We all know that Google Maps can do miracles, but if your sense of direction is worse than that of a squirrel in the desert, don't even think about asking a Girona resident how to get to Plaça Miquel Santaló. Very few of them will recognise that name - it's much better known as the 'square of the joint' or 'of the cigarette'. And you'll know why when you see what's in the middle of the square - a large, lit cylinder. In this same square you'll find a chic bar-café called Indigo. It's a space in the Hotel Carlemany where you can enjoy a pre-lunch aperitif, a mid-afternoon coffee and a mixer drink at night, thanks to its extensive range of gins, whiskeys and other spirits. The outside terrace is an excellent choice for taking a quiet break right in the heart of the city.
Large sharing plates - that's the basic philosopy at Draps, and they achieve it with cooking that is modern, creative and Mediterranean, all at the same time. Such dishes include a large cannello of fish, cubes of cod confit with shellfish sauce, sweet and sour magret of duck, and sea bass with herb mayonnaise, which is made using a Sephardic recipe. In fact, they have a full kosher set menu that pays homage to the restaurant's location in the heart of Girona's historic Jewish quarter (Call Jueu), and also includes kosher wine from Montsant. They have a variety of other set menus, such as: a seasonal one that includes a 'tapa' and glass of cava, first and second courses, and dessert; an appetiser set menu, which also includes a glass of cava that accompanies small bites of updated Catalan classics, such as the parcel of quince and goats cheese, and the brochette of baby squid in their ink; a tasting menu of appetisers with some variation; the gluten-free menu and the vegetarian, which both see dishes adapted as appropriate.
For some years now, this has been a great option for fast food in the centre of Girona at any time of the day. König has become a local institution for anyone looking to fill their tummies quickly with good, well-priced food. In its early days, it had clear German leanings ('könig' means king in German), with sausages and hambugers their main dishes, but as time's passed, they've incorporated more local dishes. Tapas (their 'patates braves', fried potatoes served with spicy sauce, are renowned in Girona), salads, more Catalan-style sandwiches, foccacias and bagels complete an extensive, varied menu. They have eight restaurant including two in the centre of Girona, Vilablareix, Figueres and Barcelona, and the kitchen is open non-stop. There's always time to 'have a König'!
Le Bistrot is a Girona classic that has managed to keep its iconic status since it opened back in the late '70s. The restaurant, which is located on the stairs leading up to the Barri Vell campus of Girona University, is infused with a French ambience that will remind you of authentic Parisian brasseries. It was one of the first places to introduce crêpes to the city, and they still make a range of different pancakes, some of which have a local touch, such as the one of 'brandada de bacallà' (cod brandade). The rustic pizzas ('pizzas de pagès') are the other house speciality. They're made using a slice of 'pa de pagès' (a traditional round Catalan loaf), toasted on one side and au gratin on the other, and given a variety of original toppings, such as goats cheese with oyster mushrooms, chicken with pear, and the most overwhelming, pork with wild mushroom sauce. At lunchtime there is a set menu with lots of home-cooked dishes - you might get to try pork cheeks ('galtes'), pig's trotters ('peus de porc') or traditional Catalan stews. And take note that Thursday is the day that they serve black rice ('arros negre', a rice dish blackened with squid ink).
There are many kinds of lapses ('lapsus' in Catalan), but this one is a partiuclar kind: a café by day and bar by night that opened in 2002 and will doubtless remain etched on your memory. Its exceptional terrace - on the corner of Plaça de la Independència where the Correus (Post Office) is - is difficult to forget, and any excuse is allowed for enjoying a coffee, beer or soft drink there. At night, it's an ideal place to start the night with a gin and tonic, mixer drink, beer... All accompanied by ambient music during the day and different tunes at night. Forget your routine and enjoy a lapse!
With neo-classical arches providing shelter from the rain, Cafè Royal is a Girona classic situated in Plaça de la Independència, one of the busiest squares in the city. You can head there to get your batteries charged for the day, enjoy a coffee to see you through the afternoon, or chill out in the evening, thanks to its extensive menu of beers, cold drinks such as horchata and flavoured slushed ice ('granissat'), herbal infusions and innovative mixes of fresh juices. When the good weather arrives, the terrace is the place to be, offering a respite from the activity of the urban landscape. And don't miss the monument in the middle of the square, which is dedicated to the defenders of Girona during the sieges of 1808-1809.
This is a classic both of Girona and traditional Catalan cuisine. Situated right in the heart of the city, at Casa Marieta you'll feel as though you're eating the cooking of the best grandmothers in Girona! You'll (re)discover the flavours of the most traditional home-made stews, such as one with chicken and langoustines, or the one with duck and pears, as well as dishes such as snails and classic Catalan cannelloni ('canellons'). Fish is also a key ingredient, both simply cooked and in age-old recipes, such as fisherman-style fish stew, cuttlefish with peas, and roasted cod with smooth garlic mousseline. The dishes are all adapted to what's in season, so take note of the changing dishes of the day – there's always a surprise or two that you won't regret trying. Casa Marieta is also an excellent suggestion if you're looking for somewhere to dine in a group, and they'll organise a set menu to fit in with your collective budget.
'It's the only café with a cathedral in its backyard,' is what they say at L'Arc. And it's true that you won't find any other place with a location and such amazing views as this café, which has been open for more than 50 years. Popular among artists, students and tourists from all over the world, it's a place full of life and splendid decoration, such as the bench made from a beam from the Cathedral. You can also sit on the paved terrace and enjoy looking at Girona's main landmark while drinking a coffee made with fresh organic milk, or, if you fancy something stronger, a snowball, the popular cocktail created in the '60s. And if you're feeling up to it, you could work up an appetite by running up and down the Cathedral's numerous steps, then reward yourself at the end of your exercise at L'Arc with some excellent bread with tomato ('pa amb tomaquet', a speciality Catalan dish), a plate of 'jamón' or cheese, and some patates braves (fried potatoes served with spicy sauce).
Do you want to have an Irish pub experience without leaving Girona? Head to McKiernans, a bar situated close to La Rambla, and you'll feel as though you've landed in Dublin without having to go anywhere near an airplane. The authenticity of the decor is so spot-on that they even have furniture made with wood from Wexford Cathedral. And the range of beers isn't exactly small: you can choose a traditional pint of Guinness, or something from the selection of bottled beers (Duvel, Foster's, Magners and Leffe, among others). If you want to get even further into Irish culture, then make sure you go to McKiernans on Saint Patrick's Day (March 17), when green top hats and shamrocks fill the pub as part of the celebration for this national party.
The location of El Sol is a ready-made stop on a tourist route – under the arches of Plaça del Vi with privileged views of the City Hall balcony, just opposite the historical bookshop Les Voltes and easily walkable from La Rambla. But regardless of whether you're a tourist or local, at El Sol you'll find a traditional, unpretentious café that's an ideal place for a coffee, juice, soft drink or beer, and something to eat. The best part? The terrace on the cobblestones, from where you'll have a unique position for watching the main events that take place in the square throughout the year, or can just enjoy a break from the busy city life.