There's no denying that the gastronomic options in Girona are impressive, but of course not everywhere offering drinks, light bites or full-on meals is worth a visit. In this part of our guide to 101 things to do in Girona, we've made a selection of places that stand out for their products, character or a particular feature that makes us wholeheartedly recommend them.
Close to the river Onyar and the train track, in an area popular with tourists, you'll find some of the best omelettes in Girona. At Can Sala they have around 12 different types with a variety of ingredients that are combined with one of two base recipes: potato with onion, and aubergine, courgette and onion. They also make toasted chapata with grilled vegetables or cured meats, and have an outstanding selection of special 'botifarra' sausages, like the one with foie and apple, or one with asparagus and spring onion, all served with toasted bread.
Most of us will never be able to afford to dine at El Celler de Can Roca (see no 8), the Girona restaurant that's been chosen as the Best Restaurant in the World on more than one occasion However, the city does offer an alternative way to try some of the gourmet inventions from the three Roca brothers. Rocambolesc is an ice-cream shop created by the younger of the three siblings, pastry chef Jordi Roca and his wife, Alejandra Rivas. The baked apple flavour is a must-try, but if you're in town during May when Girona celebrates its Temps de Flors festival, you absolutely have to stop by and try the flower ice cream.
Created in 1901 by Pere Bellsolà, this 'fleca' (bakery), which used to be located in the now-extinct C/Canaders, became the seed that created an empire that's seen the Bellsolà brand spread around the world to Europe, North and South America, and the Caribbean. Since 2003, and renamed Antiga Casa Bellsolà, the bakery has gone back to its roots thanks to Mireia Oliveras (the wife of Robert Bellsolà). It focuses on quality, artisan bread that's made with top-quality primary material (if you want to try something really standout, buy a 'barra florentina'). This is a bakery that will take you back to the good old days.
Grab your toothpick and select a delicious range of traditional tapas for a pre-lunch snack: XXL olives, anchovies, potato omelette, cured meats... Enjoy a cone of fries with Espinaler spicy sauce, a glass of vermouth or a small beer – all at great prices – and let yourself absorb the authentic atmosphere of a neighbourhood social centre. At El Vermutet de Can Gombau almost everybody knows everybody else, and it's not unusual to see friends bring the wooden tables and stools together to make an even bigger group get-together.
Mexican restaurant Maguey brings spice to the varied gastronomic options available in Girona's Barri Vell. Classic dishes such as guacamole, beef tacos and 'cochinita pibil' (Yucatán pork stew) will bring you a little bit closer to the north American country without having to leave Europe. More sophisticated dishes include 'mole poblano' (a multi-ingredient sauce usually served with some kind of meat), red enchiladas, and 'carnitas' from Michoacána, which is pork braised in oil or lard. Calorie overload, basically! Ask for their specials of the day, and with a bit of luck they'll have 'chilaquiles', a dish with a base of 'totopos' (better known as nachos in Tex-Mex speak) that you must try.
Remember Juliette Binoche serving cups of steaming hot chocolate in the film 'Chocolat'? Well in Girona, there's a place just like the one she ran, and it's called L'Antiga. It's one of those spots where time seems to have stood still, but in a good way. In summer and winter, inside and out, you'll find groups of pensioners, families and young people sitting down there to enjoy breakfast and afternoon snacks. The warmth of this 'granja' (the Catalan word for a traditional café) with its marble, iron-legged tables comes from the aroma of authentic hot chocolate, whipped cream, 'melindros' (sponge fingers) and 'coca' (Catalan flat cake) that are all beloved of local grandmas.
In just three years, Roser and Albert have taken a business that was on its last legs, and turned it around to such effect that they now serve around 100 people each day. Their set lunch menu is varied, mixing fresh ingredients with others that Roser, who's in charge of the kitchen, has cooked in advance. The set menu is usually made up of a green salad as an appetiser, four starters and four mains to choose from, and dessert. All for €10, from Monday to Friday. If you also want a proper breakfast, the kind you need a knife and fork to eat, theirs are starting to win a great reputation: pork cheeks, churrasco, tripe and more.
Girona has the best restaurant in the world. It may be an easy phrase to say, but it's a fact that's been difficult to achieve. Just ask the three Roca brothers who, since 1986, have been working non-stop to create a restaurant that is so exceptional and excellent that trying to find a really appropriate adjective runs the risk of falling far short. If you're one of those people for who good food and the sensations that you can enjoy while eating at a restaurant table create complete happiness, then Joan in the kichen, Josep in the dining-room and wine cellar, and Jordi in charge of desserts, are your fairy godfathers who can bring you maximum happiness.
König is an iconic institution in Girona for anybody looking to fill their stomachs quickly with good, reasonably priced food. While in its early days, the restaurant stuck mainly to German dishes ('könig' means 'king' in German) such as frankfurters and hamburgers, over time it's also incorporated more local options. It's always a good time to 'have a König'! Especially their patatas bravas, deep-fried potatoes served with a spicy sauce and one of the most popular tapas plates in Spain.
