My Favorite Thing to Do in Girona

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I love Girona!

So much so that I’ve been there five times in the past 2 years.  It’s one of those places that keeps drawing you back.  Located just 100km from Barcelona, it’s an easy train ride and has a completely different feel than Barcelona. It’s definitely worth at least a day trip, although spend a couple of days there if you have the time or use it as a base for other activities in the area.

You can easily spend hours getting lost in the cobblestone streets, wandering from one cafe to another, sampling some of its famous Jamón ibérico (Iberian ham) which is always one of my favorite things to do regardless of where I am in Catalonia.

But my very favorite thing to do in Girona? Hands down, that would be volunteering with chimps at MONA, a chimpanzee and macaque sanctuary located just outside of the city. Yep, chimps….in Catalonia. These are chimps with tragic pasts. Some have been rescued from circuses, others were kept as pets, but as they grew larger and more aggressive,  carelessly given away. MONA is a sanctuary and not open to the general public, but if you’re interested in working with chimps, I highly recommend volunteering there.  The staff is beyond inspirational, but I digress.

Related Reading: Self-Guided Coastal Hike from Catalonia, Spain to France.

So my 1st favourite tourist thing to do in Girona?

(since I’m assuming that volunteering with chimps isn’t that high up on most people’s lists).

Related Reading: Gaudi Barcelona: Architectural Marvels You Must See For Yourself.

Walking the ancient city wall!

The city wall was built in Roman times and dates back to the 1st century BC. Unlike most city walls, you can actually walk the entire length of this one. Ambitious visitors can even climb the towers for gorgeous views overlooking Girona and reaching to the Pyrenees.

The city wall was of extreme importance to Girona which has undergone a whopping 25 sieges and been captured seven times. Yet it still looks so pretty. It has aged very well don’t you think?

Related Reading: Hiking the Vall de Nuria in the Pyrenees

 

Walking along Girona's Roman wall
Walking along Girona’s Roman wall
Overlooking the wall with a view stretching all the way to the Pyrenees mountains.
Overlooking the wall with a view stretching all the way to the Pyrenees mountains.
A view of the Benedictine church of Sant Pere de Galligants
A view of the Benedictine church of Sant Pere de Galligants
Overlooking the Collegiate Church of Sant Feliu and the Pyrenees
Overlooking the Collegiate Church of Sant Feliu and the Pyrenees
Girona Cathedral
Girona Cathedral

After all that walking, you’ll probably have worked up an appetite – at least I did. I recommend Restaurant Can Roca, not to be confused with El Cellar de Can Roca, the world’s best restaurant, which at the time of writing had a 9-month wait list.  Both restaurants are run by the Roca family, but Restaurant Can Roca is run by the mother of the men who run El Cellar de Can Roca. It’s MUCH more casual, but you know she can cook and her sons still eat lunch regularly at her restaurant!

Related Reading: What It’s Like to Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Costa Brava.

Goat cheese salad at Restaurant Can Roca, not to be confused with El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona, Spain
Goat cheese salad at Restaurant Can Roca, not to be confused with El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona, Spain

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

Have I convinced you?

So what else can you do in Girona, besides walking the ancient city wall?

Volunteer with chimps….OK I know I said that just had to slip it in again. But it also makes a great base for adventures. I’ve done a cycling trip through Catalonia that started in Girona and have used it as a base for hot air ballooning. I

t’s also close enough for a day trip to the Pyrenees and a short drive to the famed Costa Brava Coast where you enjoy the beaches or go sailing. Or do my self-guided multi-day coastal hike from Catalonia to France, my personal recommendation.

For even more travel ideas about Girona and the region check out this post by Emma.

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About Author

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Laurel
Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains Adventure Travel. She's passionate about getting outdoors as often as possible and helping travellers do the same on their vacation in a sustainable way. She's Canadian and grew up in the Canadian Rockies but now lives in Munich, Germany. You can find her skiing or hiking in the mountains most weekends, hanging out with her cat or with her nose in a good book.

