Girona is a major Catalonian city, 100km north east of Barcelona. A history over 2000 years old, laid over each other in layers in places, sitting side by side in others. The Romans built a citadel, the Moors a mosque, while the Spanish built the cathedral we know so well today.
In recent years it has become one of the most celebrated cycling destinations in the world for its roads, but you've read that already. For good reason, they're great. But, while it may sound like blasphemy, trust us when we say the rough stuff is even better.
Why do cyclists choose Girona? I've probably been asked this more than anybody else what with being one of the last remaining early adopters. It's quite simple really, back in 2006 I was looking for somewhere that would serve as the perfect home for a professional cyclist, and there are a handful of things that requires:
- Good training i.e. varying terrain, quiet, good quality
- Good weather (winter rarely below 0º, summer mid 30ºs)
- Airport nearby
- Other professionals to train with (not obligatory but helps...)
- A good quality of life for the whole family
We've lived here ever since, and it's where we've made it the headquarters of CHPT3.
Welcome to our city: Girona.
Words and Guide By David Millar.
One of the wonders of Girona is that riding, north, south, east or west will take you into completely different landscapes and terrain. Directly north of Girona is Pla d'Estany, this is where I live. At the heart of this county is a town called Banyoles, it's become the recovery ride of choice for all cyclists. There are very few ride stops in the world as serene as sitting on a pontoon at the lake of Banyoles. We recommend the cafe Banys Vells for a mid-ride coffee, snack and swim, or the restaurant Vora Estany for a cheeky lunch menu. If you don't fancy serenity and want to suffer then you're only a couple of kilometres from the foot of the legendary Rocacorba climb, the training and testing ground of the worlds greatest cyclists.
Head east out of Girona, straight over Els Angels, within minutes of leaving the city you'll feel like you're in the middle of nowhere. Stop at the monastery at the top Els Angels for a drink and admire the view. Drop down the descent, do it daintily or daringly, you'll enjoy it whatever the speed. Then find yourself entering the Gavarres with it's beautiful medieval villages and undulating country roads that riddle the landscape between Girona and the Costa Brava. The dirt riding out here is very civilised, head out to the brewery Dos Kiwis, stop for a beer and snack.
There are few ways to get to the Garrotxa, yet my favourite is by heading west out of Girona up and through the Vall de la Llemena, this valley feels like something out of Jurassic Park. Head towards Sant Aniol de Finestres, then get dirty and hit the gravel roads that take you up onto the ridge that borders the Garrotxa, drop down the other side into the volcanic park and you'll find yourself in a magical mystery world (in the words of Ryder Hesjedal). You can choose to go north towards the foothills of the Pyrenees or head south back toward Banyoles and Pla D'Estany. This is a place you can get lost in, it's a great place to take your bike for a walk.
CHPT3 | Garmin Connect
No matter which city you are in, anywhere around the world, you'll always be able to find your way with Garmin. Full route planning, activity tracking and device linking are at your fingertips through the app.
You can download any of our local loops straight to your Garmin device using the links here.
As well as being a riding paradise, Girona happens to be one of the great Euorpean cities for all things food and drink. Throw a stick and you'll probably hit a dozen michelin stars, several of which come from one place in particular...
In a perfect location on the entry to the old town from the South, recently opened by the same named bike shop it's adjacent to. A perfect place to fuel up pre-ride or recharge post-ride. The location is second to none for a cyclist as you have the bike shop in the same square and everything you need a few steps away, be it equipment, repairs, or guidance.
Also the best local bike shop ever, they have taken over the scene in recent years, catering to all types of cyclists, no matter their bike or ride of choice. Stockist of CHPT3 and all round good people.
The first venture of Christian and Amber Meier, and the cycling cafe that Girona had been waiting for. It has set the standard, serving the best coffee you'll find (apart their other venture, Espresso Mafia) in Girona by far and breakfasts and lunches with a North American deli style twist. Every morning you will see Professional cyclists here, it's standard.
Hors Catégorie - Maybe the coolest cycling cafe/restaurant in the world? It's as much an exhibition space as it is a place to wine and dine, or coffee and be super healthy, because they take pride in their very considered and modern menu. Geek out on the retro TT bikes from the 1990's or the uber cool first generation MTB's from the same era. Plenty of merchandise to pack your suitcase with as well.
Owned by another professional cyclist, the Australian Rory Sutherland, this is actually part of a small but successful Australian-inspired cafe group. The food is very good, and like Fabrica offers a new world style menu.
The second venture opened by the Meier's. A legit coffee heaven, they even roast their own beans in the glass fronted adjacent workshop.
A personal favourite, great ambiance, feeling more like a French bistro rather than Spanish tapas restaurant. It serves tapas with a chic twist and there is a good wine list to boot, with plenty of French options, a rare thing in Spain.
Voted the World's #1 Restaurant more than once, currently #2 in the world. In other words, pretty damn good, as any restaurant of this calibre it almost feels more like theatre than dining. A bucket list restaurant for sure.
Bionbo Cafe - A hidden treasure of a restaurant, almost a bolthole of a place. Just outside the old town it is a destination rather than a random discovery, even knowing where it is you are likely to walk right by it. But once you are inside be prepared for an amazing experience, truly amazing food.
A little bit out of town, right on the very outskirts of Girona, and once again not the sort of restaurant you'd just stumble across. Yet if you make the effort you will not be disappointed, traditional Catalan fair done extraordinarily well.
Small, unassuming, decked out in wood. Three things that add up to a guaranteed good spot. Expect fare from North Eastern Spain, including superb Pintxos and the best cider in town. Served from a great height, naturally. This isn't Girona's fanciest establishment, but if it's hearty fare and a good time you're after, you won't find many better.
Home of the CHPT3 bike garage, a fully equipped underground cyclist's home from home with locked storage and a DIY work station. The best hotel in Girona for sure, the service is excellent and what you would expect from a top grade hotel in any city. The restaurant, Indigo, is brilliant, and unlike the two hotels below it has a bar, not just any bar, but the winner of the best gin and tonic in Girona.
The is definitely one of the better hotels in Girona, and made all the better by it's position, right in the centre of town and directly opposite The Service Course, so all your cycling needs can be taken care of and you can also crawl to a restaurant if you exhaust yourself completely.
The original cycling hotel in Girona, Xavi and has family have been putting cyclists up here for 20 years. There is even a little shrine of sorts with all sorts of eclectic memorabilia from cycling stars of the past. A lovely hotel, right next to the cathedral, they also have a number of self-catering apartments.