(Warning: there’s a photo-heavy post ahead! I couldn’t stop snapping away at all the gorgeous displays).
Every time spring rolls around in Barcelona, I feel like I’m a whole new person, much lighter and happier. After the chilly winter, it’s a huge relief to feel the sunshine again as I walk through the city streets. The terrace bars and restaurants start to fill up with people happily enjoying a few after work snacks. But there’s one extra-special event that goes on in the spring that’s my favorite way to celebrate the arrival of the warm weather – the Temps de Flors flower festival in Girona.
Even though the city is only about an hour north of Barcelona, the festival isn’t especially well-known outside of Catalonia as far as I can tell. Spain has another flower festival that’s much more famous – the patio festival in Córdoba, down in Andalucía. Córdoba is a lovely little city, and it looks gorgeous when all the white patios are decorated with bright flowers (or, at least it does from the pictures; I’ve never been). The Temps de Flors may not have the same name recognition, but if you’re visiting Barcelona in May you should absolutely consider adding a day trip to Girona to your travel plans.
As soon as you arrive in the charming city on the Onyar river for the festival, the easiest trick to find the best displays is just to follow the footsteps of larger groups. They’ll help you navigate the cobbled streets leading up through Girona’s Roman walls and find the major flower displays. Of course, getting lost when the surroundings are so nice may actually be a blessing in disguise! This year, I grabbed a free map of the festival from the train station, but then I just let my feet lead me wherever the people were. That meant I got to explore little corners of the city I hadn’t seen before.
Last year, I got terribly unlucky with the weather; when I stepped off the train, it was 11°C and raining hard. The steady rain didn’t let up, and I ended up leaving the festival much earlier that I really wanted to because I was freezing cold and soaked through. This year, the weather couldn’t have been nicer. The skies were (mostly) clear and bright blue, making all the vibrant flowers really pop against the city’s soft gold and grey tones.
The busiest displays are centered around the city’s most famous sights – the cathedral (above) and the Arabic Baths (below). The cathedral is particularly busy, because the square beneath it has a few bars and restaurants with coveted terrace seating.It IS a pretty spectacular view, even if the pulsating crowds coming to look at the cathedral decked out in spring flowers mean you can’t exactly relax as you have your snacks.
So if you’re hoping for a relaxing day out amidst the flowers, the secret is to keep walking past the cathedral, past the baths, and back to the quieter section of Girona to the north. There are big green parks and squares with lots more open space to sit back and enjoy the festival. They fill up with people having picnics, everyone from families out to a day trip to teenagers hanging out with their friends to groups of old people who look like they’ve been firm friends for about the past 70 years.
It’s not just key monuments and pretty parks that get decorated for the festival (although those are usually a safe bet for spots that will have something going on). The shops and restaurants also get into the springtime spirit, and there are flowers of all sorts dotted around, whether they’re drawn on in paint or actual flowers in the windows. With the whole city decked out in its finest florals, Girona becomes even more beautiful.
Even the restaurants join the fun, hosting a “Gastroflors” event with food featuring flowers. They have some really creative ideas. I didn’t do any of the eating stuff (fancy food is usually wasted on me and my taste buds), but Lauren of Spanish Sabores got to taste a few of the flowery dishes. The closest I got to food and flowers was this guy:
He wasn’t the only piece of creative flower work; there were also jeans stuffed with flowers at the Arabic Baths, cross-stitched flowers decorating the city’s stone walls, and a shiny red heart with lots of red peppers for color.
The peppery heart:
Here are a few more of my favorite spaces from the festival.
The patio at one of the museums:
The world in flowers:
A stringy creation:
The display at the theater:
The cathedral cloister dressed in shades of pink and purple:
The city’s motto is “Girona m’enamora”, which roughly translates to “I fall in love with Girona”. After seeing the Temps de Flors and visiting the city a handful of times, I definitely think that the motto is an appropriate one.
Girona, I’ll be back.
What kind of spring celebrations have you seen on your travels (or at home!)?