Girona province is the training ground for many cycling teams and individuals alike. Find out why the cycling capital of Catalonia needs to be on your biking list!
In some ways it is a shame that Girona is lesser known than Barcelona, its Catalonian neighbouring city only 40 minutes away, but perhaps that is what makes it such a wonderful discovery - when you make it.
If you want to explore more than Barcelona's well worn tourist traps, the medieval old town and the wider Girona province will surprise and delight. If you are already considering a visit to the less frequented Catalan metropolis, read on, you will find more than enough reasons to get in now before the word gets out!
1. The Cycling
Home to many current (and retired) pro cyclists, this area has everything you need for endless riding pleasure, here you will find mountains, rolling hills, epic seascapes, lush apple orchards, even volcanic craters. Home to some very famous climbs, Girona province is the training ground for many cycling teams and individuals alike. Professional cyclists like Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma), Dan Martin (UAE - Team Emirates), Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (CCC-Liv) all call the Girona region home, and for good reason, the area is busting with challenging climbs and long, rolling, quiet roads.
Three famous climbs near Girona:
Stats: 10.1km, 3%, 344m, Category 2
Mare de Déu del Mont
Stats: 18.5km, 5%, 919m, Category: HC
Stats: 10.7km, 7%, 742m, Category 1
2. The Costa Brava
For more than 50 years, holidaymakers have flocked to the Costa Brava, drawn by its perfect summer weather, golden beaches and multitude of attractions ranging from the Dalí Theatre and Museum in Cadaques to the Greek and Roman ruins at Empúries. While overdevelopment has tarnished some of the pristine coastline (the resort of Lloret de Mar accommodates 200,000 tourists at its summer peak), north of Palamós it takes on a quieter, more authentic feel and golden sands give way to the rocky, rugged landscape of cliffs, inlets and hairpin bends that gives the Costa Brava its name: the “rough” or “wild” coast. Here, a collection of small towns (Begur, Tamariu, Palafrugell, L’Estartit, Aigua Blava, Llafranc) have retained their Catalan charm, each set on a sheltered cove and often boasting a rustic seafood restaurant where the day’s catch can be enjoyed fresh, cooked over the coals.
3. The Food
A mecca for foodies with 20 Michelin stars in the province of Girona, you can eat some of the best food in the world here. El Celler de Can Roca is a restaurant in Girona, opened in 1986 by the Roca brothers, Joan, Josep and Jordi. It was first located next to their parents' restaurant Can Roca, but moved to its current location in 2007. It has been received warmly by critics, and holds three Michelin stars. In 2018, El Celler de Can Roca stood at No.2 in the World’s 50 best restaurants, having earned the number 1 spot twice in its history. This year (2019) one of the Roca brothers, Jordi, is opening a chocolate factory and 15 room boutique hotel in Girona’s Plaça de Catalunya.
You can also visit their ice-cream shop, Rocambolesc, on Carrer de Santa Clara, a quirky space resembling a mad scientist’s lab. You can sample their unique flavours of ice cream (Baked Apple or Mandarin, Passionfruit and Orange Blossom sorbet) or take a tub home to enjoy at your own pace. After your ride from L’Estartit through endless Medieval villages you could probably indulge in a Panet, a brioche bun filled with your favourite ice-cream and toppings, toasted shut in their custom made toaster oven.
While it's the exceptional cycling that brings you to Catalonia and the Girona region, the famously original and irreverent Catalan cuisine is equally impressive. If you can’t get a booking at El Celler De Can Roca (currently a 12 month waiting list!), read this short article, to try one of the other equally innovative and unique Catalan cuisine hotspots.
By Vanya Maplestone
Vanya is a part-time cycling tour guide with a deep affinity for Catalonia, having relocated from Australia 5 years ago, she now makes her home in the heartland of Spain's cycling Mecca.