I went to Spanish city that’s rivalling Barcelona without the crowds – and flights from the UK are £22

WE all remember our firsts in life.

Our first love, our first kiss, our first house, you name it. And so it is that I will forever remember my first Xuixo.

Historic Girona and the Cathedral


Historic Girona and the CathedralCredit: Getty
The vibrant Pont de les Peixateries Velles bridge


The vibrant Pont de les Peixateries Velles bridgeCredit: Getty
Savour the local sweet treat of Xuixo cakes


Savour the local sweet treat of Xuixo cakesCredit: Getty
The Onyar River at the heart of the city


The Onyar River at the heart of the cityCredit: Getty

I was sitting in a quiet cobbled street, the morning sun on my face, when an intense explosion of flavour hit me with my first bite. I was instantly hooked.

I hadn’t actually come to Girona, known as the “City of the Four Rivers”, to discover gastronomic delights such as these delectable croissant-like morsels.

That said, the Spanish city is a hotbed of culinary offerings, and home to El Celler de Can Roca, a two-time winner of the coveted “best restaurant in the world” award.

Given the eatery, which has three Michelin stars has a 12-month waiting list, sadly I couldn’t dine there.

But luckily, it’s often the unexpected moments that are the most memorable.

Pronounced “choo-cho”, Xuixo are deep-fried treats, coated in sugar and traditionally filled with crema catalana, a type of custard flavoured with citrus and cinnamon.

They are as much a part of Girona’s identity as any of the historical buildings and ruins from the 1st century BC, when the city was founded by the Romans.

Just take a stroll through the web of streets at the heart of the old town and you will see handfuls of places selling Xuixos, although the finest come from Can Castello.

My first foray into the heart of the old town delivers me to the foot of a vast flight of Baroque steps leading up to the city’s cathedral, which was used as the Great Sept of Baelor in Game of Thrones.

Entry to the cathedral is €12 but is worth it to see the intricate stonework of fantastical beasts and biblical scenes in the cloisters, as well as a silver altarpiece studded with shimmering gemstones.

My next stop is the city walls, the remains of which stretch almost three kilometres from the Paseo Arqueologico to the Jardines de la Muralla.

I was on my way there when an affable local, Adri, offered me some advice.

Clearly I looked every bit the tourist. “Make sure you cross the river on the red bridge and look for the map of Paris,” he told me cryptically.

“And of course, don’t forget to enjoy a few Xuixos.”

So I made my way towards the Onyar River, which cuts through the heart of Girona, in search of the Pont de les Peixateries Velles, to give it its proper name.

Trendy brother

Designed by Gustave Eiffel before his famed tower, it is by far one of the most emblematic of the several bridges.

From here, I am treated to excellent views of the colourfully painted houses that flank the river and are synonymous with Girona.

Despite Adri’s sage advice, my first Xuixo didn’t come until the penultimate morning of my stay.

For lunch, I stumbled upon budget-friendly Zanpanzar, serving a delicious assortment of tapas dishes, the star of which is their homemade beef stew.

Girona feels more like a trendy village, complete with ­little squares surrounded by chic cafes and boutique shops.

For a great place to stay, the boutique 4H Hotel Nord 1901 is just a five-minute walk from the Cathedral and the Old Quarter and features a lovely shady garden with a sparkling pool for dips after you’ve spent the day exploring.

It’s easy to see why many travellers are eschewing Barcelona in favour of its little Catalan brother.

As for Adri’s “map of Paris”, well I will leave that one for you to discover yourself.

GO: Girona

GETTING THERE: Ryanair flies from Stansted to Girona from £21.99 each way.


STAYING THERE: A double room at the Hotel Nord 1901 is from £120 a night.



This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.