Besalu Catalonia: Girona’s Hidden Beauty

Besalu may not be well-known but it was once a historical capital. This quaint little town is worth a visit when in Catalunia.

You may not have heard of Besalu.  I hadn’t until a few weeks ago.  It’s a small town located in the northern region of Catalonia with just over 2300 inhabitants. What it lacks in size it makes up for in history.

bridge in Besalu, Catalunya, Spain

Where is Besalu

Besalu is located in the Girona province, Catalunya. Besalu is located a  ~35-minute drive away from the nearest coastal town. It is ~1 hour away from Barcelona by car and makes for a wonderful day trip.  If you are planning a tour of Costa Brava or Barcelona, then I highly recommend that you add Besalu to your itinerary.

Related Reading: Coastal Hiking Tour From Spain to France

What is Besalu Famous For?

Walking through Besalu is like wandering into a medieval dream. The roads are cobblestone that are hundreds of years old and the old bridge with its fort-like pillars makes you imagine some famous knight coming home to his princess.

Besalu was once the capital of a medieval state, over a thousand years ago. It may not have the majesty of palaces but I can tell you that its straight out a King Arthur movie (the one with Sean Connery obviously).  Can you imagine that the town market was established in 1027?

The town also has very important Jewish heritage as it is a part of the Jewish route in Spain. Jewish history goes way back here and there is even a ritual Jewish bath dating back to the 12th century.

Related Reading: Catalonia Spain: Why You Need To Experience Adventure Here

What I Loved the Most

I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Besalú strolling through this small medieval town, along small maze-like passageways, making several stops for a cappuccino along the way.  They know how to make a good cappuccino here!

Related Reading: Rafting the Noguera Pallaresa in Catalonia

narrow medieval streets through the town
Wandering the medieval streets of Besalu.

My favorite way to experience Besalú was just wandering.  I wandered through the cobblestone streets, I walked along the river, taking in the views of the famous bridge, I wandered through passageways:

Passageways dating back to medieval times
Passageways dating back to medieval times, made me feel like I was stepping back in time.

My Favourite Cafe

It was one of these such passageways, that led to an AMAZING cafe, 10 del Pont, a stone-walled cafe with an assortment of teas and the best caramels I have ever tasted.  I bought three bags the first time, then went back the next day for another bag.  Despite my sugar high from four bags of caramels, I wish I would have bought more.

Related Reading: Castell de Montsoriu: The Greatest Gothic Castle in Catalonia

besalu-10 del pont, one of the most charming cafes I've ever been
One of the most charming cafes I have ever been in – anywhere!

I preferred to walk the streets of Besalú – wait a minute, that didn’t come outright, but you know what I mean.  Besides I had to burn off some of the calories I consumed from eating four bags of caramels, but another more leisurely option was also available for those who hadn’t indulged as I had:

Visitors have the option of exploring Besalu by train
Visitors have the option of exploring Besalu by train, although I preferred to do it on foot.

Along the way we stopped at the cathedral, dominating the town square:

The cathedral in the town square.
The cathedral in Besalu is in the town square.

Next was a stop at the quirky and almost unbelievable Museum of Miniatures:

Related Reading: Calcots and What You Need to Know About Going to a Calcotada in Catalonia Spain

One of the exhibits on display at the Museum of Miniatures in Besalu.
One of the exhibits on display at the Museum of Miniatures in Besalu.

The Museum of Miniatures

The Museum of Miniatures features over 2000 pieces of varying sizes, with the micro miniatures featuring detailed artworks displayed in the eye of a needle!  Fortunately, the micro miniatures are presented with magnifying glasses.

The miniatures here are created by artists from all over the world. I wonder how much patience goes into these creations and what a surgeons hand you must need to achieve this level of perfection in something this small!  I loved this 0ff-beat museum and I think it would be a hit with children as well.

Besalu’s Humble Chairs

Besalú is also soon to be famous for its artwork – the humble chair as you’ve never seen it before.   It’s a collaborative art project between inhabitants who donate space and artists who create their version of a chair.  Perhaps one day tourists will flock here for its world-famous chair collection:

Related Reading: My Favorite Thing to Do in Girona

The village's choice of artwork: chairs - which can be found throughout the town. 
The village’s choice of artwork: chairs – which can be found throughout the town.  This one appears to be 3-dimensional, but is only 1-dimensional.

Any guesses what this artwork is by local artist Kel Domènech?

An ingenious solution by artist Kel Domenech to a common problem.
An ingenious solution by artist Kel Domenech to a common problem.

