If you've got kids you know it's essential for their health (and yours) that they get out and breathe fresh air, run around, and explore something that isn't digital. So while Girona may not have any amusement parks or towering playgrounds for kids, there are plenty of spaces where you can tame your little wild beasts. Whether you join them or slump on a nearby bench is up to you.
Girona residents like to explain stories and a walk along Passeig Arqueològic (or Passeig de la Reina Joana) can be enthralling. Never in such a small space, in terms of length, have so many legends been generated, halfway between reality and fiction, such as the ghost of the Jewish woman Torana, the one about the housekeeper, the holes in the wall produced during the Peninsular War, the mountain of Montjuïc from where the French bombarded the city, the Gironella Tower, the Jardí de la Francesa and, the cherry on the cake, the stone witch on the Cathedral. Terror, love, adventures, divine punishment... you've got all the necessary ingredients for a great time. Swot up a little in advance, some storytelling skills, sandwiches for all and blankets, and your family can spend a great morning or afternoon explaining thrilling stories. The grass and facilities like benches will help you enjoy your task a lot.
Talking about the outskirts of a city like Girona means talking about a journey of 10 to 15 minutes walking from the centre. The Parc de les Ribes del Ter (the Park of the Ter Riverbanks) is an excellent place to get to know the biodiversity that exists such a short distance from town, and it's ideal for young naturalists and for teaching children to respect our natural surroundings. The park follows the river's path from Fontajau until in front of the meados ('deveses') of Pont Major. In the middle, after receiving the waters of the river Güell, at the junction with the Onyar, is the marvellous Illa del Ter - like a treasure island but close to home and without pirates. Along the way, you'll be able to make numerous ornithological obsevations: in the winter, you should spot buzzards, gulls, tawny owls, wagtails, grey herons, thrushes, finches and sandpipers; in the summer, the species in residence include chanterelles, moorhens, pigeons, kingfishers and swallows. Among the fish population look out for catfish and carp, while mammals include mink and rabbits as well as various reptiles. Don't leave your anti-mosquito protection at home, and if you want to enjoy a good view of everything, quality binoculars are a must.
The Domeny Park is one of the newest green spaces in Girona and, possibly, also one of the least well-known. Located between the Sant Gregori road and C/ de Bolaño, this space offers everything you need for a great morning with the family without anybody getting bored. Two zip lines, a climbing wall, a play area for young children and table tennis tables will provide loads for kids of all ages to do. In addition, the park also has a an area for playing ‘petanca’ (petanque) and a space for skateboarding. And, to replenish yourselves after all the play, why not bring a picnic to enjoy on the specially provided tables.
You have to travel a little way out of the city, to the town of Riudellots de la Selva, about 5km away, to get to the Fundació Mona. This not-for-profit organisation (which isn't very well-known in the Girona area, but is gradually raising its profile) operates as a rehabilitation centre for abused chimpanzees and macaques. The animals come from different backgrounds, having worked in circuses or on television, been used as models for advertising campaigns, or even kept as pets; the foundation provides a new home for them and the chance to live in a family environment with their peers that's in a natural setting. Let's not beat around the bush, what these primates have experienced is mistreatment, and you also shouldn't imagine that what we're suggesting is a trip to the zoo. This is an initiation experience for both kids and adults, with the aim of raising awareness through hands-on activities, such as workshops, exhibitions and guided tours, about the problems these species are facing, including the risk of extinction, illegal trafficking and abuse.
This is one of the city's best green spaces, despite the terrible decision to build the eastern ring road nearby. Put on your trainers or grab your bikes and, with the kids in tow, head to the massif of the Gavarres or the valley that's been variously named Shady, Gloomy or Profound thanks to its depth, and that was formed by the river Galligants. In the area there are many springs with water that's low in minerals, the flow of which depends on how much rain has fallen recently. The Font d'en Pericot is the oldest ('font' means spring), but there's also the Fita, Bisbe, Lleons and Ferro springs to discover - from the last of these, the water that emerges is hot. There are some hills but none of them are excessive, unless you want to get to the Castell de Sant Miquel or the Santuari dels Àngels (Sanctuary of the Angels) - they're outings that are well worth doing, and both include spectacular views of the surrounding area that more than make up for the effort to get to them. Old houses with fortified towers and the 11th-century Benedictine monastery founded by Ermessenda (a French noblewoman from southern France who became Countess consort of Barcelona, Girona and Osona) are other points of interest that you'll find along the way. Without doubt, a fantastic day out.
The grim military barracks that once occupied a privileged spot in Girona, within the rectangle formed by the streets of Barcelona Oriol Martorell, Migdia and Pau Vila, are, fortunately, long gone. In their wake they left an enormous space that in part has fallen victim to property speculation; however the area that's not been covered by buildings has been transformed into a marvellous park that's ideal for children. Kids can skate, play Frisbee, watch the mallards in the artifical pond looking well-satisfied with all the bread that people feed them, or enjoy the two fenced-in children's parks installed on each side of the park, while you enjoy a vermouth in the nearby bar. At the weekend, if the weather's good, you may be able to enjoy spontaneous concerts, storytelling, puppet shows and various festivals.
