Set deep in the middle of medieval Girona, just streets away from the iconic Romanesque cathedral, you'll soon discover a breathtaking piece of history that's among the best-preserved Middle Ages Baths within this part of Catalonia, otherwise the entirety of Europe. The Banys `Arabs can be a little difficult to find, but here’s how to visit, as well as a brief good reputation for this beautiful space.
Girona can be found to the North of Barcelona, around a forty-minute train ride from city to city just try to hop on the fast train (and avoid the mistake we did of accidentally using the hour and a half long train ride). Home to a good amount of chapels, foodie experiences, and Roman ruins, there’s something to discover for even the most discerning of travellers.
Though Girona, known locally as Gerona, is easy to go to during the period of a day, I recommend booking to remain overnight so as to enjoy the many secret spots and little squares dotted across this mountainous city. This allows for some meals along with the excuse to head into Rocambolesc Frozen treats Parlour a handful of times!
This way, you can also enjoy the Game of Thrones filming locations and smaller museums prior to the remaining tourists arrive (typically between 10 AM and 11 AM). For additional info on visiting Girona, take a look at my help guide to taking a excursion to Girona from Barcelona.
A history of the Banys `Arabs
Visit any kind of Spain and you’ll soon notice that bathhouses are an architectural and historical staple in lots of from the major cities. Indeed, historic bathhouses are available in the likes of Palma de Mallorca, Málaga, Granada, Córdoba, and much more cities than I could hope to list inside the space of a short article!
Those of Girona follow following the Romanesque style, with Roman-inspired elements such as Corinthian columns within the largest of rooms and underfloor heating and piping used within the remaining complex. Likely constructed during the 12th-century, there are four rooms as a whole and also the first attestation from the Arab Baths goes back to 1194.
Visitors towards the baths first enter the grandest from the rooms; the apodyterium. It’s then possible to follow-through the other three rooms, which may each have had different water temperatures:
Apodyterium: The changing room, as today, would have been the way in which bathers entered and exited the premises. It’s here where they'd have talked with one another and changed. The eight Corinthian columns from the central pool are decorated with animal and foliate motifs.
Frigidarium: As its name would suggest, the ‘cold room’ could have been the last set of waters that bathers would have experienced. After the Roman and Arab traditions, the small room had cold water because of double doors required to go in and out the chamber.
Tepidarium: The second biggest of all the rooms might have had ‘tepid’ water and could have been the middle part of any bather’s trip to the complex. The room could have been much more social compared to Frigidarium or even the Caldarium and bathers could even have eaten here.
Caldarium: The first room bathers might have plunged in to the waters in was the ‘hot room’. Cleverly heated because of a furnace with underground heating, room temperatures could easily soar into the 40s or 50s and could have been similar to a sauna.
Head as much as the top and you’ll be rewarded with much more views of this Dark ages bathing complex, including from the stone domed skylight. Unfortunately, the baths were partially destroyed in 1285 during an invasion by Philip III the Bold of France before being rebuilt under a century later.
Over the following centuries, the baths fell from use like a bathhouse and the rooms were used instead like a mikveh through the Jewish community and being integrated into a convent for a period of time. In 1929, the Arab baths were purchased through the Girona Provincial Council before their complete restoration, renovation, and opening towards the public in 1932.
In more recent times, the Romanesque Girona baths were even used to film scenes in the hit Tv show Game of Thrones. The specific scene featured in Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 8 where Arya and also the Waif battle it out. The remainder of Girona featured because the city of Braavos, meaning that there are plenty of filming locations to become spied!
How to go to the Banys `Arabs
You ought to know before visiting that the Banys `Arabs cost you a couple of euro to go to (EUR2 per adult when we visited in September 2020). You are able to pay by cash or card and also the dark well-preserved rooms are easily explored during the period of a quarter-hour to 30 minutes.
Concessions and large groups pay EUR1 per admission. In truth, besides some beautiful architecture and also the opportunity to wander through a true slice of history, there’s not much to determine once inside! If you’re short promptly, then the baths can also be observed in under 10 mins.
However, if you want to take full advantage of this hidden Girona gem and wish to begin to see the magnificent columns and soak up the ambience from the place without the remaining crowds, i quickly recommend visiting earlier in the day and mid-week if possible. Because of the small nature from the rooms, in addition to their use as a Game of Thrones filming location, the area fills up incredibly quickly!