Until quite recently, trying to find a place serving ramen (Japanese noodle soup) in Girona was difficult. Too difficult. But luckily, things are now starting to change and one of the places you can enjoy ramen in the city is Mien. The people in charge of the restaurant are the same as at Japanese restaurant Umai (a Mexican chef and his Chinese wife), but at Mien they've decided to specialise in noodles and soups. You'll also find starters such as the fantastic prawn and chicken gyoza, and really delicious desserts (don't leave without trying the green-tea cake!), but the real star is the ramen.
Can Xapa is a well-kept secret that deserves to stop being one. Located inside a 13th-century castle, the owners of this cake shop will show you around the workshop and interior garden if they're not too busy. You'll find a range of products that's clearly inspired by France, such as the impressive Saint Honoré cake, along with more contemporary recipes, including a gin-and-tonic cake. The real star, however, is the chocolate that they sell in bulk. It's made in bars of 1.5kg into which they crumble pieces of 85-percent cacao and candied dried fruits. To get there, you should take advantage to enjoy a bike ride from Girona, which will also relieve some of the guilt you may feel at trying their products. Although know that at Can Xapa, they promise to use only the minimum sugar necessary for all their products.
For breakfast, lunch or dinner, a crêpe is always welcome. Crep de Què? is a popular restaurant that will tempt anybody who passes by, and regardless of whether you prefer sweet or savoury crêpes, you’re bound to return more than once. If you feel like opting for more traditional flavours, we suggest going for the 'escalivada' (grilled vegetables) or spinach ones. Bear in mind that the place is tiny inside, and there are usually queues of hungry punters outside – so to avoid waiting, the best thing is to go during the week. They also have crêpes for coeliacs and those who are lactose intolerant.
Its menu is full of tapas, but they have little to do with the traditional concept of those tasty bites to eat. The designer, innovative cuisine at Bubbles transforms the idea of tapas into a series of gastronomic surprises that you shouldn't miss. With spectacular presentation, this bar stands out for creations such as semi-raw tuna with honey, and poached egg with chickpea foam and foie. But if the creativity feels excessive to you, never fear – they also have more familiar tapas such as nachos with cheese and guacamole, and grilled squid.
In Greek 'nykteri' means 'to work until the sun comes out'. And that's exactly what the owners of this cocktail and wine bar in C/Santa Llúcia do. G&T fans can choose from among 50 types of gin and 16 tonic options, while there's also a long list of herbs and citrics. So it's pretty much an obligation to try one in this popular drinking-spot. However, if you prefer a different tipple, the staff can also create personalised cocktails to accompany any special occasion or night out.
Before the brand of La Jijonenca took over the local ice cream market, and long, long before franchises arrived with (pseudo) Italian names and cartoonish flavours, many Girona residents were used to queuing at Candela for their sweet treats. Located at the end of Rambla de la Llibertat, this was the first ice cream shop in Girona. And it wasn't just a summer destination to get ice cream: in the winter, locals went there to buy their Christmas 'torró' (a nougat-like bar). The shop still makes their high-quality torrons and ice creams, while their 'orxata' (a cold drink made with tigernuts) is lip-smackingly good.
It's really, really difficult to choose what we would breakfast on in this bar created by and for cyclists, although we mere mortals are also welcome. Perhaps a chai latte or, on warmer days, the Cold Brew, accompanied by a piece of lemon cake with coconut icing. If you prefer something savoury, their avocado toast will keep any hipster happy: organic bread, organic, red pepper, feta cheese, oil and salt. Another top option is the Chia Sensation with chia pudding, mango purée, fruit compote and gluten-free muesli. Spectacular.
When the cake shop Can Castelló shut down in 2014, many Girona residents feared that they would no longer be able to buy a real 'xuixo' (pron. 'CHOO-cho'), a deep-fried, custard-filled sweet treat beloved of locals. However, to everyone's good fortune, various local bakeries and patisseries have taken up the challenge of making these calorific and memorable cakes. A good (and possibly the best) example are the xuixos made at Can Tornés.
Sit in the heart of the Old Town and watch people pass by, feeling as though you were in a French bistro as you enjoy good wine and excellent food. That's what you'll find at Plaça del Vi, 7, a wine bar created by Roger Viusà, who was named the best sommelier in Spain in 2007, and the second-best in the world and Europe a year later. We recommend asking for advice when deciding what wine to try. And when it comes to the food, while the menu isn't extensive, what's on offer is all delicious, such as cod carpaccio, fried artichokes, an excellent selection of cheeses (ideal for pairing with wine) and the fabulous croquettes.
We have to admit it – the cured ham at Ham Session drives us wild. Any excuse is valid for going to try their wide range of Iberian ham and other cured meats, while they also have an abundant cheese platter, foie and a selection of wines. More than a restaurant with a menu, it works as an open buffet, which means you can enjoy a more casual supper and go back for more as often as you want – and you'll want to a lot. Before you finish, make sure you try the Jabugo and Guijuelo ham, and the foie gras. We recommend reserving a table in advance, which you'll be able to keep for the whole night (they don't do second sittings), giving you ample time to try everything on offer.
