This is the heart of Catalunya, and you will know that the moment you hear people speak in and around Girona. In Barcelona (especially the city centre) you can get away without hearing or speaking much in the way of Catalan if you really want to. However, this language is spoken in abundance in this quiet city just 99 km away. I am always fascinated by it - at once feeling completely unique and yet coloured by touches of other latin-based languages. If you want to work on your conversational Catalan more than your Spanish, Girona is the perfect place to give it a go.
Girona's roots go....deep. Founded in 79 BC around the convergence of the rivers Onyar, Ter, Galligants and Güell, the city has endured the rise and fall of several civilizations and governments (Iberians, Visigoths, Moors, Charlemagne et al.) and not to mention twenty-five sieges and has been captured multiple times. Given that, the architecture is a wonderful mishmash of impressive structures from varying vintages that make a wander over to the old city more than worthwhile.
(Note: I was in Girona for two days to attend a wedding at the very beautiful Mas Murtra just outside the city and had a good amount of time to explore, so I have some suggestions to make. However - because our evenings were taken up by wedding festivities, we didn't go out for dinner at all. Oh - and also because of the whole the El Celler de Can Roca thing, which I will explain below. Sob.)
Getting there: The best route to Girona is by train, in as fast as 40 minutes from Barcelona Sants if you catch the express. Click here for bookings and schedule, with the caveat that the Spanish rail system can be a wee bit confusing at times. Though this one is a pretty easy trip. Just be sure you are in on the track for an express train if you have booked an express train, because they arrive/depart in a different area of the station, and it's not fun if you miss one.
Stay: Hotel Nord 1901 is a beautiful little boutique hotel in the commercial and historical centre of the city just a five minute walk from the cathedral. It's perfectly situated if you want to explore Girona on foot, which I highly suggest you do.
Eat: For breakfast (cortado and pastry, obviously), lunch, or a snack, there are six locations of Casa Moner in Girona, and one is right around the corner from Hotel Nord 1901 on Carrer de Santa Clara. It serves up house made, buttery flaky goodness from 8 am until 9 pm all week long. If like me, you weren't able to eat at El Celler De Can Roca (we were sadly in town during their annual holiday - ugh) console yourself with a sweet treat from Rocambolsec. This tiny little gelateria, also on Carrer de Santa Clara, is a fun little project from the genius of Jordi Roca himself. Really delicious gelato and innovative ice pop creations (check out their insta account for a temptation) are just the thing in Girona's subtropical climate. My husband's favourite was the Helado Oscuro made from blueberries and vanilla sorbet that curiously looks like Darth Vader's helmet, and of course I was all over the chocolate ice cream with all of the most chocolatey toppings