Banyoles is a beautiful lakeside town located in the hills above Girona, Catalonia. It was the location for the rowing events when Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games in 1992. Despite this, it seems to have remained a well hidden secret to most English-speaking visitors to the region.
We stayed in a lovely B&B a short walk from both the lake and the centre of town. Cala La Flor was exactly what we had hoped it would be. The owner spoke excellent English (in preference to communicating with us in Spanish!) and we were served a simple but nice breakfast in the garden the following day. Inside it was like the Antiques Roadshow but tastefully done!!
The B&B was literally a couple of minutes walk from the lake. It was disappointing to find that parts of the shore are closed off as they are private land for things like the rowing club. Still, it was nice to see the fishing piers and follies in all their glory. To the north we had a wander through the park which houses Parc de la Draga, a neolithic museum highlighting archaeology which was discovered during the Olympic redevelopment of the area. There were plenty of swimmers around and lots of different boats out on the water. It’s an 8km walk all the way around the lake and we had arrived too late in the day to do a full circuit.
From the water we followed a trail billed as the “Old Town Tour” into the medieval centre of Banyoles. It’s always a joy to wander through a maze of narrow streets in places like this, trying not to get lost! There is, unsurprisingly, a Plaza Mayor where you can sit with a beer and watch the world go by whilst waiting for your selection of tapas dishes from the menu. Bear in mind that Banyoles is a fiercely Catalan town so you will see plenty of evidence of its leaning towards independence, and very little Castillian Spanish is spoken anywhere by choice. You can also take a virtual tour on YouTube.
Before heading off the next day we walked back into the centre to visit the Archaeological Museum. Whilst its impressive collection of pots and rocks wasn’t really a draw for us, there was an exhibition about education in Catalonia during the Franco era which we were particularly keen to see. It did not disappoint but a little bit of Catalan was needed to be able to understand the exhibits.
As we left Banyoles and headed back down towards the motorway, we stopped off in nearby Mata. There we had a look at the tram carriage which is next to the main road paying homage to bygone days when such modes of transport were commonplace. Just along the road we called in to the Microbrewery Shop and were overwhelmed by the choice available to us. We didn’t manage to leave without buying a craft ale or two. Mrs Paella even managed to pick up a craft gin!
Banyoles is definitely worth a coupe of days of your time. We sacrificed so much with just making it an overnight stop. Perhaps one day we’ll get the chance to go back and make the most of this lakeside town.