If you’ve arrived at this blog post, you’re probably wondering whether or not to take a day trip from Barcelona to Girona. I will admit that I didn’t take a day trip from Barcelona to Girona until my third visit to the city. There’s so much to do in Barcelona that day trips might not be on your mind, but if you’re the kind of traveler who like a break from Big City Life, who loves haute cuisine or who just likes small, historic towns, then you’ll probably love taking a day trip from Barcelona to Girona. If that sounds like you, keep reading!
How to Get from Barcelona to Girona
The easiest way to take a day trip from Barcelona to Girona is by train. There are regular fast and slow trains, operated by RENFE, leaving Barcelona-Sants train station throughout the day.
Fast Trains from Barcelona to Girona
The fast trains from Barcelona to Girona are actually heading much further afield, to France. This international route books up early, especially in the morning, so you’ll want to reserve your tickets in advance. You’ll also want to arrive at the train station at least twenty minutes early as there may be immigration checks to confirm that you’re not crossing into France. I caught the 8:15 train that made its first stop in Girona just before 9:00 am; I think this is a great option to start your day trip to Girona as you’ll arrive before the crowds and just in time for breakfast (more on that shortly!).
Tickets for fast trains from Barcelona to Girona cost about €18 and can be purchased online at the RENFE site, or in-person at a train station. Your ticket will indicate which wagon and seat you’ve been assigned.
Slow Trains from Barcelona to Girona
Regional trains also run the route from Barcelona to Girona. These trains are slower and make more stops along the way. The advantage is that they are more frequent than fast trains, and they are about half as expensive. For me, it made sense to get a head start on my day trip by taking a fast train to Girona, but then returning on the slower train when I was feeling like I’d seen and done everything. You can’t purchase these tickets online, and there are not reserved seats, so I would just suggest buying them at the station in Girona when you’re ready to come back to Barcelona. I paid €11 for my ticket and the journey took about eighty minutes.
Tip: The regional train that I took from Girona to Barcelona stopped at Passeig de Gracia before ending at Barcelona-Sants. Passeig de Gracia was closer to my hotel, so I hopped off the train one station early… but then I couldn’t exit through the automated turnstiles with my ticket! Fortunately a friendly RENFE worker took pity on me and swiped me through, but if you’re making the same journey I’d suggest looking at the timetable charts in the Girona train station to see which station in Barcelona is closest to your endpoint, and only booking a ticket that far.
Other Ways to Get from Barcelona to Girona
A bus company called Sagales operates buses from Barcelona’s airport to the Girona airport (continuing on to Figueres), stopping on the north end of the city en route. From here, you could walk, taxi or bus the last two kilometers into historic Girona.
Alternately, a number of tour companies operate private day tours from Barcelona to Girona by car or shuttle. Many have a focus on Game of Thrones, as the city was a prominent filming location for the TV show.
Arriving in Girona from Barcelona
If you follow my advice and take the train from Barcelona to Girona, you’ll arrive at the train and bus station. From the train tracks, follow the signs towards the buses and then exit through the main station building. As you walk out the doors, the historic city center will be straight ahead and to your left, with most of the main attractions on the opposite side of the river. How you weave your way there isn’t really important, and the historic city center is well-signed along the way.
Suggested Itinerary for a Day Trip from Barcelona to Girona
Start with Breakfast
On my way home from Girona I posted some photos on Instagram along with the caption, “I came all the way to Girona and all I did was walk and eat.” I left Barcelona early and didn’t even have a coffee before I departed, so my first task in Girona was finding coffee… and Girona is famous for the coffee roasted at La Fabrica. I got major Bali vibes at this coffee shop and brunch restaurant. There was no way I could make up my mind without at least one coffee in me, so I started with a (single origin) cafe con leche while I browsed the menu, finally settling on the Mediterranean Farmer breakfast of fresh sourdough bread topped with pesto, goat cheese from Murcia, arugula and a fried egg… and another coffee.
Walk the Girona City Walls First!
If you get an early start, you may find that you have Girona’s historic city walls all to yourself. From La Fabrica, a nice way to access the walls is to loop around the cathedral, following the signs for the Arab Baths, and continuing uphill along the pedestrian walking path called Passeig de la Reina Joana. At the top of the footpath follow the signs towards Torre Gironella, the first of the many fourteenth-century towers that you’ll be able to ascend along this part of the route.
You can now double back along the walls, stopping at the countless fortified towers along the route. You’ll have great views of the historic city center, the cathedral and even the mountains in the distance. There’s not much shade along the way, which makes getting an early start even more important. Although there are a few places along the route where you can descend into the city, the last leg is about fifteen or twenty minutes without an exit point until you reach the official endpoint at Jardins de la Muralla.
If you’ve already had breakfast when you arrive in Girona, you might want to do this route in the other direction. From the train station, head straight to the Jardins de la Muralla, ascend the stairs and then walk the walls all the way to Torre Gironella. This gives you an overview of the city and builds up some anticipation for things you’ll see when you reach the end of the walls!
Visit the Market
If you walked the walls in the direction I recommended, you’ll come down just across the river from the Mercat del Lleo, a typical local market blissfully free of tourists. If you want to see what a real, working Spanish market looks like, and/or if you want to pick up any supplies for a picnic lunch, this a great place to visit. Also, they have free, clean public bathrooms! The market closes at 2:00 pm, so visit early in the day.
Explore the Historic Center of Girona
Now that you’ve seen the city from above, it’s time to explore Girona at ground level. Start by just giving yourself time to get lost in the narrow streets that run through the historic center, near the river. Duck under stone archways, squeeze through narrow alleys and ascend stairs to hidden villas, churches and parks.
