Girona, City of Gardens (and Stairs)

Girona Collegiate Church of Sant Feliu Spire

It’s easy to see why the Catalonian city of Girona has endured 25 sieges and fallen to enemy forces on seven different occasions. It’s a place you really do want all for yourself. And on our first night in town, we had exactly that.

The day-trippers had all gone for the day. Girona is just an hour’s train ride from Barcelona, making it a quick-hit destination for many. They were mostly leaving just as we arrived. 

At nearly dusk the ancient cobblestone streets were quiet. We followed those empty streets past delicate facades and sturdy structures seemingly designed to stand forever.

Mostly we were struck by the abundance of greenery. It was such a stark contrast to the solitary stone – sometimes rough hewn, oftentimes expertly shaped – that forms both street and wall of the other medieval Spanish cities we’ve visited. In Girona, those same hard exteriors were softened and accented by leafy plants that sprout from almost everywhere. 

Girona Spain

With daylight fading and a light mist clinging to both leaves and battlements, the city felt like something out of Camelot. We quickly and affectionately dubbed Girona the City of Gardens.

But the following morning we learned that other monikers would fit Girona equally well. We easily could have called it the City of Architecture, owing to its abundance of interesting and conflicting styles.

There is the forbidding Romanesque posture of the city guard towers and Sant Pere de Galligants, a Benedictine abbey.

And the Gothic flourishes of the Catholic cathedral.

Gothic Facade of Girona Cathedral

There are Arab baths.

Flower in a Pool at Girona's Arab Bath

And Mediterranean-style houses overlooking the Onyar River.

Girona on the Onyar River

The city is both modern and ancient.

Girona, Spain City Streets

After a day exploring all of these wonders, though, we decided on a different nickname: Girona, City of Steps.

Stairs in Girona Spain

Up wide embankments, through twisting tunnels, around corners and in every conceivable direction, there are stairs. Stairs that lead to the cathedral (eighty six of them to be precise), stairs that take you to an art museum in an old bishop’s palace, stairs down to the baths, stairs that lead to other stairs, and stairs that ascend the walls that once protected the city against invaders.

Girona Spain Cathedral Stairs

It’s still possible to walk atop those fortifications and get a spectacular bird’s eye view of all the gardens and buildings and everything else that has made Girona so desirable for so many hundreds of years past and, quite likely, so many more to come. 

Girona skyline from the City walls

View of Girona from the City Wall

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9 Comments on “Girona, City of Gardens (and Stairs)”

  1. digger666 July 21, 2014 at 9:35 am #

    Reblogged this on digger666.

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  2. Tom July 21, 2014 at 9:54 am #

    We lived there for three months. Like most people, we were at first enamored of the city, but in the long run it was the people that we loved the most. We made good friends there and still correspond on a regular basis.

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  3. lesouffleurdemots July 21, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    Beautiful!

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  4. 1beccainamillion July 21, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    I’ve been to Spain twice and it seems that every time I hear mention of it, a different city or point of wonder in the country is mentioned, making me desperately want to go back. Your post about Girona takes the cake in that respect. I hope I’ll get to see the City of Gardens (or of Steps!) one day!

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  5. Animalcouriers July 22, 2014 at 3:54 am #

    Wonderful photos of the city.

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  6. Jane Travel Geek July 24, 2014 at 4:51 am #

    Girona looks lovely, authentic and so fresh. I think it’s one the most wonderful destinations for a relaxing vacation, away from work, phones and stress.

    Like

  7. Boarding Pass July 28, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    We missed Girona last time we were in Barcelona, but it’s on my list for another trip! The ramparts look really neat!

    Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream.” A brief train ride from the walled city of Girona brought us to Figueres. But it was a stop on another continent that had led us further into […]

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  2. 10 Favorite Destinations, Year 5 | Everywhere Once - May 20, 2015

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