Girona, Spain – Key attractions to see and photograph
Girona, Spain is just over an hour and a half train ride from Barcelona along the scenic Costa Brava region. It’s a charming city with a historic center, retaining many of its medieval appeal and well-preserved architecture. The old center is walkable with most of the attractions located along both sides of the Onya river. Following are some of the most photo-worthy sites and attractions to visit and spend some time capturing the essence and lifestyle of this idyllic place.
How to get to Girona, Spain?
To get to Girona, Spain, you have several transportation options:
- By Plane: The nearest airport to Girona is Girona-Costa Brava Airport (GRO), which serves both domestic and international flights. From the airport, you can take a taxi or use public transportation to reach the city center of Girona.
- By Train: Girona is well-connected by train to various cities in Spain. Renfe, the national railway company, operates regular train services to and from Girona. There are high-speed trains (AVE) from Barcelona, Madrid, and other major cities that offer a convenient and comfortable option to reach Girona.
- By Bus: Several bus companies provide routes to Girona from different cities in Spain and neighboring countries. ALSA, Sagalés, and Eurolines are some of the major bus companies that operate services to Girona. The bus station is centrally located in Girona, making it easy to access the city.
- By Car: Girona is well-connected to the Spanish road network, and it can be reached by car via the AP-7 highway. The journey time and route will depend on your starting location. It’s worth noting that Girona’s historic city center has limited vehicle access, so it’s advisable to park outside the city center and explore on foot.
Once you arrive in Girona, the city is compact and walkable, allowing you to easily explore its charming streets, historic landmarks, and beautiful architecture. Public transportation, including buses, is also available for getting around the city and its surrounding areas.
Check out these top photo spots around Girona to explore
Head out around Girona’s river front
Most sites center around the river front area along the Onya, there are nice strolling walkways on both sides of the river. The pedestrian walkways on either side are lined with vendors selling locally made products and craftsmen presenting their art work and crafts. Usually on weekends, there are even more vendors on the bridges setting up their booths to maximize on the foot traffic through these busy areas. Even though most of the monuments and attractions are in the old section, its easy and fun to just walk around the neighborhoods of Girona. Its compact size and mostly flat terrain, outside of the Jewish quarter allows for easy access and handicap considerations in the larger squares and streets.
The Jewish quarter
The old medieval sector close to the cathedral is very intimate with cobbled streets, little shops, cafes and tiny alleyways leading to hidden gardens and squares. This quarter in Girona, is one of the best preserved Jewish ghettos in Europe and the Montjuic (Hill of the Jews in Catalan) has an important Jewish cemetery. Through the many small and narrow streets are many splendid shops to explore and dessert cafes to tempt you to linger. But save that for later in the day and concentrate on your photography while the lighting is still good in this typically darker area with narrow and dimly lit medieval walls and architecture. The entire area is ideal to walk around and photograph fine architectural details, street scenes and prominent buildings.
Ramparts of Girona, Spain
Walking along the old ramparts of Girona is a wonderful way to experience the city with magnificent views of the countryside surrounding the city. Green and rolling valleys extend endlessly with little villages and old churches framing the landscape. There are many photo opportunities to capture nice compositions of the rolling hills or take some focused shots framing the center or the medieval sections of the old town and Jewish quarter. It’s good to experiment with older architectural fragments, interesting rampart details or garden foliage or flowers framing the foreground and extending your depth of field to the composition.
Views of the countryside in Girona, Spain
Cathedral and Cloisters
The medieval cathedral of Girona looks so stoic with its prominent site and scenic views overlooking the city and countryside. The interiors of this gothic cathedral are quite simple considering that this has the widest gothic nave in the world and is second widest overall after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Limited light and restricted tripods use makes the interior shots a little more difficult to get a precise and sharp image, so you have to be creative with your settings. You will have to make adjustments to ISO, shutter speed and aperture, or use steady surfaces like the pews to support your camera.
Girona Cathedral Cloisters and adjoining rooms
The adjoining building and cloister house a museum containing local architectural and church treasures worth visiting. There are many interesting insignia and crests built into the walls around the cloisters, look out for them and admire their subtle details. Framing the views of the central garden with the many arched columns creates a classic composition. In the image below, mid-day light is utilized by including the shadow effects on the stone ground flooring as part of the composition. Creating leading lines away from the central axis of the image and out of the frame helps to create a better composition and a more dynamic image.
These interior spaces are an interesting place to experiment with your photography and try different compositions, leading lines, light and dark, HDR techniques or any other subject that captures your imagination.
Independence Square and dining
Plaça de la Independencia or Independence Square is a historic square in the center of Girona filled with many bars and dining spots, making it a popular gathering and dining venue. A mixture of 18th to 19th century styles called the Noucentisme style represents the romantic period with a timeless neo-classical appeal. It’s a prime people watching venue and photographing the cafes, local food specialties and urban street scenes are a nice way of presenting the lifestyle here in Girona. For more about the wonderful foods of Girona, check out this fantastic Girona dining overview here.
Places to eat around Plaça de la Independencia
Plaça de la Independència, also known as Independence Square, is a lively area in Girona, Spain, with a variety of dining options nearby. Here are some places to eat around Plaça de la Independència:
- Restaurant Casa Marieta: Located just off the square, this traditional Catalan restaurant offers a cozy atmosphere and serves delicious local cuisine. Try their specialty dishes such as suquet de peix (Catalan fish stew) or botifarra amb mongetes (sausage with beans).