Comments

February 6, 2014
Girona is a really great base for exploring some of the nature in Catalonia. I'd like to go back to the Pyrenees for winter sports or even more hiking!
February 21, 2014
@Jennifer - Agreed, and love the Pyrenees!
February 6, 2014
Ancient city might be old but so beautiful. I will definitely add this on my bucket list.
February 21, 2014
@Jeff - Girona is definitely bucketlist worthy :)
Frank Jolie
February 7, 2014
Ancient city has really lots of great attractions. It can give us an idea about the rich cultures of the past. Catalonia is indeed rich with ancient remnants of the past
February 7, 2014
Sorry we missed Girona when we were so close a few years ago. I hadn't appreciated that this was the same area where you volunteered with chimps. Looks like a great city to walk.
February 21, 2014
@Leigh - I think you'd really like Girona, it's also a great starting point for bike trips and the Pyrenees are fairly close by as well.
February 7, 2014
I wouldn't have guessed there are chimps in Girona -- I can see why you like it. So close to Barcelona, I'm not sure how we missed it. Thanks for sharing this, Laurel.
February 21, 2014
@Marcia - Me either. Girona is worth visiting the next time you're in Barcelona :)
Freya
February 10, 2014
I have never been but it looks lovely, I would love to walk the ancient city wall and of course also to volunteer with chimps. That's something I would never have expected to find there.
February 21, 2014
@Freya - I was really surprised that there was a chimp sanctuary there as well. It was great that when I was done volunteering, I got to hang out in Girona.
February 11, 2014
Girona absolutely looks charming. What a great city to explore.I don't know much about it but now I want to visit. Volunteering with chimps just sounds so awesome.
February 21, 2014
@Mary - I keep coming back to Girona I love it so much and really enjoyed volunteering with the chimps, but it is really hard work.
February 12, 2014
Lovely post, first time around here. Girona sounds utterly delectable. BTW, for somebody who loves mountains, I should invite you to come over to Montana! Lovely national parks, lots of mountains, even glaciers. You should come.
February 21, 2014
@Rod, Thanks so much. Highly recommend Girona. I'm familiar with Montana, I grew up in Pincher Creek, about an hour from the Montana border. I LOVE Waterton Park and would love to spend more time in Glacier National Park.
February 13, 2014
Sigh ... so much architectural goodness in Europe ... I can't decide where to spend my time and limited travel funds there...!
Kathryn
February 18, 2014
I've never been to Girona but having read your post it's added to my wish list! I love walking around the walled cities be it Chichester in the UK or Lucca in Italy and Girona looks lovely too. (The goat cheese salad has looks pretty damn good as well!)
February 21, 2014
@Kathryn, me too. i haven't been to Chichester or Lucca, thanks for the recommendations.
Joey C
March 29, 2014
Hi! I'm thinking of heading to Girona for a trip during my easter break. I originally planned to go from the 1st-5th of May but I read about 'temps de flors' which is the weekend after so decided to make a change to the dates. However, nothing is confirmed. I was wondering how many days you'd recommend I spend there? I hope to go to cover as much as I can but I'm also on a budget. No more than £500 overall. Would love to go to the beach, the Pyreness and also Barcelona (if possible)
July 30, 2014
@Joey - A day or two in Girona is enough and then definitely several days to explore the Pyrennes and the surrounding villages along the Costa Brava coastline. I also loved Besalu, which isn't on the coast but is gorgeous! Enjoy your trip!
carol
June 18, 2014
we are going to girona in about 5 weeks, i would love to volumnteer to help with the monkeys, but how would i go about doing it? i am trying to find things to do there?
July 8, 2014
@Carol, There's an application form on MONA's website in which you can apply to volunteer for a few days. It's hard work, but I would highly recommend it.
September 19, 2014
Put me on the list as one that has been inspired to visit! Great pictures.

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