Girona, Spain

Besalú: The best example of medieval Spain

J.M. Towers

On the outskirts of Girona, Spain, this lovely Catalan town is among the most beautiful villages in Spain, and boasts one of the most striking and oldest bridges in Europe.

At around 30 kilometers and a 40-minute drive from the city of Girona, those who love art and history will enjoy a journey to the past as they discover Besalú, one of the most important towns in the Spanish Middle Ages, and still beautifully preserved today.


During the 10th century it was one of the central counties in the region. Its old market— which attracted artisans, farmers and merchants— was fundamental to the town’s economic prosperity.

Its historical center features several monuments remaining from those days of opulence, an architectural splendor that have earned Besalú designation as a historical national property.

You need time to visit this tiny village of just over two thousand inhabitants, to calmly walk through each cobblestone street and square and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere.

Besalú will seduce you with its calm serenity, its incomparable beauty and its rich history.

Start by visiting the Romanesque Bridge over the Fluviá River, considered one of the most beautiful bridges in the old continent. Built in the 11th century, it consists of seven arches, a 30-meters high tower and a gateway at its midpoint. During the Middle Ages, the “Pagus Condal” or step tax, was charged to cross it. The bridge is one of the most celebrated emblems of Besalú and it offers access to the historic center.

On the other side we find two unique monuments, perfect examples of Catalan civil Romanesque style. They are the Cornellá House, dating from the XII century, featuring a stunning patio with three galleries that bring natural light to all the rooms, highlighting its semicircular arches.


The second, the Curial Real dating from the XIII and XIV centuries, has a majestic Gothic room with wood paneling, and on the ground floor a museum that depicts the history of Besalú.

As for the churches, we find the remains of the primitive chapel of Santa Maria del Castillo and the Monastery of Sant Pere, whose main façade shows a window with two lion figures representing the protection of the Church against evil. Near the bridge are many narrow cobbled streets that belong to the ancient Jewish quarter, where some 20 families lived since the beginning of the Middle Ages until 1436. Here we find the remains of an ancient Synagogue with a Micve, a Jewish purification bath discovered in 1964, the first found in Spain and the third in Europe.

To enjoy a good dinner in Besalú, I suggest the restaurant Pont Vell in an eighteenth century building next to the Romanesque bridge, where lovers of traditional cuisine will taste unique local dishes such as roasted chicken cannelloni with crepe pasta or the delicious cold pigeon terrine and duck foie gras.

Besalú will seduce you with its calm serenity, its incomparable beauty and its rich history.  ■

PHOTOS: © Oficina de Turismo de Besalú

© | 2019