- La Fabrica: Situated near the square, this trendy café and bistro offers a range of Mediterranean-inspired dishes and tapas. It’s a great spot to enjoy a leisurely meal or grab a quick bite while exploring the city.
- Restaurant El Celler de Can Roca: A renowned Michelin-starred restaurant located a short distance from the square. This world-class establishment offers a gastronomic experience with innovative and creative dishes. Reservations are highly recommended.
- Restaurant Txalaka: This Basque restaurant is known for its pintxos, small savory bites typically served on bread. Located within walking distance from the square, it’s a great place to enjoy a casual meal with a variety of delicious pintxos and Basque specialties.
- La Taverna dels Pescadors: Situated in the heart of Girona’s old town, this seafood restaurant offers fresh and flavorful seafood dishes. From grilled fish to seafood paella, you can indulge in a delightful culinary experience with a Mediterranean touch.
More inside tips to photographing Girona
If you’re looking to capture the beauty of Girona beyond its main attractions, here are some inside tips for photographing the city:
- Explore the Side Streets: Girona’s narrow and winding side streets are a treasure trove for photographers. Wander off the main tourist routes and discover hidden alleys, charming courtyards, and colorful facades. These lesser-known spots often provide unique perspectives and opportunities for capturing the city’s authenticity.
- Capture the Details: Pay attention to the architectural details that make Girona special. From ornate balconies and intricate ironwork to colorful tiles and beautiful doorways, the city is brimming with photogenic details. Get up close, experiment with different angles, and highlight the unique elements that catch your eye.
- Seek Reflections: Girona’s river, the Onyar, flows through the city, offering picturesque reflections. Look for vantage points that allow you to capture the colorful houses along the riverbanks mirrored in the water. Play with different compositions and experiment with reflections to add an artistic touch to your photographs.
- Chase Golden Hour: Take advantage of the magical light during the golden hour, which occurs shortly after sunrise and before sunset. The warm, soft light during these times enhances the city’s beauty and creates a captivating atmosphere. Head to elevated viewpoints or open spaces to capture Girona bathed in the golden hues of the sun.
- Explore at Night: Girona takes on a whole new charm after sunset. The city lights up, casting a warm glow on the streets and landmarks. Capture the illuminated buildings, bridges, and churches by venturing out for some nighttime photography. Use a tripod or find stable surfaces to capture long-exposure shots and capture the city’s enchanting nocturnal ambiance.
- Embrace Local Life: To capture the essence of Girona, photograph the locals going about their daily routines. Seek out bustling markets, small neighborhood shops, and lively plazas where people gather. Candid street photography can reveal the vibrant energy and authentic character of the city.
Remember to respect the privacy of individuals, seek permission when necessary, and be mindful of local customs and regulations while photographing in Girona. By venturing off the beaten path and exploring the lesser-known corners, you’ll uncover hidden gems and create a unique visual story of this captivating city.
Weather and best time to visit Girona
Girona enjoys a Mediterranean climate, characterized by mild winters and hot summers. The best time to visit Girona depends on your preferences and the activities you plan to engage in.
Spring (April to June) and Fall (September to October) are generally considered the best seasons to visit Girona. During these months, the weather is pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 15°C (59°F) to 25°C (77°F). The city is less crowded compared to the peak summer season, making it an ideal time for sightseeing, exploring the historic sites, and enjoying outdoor activities.
Summer (July to August) is the peak tourist season in Girona, attracting visitors from around the world. The weather is hot, with temperatures averaging between 25°C (77°F) to 30°C (86°F). It’s a great time to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere, participate in local festivals, and relax by the beach. However, be prepared for larger crowds and higher accommodation prices during this period.
Winter (December to February) in Girona is mild but cooler compared to other seasons. The temperatures range from 5°C (41°F) to 15°C (59°F). While the city experiences fewer tourists during winter, it still offers a charming atmosphere and a chance to explore the historic sites without the crowds. It’s a good time to visit if you prefer a quieter experience and want to take advantage of lower hotel rates.
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If you enjoyed this post, please check out my other best places to photograph series from around the world.
Girona has all the nicer amenities of a smaller city in Catalonia with medieval charms, and it is easy to manuever and enjoy. It’s just the right size of city to walk around and spend a leisurely weekend. For longer stays, it’s a perfect place for visiting the surrounding attractions along the Costa Brava. These were my favorite attractions and areas of Girona that I enjoyed visiting, if you also have a favorite spot in the city that I didn’t cover, please share some of your favorite experiences in the comments.
Conclusion to photographing Girona
In conclusion, photographing Girona offers a wealth of opportunities to capture its charm, beauty, and hidden gems. By venturing beyond the main attractions and exploring the city’s side streets, you’ll discover unique perspectives and enchanting details that showcase Girona’s authenticity. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles, compositions, and lighting conditions to create captivating images. Whether you’re capturing the vibrant colors of the houses along the Onyar River, the intricate architectural details, or the bustling local life, Girona provides a rich tapestry of photographic possibilities. With each click of the camera, you’ll preserve the essence and spirit of this captivating city, creating lasting memories and a visual story of your experience in Girona.
If you want to enjoy more travel journeys through Spain, please take a look at this series of posts on Barcelona starting with this first article. I hope you get a chance to enjoy reading these other stories.
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