It’s the perfect place for a weekend city break

Girona is sometimes thought of as Barcelona’s quieter, less flashy sibling and it’s not hard to see why. In many ways the two cities have a lot in common – both have medieval old towns, elegant tree-lined avenues with gorgeous architecture, particularly in the Modernista style (Catalonia’s answer to Art Nouveau), great shops and some fabulous bars and restaurants. Girona, however, is smaller and more compact than its more illustrious neighbour which means a long weekend is just enough time to sample its delights and get a feel for the place.

The medieval old town is one of the best preserved in Spain

I love wandering the steep, narrow streets around the cathedral, the Arabic baths and the Call - the old Jewish quarter and I also really like the way the Catalans have managed to hang on to the character of many of the buildings without making it feel like a time-travel theme park. Wander into many of the shops, bars and restaurants and, although you get a sense of their age and history with bare stone walls, rough-hewn brick and wooden beamed ceilings, they also have a real sense of contemporary design.

There’s great shopping

The new part of town has got all the big brands you’d expect and you can gorge on Zara and Mango to your heart’s delight, but I also really love the quirky little independent shops, many of which have wonderful 19th-century interiors.

It’s a foodie’s paradise

Girona has some of the best restaurants in Catalonia and you’ll find something to suit every style. If you want Michelin stars and fine dining you’ll find several to choose from, be they in cutting edge minimalist temples of design or more traditional settings. Likewise if you prefer your dishes to be heartier and more rustic, there’s no shortage of choice to suit every taste and budget. There are even some wonderful oddities like exceptional French crêperies and Basque tapas bars. See Costa Brava Cafés and Restaurants for choices.

It’s got fabulously designed, chic hotels

Girona is a real showcase for Catalan design and some of the hotels really show off their skill at super-hip but tasteful, cutting edge design.

It’s the cyclists’ favourite

Lance Armstrong loves it and it’s equally popular with amateur and professional cyclists alike. You’ve got the steep climbs of the old town as your starting point and the spectacular scenery of the Pyrenees and the Costa Brava are both within easy reach.