Labyrinthine cobbled streets, medieval churches, ancient fortresses, all surrounded by fortified walls and towers — if you could think up a stage set for “Game of Thrones,” Girona would be it.
And in fact, this 2,000-year-old Catalonian city, a 40-minute train ride from Barcelona, will serve as a backdrop for the HBO fantasy’s sixth season, which kicks off April 24.
The show that put Croatia, Seville and Northern Ireland on travelers’ radars will likely do the same for Girona — making it an ideal time to visit this jewel of a town before all “GoT” fans catch on.
Here are eight spots not to miss.
Built between the 11th and 18th centuries, the city’s most recognizable building — and where much of “Game of Thrones” filming took place — is an unusual jumble of architectural styles. (This season, brown-robed Sparrows are shown stationed in front of the church’s fanciful Baroque façade and marching down its steep steps.) The interiors feature an enormous Gothic nave — the widest in the world — and a massive altar of intricate metalwork. On the cathedral’s rear, look for the gargoyle wearing a dress; she’s the legendary “witch,” who, after hurling rocks at the church to display her contempt for religion, was herself turned to stone.
Cathedral Treasury Museum
On the Cathedral’s left entrance is this small museum housing a big treasure: the 11th-century Creation Tapestry. This remarkably well-preserved embroidery — which depicts the creation myth from Genesis surrounded by scenes from the natural world — once hung behind the main altar. It’s presumed to be the first Christian representation of Jews; at the bottom, two figures, stitched on a red background, are identified with the word iudei (Jews).
The Jewish Quarter
Mere steps from the Cathedral is this warren of winding stone streets and arched porticos dating back to the 1100s. It’s a perfectly preserved medieval jewel; however, nothing from its centuries as a Jewish community remains — their synagogues, hospital and schools were reclaimed after the Spanish expulsion of the Jews in 1492. But relics of Jewish life in Girona and other parts of Catalonia in the Middle Ages can be seen in the three-story Museum of Jewish History.
Encircling much of the city, these ramparts are an extension of the original Roman sandstone walls, from the 1st century B.C. A portion is from the Carolingian era (9th century) but most of the sections date from the 1300s, when new walls had to be built to protect the expanding city. Feeling brave? You can also climb up circular staircases into precipitous towers, which offer stellar views of the city and the mountains beyond.
The Arab Baths
Wonder how the spa experience was back in 1194? This ancient example doesn’t look too different from today’s European spas: there’s a dressing area, cold and warm rooms pools, massage rooms and a steam room. Restored to look much as it would have in the 12th century, the building is called the Arab baths (though they were built by a Spanish king) because of its Moorish architectural elements.
Steps of Sant Marti
In the old city, leading up to the 17th-century convent of Sant Marti, is this picturesque flight of steps. The most coveted table in Girona (other than one at Celler de Can Roca, voted 2015’s World’s Best Restaurant) is an outdoor seat at Café Le Bistrot, at the foot of the famed staircase.
Rambla de la Libertad
The city’s main thoroughfare hugs the Onyar River and is lined with bustling cafes, smart boutiques and art galleries. It began as a marketplace in the 13th century and today hosts a weekly Saturday flower market.
Want to return to the city again? Then, legend says, you must kiss the backside of this statue of a lioness climbing a column in the Plaza de Sant Felix.
The whimsical, Willie Wonka-inspired Rocambolesc Gelateria takes gelato to a whole new level.
There are just six flavors of all-natural ice cream but around 35 toppings to choose from including cotton candy and butter cookie.
And if you’re in town, the annual Girona Flower Festival takes over the city from May 7 to 15, with more than 100 innovative flower displays across the city.
The Cathedral staircase is carpeted in blooms and many private spaces are open and showcase unique floral designs.
Source: New York Post