Banyoles, Girona counties, Catalonia, Spain

Banyoles is a town in Catalonia and the capital of the region of the Plan of the lake in the center of Girona. Located in the northeastern tip of Caatlunya and is the capital of the Pla de l’Estany region. It is located halfway between the Costa Brava and the Pyrenees, forming a triangle of towns and places of great historical, tourist and landscape interest. The municipality of Banyoles is small, with an area of 10.89 km², and is surrounded by the municipalities of Porqueres and Fontcoberta. It is 120 km. from Barcelona, 20 km from Girona and 49 km from the border with France.

Banyoles combines the services sector with an important implantation of the industry. The agricultural sector has lost weight over the years. The capital of Pla de l’Estany is a city of services and is the central point of the surrounding municipalities. It has a rich cultural and leisure activity. It has the Darder Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the County Archive, the Municipal Theater, the Performing Arts Factory, the Ateneu Auditorium, the County Library, among others. Banyoles has a strong sports component with football fields, tennis, the facilities of the Banyoles Swimming Club, the regatta course in the lake or the pavilions.

The lake in its municipality, the largest in Catalonia, is one of the main tourist attractions of Banyoles, as well as its range of sports and leisure activities. The lake of Banyoles, at an altitude of 175 meters above sea level. It is located at the easternmost limit of the Catalan Transversal System, in the middle of a natural depression that has its origin in the lake basin. Banyoles is flanked on the north by the steep blocks of the Virgen del Mundo and on the west by the Rocacorba mountain range. The plain is surrounded by mountain ranges, except for the south that opens the plain of Cornellà del Terri in the direction of Girona city. The lake, the canals and orchards, the wooded areas, the parks, gardens and green areas, are part of the natural heritage.

Since the 1990s, the EU has been subsidizing natural resource conservation projects in its member states through the LIFE fund. The Natural Area of the Lake declared a Site of Natural Interest (PEIN), has one of the most important hydrogeological ecosystems in the Mediterranean region of the Iberian Peninsula, which includes the lake and the set of ponds that surround it.

The city of Banyoles is located in a region, the Pla de l’Estany, inhabited since time immemorial. An illustrative example of this fact is the existence of the famous Preneanderthal jaw (about 80,000 years old). Then, in prehistory, the edges of the lake were probably populated, but we do not have the first evidence until the ancient Neolithic, with the town of La Draga (from 5200 BC). From Roman times, some remains have been found in the Porta del Forn when a now Roman one was recovered and a terracotta representing a head of Augustus, the first Roman emperor, which suggests that a road must have passed through it. secondary in the 1st century AD.

It is possible that in Roman times there were some kind of public baths in the area of Banyoles, on the travertine terraces, above the wetlands. Hence the primitive name of Banyoles, derived from the Latin word Balneolae meaning small baths. The first known place name is Baniolas, documented in the precept of Louis the Pious (822 AD). Later the name will undergo several modifications, in medieval and modern times, until arriving at the present spelling of Banyoles.

The current city of Banyoles did not begin to form until the ninth century. It was born around the Benedictine Monastery of St. Stephen founded around 812 by the abbot Bonitus on an ancient temple possibly late Roman. The first inhabitants gathered near the Monastery, who for centuries were under the feudal power of their abbots. Soon, the wetlands were drained, irrigation canals were built at the exit of the lake and the foundations of a prosperous Banyoles were laid.

Later, the town expanded around the church of Santa Maria dels Turers (built between 1269 and 1333) and the porticoed square of Vila Nova (the current Plaça Major, from the 13th century). The presence of the monks marked his life for about a thousand years, until his expulsion from the religious community in 1835. In the Middle Ages the power of the town, the popular representation in the municipal administration, acquired importance. At first, the Monastery assumed all the judicial and administrative powers, but over the years the town gradually gained freedoms and privileges.

The church of Santa Maria dels Turers played a prominent role in this long struggle with the feudal power of the abbots. In 1303, the abbot Bernat de Vallespirans granted the town a municipal charter and, from that year, it was governed by a Council of Prohoms with four juries and ten councilors. In the twelfth century, Banyoles was one of the main draperies in Catalonia and the famous “Banyoles cloths” were exported throughout the Mediterranean. The great period of economic expansion corresponds to the 13th and 14th centuries. The draper’s mills were mainly concentrated in the Rec Major, but there were also other activities such as white mills, dyeing fabrics and flour mills. Then, the village grew inside a walled enclosure that had begun construction in 1209 and was completed in the 15th century.

