On less then two hours driving from Barcelona in Spain you can find a small village that will bring you back in time, back to the medieval period. A village not known by many but a must visit. Everybody that visits Barcelona or Girona should also visit this town called Besalú.
Even before entering Besalú everything smells history and you will be sucked back into medieval times. The old stone bridge crossing Rió El Fluviá and its guard tower with its crenelations and iron gate is the first thing you'll see when walking towards the town.
Now-a-days Besalú, a place that dates back to the 9th century, has around 1200 inhabitants and doesn't have any importance of political value. This was totally different during the medieval times when Besalú was the capital of the County of Besalú which was an independent county in the 11th century. This independence got lost in the year 1111 to the County of Barcelona that gained much importance in the region.
The name Besalú has found his origins in the Latin word of Bisuldunum what means fort on a hill between rivers. In 1966 Spain declared the town of Besalú to a site of Historic and Artistic importance and it is also one of Spain's best preserved medieval towns.
The name Puente Viejo literally means the old bridge. A well deserved name as you know that parts of the bridge can be date back all the way to the 11th century. Then it was rebuilt several times up to the 14th century. The bridge has impressive bows which especially can be seen down from the riverbanks of the Rio Fluviá at the opposite side of town. The most impressive of the two towers in the bridge is the first one with its iron gate and crenelations topped with the flag of Catalonia. Another remarkable thing is that this bridge isn't just straight but has a kind of L formed shape. Then just before entering the town of Besalú you find a second, bit smaller entrance gate which leads you into the narrow streets. When staying in Besalú don't forget to walk on the bridge after sunset, the view on the city makes it worth it.
Most of the buildings in Besalú date back for centuries. Also Casa Cornella, or Cornella's house, what is build in the 12th century. The style in what is build this house is most likely best described as a Roman style civil building. It is a manor house with a patio and three galleries. Back in the days it belonged to the royalty.
Sant Julià de Besalú L’església-Hospital/Church
This used to be a place for pilgrims passing through Besalú. It was founded by de Benedictine order in the 12th century. They were helping out the people who visited Besalú and also the poor. Especially the facade is great to visit.
La Cúria Reial
A bit younger then the former 2 places is the Royal Court of Besalú. This place dates back to the 13th and 14th century. This place was for a long time occupied by as well as Jewish as Catholic people. At the end of the 14th century this place came into possession of the Cavalle family. The first floor of this 3 stories complex is now a cultural center where a interesting movie about the history of Besalú is shown. At the 3rd level you can find Gothic style rooms with beautiful arches.
The Jewish quarter
After entering the bridge the first area with the small streets you enter is called the Jewish quarter. It is one of the oldest, historically rich and most photo-genetic parts of Besalú.
A mikvah is a old, traditional, ritual Jewish bathhouse. Although this bathhouse dates back all the way till the midst 13th century it was only in the year 1964 that people rediscovered that Besalú had one. Making it more interesting when realizing that this is 1 of only 3 Mikvah's that still can be found in Europe. At this place also a synagogue can be found. The mikvah and the synagogue can be visited and gives you a great view on the old bridge. To do so just pass by the tourist office first.
Col-legiata de Santa Maria
Besalú, although small, is home to several churches like the collegiate of Saint Mary. On sight it is just a small, somewhat primitive chapel, but at the time it was one of the more important religious places. The place dates back to the half of the 11th century. Then undergoing a remodeling one century later while become an Augustinian religious community. Unfortunately in the 18th century the central tower collapsed and during the Spanish Civil War it was damaged again. After the war it got renovated.
Monestir de Sant Pere
Dating back to the year 977 is the Monastery of Saint Peter. This monastery was originated by the Benedictines and was for long time one of the most important in the area.
The places mentioned above are only just a few of the very interesting historical sites of Besalú. The best way to discover everything in this town is by paying a visit to the tourist information office first. It is located at the Placa Llibertad. At this beautiful square you can find it in Casa de la Vila what dates back to the 13th century. The tourist office has daily city walks at 11 pm during the months of july and august. But you also can inform for private tours.
Museum of miniatures & microminiatures
While in Besalú sure worth a visit is the Museum of miniatures & microminiatures, or also called Micromundi. It actually doesn't have much to do with Besalú and history but it is an interesting place to visit. Being in Besalú brings you back to another world, the world of medieval. This museum brings you in yet another world, the world of tiny. You'll find for example a caravan of camels or a train with wagons just inside the eye of a needle. Or how about the Eiffeltower... on top of a little seed? Two ships sailing the wings of a dragonfly. This place will amaze you.
Where to find Besalú?
The medieval town of Besalú is situated like 130km north of Barcelona and just 30km driving from Girona. It is easy to reach by car from these places or any place at the beaches north of Barcelona like the places at the Costa Brava.
Where to stay?
Besalú isn't big. But still offers some lodging just straight inside the old historical center of town. Some even for affordable prices. Though this is also depending on the season when visiting the town. Expect that during holidays prices just will go up. Some interesting places to look at would be the Jardins de la Martana, Hotel 3 Arcs, Charming Villa's and Casa Marcial for example.
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