Cocolino holds the prize of being the oldest pizzeria in Girona, and even though it opened in 1986 in the neighbourhood of l'Eixample, since 1992 it's been located in Pedret, which is surely the prettiest gateway in the city, overlooking the river Ter just a few metres from where the Onyar joined it. While you can try home cooking and a good-value set lunch menu during the week, the pizza is the real star of this place. Made artisanly with quality local ingredients, the extensive menu even includes a range of pizzas without lactose, as well as the classics (Napolitana) and their signature creations (apple and mi-cuit foie gras). In addition, they can make pizzas suitable for coeliacs, if you reserve in advance and request them.
Taste the chicken from the Salt food truck
There's a food truck in Salt, close to the Passeig dels Països Catalans, which is where they make the best spit-roasted chicken in the area. It's something to do with the mix of salt and seasoning, the perfect cooking time and the quality of the meat. A combination that means the result just melts in your mouth.
This traditional establishment serves amazing grilled meat and the most famous snails around. The best thing on the menu, however, is hidden on the list of desserts: chocolate mousse cake with cream and cocoa. It's not too sweet or too bitter, and has an unmatchable creaminess. True chocolate aficionados will never be able to get too much of it. Indeed, the eponymous Pep says that even though it's not the most ordered dessert, he can't take it off the menu because his son would kill him. You've been warned.
Fed up of fatty, calorific fast food? Dream of strolling the streets with a green juice in hand? In Girona, your place is Nibble, located in the middle of La Rambla. It's a welcoming take-away place that specialises in 'slow fast food' and cold-pressed green juices, where everything is carefully thought about, right down to the last detail. If you want something to eat, try the 'nibs'. These are savoury biscuit boats filled with a bed of lettuce and vegetables topped with some form of protein: steak tartare, duck magret, salmon or tuna tartare. They also serve juices for every occasion: do you require an energy shot? Or something to help you relax? Want to detox? Just check out the juices at Nibble!
This is the place to try signature hamburgers made with local ingredients and by hand, just like in the good old days. At Km-0 they use meat sourced from nearby Figueres, and fruit and veg grown by local farmers to go with their burgers. The bread, which is suitable for coeliacs, is like a hamburger roll but with more consistency, and the meat is cooked just the right amount making it really flavourful. They have beefburgers, like the Michelin, with foie gras and marmalade of strawberry, rocket and apple; and chicken burgers, such as the Chicken Road, where the meat is coated with 'panko', a kind of Japanese breadcrumb that actually contains no bread, and served with honey and mustard mayonnaise. But the one we really recommend trying is the burger made with Empordà duck. It's really succulent and comes with caramelised onion and fig jam.
La Terra is, possibly, the most Instagrammed bar in Girona. From the bohemian decor to the instinct for getting out your Moleskine notebook and writing poetry, and the mosaic flooring and view over the river Onyar, or even the bathrooms, which are the most feared by drunks in the city, everything there really does deserve to be photographed. However, what not everybody knows is that as well as some truly delicious and substantial sandwiches and fresh fruit juices that would make a smoothie envious, La Terra also makes the city's best carrot cake. It has just the right amount of spices and cream cheese topping, making it a true delicacy.
When Girona locals talk about patatas bravas, the first place that comes to the mind of most are those of a certain chain with a logo featuring a bearded royal (hint: it's König. See no 9). But we have another suggestion: the bravas made by Paco at his eponymous bar in Plaça de l'Assumpció de Sant Narcís. They're pretty impressive, with potatoes cooked just right and that are crispy, plus a delicious sauce that fans of both spicy food and more moderate flavours will enjoy – and you can't say that that doesn't have its own merits.
This place is paradise for anyone who loves a good croquette ('croqueta' in Catalan); nirvana for those who think that the fried delicacy is the route to happiness. La Croket opened at the start of 2009, after Oriol Saiz started to make the popular tapa in the bar his family has in Girona. Following the success of his creations, he had the idea of creating a company to make and distribute signature 'croquetes', which has now evolved into a shop that sells its products to bars and restaurants as well as the general public. La Croket makes more than 20 varieties of croquette with highlights including pumpkin with Iberian ham, foie gras with caramelised apple, sausage meat, prawns with garlic and parsley, 'morcilla' (a type of black sausage) with green apple, and lemon salmon.
We're living through a new gold rush, albeit a liquid one. For a great craft beer experience, head to AvBeure and take a look at the menu. They serve both sweet and bitter varieties, varied tastes that come from six different taps (Pale Ale, Weissbier, Bianca Mango...), as well as more than 50 bottles of local and international brew, including the likes of Gironese creation Moska and the Belgian Orval. To go with the drinks, they serve 'pintxos' (tapas served on small slices of bread) and tapas created specially to complement the beer. And the aftertaste? It's one of love at first sight.
This is one of the busiest cafés in the city, popular with visitors (not surprisingly, thanks to its neo-classical arches providing shelter from the rain or sun, and location in Plaça de la Independència, one of Girona's most bustling squares). But it's also one of the best local places for a fresh fruit juice, which often feature innotive combinations. We recommend going one afternoon during the week in low season, when it may not be completely packed out.