Experience the Highs and Lows of Girona

Photo by Tallaferro
Photo by Tallaferro

The province of Girona – located in northeast Catalonia, in the north of Spain – has its highs and lows. Fortunately, both are good.

Its highs are the breathtaking snowy mountains of the Pyrenees, with their fabulous skiing, hiking trails, ancient villages and emerald valleys. The lows are at sea level: the Costa Brava, whose sunny miles of sandy beaches and rock coves with crystal-clear waters make it one of Spain’s most sought-after vacation destinations.

In between is Girona’s lush interior, with ripe fields full of crops, waving sunflowers, idyllic woods and nature reserves. Walking and cycling routes abound

Photo by Paul Townsend.
Photo by Paul Townsend.

One of the great things about the highs and lows is they are not far apart: You can go from mountains to beach in as little as 90 minutes.

Of course, any great vacation leans heavily on the quality of its gastronomy. Here Girona excels, with Michelin-starred restaurants, some hailed among the world’s best. Both traditional dishes, with time-honored recipes, and avant-garde fare source their fresh foods locally, with produce coming from fertile farmlands in the Emporda region and seafood from towns such as Palamos. Offering Catlan, Mediterranean, market and signature cuisine, Girona gastronomy is earning a worldwide reputation.

Photo by Javier Lastras
Photo by Javier Lastras

If you want to try a traditional dish, start with the simple but delicious pa amb tomàquet  (bread with tomato). Here’s a recipe if you’d like to try a fast and fabulous hors d’oeuvre at home.

The province’s capital city, Girona, is steeped in 2000 years of history, with two fortified sections, the Fortça Vella and Medieval Quarter. Visitors can walk the length of their fortified walls, enjoy panoramic views of the city and countryside, and see physical evidence of a history that spans Roman military fortification in 1 B.C., rebuilding under Peter III the Cermonious of the Holy Roman Empire in the 14th century and its final absorption into the town of Girona in the 16th century.

The walls didn’t always keep intruders out. The city was set under siege 25 times in its long history and captured seven. In 1809, for example, Napoleon occupied the city after a drawn-out siege.

Evidence of the city’s thriving 12th century Jewish culture can be found in the Jewish Quarter or Call, with its beautiful streets, portico squares, baroque spaces and Noucentisme-stye buildings by architect Rafael Masó. Sadly, the history of the city’s Jewish community ended in 1492, when the Catholic Kings expelled all Jews from Catalonia

Another must-visit site is the Girona Cathedral, on the site of an ancient mosque once used by the moors. Entirely remodelled and rebuilt since, the present structure is one of the most outstanding monuments of the school of the Majorcan architect Jaume Fabre.

Whether exploring medieval monuments, sunning on Costa Brava or skiing the Pyrenees, you’ll find the highs and lows of Girona a roller coaster ride you’ll want to experience.


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