There are two interesting options in the north of the country, close to Gerona.
One of them is Banyoles, the capital of the Pla de l’Estany comarca (county), with a well-preserved lake area. And the other is Castelló d’Empúries in the Alt Empordà comarca, the capital of the ancient county of Empúries, which offers an undeniable cultural heritage.
Banyoles, a lake full of mystery
The city has preserved its very interesting old quarter with a Main Square featuring a portico, and the St. Stephen’s monastery with a valuable gothic altarpiece and a very inviting cloister. A walk through its streets will lead you to the Church of Santa Maria dels Turers, the gothic palace of the Pia Almoina, which houses the County Archaeological Museum (Museu Arqueològic Comarcal), and the Llotja del Tint, a gothic building transformed into an art gallery.
But one of the most interesting places in Banyoles is undoubtedly its lake. It is one of the largest in Spain, and walking around its perimeter allows you to enjoy pleasant natural surroundings on a well-marked itinerary of over an hour. It’s also worth visiting the Darder Museum in order to understand all of the lake’s history, both from the point of view of nature and of former settlements.
This town, with its origins in the 9th century, has preserved various buildings that serve as reminders of its noble past. In the center of the town stands the Church of Santa María, which, because of its size, is known by the nickname of “The Cathedral of l’Empordà”. It is a gothic building that preserves some Romanesque elements; the main portico is made up of six highly ornate archivolts that date back to the 15th century.
But in Castelló d’Empúries it’s worth visiting La Farinera, a flour factory from the end of the 19th century, transformed into an eco-museum where visitors can see the entire industrial process that the cereal grain underwent until becoming flour.