Girona is small enough that it’s nearly impossible to get lost, and there are lots of signs indicating the way to the nearest tourist attractions. Do note, though, that Girona can be quite hilly. According to my Fitbit I ascended thirty-nine flights of stairs during my explorations, so choose your footwear for the day accordingly!
I haven’t seen Game of Thrones (dragons aren’t really my thing) but fans of the show are likely to recognize several filming locations around Girona. On your day trip from Barcelona to Girona, Game of Thrones fans should keep an eye out for some of these points of interest:
- Girona Cathedral – The most important church in town
- Arab Baths (Banys Arabs) – Historical bathhouse
- Pujada de Sant Domenec – A pretty arched alleyway
- Sant Pere de Galligants Monastery – Historic Benedictine abbey
Stop for Lunch in Girona
I have no objections to eating at a local chain restaurant when I’m traveling (heck, I’ll even pop by McDonalds to see if the local versions are more vegetarian-friendly than the ones we have back in Canada!). Let me know in the comments if you’re open to eating at local and/or international chains when you travel too!
Konig is a chain of sandwich restaurants with locations across Catalonia, including in Barcelona and in Girona. I wanted a light lunch after all that walking in Girona, so I stopped by their location beside the cathedral for a quick and easy lunch: a whole-grain sandwich filled with grilled vegetables, more goat cheese and onion jam. It was really good and it was just enough food to keep me fueled for even more walking! Besides their cathedral location, they have another restaurant on the pretty Plaza de la Independencia.
Stop by a Girona Museum
Girona has quite a few musuems for such a small town. The most popular museum in the city is the Museum of Jewish History, which explores the history of Judaism throughout Catalonia, with a focus on the medieval era. A visit should take about one hour, and adult tickets were €4 at the time of my visit.
Other museums in Girona include the Museu del Cinema, the Girona Art Museum and the Museum of the History of Girona. A unique museum that is only open with special arrangements is the Maso House Museum. This museum is located in one of the historical riverfront houses, and allows visitors the opportunity to see how Girona’s upper class lived in these unique dwellings.
Photograph the Bridges of Girona
If you haven’t done this already, now is the time to stop and take photos along the river, capturing the unique houses and beautiful bridges along the Onyar River. There are five bridges in the historic city center:
- The Stone Bridge, a wide and sturdy stone crossing
- The Eiffel Bridge, shown above, designed by the same architect as the Eiffel Tower (this one is also known as the Bridge of the Old Fishermen)
- St. Agusti Bridge, a narrow pedestrian crossing
- The Princess Bridge, a delicate stone arch (shown in the photo at the top of this article)
- Sant Feliu Bridge, a traditional wooden bridge in front of the cathedral
Have an Ice Cream for the Road
Since I didn’t have lunch or dinner at one of Girona’s famous haute cuisine restaurants, I did the next best thing and had ice cream at one of their associated gelaterias. Rocambolesc is operated by the team at El Celler de Can Roca (read below for more details), and they offer a curated selection of gelato flavors along with an expansive assortment of fantastic, fantastical toppings. I had their chocolate gelato topped with “popping honey” (I would describe it as a cross between honeycomb and honey cake), chocolate cookies and housemade marshmallows. Each topping had a unique taste and texture that made for a truly sensory experience. It’s definitely worth visiting, even if you have to wait in the queue.
(Or Sample the Local Pastries, Xuixos!)
I’m not saying you can’t have ice cream and a pastry (I did!) but I imagine my readers are more moderate than me in their vacation snacking. Would you have ice cream and a pastry? Let me know in the comments!
The most typical pastry of Girona is called the xuixo (pronounced either “shooshoo” or “suso”, depending on who you ask). It’s a flaky, fried tube stuffed with cream, which might be plain (like the “mini” xuixo I had, shown above) or that might be flavored with seasonal fruits or even chocolate. Casa Moner is a local chain of bakeries that specialize in xuixo, but you can find them in most of the patisseries around town.
Learn the Local Lore: The Flies of Girona
Around town, you may notice a recurring motif. No, not Game of Thrones… flies. Yes, flies. Girona’s riverfront location makes it prime buzzing ground for flies, but these little creatures are actually a legendary part of Girona’s history.
Legend has it that back in the thirteenth century, the French were attacking the city and destroying everything in their path. They even began to ransack the grave of Saint Narcis… until out of his tomb flew hundreds of thousands of giant flies that immediately started to attack the French troops. The troops were so terrified of the flies that they retreated and Girona was safe. Or so they say.
I took this photo of a fly on the wall near the statue of Saint Narcis’ foot. It’s believed that touching the foot will bring you good luck, though in light of current events I chose to go with an elbow bump instead.
Staying Overnight? Dinner at a Michelin-Starred Restaurant in Girona
I left Girona before dinner, but many travelers stay well into the night (or, more likely, overnight) to sample some of the world’s finest cuisine. Girona is home to El Celler de Can Roca, a restaurant with three Michelin stars that regularly tops the list of the best restaurants in the entire world. They actually do lunch a few days a week, meaning it’s possible to visit on a day trip, but you also need to reserve about ten or eleven months in advance…
There are seven other restaurants in Girona that have been celebrated by Michelin, though not awarded a star (yet). These include Nu (also serving lunch some days) and Occi (again, offering lunch some days), both of which are in the historic center.
Thinking about visiting Barcelona? If you have limited time, read my rundown of the best things to do in Barcelona (you might be surprised by what didn’t make the cut!) and check out my guide to the best neighborhoods in Barcelona, so that you base yourself in the part of the city that suits your travel style.
I also have a rundown of the best guidebooks for Barcelona, as I always use a guidebook when I’m planning my trip (in fact, I packed one from the list for this trip, too!)
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