About an hour north of Barcelona on the banks of the River Onyar sits Girona, the largest city in Northern Catalonia. Girona was once an incredibly prosperous medieval settlement, protected by ancient city walls built by the Romans in the 1st century. These days, it's known as a top day trip destination for Barcelona holiday-makers, who come to see the imposing Girona Cathedral, the distinctive red bridge built by Gustav Eiffel, and El Call - one of the best preserved Jewish quarters in all of Europe.
But it's not just its history that makes Girona so alluring. Charming narrow passageways, beautiful gardens and a vibrant tapas culture are just some of the city's strong points. Throw in a stellar dining scene and the lively Temps de Flors (Flower Festival), an annual spring event during which the entire city is covered in colourful blossoms, and you've got yourself a winning recipe.
In the 12th century, the Jewish population in Girona flourished, in part because it was home to one of the most important Kabbalistic schools in Europe. They lived in the El Call neighbourhood within the Forca Vella fortress until 1492, when the Catholic Monarchs outlawed Judaism throughout Spain, forcing the community to decide between conversion and exile.
The neighbourhood hasn't changed much in appearance since then, offering visitors a glimpse at what life was like back in the Middle Ages. To learn more about this important aspect of Girona's history, head to the Museum of Jewish History and the Museum of City History, which are both located on Calle de la Força.
The easiest way to reach Girona from Barcelona is by hopping on the high-speed train, which gets you there in just under 40 minutes. If you're doing a road trip around Mediterranean Spain, Girona is a low-maintenance detour worth making.
The Girona-Costa Brava Airport, which is well connected to towns along the Costa Brava and the Pyrenees, is a 20 minute drive from the city centre.