Accessible within an hour from the sea, medieval Girona offers a refreshing change from the sun-and-sand hedonism of the Costa Brava. This elegant, provincial capital features a beautiful walled medieval quarter, Barri Vell, perched on a hill above the city – a delight to explore, with narrow cobbled alleyways, balconied houses and shady little plaças. Clinging to the banks of the Ríu Onyar, as it meanders through the centre of town, is a long row of picturesque pastel-hued houses, the Cases de l’Onyar.
Historically, Girona has seen it all – at least by Spanish standards. The Romans settled here, and called the town Gerunda. Girona then became an Islamic town after the Moors conquered Spain. A vibrant Jewish community also flourished here for more than six centuries, and Girona’s Call, the medieval Jewish quarter, remains one of the best preserved in Spain. Elsewhere, you’ll spy a fetching mix of architectural styles, from Romanesque to modernisme. Girona also features a range of excellent museums, a lovely cathedral and lively arts and music festivals. Rambla de la Llibertat, running along the river, is the city’s grand promenade, where locals take their daily paseo past a bustling strip of shops and restaurants.
Northwest of Girona, in the town of Púbol, rises the Casa-Museu Castell Gala Dalí, a medieval castle-turned-museum about surreal master Salvador Dalí and his wife Gala.