I often get asked why did our family move to Girona?
Girona really ticks all the boxes, it’s a Small City that offers a Well Connected Location, Affordability, Culture, Endless Outdoor Activities and one of the most beautiful Old Towns in the World.
Would you believe me if I told you I had never been to Girona before we moved here–not on a holiday or weekend…. never
We literally packed up our home in Dublin, boarded the car ferry, crossed the sea, drove through France, over the Spanish Border and arrived.
Valerie had visited Girona briefly for two days to secure our apartment prior to our arrival. But I had never seen Girona outside of what I had read online.
While I was dealing with Cancer, Valerie had been busy finding our new home.
Our move to Girona turned out to be one of the blindest, craziest and most random decisions we had ever made; it is also one of the best.
Here are just a few reasons we chose to move to Girona, and why we adore it.
Girona is located in the North East of Spain, in the Region of Catalonia. It is situated just 70 kilometres from the French Border, 100 kilometres from Barcelona and a 30-minute drive to the beaches of the Costa Brava.
For me being an Expat Professional who works across Europe, proximity to a major commuting hub such as Barcelona was essential. Spain’s’ High-Speed Rail Network (AVE) connects Girona directly to Barcelona. I complete a distance that can take hours in other countries in just over 30 minutes, and at a fraction of the cost.
The beaches of the Costa Brava are a short drive away, and it is surrounded by beautiful towns such as Banyoles, Figueres and Pals.
For us, nothing beats the feeling of opening a map each weekend and being spoilt for choice where our next adventure will be. We haven’t even scratched the surface of the abundant places and activities around us, but we will try!
I will be honest and say that before we moved to Girona our costs in our previous home were completely out of control. We were both working full time and earning enough to break even and pay our bills; This included both our children being in before and after school care 5 days a week.
Financially (and Emotionally) it was unsustainable–I will never forget the look of despair on Valerie’s face when she said it felt like someone else was raising our kids–it broke my heart.
Without doubt, Girona is far cheaper than many European Cities and even cheaper than some of its Spanish Counterparts
In relation to purchasing a property, prices for an apartment in the city centre are a whopping 36% cheaper than Barcelona. Outside of the City Centre, it is cheaper again at 45%.
The price of a pint of local beer is around Two Euros and personally for us as a family of four our weekly grocery bill comes in at about Eighty Euros–a fraction of the cost of what it used to be.
Above all else, the kids are no longer in daycare; winning.
It’s Freaking Beautiful
One of Girona’s many charms is its beauty. Sometimes It literally takes my breath away. Whether it’s strolling in the old town or hiking in the mountains, around every corner there is a postcard.
Panoramas to die for are enjoyed from places like Montjuic. We love to sit in the park while the kids play and enjoy the views over the city with the Pyrenees in the distance.
Sunset is our favourite time of day when the evening pink compliments the limestone in the prominent city walls and cathedral. The evenings are the best time to enjoy a beer and some tapas in one of the many bars whilst soaking up the incredible views and atmosphere.
With series such as Game of Thrones being filmed here, it is no wonder the rest of the world is catching on to this little gem.
It’s a city, but it’s not
With a population of just over 100,000 people, Girona has more of a “large town” feeling than that of a City which suits us just fine. Conversely, even though it feels like a town it still has all the city amenities. We have access to a good transport system, health care, schools and everything else we were accustomed to before moving here.
The City Centre is about a 30-minute walk from the outskirts of town which is where we reside, and I personally love the fact that there are only eleven buses on the timetable; it’s so easy to get around. Traffic is also near non-existent when compared with other European cities.
Above all, it’s the ease in which we can integrate into this small little community that is most important to us. We feel part of the Social Fabric here and are integrating further by the day into our new home.
Culture was a key consideration when deciding where to live. We didn’t want to move to Spain to live an Irish or Australian lifestyle, or to speak English.
In moving to Girona we truly dove into the deep end of Spanish (and Catalan) Culture. We have been learning to swim in it from the second we arrived, and it’s not always easy. This only makes it even more rewarding.
Most people don’t speak English, so it really challenges us to learn the languages of both Catalan and Spanish. Nothing is cooler than seeing your children speak another language. It amazes us at how fast they are learning and taking part in school, and in the community.
Girona being in Catalonia serves up a double serving of both Catalan and Spanish Culture, which we love. Whatever your political views are, there is no doubt the people here are fiercely patriotic. We have learned to admire and respect their cultural identity.
It feels like every weekend (especially in the summer) there is something culturally inspiring happening in this vibrant little city. Festivals such as Saint John’s Eve (La Revetlla de Sant Joan) and the Fires de Sant Narcís (Saint Narcis Fire Festival) are major events on the calendar and something everyone looks forward to celebrating.
For us adults, it’s the Girona Tempo Festival that we can’t wait for each year. It transforms the most beautiful part of the old town into a free music venue with a month’s worth of daily events to enjoy. Watching a gig while standing on the terrace overlooking the city and its medieval walls is an emotional moment when the realisation sets in that we live here.
The Greatest Outdoors
For me, I will save the best until last. The outdoors surrounding Girona is simply unbelievable. I am an avid runner and only have to run to the end of our street to be in the country-side, and out onto the doorstep of the surrounding hills overlooking the city.
Girona has a huge network of marked trails which are an important part of life for a very active community, (and now me!) I am truly impressed with the amount of investment and effort that must go into establishing and preserving these networks.
The Carrilet “Greenway” passes our house and heads inland to the Mountains or towards the Coast in the other direction. It is always busy with walkers, runners and cyclists.
Girona is a utopia for runners and epicentre for cyclists. The running and cycling community here is large and well established with many clubs and events.
We love an active lifestyle and for us; it is one of the many reasons we came, and no doubt plan to stay.