I spent my 25th birthday in Girona in a haze of golden-hued, ice cream-induced happiness.
Located an hour north of Barcelona, Girona makes for a popular day trip. With an old town brimming with ancient ruins, picturesque bridges and some of the best ice cream you’ll ever taste, Girona is, if not quite a hidden gem, one of Spain’s loveliest treasures.
For a small town there’s a lot to do in Girona. Game of Thrones fans should make sure to check out Girona Cathedral and the Arab Baths, or even embark on a Game of Thrones walking tour. Architecture and (real-life) history more your thing? Make sure to walk the old city walls and stroll across the town’s many bridges. Are you a bit of a foodie? Girona has some great cafes and restaurants, and indulging in local wine and pinchos should definitely be a priority of your 1-day Girona itinerary.
Girona makes a fantastic add-on to a visit to Barcelona. Though if I’m honest, I loved this dreamy town even more than Barcelona. (Despite Barcelona being Spain’s coolest city).
Dreaming of Girona? Dive straight into this guide to discover the top things to see, do and eat to help you plan your own one day in Girona itinerary.
WHEN TO GO
I visited in August (Leo season baby) and although Girona was busy, the weather was perfect. It wasn’t too hot; I saw mostly temperatures in the late 20’s and clear blue skies. To avoid some of the crowds and for cooler weather plan your visit for the shoulder season of May to June or September.
GETTING TO GIRONA
Girona is easy to get to from Barcelona, making it a perfect Barcelona day trip or Barcelona add on. There are frequent direct trains from Barcelona to Girona that can take as little as 38 minutes, and depart from either Sant Adreu Comtal or Barcelona Sants. All Barcelona-Girona train trips are run by Renfe, and tickets start from around €15.
Girona is also easy to visit from other cities in Europe. Girona-Costa Brava Airport is located 12.5kms out of Girona and services a lot of low-cost airlines. For an example, I flew into Barcelona (from Edinburgh) but flew back to Scotland from Girona with Ryanair as it was way cheaper.
One Dreamy Day in Girona: Planning the Perfect 1-Day Girona Itinerary
This itinerary assumes that you’ve spent the night in Girona and are starting your morning in town. If not, you could still use this to plan a Girona day trip, though you may have to cut a few things. Or if you’re arriving later in the day, just shift around the order of how you plan to see everything.
Breakfast: La Fabrica Girona
It’s time to fuel up for a day of exploring; your one day in Girona has begun and the clock is ticking!
I’m a big fan of brunch. Though I’m convinced New Zealand is home to the best brunch in the world, La Fabrica Girona is a close second.
Located a short walk from the main street, La Fabrica is a cycling café once visited by pre-disgrace Lance Armstrong. Fun fact; Girona is a favourite destination amongst the serious cycling community. (Of which I am, quite obviously, not a part of).
When I went I had the Mediterranean Farmer; toasted local bread with pesto, arugula, goats cheese and fried eggs. And honestly, sitting outside in the Spanish sunshine eating brunch was the greatest possible way I could begin my 25th birthday.
Their cabinet selection is also delectable. I bought the hummingbird cake (got to have cake on your birthday) and it was perfection.
Morning: Marvel at Girona Cathedral
Next up on your 1-day Girona itinerary; the impressive Girona Cathedral.
Also known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona, this Roman Catholic cathedral was constructed between the 11th and 18th centuries. Today Girona Cathedral retains elements from the Romanesque period (the cloister and bell tower) and also from the Gothic period.
If you’re a bit OCD for symmetry (hello that’s me) you might not appreciate the fact that the cathedral only has one tower, but it really is a beautiful building.
One of the most fantastic elements of Girona Cathedral is the sweeping staircase leading up to the front doors. Game of Thrones fan? These are the same 91 steps Jaime Lannister galloped up to confront the Faith of the Seven.
Tickets to Girona Cathedral are €7.
Morning: Get Your Game of Thrones on at the Arab Baths
One of my favourite buildings in Girona was the dreamy Arab Baths. For real; a visit here should definitely be included in your one day in Girona.
The baths potentially date back to the 12th century when public baths in Girona were believed to have been established. (Yay for hygiene!). The building was built in the Romanesque style but follows the model of Roman baths. The baths are divided into rooms that allowed the visitor to move from the coldest water to the hottest. Pretty cool, huh?
By far the most impressive feature of the Arab Baths is the entrance hall, where patrons once undressed before visiting the baths. The simple yet intricate room features a central pool of 8 sides and 8 columns topped by decorated capitals.
Look familiar? The Arab Baths is also the setting of an important scene in Game of Thrones where Arya tries to escape the Waif.
