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With thousands of years of history, the Spanish town of Girona lies on several hills overlooking the confluence of four rivers, the Guell, Galligants, Onyar and Ter. Both the Old Town and the New Town, set on opposite banks, are widely pedestrianised, with the Old Town crammed with narrow streets, tall medieval homes and a famous Jewish Ghetto dating back to the 15th century. Its magnificent city walls and gates enclose many ancient sites, with the 13th century cathedral home to the city’s greatest treasure, the early 12th century Tapestry of Creation.
Who to Book With
Girona-Costa Brava Airport, a hub for budget carrier Ryanair, offers car hire from Hertz and Europcar, as well as from two Spanish companies, Goldcar Rental and National Atesa. The airport’s role as a low-cost carrier hub for the nearby beachside resorts means car rental is a popular means of onward travel, with booking well in advance online the best way to secure the car of your choice at a good price.
Best time to go
Weatherwise, May through October are the best times to visit, although the high season summer months of July and August see temperatures reach 30°C and crowded conditions in the city as Spanish holidaymakers and day-trippers join tourists from overseas. Touring the surrounding countryside and historic sites of interest is best done in late spring through to early autumn, as the start of the shoulder seasons sees powerful thunderstorms.
Need to Know Essentials
The following documents will need to be shown at your car rental pick-up point:
- A valid UK photo-driving license or an International Driving Permit
- Your passport as a second form of ID
- The credit card used for the reservation
- A copy of your rental confirmation
Girona’s Old Quarter is pedestrianised, with its steep, winding streets far too narrow for traffic. Several central areas of the New Town on the opposite bank of the river are also forbidden to cars. Self-drive comes into its own when you’re exploring nearby places of interest, such as Figueres and the medieval village of Madremanya, or heading to the coast for a day on the beach. Roads here are mainly in good condition, with routes leading to the Pyrenees and the coastal resorts. Driving is on the right in Spain, with seatbelts compulsory for all occupants, mobile phone usage without a hands-free kit forbidden and drink-driving limits lower than in the UK. All relevant documentation must be carried, and visibility vests and warning triangles are now compulsory.
Girona sits on the Autopista AP-7 and Highway N11, as well as direct routes to the coast and the Pyrenees, making touring the region by hire car a practical option. Mainline trains run to Barcelona and the border with France, several bus companies offer routes to nearby towns, as well as local journeys, and short and long-haul taxi travel is easily arranged.
Girona’s railway station is located west of the Old Town. It is a stop on the main line linking Barcelona, Figueres and the border town of Portbou. Trains are frequent, with more than 20 a day, with the journey to Barcelona taking around 1.5 hours and costing around £5.00. The operator is the national rail company RENFE, and timetables can be found on its website.
Taxi travel is the most expensive means of transport in and around Girona, especially on the longer-distance routes, with a cab from Girona to Barcelona costing at least £90.00. Local trips are charged by the kilometre at around £1.00 plus extras, and all registered taxis are metered and safe to use.
Bus services in Girona are provided by TMG (Trasports Municipals Girona), and are the cheapest, if not the fastest or most comfortable, way to get around the New Town and out to nearby villages.
Girona is a well-known gateway for the Costa Brava beach resorts in summer and the Pyrenean ski resorts in winter, and is a great place to stay if you’re planning to explore this beautiful region of Catalonia by hire car.
Tossa del Mar and Sant Feliu de Guixols - One of the most spectacular coastal scenic drives around Girona, although the drive itself can be slightly hair-raising at times. Expect amazing views over the ocean seen from the soaring cliffs. Surprisingly, even in the high summer season, traffic won’t be so heavy that it spoils the experience.
The Path of Sepharad - This path links Girona’s Old Jewish Quarter with the medieval towns of Banyoles and Besalu via highways C-66 and N-260, which ends in Figueres. Along the way, the road winds past ruined castles and though unspoiled countryside. Besalu is known for its ancient monasteries and churches, as well as for its unique mikvah.
Baix Emporda county - The medieval villages and idyllic landscapes of Baix Emporda county make for a picturesque drive around the region, beginning in Figueres, the birthplace of Salvador Dali. The N11, C-31 and GIV-6216 lead through scenic beauty to the 12th century Sant Tomas de Fluvia priory and the 11th century Benedictine Sant Miquel de Fluvia. Pretty Torroella de Montgri is also a great place to stop for lunch.