Out of the two months I’m working in Spain this year, 10 days of these were spent in the medieval city of Girona. Surrounded by mountains and natural parks in all directions, it’s known for attracting cyclists from all over the world.
You’d be forgiven for overlooking this small city in favour of larger areas of Catalonia such as Barcelona. But if you’d like winding streets lined with patisseries, peaceful running routes and Michelin star cuisine then you’re in the right place.
Due to hot weather and a demanding workload, none of my routes exceeded 10km. Even though the Swiss City Marathon is edging closer, I didn’t beat myself up about just running short distances.
Where to run? (See map below)
Here are three of the routes I ran. All commence at the tourist information centre which is marked by the Pink Cirrus cloud.
Route 1: City walls
Here’s an easy one to start your journey. Run past Plaҫa de Catalunya and turn left up the steps marked “La Pedra”. These are the old Roman walls of the city are still intact. They offer spectacular city views and the length doesn’t exceed a mile (I ran it in 8 minutes). If you get there early enough, you might get the entire stretch to yourself. From here, run back or continue to route two.
Route 2: Parc de la Devesa
Situated on the west bank of the Ter river, Devesa park is a must for running. It dominates the city centre, despite a lap of its circumference being just a few kilometres. It’s spacious, with cafés and toilets should you need a pit stop.
Route 3: Mirador de Can Garcia
Trail runners need not travel far to escape into the Spanish countryside. Run past Girona cathedral and towards the road marked for Saint Daniel’s monastery. Go past this and towards the signposts for Castell de Sant Miquel. You could run up the trails to the castle but that would be an 11km round trip. If you don’t fancy going that far then stop at Mirador de Can Garcia, which is an observation lookout on the trail. The views are blissful. A return trip to here from the tourist office won’t exceed 7km.
What to drink?
For an evening tipple you’re in safe hands if you’re after “sin alcohol”. Every restaurant I dined at served alcohol free drinks, including the ubiquitous Mahou 0.0% beer.
Drinks I also liked were:
I’ll never start Instagramming my lunch but Girona is home to the tastiest and prettiest food I’ve had in Spain.
For actual nutrition I can’t get enough of La Fabrica, which I ate at three times. It’s the sort of place that smears beetroot hummus and rose petals on your plate but the food here is the very best for brunch. I paired my omelette with a dirty chai, which was garnished with edible gold leaf. If you struggle to drink coffee without posting about it on Instagram this is the place for you.
I’m a glutton though and took myself out for ice cream and dessert around the city every single night. To my amazement, even a Caja Rojas praline McFlurry here was delicious- don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
For gelato, go to Rocambolesc. This ice cream parlour was started up by the pastry chef for El Celler de can Roca (The world’s best restaurant). Other great places I ate at were La Giocanda, La Lletera and La Bombonera. The latter of these does a fantastic sugar free dark chocolate gelato.
For Catalan pastry get your paws on a xuixo (“chou-chou”). It’s a croissant/doughnut hybrid, filled with custard cream and dusted with sugar. This little delight came into existence shortly after WWI and has been a popular snack since, which makes me wonder why Dominque Ansel claimed to have invented the “first” doughnut hybrid a century later.
A lot of restaurants serve the traditional crema catalana. It’s essentially a crème brulée but cooked slower. My go-to bakery for everything was Casa Moner – there are branches all over the city. Depending on your opinion, they bastardise/upgrade some traditional pastries by piling chocolate on them. The solidified chocolate churros and fartons were disappointing so maybe avoid those.
If you’re a thrill seeker, get in touch with Aventura Girona. For a reasonable rate they can hook you up with climbing and water based activities. I did Vía Ferrata at Cala del Molí. Once your helmet is strapped on, you spend hours climbing and the cliffs and walking across tightropes, with the beautiful Mediterranean seas over 12 metres beneath you. Next time I’ll be canyoning for sure!