Girona, in Spain’s Costa Brava, was my first brush with a medieval European town. Just off the bus from touristy Lloret De Mar where I was to attend TBEX Europe 2015, an afternoon in the old town of Girona felt like a refreshing walk through the pages of a historical tale.
Perhaps one of the most photographed scenes of this lovely town that perfectly fits the cliché of quaint European old towns, is that of the colorful facades of houses along the River Onyar. The vista of mustards, peaches, clementines, soft pinks and muted browns coaxes the first-timer standing on the famous bright red Palanques Vermelles pedestrian bridge or the Eiffel bridge, as it’s more commonly known, to linger just a little longer and think about the stories that live in these painted houses.
Built by Dijon-born engineer Gustave Eiffel in 1877, several years before the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Eiffel Bridge isn’t your typical pretty bridge. Some think of it as an eyesore with its iron crisscross design and bold color. A glaring red disrupts the tranquility of the pastels along the Onyar. But, what I like about it is that with its distinctive design, it holds its own, becoming an interesting addition to the entire scene.
Not far from here is a commercial walking street or rambla, typical of Spanish cities, lined with al fresco restaurants cafés, gelaterias and restaurants busy with day-trippers from Barcelona. Girona enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a not-to-be-missed town in Costa Brava and the curiosity of those who choose not to stay here brings them on daylong excursions.
The stone walls and narrow alleys of Forca Vella, a Roman fortress built in the first century BC are the backdrop for the impressive Girona Cathedral. Looking at the intricate details of its outer façade, the Cathedral is unmistakably baroque in style, combining elements of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Its incredible Gothic nave at 23 meters wide is the widest in the world. Climbing the many steps to the main entrance, I craned my neck to get a closer look at the sculptures that stood imposingly above me on the outer façade.
Girona’s Jewish Quarter or Call is surprisingly well maintained, considering it dates from between the 12th and 15th centuries. It’s a maze of quiet, shaded cobbled alleys, arched doorways and ivy-draped walls. The kind of streets you wouldn’t mind getting lost in. Look up to see tiny balconies dressed up with spring blooms and potted plants.
The Basilica of Sant Feliu towers above the rest of the town, the sharp ends of its bell tower reaching for the sky, surrounded by medieval tiled roofs.
A walk along the stone Roman walls that once fortified the town offers sweeping views of the old city, fueling curious imaginations to picture what life may have once been like within their embrace. As the sky changed colors with the gentle brushstrokes of the setting sun, slowly turning red like the roofs below it, I longed for the many stories I’d let go of, simply because there hadn’t been enough time.
Have you been to Girona or would you like to go? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
If you’re looking to visit the beautiful region of Costa Brava in Spain, you might find my posts about other towns like Palafrugell and Cap De Creus Natural Park useful while planning your trip. If you’re an active traveler you might also be interested in this post about outdoor activities in Tenerife.
For general information to help you plan your travels to Spain and suggested itineraries, check out these posts.
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