Hundreds of professional cyclists and triathletes from all over the world call Girona home, and there’s a reason why. The Catalan city offers endless training routes for athletes to choose from: rolling hills, long climbs, flat winding roads, countless open-water swimming sites, and running trails that go on and on. And, of course, there’s also delicious food and coffee to fuel all of your adventures. What more could an athlete ask for?
Girona is a centrally located city that sits less than one hour from both the coastal region of the Costa Brava to the east, and the mountains of the Pyrenees to the north. The Barri Villa (or old town) of Girona is a great place to base your adventures. With one of the most well-preserved Medieval towns in Spain, Girona reflects over 2,000 years of history with landmarks from the Roman era to the more recent Spanish Civil War.
The best choice for top-notch triathlon accommodations and famous triathlete sightings is La Comuna or City Oasis. These apartments, carefully designed by Olympian triathletes Emma and Jan Frodeno (who also host the annual SGRAIL 100 gravel triathlon in town), have everything an athlete could be looking for on a Girona holiday. The spot simultaneously honors the historic architecture of the town, while catering to the needs of an athlete with modern luxuries. They are both centrally located in the old town and near two of the best cafes, La Comuna and La Fabrica.
The Geieg (officially called the Complex Esportiu GEiEG – Sant Ponç) is a 50-meter swimming pool that’s home to professional short- and long-course athletes, as well as age-group swimmers and triathletes. Drop-in is usually allowed, and costs about €15 ($17), but can vary depending on lane availability and COVID restrictions.
Open-water swimming options are plentiful as well, with designated lanes in open-water routes set aside for swimmers. The closest is Banyoles Lake, which was home to the rowing events in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Although rowing is what the lake is most famous for, you’ll find swimmers all year round diving off the docks to do laps along the 500-meter swimming lane. If you want to swim in the sea, instead, you can choose from 14 open-water swimming lanes, or vie braves, dotted along the Costa Brava. These routes work in conjunction with the coastal hiking trails, making it an ideal location for swim-run events and, of course, for triathlon training.
On any given day at any given time, if you stand at the popular cycling meet-up spot of Pont de Pedra, you’ll see countless bikers gathering to head out and hit the roads. The city has embraced bikes, and as a result cycling culture is deeply embedded into local businesses and communities. From the friendly (and sparse) drivers to the well-maintained roads, Girona truly is a cycling paradise. You may even temporarily forget about ever having had to ride with enraged drivers and minivan-sized potholes.
With proximity to the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea, it’s impossible to run out of routes. The most famous include Els Angels, which is a steady six-mile climb starting just three miles from the heart of Girona. You can test yourself against the best cyclists in the world, and over 26,000 others who have recorded times on Strava. If you’re up for an even bigger challenge, Mare de Deu del Mont is another local favorite. After 3,000 feet of elevation over 11 miles, you’re rewarded with 360-degree views of the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees. If you time it correctly, you could also snag a cold Coke and sandwich at the cafe.
After you take on Mare de Deu del Mont, you may be in need of a recovery ride. For a great recovery ride with recovery brews, a trip to Doskiwis Brewing will reward you with craft beer made with local hops. Not only is the beer sure to aid in recovery, but the loop along beautiful rolling hills and through the small villages of Catalonia will make you feel like a local. And, if you somehow tire of all that, there’s also the endless gravel roads to roll down.
From the hills of the surrounding Les Gavarres mountains to the never-ending flat and soft running paths, there are plenty of running options for any triathlete. The routes are fairly well-marked and highly trafficked by other hikers and runners. A favorite loop of many locals is a six-mile run up to the Castell de St. Michael. The route is all off-road with enough hills to reward you with a view of Girona on one side and the Costa Brava on the other. For a flatter route, the Via Verdes are the answer. These paths on old unused train lines extend from the mountains to the northwest of Girona, through the city itself, and all the way to the Costa Brava. Once you choose a direction, you can pick these up in Devesa Park just outside of the old town.
Or, if the sea is calling, the Cami de Ronda will challenge your legs while rewarding you with beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea. The path covers over 125 miles of coastline and will take you through many small fishing villages and coves. If you don’t feel like covering the entire 125 miles, then prioritize the most scenic and well-maintained section of the trail, from Begur to Calella de Palafrugell.
Girona isn’t just famous for its dreamy training ground, it’s also developed quite a culinary reputation. From the three-star Michelin restaurant El Celler de Can Roca to just about any tapas cafe you stumble upon, no matter where you find yourself sitting, it’s hard to have a bad meal. A few favorites for local food and wine are Si No Fos, Ditifet, and Plaça del Vi 7.
If you find yourself with a day to explore, the restaurants along the Costa Brava often offer locally sourced fish straight from the Mediterranean, and you can enjoy a waterfront meal and stroll. Locals will go to beachside restaurants known as chiringuitos to spend the afternoon. Toc Al Mar is among the best, and it’s conveniently located on one of the most beautiful beaches on the Costa Brava, Aiguablava.
To give your legs a break and see Catalonia from above, get out of your comfort zone with a day of Via Ferrata. Via Ferrata is a set climbing route equipped with fixed ladders, cables, and bridges, and generally requires zero experience. Use a guide who can help you with equipment, technique, and a pep talk if you’re afraid of heights. Marc Vilaplana is a great local climbing guide who knows the area and can help you find a Via Ferrata route that matches your level.
If you really want to experience Girona in the most authentic way, then time your visit with a local race. Event organizers like Klassmark and Marnaton organize gravel, mountain bike, trail running, swim-run, and swimming events throughout the year that show off the best routes that Catalonia has to offer. The races draw in athletes from all over the world, and they make it easy to sign up and understand race briefings and information.