Only an hour and a half outside of Barcelona by train (and even less by car), are two gorgeous towns within 20 minutes of the other. If you're looking for a dose of authentic culture, architecture, art and history, then take a trip to Girona and Figueres.
Girona is one of Spain's oldest cities boasting a mix of Roman, Moorish, Romanesque and Gothic monuments within close proximity of each other, making it easy to get around on foot. One of the greatest things the city is known for is its rich Jewish past, as it once harbored some of the most well-known Jewish scholars.
Today, the city hosts one of the most well-preserved medieval Jewish Quarters in Spain, which recently created a new Jewish History Museum. In addition to its deep history, Girona is one of Catalonia's most beautifully designed towns with a mix of ancient and modern architecture, as well as a variety of places to eat and shop. A few cool places to check out in Girona include the Gothic cathedral, Arab Baths and the Roman wall.
If you leave Barcelona early enough and have the entire day, then you should definitely go to Figueres. It’s the birthplace of Salvador Dali and home to "Teatre-Museu Dali" (Dali Museum), the second most-visited museum in Spain. Considered by many to be the father of Surrealistic Art, Dali designed and built the museum himself.
In addition to the incredible collection of surrealist paintings and sculptures found within, the museum's eccentric structure is quite a sight. Even if you're not an art buff or that interested in Dali, the museum itself is worth a visit. If you plan on going to the museum, be sure to make a reservation online, especially during peak season which runs from April to October.
Both Girona and Figueres are very cool places to visit if you're looking for a fairly cheap, quick and enjoyable day trip outside the city. If you don't mind organized tours, it's not a bad idea to arrange for a half-day or even a two-hour tour of Girona. Even though it's a small city, if you don't know where you're going or what to look for, it's easy to miss out on the hidden gems. It's also a city so full of history that it's best to maximize your time with someone who knows the ropes and can bring the city to life.