If you're walking through Plaça Sant Fèlix and see someone kissing the bottom ('cul') of the stone lioness there, don't be too surprised! It's said that many years ago, on C/Calderes stood L'hostal de la Lleona (The Lioness Hostel). The main claim to fame of this establishment was a column built into the wall that had a stone lioness climbing up it. Everybody who went past it could, without making too much effort, touch its behind. As such it turned into one of those customs that some places see develop out of nothing. Indeed, it became so popular that visitors to Girona were told that if they touched the creature's backside, they would never leave the city, or, if they did, they would be sure to return. Over time, the custom has changed and rather than touching the bottom, it became traditional to give it a kiss. Just in case, we suggest that you follow the custom, to make certain that, if you're not from Girona, you'll be back one day.
Everyone who visits Girona has to get a photo of them: Les Cases de l'Onyar (the Houses on the Onyar), which are also known as the hanging houses, or the river houses. They're the ones that back on to the river Onyar as it runs between La Rambla and C/Argenteria. The constructions are new versions of the buildings that stood on the city's medieval wall, each of varying size and shape, and with façades of vivid colours - one of the most impressive is the Casa Masó. In 2010 the houses in the area of Sant Agustí Bridge were renovated and the hygiene facilities of the façades were improved.
If there's one thing that defines Girona it's the river Onyar and the bridges that connect the Barri Vell with the neighbourhood of Mercadal. If you cross these bridges, you can enjoy the sight of the houses that overlook the river, and whose colour changes as the sun sets. One of the more emblematic bridges in Girona is the Pont d'Isabel II (Bridge of Isabel II, during whose reign it was built), which is also known as Pont de Pedra (Bridge of Stone). To make space for it, the medieval bridge of Sant Francesc (or of Framenors) was pulled down. The Pont de Pedra, made using Girona stone, is supported on three lowered arches that rest on two pillars. An inscription in the centre notes that it was inaugurated in 1856. It's the way to cross the river as if you were royalty!
The Princesa Bridge, also known as the Gómez Bridge, is formed by a single arch and was built in 1916, joining Passeig Canalejas with C/Ballesteries. When it was constructed, part of the property of Miguel Gómez was destroyed, which is how it got its nickname of the Pont d'En Gómez. Incidentally, if you stand right in the middle of the bridge and jump up and down, you'll feel the bridge move slightly.
The convent of Sant Domènec de Girona, founded in 1253 by Bishop Berenguer of Castellbisbal, is a monumental landmark made up of two cloisters, the convent and church, all in Gothic style. What's more, it's one of the most important models of a mendicant order in Catalonia. Following secularisation in 1822, the convent was used as military barracks until 1945, when the soldiers abandoned the site and its restoration began. From the start of 2000, it's been the base for the Arts Faculty of the University of Girona.
The Jardins de la Francesa feature a restored space with garden in front of the former home of its one-time owner, Madame Matieu. According to legend, one day the local archbishop saw the young French woman and became infatuated with her, so invited her to dine with him and try some typical Catalan food; when she arrived, the clergyman asked his cook to prepare a 'botifarra' sausage. The maid, who didn't agree with the soirée taking place in the first place, prepared the botifarra but instead of salt added sugar to it. While the archbishop was outraged, the French woman was delighted by the delicious sweet dish. Still today you can find sweet botifarras in Girona that, like the archbishop and Madame Matieu, have their opponents and supporters!