From the 14th century onwards, a few centuries of decline followed, and it was not until the 18th century that great economic, demographic and urban development was experienced. At that time, it was one of the first towns in the Girona region to produce hemp fabrics. The deep crisis and economic and demographic stagnation returned in the 19th century. The export of garlic and the raising of pigs and mules helped to replace the industry. The diversification of the economy did not materialize until well into the twentieth century.

In 1920 Banyoles received the title of city from King Alfonso XIII. In the sixties of the twentieth century there was a strong growth. The population employed in industry and services increased markedly, while that engaged in agriculture declined. Until the end of the twentieth century, the strongest industrial sectors were construction, wood, textiles, metal, tanned hides and food.

Historical heritage

Fishing buildings
Fishing boats are small buildings found in the water of the lake on the east bank and declared a Cultural Asset of National Interest (in the category of Historic Garden) by the Generalitat de Catalunya. In total we find 20 fisheries, each with a particular name. Its construction began in the mid-nineteenth century until 1931, and over the years have been renovated and refurbished. Initially, the function of the fisheries was to store the material for fishing. Later, many of them increased the surface in order to be able to store a boat. Finally, with the advent of the practice of sport and the rise of the Banyoles bourgeoisie, they adapted to be able to bathe and even stay.

Church of Santa Maria dels Turers
One of the main churches in the village is Santa Maria dels Turers. This is one of the first examples of the Principality of Catalan Gothic architecture, formed by a central nave with a heptagonal apse. Later, between the 17th and 19th centuries, the two side naves were built. The stained glass windows are recent, from the middle of the 20th century.

La Farga Paper Mill
It was built in 1685 to work copper and consisted of a wheel, a jack and an oven. Later it was expanded and passed to direct or indirect heirs until, at the end of the s. In the 19th century, the Escatllar family carried out the last expansion in order to make paper. The two activities coexisted until its closure in the mid-20th century. In 1983, the Farga d’Aram building was handed over to Banyoles City Council, which has adapted the ground floor for artisanal paper manufacturing. Sastres Paperers currently manages the use of this mill and makes paper in a completely traditional way, but there are also activities and workshops for the dissemination and training of this trade, both for individuals, schools and / or groups.

Pia Almoina
La Pia Almoina is a Gothic palace, which originally housed a charity dedicated to distributing bread and clothes to the poor families of the town. This building was formed from two Romanesque houses (13th century). It is currently the Archaeological Museum of Banyoles and it is also home to the Center for Regional Studies.

Medieval Wall
Banyoles preserves a section of the wall that protected the city from the 13th to the 15th century. The preserved section, the two Gothic-inspired roundabouts with a hexagonal plan and a dome topped by seven pinnacles stand out.

Park of the prehistoric caves of Serinyà
In Serinyà, a municipality located 5km north of Banyoles, we find a set of Paleolithic sites that explain and disseminate the ways of life of prehistoric societies. Different types of visits and activities are offered, all included in the ticket price: individual visit, guided tour, workshops…

Main square
The main square has a quadrangular shape and is surrounded by forty arches with voussoirs. We find it documented in 1275 and it is currently the most important square in Banyoles where, every Wednesday morning, the market is held. The buildings we find in the square are medieval houses with a ground floor, first floor and attic; however, over the years they have been refurbished and many of them have added a third floor or roof. The only building that remains with only one floor built on the vault is Cal Moliner, where the headquarters of the Economic Promotion Area of the City of Banyoles and the Office of Commerce and Tourism located.

Art and Brut Gallery
Art en Brut Gallery is a gallery – cultural association of modern and contemporary art that presents in its program prestigious national and international artists, giving special support and visibility to local artists. After five years located in the Botigueta del Cort Reial (Girona), designed by Lüís Güell from Banyoles, in September 2019 we moved Art en Brut Gallery to Banyoles, the land where artists such as the indomitable Lluís Güell were born.

To get to know the center and the history of Banyoles and the region in depth, through the Museums of Banyoles offer a wide range of possibilities adapted to all ages and preferences.

