Not far from the French border, Girona (in Catalán and Gerona in Spanish) is less than 100 km from Barcelona. Ryanair planes fly here so it could be a great destination for a short and not too expensive getaway. I have been here a few times, the last one being April 2015 and once again I find myself in a pretty city with nice architecture, away from the hustle and bustle of Barcelona, with a lot of character and just a short drive to one of the most gorgeous coastline of Spain.
Girona is not a big city, you could easily explore it in less than a couple of days (depending how much time you want to dedicate to museums etc). It’s very pleasant to walk around since plenty of areas in the historic district are car-free. There is plenty to see in the old town: the Cathedral, Sant Pere de Calligants, the Jewish quarter, Plaça de la Indipendencia.
If you’ve got a car and a spare day, go and visit the former Benedictine Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes (almost an hour from downtown Girona).
When we visited Girona we based ourselves in a budget hotel just outside the old town, Hotel Margarit: very reasonable room rate, super clean room and walking distance from the centre. For lunch, we had a quick and reasonable menu del dia (daily menu) in one of the many restaurants in Plaça de la Indipendencia and then we started exploring. In the evening, we treated ourselves to a nice meal out in Placa del Vi, 7 in the namesake square. Despite reading some negative reviews on Trip Advisor, we personally had a very good meal with great choice of wines by the glass (I particularly enjoyed the Riversaltes dessert one). Unfortunately (as sometimes happens in Catalunya), despite noticing that we were foreigners (I can speak Spanish but not Catalán) the staff didn’t make a lot of effort to try to communicate with us other than in Catalán. Not a problem of this particular restaurant, since it has happened to me on more than one occasion in this region so I suggest you don’t get put off by this and just enjoy the nice food and lovely atmosphere.
If you are not here on a budget and you are prepared to pay some serious money to taste some amazing food, don’t forget that Catalunya region has got plenty of Michelin starred restaurants (53 as of Autumn 2015), including El Celler Can Roca (3 Michelin stars).
Not far from Girona there is another small town well worth a visit: Figueres, the birthplace of Salvador Dalí, one of my favorite artist. Figueres is twined with St. Petersburg, FL, another great city where for Dalí’s fans. It was an absolute genius and his Teatro Museu is true testament of that.
He once said: “I want my museum to be a single block, a labyrinth, a great surrealist object. It will be totally theatrical museum. The people who come to see it will leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream”. Once you are in you will soon understand that he has fully achieved his purpose.
Figueres is a relatively small town so you could easily spent just half a day here and combine it with a visit in the nearby Cadaqués or Port Lligat, another one of Salvador Dalí hot spot.