The Medieval City of Girona: Short and Sweet With a curious tale about Eiffel and ice cream

By Abi King | Europe

Sep 18

I love the medieval city of Girona, although a city this size scarcely seems large enough to be a city at all. I love the way its cathedral rises out of the earth to greet you as the plane swoops in to land. I love the pomegranate and peach houses that line up all higgledy-piggledy, as though eager to please my lens. And I love, most of all, the legacy you can find here thanks to the work of two men.

Two Gentlemen of Girona

The first goes by the name of Gustave¬†B√∂nickhausen, a French enginner, although don’t let that put you off. I have a feeling you already know his work well and if you don’t believe me, have a look over here. That’s right, he’s the man who came up with the ironwork that made lovers swoon, that defied all the critics and that gave Paris its icon. He also changed his last name along the way.

But before he got around to either of those two things, he made a detour to Girona and built a bridge there. A short, scarlet mesh of a contraption that lured me dangerously close to the word “monstrosity.”

Girona Eiffel Bridge

The Eiffel Bridge, Girona

But once I stood upon the Eiffel Bridge, I had a change of heart. Sure, critics might say it looks as though it was flung up one night by the same construction company that takes care of car parks or, worse, the Ryanair website design. But once you’re on the bridge, looking out at Girona, the sweetness of Eiffel’s eye begins to shine through.

Girona’s riverbanks are beautiful. They deserve to be seen as much as they can. The violence of the red and the criss-cross of the beams simply encourage your eyes to look away faster. It’s the only explanation.

Or is it…

Girona Roca Ice Cream

Eiffel & Ice Cream

On my last visit to Girona, I thought of another. To avoid a migraine, you sprint across the bridge, reaching 50 Santa Clara earlier than expected. And what lives at this hallowed address? Why an ice-cream shop from Jordi Roca, the man who served up heaven in a pink and white spiral at the tastebud trembling El Celler de Can Roca restaurant earlier this year.

Named Rocambolesc, it’s filled from floor to ceiling with stripy boiled sweets captured in old-fashioned jars, plus scoops, cones and tubs of ice cream in vanilla, chocolate and spicy mandarin. There are cookbooks to inspire creativity and queues that snake out through the door.

Yet just like the bridge, the ice creams are short, and so are the jars. That’s Girona for me, really, summed up in three words.

Girona. Short and sweet.

Now for some lovely photos…

Girona Steps

Girona Houses


What do you think about the Eiffel Bridge? Love it? Hate it? And more to the point, did YOU know that Eiffel wasn’t always his name?!

Medieval Girona via @insidetravellab

About the Author

Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. Now published by Lonely Planet, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic Traveler & more, she feels most at home experimenting here: covering unusual journeys, thoughtful travel and luxury on

Stu September 18, 2012

Lovely photos :)

    Abi King October 16, 2012

    Thank you :)

I think I’d have to see an external view of the bridge with the city behind it to form a better opinion, but from your picture it looks like it would be well suited as a walkway between one prison building and another.

    Abi King October 16, 2012

    Well, I guess that worked OK for the Bridge of Sighs in Venice…Perhaps that’s the look they were going for?!

Katherina September 18, 2012

His parents changed their german name to Eiffel when they moved to France, choosing Eiffel because of the Eifel mountains in west Germany (where they came from). I studied architecture (and him!) for a few years, and Love his work – it’s very different from how an architect would have done it!

    Abi King October 17, 2012

    Ooh – interesting to hear you say that an architect would have done it differently. How so?

Hogga September 24, 2012

Sooo pretty! Love the ice cream and stairs shots.

    Abi King October 17, 2012

    In the name of research I did eat the ice cream. Although, inexplicably, I didn’t climb the flight of stairs…;-)

@mrsoaroundworld September 30, 2012

lovely photos, Abi! Can you believe I don’t have one of the bridge? :( never got to see it.. just means I will have to go back!

    Abi King October 17, 2012

    Exactly! I keep “ending up” in Girona and it’s a great place to be :-)

Mary October 6, 2012

I want to have some bites of that yummy ice cream. How much is this?

    Abi King October 17, 2012

    Priceless. I won’t share it with anyone…

Ira Jones May 27, 2013

Hello, We plan to spend one full day Girona in late June. Because the center of the city if quite touristy we want to avoid the tourist traps. Would appreciate suggestions for good local eateries/cafes/reasonably priced restaurants for lunch/dinner/snack/tapas.

Lesley Peterson December 2, 2013

Sweet post! I like the look of Eiffel’s bridge. The diagonal lines make all the difference. If the bars had been placed vertically/horizontally, it would be a clunker. As it is, it is simply elegant, each ‘diamond’ shape framing a different piece of the view.

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