Girona, which lies less than 100 kilometres from both Barcelona and Perpignan, has over the years been under Roman, Moorish and French control, and was once one of the most important Jewish centres in Europe, until their expulsion from Spain in 1492. Even though the Jewish community never returned, much of the old Jewish quarter in Girona and its labyrinthine streets have been beautifully preserved while the medieval heart is now surrounded by modern Spanish architecture. Today it is a thoroughly modern city with a large student population, a thriving art scene, hip bars and chic boutiques.
The River Onyar, lined by buildings in red and ochre, divides the old city from the new, and though it rarely amounts to much more than a trickle these days, is a good place to begin exploring. The numerous unique bridges that stretch over the river, from the old stone bridge to its modern steel counterpart designed by Gustave Eiffel, ease communications between both sides of the city, and provide some of the best views of the iconic facades along the river.