SPAIN

Girona

Braavos, Baths & Beyond

Girona's cathedral, finished in 1733, was used as a set in the HBO series Game of Thrones

The steps of the cathedral in Girona, Spain, will be familiar to fans of Game of Thrones. Jaime Lannister rode up them in season six, when the cathedral played the Sept of Baelor, to stop the High Sparrow from making Margaery Tyrell take her walk of shame.
JOHN MASTERS/Meridian Writers’ Group

From the ramparts at the south end of the 15th-century city wall the view of the Sept of Baelor is a close match to what Cersei saw from the Red Keep just before she had it blown to kingdom come.

Of course the Sept, without its CGI enhancements, looks a little different than it did in Games of Thrones, but as the real-life cathedral of Girona, completed in 1733, it still dominates the skyline. As the Sept it’s more readily identified when viewed from the foot of the broad staircase leading to its doors—the stairs Jaime Lannister rode up to stop the High Sparrow from making Margaery Tyrell take her walk of shame.

Girona, 90 kilometres north of Barcelona, was used by Game of Thrones in season six for scenes set in King’s Landing, Oldtown and especially Braavos. Arya’s begging in Braavos’ streets and her flight from the Waif all took place in the splay of stone alleys that make up the old quarter.

Surprisingly, Girona makes no effort to promote its Game of Thrones connection. At the tourism office there’s nothing about GoT on the racks and, if you inquire, the only thing you’ll be given is a photocopied map pinpointing nine locations the show used. When asked about this, the woman behind the counter shrugs: “We don’t have the rights.” But that hasn’t stopped other places—Dubrovnik, for example—ballyhooing its ties to the show at every turn. Even more remarkable, not a single souvenir shop in Girona carries anything to do with the massively popular series. No books, games, calendars, little plastic figures… The restraint is admirable.

The townsfolk seem to have decided that their city has enough merit on its own without needing to invoke an American TV show. It’s a makable case. A fortress stood here when Rome arrived to create a city: a good part of the old quarter’s streets and stones still date to its coming. You approach the cathedral along Carrer de la Força, Rome’s Via Augusta, the region’s main north-south road. The climb to the church entrance was once the stair to the Roman temple. You walk city walls breached by Visigoths, Muslims, Franks and Spaniards. You get lost in a maze of streets that formed one of Spain’s largest medieval Jewish quarters. And so on. Game of Thrones? Pah!

Still, the tourism office’s GoT map is a useful way to plot a course through the old city and see sites you might otherwise miss. The Arab Baths, for example. The baths feature ever so fleetingly in Arya’s run from the Waif, but are worth a longer look. Built in the 12th century by Christians, but based on North African designs that would have been brought to Girona when the Moors ruled here (until the 11th century), they consist of four rooms: hot, warm, cold and locker, the last three with their vaulted ceilings wholly intact. The changing room is exquisite: its pool (still full), columns and lantern are all beautifully preserved.

 

ACCESS

For more information on Girona visit the Girona Tourist Office website at www.girona.cat/turisme.

For information on travel in Spain visit the Tourist Office of Spain website at www.spain.info.