Entrance to the Arab Baths is €2.
Midday: Visit Sant Pere de Galligants
I’m not a massive fan of dusty old museums, and I don’t expect you to be either. Are you? It’s cool if you are, though.
However, Sant Pere de Galligants is worth including in your 1-day Girona itinerary. Not so much for the museum itself, as the archaeological exhibit is pretty standard, but for the gorgeous building the museum is housed in.
Sant Pere de Galligants was originally a monastery and is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture. In 1835 the monastery included an abbot and four monks, and since 1857 the monastery has been home to the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia. Make sure to stop by the cloisters for a great photo opportunity.
Entrance to Sant Pere de Galligants is €6.
Lunch: Le Bistrot
Phew, it’s been a big morning exploring already! It’s time to take a load off and refuel at one of Girona’s most iconic restaurants.
Nestled halfway up a staircase in the most romantic setting possible, Le Bistrot is famed for offering French cuisine and rustic pizzas. The best part? A meal here is surprisingly affordable, and won’t set you back as much as you think.
Go for lunch, as it can be hard to get a table at dinner.
Afternoon: Wander Girona’s Bridges
Feeling a little sleepy after such an epic lunch? There’s no time for a siesta! Instead make room for dinner (and dessert) by going for a stroll around Girona’s iconic bridges.
Girona’s old town straddles the Onyar River and the town has eleven bridges. I don’t know about you, but I’m quite a fan of a good bridge. (Tower Bridge in London is a firm favourite).
The most impressive bridge in Girona is the red crisscrossed Pont de les Peixateries Velles, designed in 1877 by Gustav Eiffel (yes, that Eiffel). Use the bridge as a frame for Girona Cathedral and the town’s colourful buildings in the background, and you’ll be sure to grab a great shot for the gram.
Afternoon: Indulge Yourself at Rocambolesc Ice Cream
I’ll be honest, one of the main reasons I decided to spend my birthday in Girona was because of Rocambolesc. But I think that’s justified, because Rocambolesc offers some of the best ice cream you’ll ever taste.
The shop is located on one of the old town’s main streets, and though Rocambolesc is now a chain, the Girona store was the original. Go for the phenomenal flavours, with choices such as apple pie, and make sure to add alllll the toppings. In honour of Game of Thrones shooting in Girona, Rocambolesc even offer a ‘golden hand’ ice block.
The best thing on the menu, however, is Rocambolesc’s panets. Created to keep the customers coming in colder months, panets are toasted brioche buns filled with your favourite ice cream filling. Um, yes please!
Evening: Walk the City Walls & Lookout From Torre Del General Peralta
You’re coming to the end of your one day in Girona, but the day isn’t over yet! For the best views in Girona make sure to wander along the old city walls.
Much of what remains of the city walls was built between the 9th and 17th centuries, although it’s believed that the foundations date back as far as the 1st century BC. Today, the walls span around 3 kms and offer a great walk around town. Start your walk in Jardins de la Francesa for the least uphill, and plan to do it early in the morning or evening for less intense heat and better light.
One of the best viewpoints along the wall is from Torre del General Peralta. The tower offers sweeping views of the town below and surrounding hills, and an epic shot of Girona Cathedral. Make sure to snap a pic or two, ok?
Things To Do If You Have More Than One Day in Girona
Game of Thrones Walking Tour
I’m not opposed to walking tours, though I prefer to do my own thing while travelling. But if you have a little extra time in Girona, and if you’re a Game of Thrones mega fan, a themed walking tour could be a cool experience.
This Game of Thrones walking tour brings to life some of the key moments from the show, and would be a cool way to experience the town in a different way. This tour through Viator takes 3 hours and costs approx. €50.
Museum of Cinema
Again, not a huge fan on museums. But considering I work in the film industry, cinema is one thing that does interest me.
Girona’s Cinema Museum is a museum dedicated to the world of moving images. There’s a permanent exhibit displaying the Tomàs Mallol Collection, and artefacts including shadow theatre puppetry and old cine cameras. I’m not a huge fan of museums, but this museum actually sounds really cool.
Tickets to the Cinema Museum are €6.
Girona is a charming town, and one that you just can’t help but fall in love with. With a surprising amount of things to see and do, Girona is worth spending longer than a day. Spend two or three, and soak in the Mediterranean sunshine while exploring what has to be one of Spain’s loveliest towns.
Stay: I stayed at Pension Borras, a quiet guesthouse perfectly located in Girona Old Town. For €25 a night for a private single room it was good value for money. The staff were friendly and the room was clean.