona tour on your own.
More charming day trips from Madrid:
- A weekend of wine and wandering in Toro, Spain
- How to take a day trip to Toledo, Spain
- Tips for taking a day trip to Segovia
- Visit Caceres, the city of birds.
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