See the enormous white underside of an airplane up close, hear the deafening sound as it takes off, enjoy the astonishing spectacle of seeing how those iron contraptions are capable of taking off with such ease - it's all a fascinating spectacle and experience for the senses, and kids will love it. At the Girona Costa Brava airport, despite the reduction in Ryanair flights, there's still a regular flow of planes landing and taking off. Years ago, you would have had to wait up to two hours between planes, and families would set up their picnic tables on the north side of the aerodrome's runway. Times have changed, and the frequency of flight arrivals and departures means there's much less down time, and less people going there for an outing. But there are more families that head there for the singular experience of feeling even their spleens shaking when a plane passes overhead, and for parents to see the look of amazement on their children's faces when these see those marvellous flying machines up close.
There are various characters who feature in a popular legend about Salt, all of who are supposed to live in the Deveses de Salt (the Woodlands of Salt): the daughter of the mountain, the hairy man of the Pilastra, the Mifegínia nymph and the son of thunder. The Deveses are an agricultural natural spot through which the river Ter runs before it arrives in the city. In addition, the characters provide the name for different routes set out around the park, some of which are fully suitable for wheelchairs while others are partially so, but all are designed for visitors to discover the natural wealth and diversity of the area. The woodlands cover 310 hectares where different nature protection associations organise various activities, such as simple orienteering routes that are appropriate for everybody, and routes for running that follow the Vies Verdes (old train tracks converted into walking, cycling and running paths) and the Way of Saint James. The space also hosts other activities such as carriage rides, horse and pony treks, days when you can see them putting rings on birds, and canoeing (kayak).
This is paradise for cinephiles. The Cinema Museum in Girona invites you to discover the gadgets that stunned our grandparents and, at the same time, take a tour through the history of cinema: from shadow theatre to the magic lantern, from photography to the cinematography of the Lumière brothers, from Mèliés to TV via Griffith and the peerless Charlie Chaplin. Opened in 1998 in the former Casa de les Aigües, the Museu del Cinema organises a wide range of courses, activities and exhibitions: film screenings, specialised courses, workshops for children... And, of course, you can always lose yourself in the Tomàs Mallol collection, containing some 20,000 cinema-related items gathered by the late Catalan director.
The Sanctuary of the Angels, located on the massif of les Gavarres, is the place to go for a unique view of such natural local landmarks as the Girona Plain, the Baix Empordà, the Pyrenees, Montseny, the Guilleries and, if the day is clear, even the Illes Medes. They regularly organise day- and night-time observation activities at the site, as well as courses in astronomy for beginners and telescope usage. As such, the sanctuary attracts all kinds of visitors: tourists, religious believers, culture and nature lovers, gourmet fans (the inn is great), cycling professional and, above all, families.
Montjuïc Castle was constructed in 1653, on the highest point of the mountain of Montjuïc on the orders of King Phillip IV and with the aim of assuring the security of the lands of the Pla de Girona along with four defensive towers: Sant Joan, Sant Daniel, Sant Narcís and Sant Lluís. The castle was put to good use during the three sieges that the city suffered during the Peninsular War (1807-1814). Its current state, completely destroyed, is a consequence of an attack it suffered in 1877.
The city walls of Girona have borne witness to bloody battles, legends and ferocious sieges. Built in 1BC, it was during the second half of the 19th century that they lost their defensive importance and instead became an obstacle to urban growth. During the first part of the 20th century, the wall enclosures were pulled down to allow for the expansion of the city, and the only parts that remain are those that didn't hinder the construction of new homes. Nowadays the walls are renowned for offering exceptional panoramic views of the city.
Orienteering circuit around Girona's Barri Vell
Did you know that a vampire lives in Girona's Barri Vell? Well, a stone one, yes. And do you know on which wall there's a graffiti featuring the Cocollona (a mythological local creature made up of a crocodile with butterfly wings)? These are just the kind of things that you need to know about for the orienteering circuit around the Barri Vell that's been created by the Girona Tourist Office. Registration is free and it's particularly ideal for children, as a way for them to discover the neighbourhood as well as other cultural features that they might not be familiar with, such as street art. The theme of the circuit regularly changes, but is always within the same area, just as with the circuits created in Sant Daniel and the Deveses. Children are given a sheet with ten items that they have to find, and on which they have to write down a numeric code that they'll find situated on the item concerned. To get your bearings, a map of the Barri Vell is provided - but it's a map with no words on it, so you need to prove your orienteering skills to get all the way around. It's an activity that last some two hours, with a prize at the end for participants.
Devesa Park is the largest urban park in Catalonia and one of Girona's most emblematic spots. Located between the rivers Ter, Onyar and Güell, to the west of the historic city centre, it can feel like a place designed to welcome visitors who arrive on that side of Girona. The park contains more than 2,500 plane trees that were planted in 1850. Nowadays, the growth of the city has made its former sense of seclusion and distance disappear, and instead contributed to the park's integration into Girona. But it's still a great spot for walking and enjoying activities such as the Barraques during the Festival of Sant Narcís, the exhibitions and fairs at the Fira de Girona, and the market that takes place each Saturday.
At the southern entrance (or exit, depending on how you look at it) of Girona is a place that many people are unaware of - even though it's just round the corner from two superstores that are regularly visited by hundreds of people, Decathlon and Media Markt. It also happens to be one of the play areas with the best equipment in the city. An urban park without pollution. A miracle! The space is essentially divided into five parts: an area with games for infants, another one for kids from 5 or 6 years to around 10 of 11, a multi-sport court with basketball hoops and goals, an open space around the court for playing other kinds of games and sports (eg, Frisbee), and an area with benches and flowerbeds that's ideal for sitting in the shade of the trees and enjoying a good book. Close by, on the other side of the road, the Bosc de la Pabordia (Pabordia Wood), one of the few remaining ancient forests in the country, is a therapeutic, healthy spot.