Why it’s a chair of course, but one that is under lock and key so that nobody can steal your favorite chair.  Only you can open it up when you’re ready to use it – with a key.  Genius!

The view from the backyard of our Charming Villa
The view from the backyard of our Charming Villa located in the heart of Besalu.

Related Reading: Photos That Will Make You Want to Ride in a Hot Air Balloon Over Costa Brava

What to Know Before You Go to Besalu

Accommodation

There are a lot of options for accommodation in Besalu if you would like to spend a night. The Els Jardins De La Martana hotel is located right at the Romanesque bridge and only 550m away from the town’s center. The hotel comes highly rated (9.1).

They even have bicycles to hire, perfect if you would like to explore the excellent cycling routes in the area. If you prefer apartments to hotels then Cal Fuster is perfect for you. It’s only 350m away from the town’s center. The apartment is large so if you’re planning a family or group trip then this is most definitely the place for you.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Besalú.  Its proximity to other interesting destinations in Catalonia such as the winery hosting Martin Faixó wines, which are made according to centuries of family traditions, and Salvador Dali’s house,  make it a great base for a slow travel adventure.  It is hard to beat the view from the backyard of Mas Tallaferro, our luxury villa from Charming Villas located just a few minutes walk from the town square.

It was also the perfect setting for our Catalonian paella – in which I learned the secret to perfecting a Catalonian paella.  I may just tell you…if you bribe me with caramels!

Thank you to Charming Villas for making my trip to Besalú so enjoyable. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

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39 thoughts on “Besalu Catalonia: Girona’s Hidden Beauty”

  1. You have introduced me to a new place — now I must get to Besalú! What a great place to wander around. I would love to visit the Museum of Miniatures. I love exhibits like that.

  2. @Sabrina – Definitely, I think because it wasn’t touristy, it was more charming.

    @Cathy – Yes and it’s not that far from Barcelona either :). I love museums like the Museum of Miniatures as well.

  3. This little town looks soo cute and charming. I’d love to see it. I used to visit Spain every year and I haven’t been back in many years now!

  4. I love European towns like this where you feel like you step back in time and there aren’t many tourists. Looks like a beautiful place. That cafe sounds fantastic!

  5. We’re headed to Spain this summer, and I love hearing about new places. I especially like small ancient towns, so this is right up my alley! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Wow its a beautiful little town! I have definitely never heard of it. The jewish bath sounds interesting, and I’m also intrigued by the museum of minatures. Maybe next time i find myself spain.

  7. Really interesting post. We’ve been thinking about a trip to Spain (probably a couple years off) and I’ve been intrigued by some of the less-touristed areas. Thanks!

  8. Looks like such a great place Laurel – especially that little cafe. I could spend a few hours drinking lattes in there. Cool artwork too.

  9. What weird chairs. Can’t they paint oversized animal statues around town like a normal city? I saw winged rhino’s in Dortmund. Love the first picture of the bridge though, very arch-y.

  10. What a glorious round up of your travels to Catalonia..and loved the pics as well. I only wish I could have been there with all of you but thanks to all of your tweets and articles, I lived vicariously for that week!

  11. @Leigh – I went to the cafe twice, but could have easily spent several hours working there as well, one of the most amazing cafes I’ve ever been in.

    @Jeff – Thanks so much and next time you must come! Looking forward to living vicariously through you on your upcoming adventure.

  12. I loved Besalu too. Everytime I think about the quirky chairs I smile! Great photos, Laurel! And with the iphone right?! that thing is amazing!

  13. I’m a local resident of that territory. I spend some summers in my childhood in a uncle’s house just 2 steps besides the medieval bridge of Besalú.
    I like very much your enthusiasm about those villages and whole Catalonia that are so familiars to me. I also thank you the accurate transcription of the names in catalan language.
    Good travels

  14. I’m headed to Catalonia in a few months. This sounds like one of those charming little towns I’d love to explore. I had to think long and hard what that chair was used for; such eccentricity that you would not expect from a town like this one.

  15. Hi Laurel, I see you got caramels, did you know were they were from? Do they do them? I live near Besalú (well, at Girona, and you’ve been there too, hehehe) and I was planing to go there this weekend… mmm.
    PD: It’s my first visit to you blog. You go straigh to my “visit every week” folder!

    • @John – I got them from 10 del pont, it’s near the river and is an adorable coffee shop. They have them upstairs near the counter. I was there again 2 weeks ago and bought 3 more bags 🙂 Let me know how you like them. Thanks for your kind words, I’m happy to welcome you back every week :).

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