The Medieval City of Girona: Short and Sweet

By Abi King | Spain

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 Bönickhausen, 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.

Girona's Annual Flower Festival

Take one city that oozes with medieval charm and Mediterranean style, throw in hundreds of thousands of petals and then let creativity run wild. The result is the Temps de Flors, or Festival of Flowers, in Girona. Every year, this Spanish town scraps admission fees and lets the scent of roses fill the air. Queues thread around the cloisters, crowds fill the squares, while classical music drifts across the streets. Shops display tulip stickers and buttercup cakes, while poets use broken pianos and flower cascades to reflect the pain of a life cut short.

Whichever way you look at it, there’s something interesting to look at.


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

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more.

  • Stu says:

    Lovely photos :)

  • 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 says:

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

  • Katherina says:

    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 says:

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

  • Hogga says:

    Sooo pretty! Love the ice cream and stairs shots.

    • Abi says:

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

  • 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 says:

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

  • Mary says:

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

    • Abi says:

      Priceless. I won’t share it with anyone…

  • Ira Jones says:

    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.

  • 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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