Llotja del Tint
The Llotja del Tint is the only preserved dye building in Catalonia. It is a civil Gothic building of the 15th century intended for the dyeing of clothes or woolen fabrics that were manufactured in Banyoles. It has two naves separated by four large pointed arches. These support the wooden plot, originally with a roof on two sides. The mezzanine, the current second floor, has ridge vaults and is accessed by a staircase with a slab vault. Originally it was used to dye woolen clothes or fabrics that were made in the city of Banyoles. The great height of the building is due to the fact that in the dyeing process insane vapors were produced that were tried to avoid with the height. The fabrics, once dyed, were hung under the roof to make the first drying. The water used in this pre-industrial process came from the Rec Major. After falling into disuse for many years, in 1971 Banyoles City Council recovered the building in order to prevent its destruction.

Monastery of Sant Esteve and Arqueta de Sant Martirià
The monastery of Sant Esteve is the founding headquarters of the city of Banyoles and preserves different architectural styles due to the various destructions and reconstructions it has suffered over the centuries. Inside there is the Gothic altarpiece of Nostra Senyora de l’Escala (15th century) and the Ark of Sant Martirià (15th century). The visit, both inside the church and in the cloister, is made through a guided tour that can be arranged through the Archaeological Museum of Banyoles.

Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum of Banyoles houses an extensive collection from various excavations in the region. The visit is divided into rooms from different eras: paleontology, prehistory and history. Some of the most important pieces that can be seen have been recovered in the sites of: the Caves of Serinyà, the Roman village of Vilauba, the Neolithic village of La Draga.

Darder Museum
The Darder Museum is one of the oldest in the Girona region, inaugurated in 1916. Today, the Espai Darder houses a collection of natural history that recreates the vision of the natural sciences of the 19th and 20th centuries. Another part of the museum, the Espany d’Interpretació de l’Estany, is dedicated to explaining and disseminating the formation of the lake area.

Neolithic Park of the Draga
In 1990, the remains of an ancient Neolithic settlement in the north-eastern part of the lake were discovered. Excavations have determined that it dates back 7,200 years (mid-late 6th millennium BC). Today you can visit the reproductions of the old huts and discover what life was like in the Neolithic era.

Roman villa of Vilauba
The Roman and Visigothic villa of Vilauba (Camós) is located in a small valley that extends about 3 kilometers south of the town and the lake of Banyoles. It was discovered in 1932 but the systematic excavations did not begin until 1978. These excavations are carried out through the Pla de l’Estany Archaeological Research Group and are coordinated by the Banyoles Archaeological Museum.

The most significant remains of Vilauba date back to the high imperial period (1st-3rd centuries AD), when the villa was organized around a central courtyard delimited by porticoed galleries. The urban part (the residential part) and the rustic part (work area) are preserved from the villa. Of note in the residential part is the chapel of the house where the larari, the pantry, the triclinium or dining room and the bathrooms, recently discovered, were located. The low-imperial remains of the villa (IV-V AD) and the remains of the Visigothic village made up of three houses with their respective courtyards are also preserved.

Fairs and Markets
The city of Banyoles has a long trade fair tradition. Fairs and markets of all types and themes are organized; some of them with almost 40 years of tradition. The weekly market is held in Banyoles every Wednesday morning. In this market we find food (fruit and vegetables, legumes, cheeses, sausages, fish…), fashion stalls, home clothes, accessories, etc.

Events and festivals

Christmas and Kings
The Christmas and Epiphany festivities have their starting point with the arrival of the Royal Page. For about 15 days the Royal Embassy is installed in the Cloister of the Monastery, where all the children of the city can go to carry their letter for Their Majesties the Magi of the East. The highlight of this festival is the little ones experience the arrival of Their Majesties the Kings of the East.

The celebration of the Carnival in Banyoles is usually held the weekend before the celebration of other towns in Girona.

The Plaça Major in Banyoles is the traditional space that every year brings together hundreds of people from the city and the Pla de l’Estany to celebrate St. George’s Day. In the Plaça Major of Banyoles there are about 50 stalls, in which, as it could not be otherwise, the books and roses will stand out. And it is that the roses and the books are the true protagonists of the Day.

Flower Exhibition
Throughout a weekend there are various activities and cultural events related to flowers. The corners it occupies are several: Cloister of the Monastery of St. Esteve, Pia Almoina, Caritas courtyard, streets and squares of the Barri Vell, Cal Moliner in the Plaça Major and Estany Tourist Office, Hiking Center, Casal d’Avis, Caritas courtyard,…

Verbena Sant Joan
Every year, the Casal Popular Independentista in Pla de l’Estany is in charge of organizing the Revetlla de Sant Joan in Banyoles.

August festivities
The Festivities of the Virgin of August are the small festivities of Banyoles and take place on the 15th and 16th of August, although a few days before and after there are already scheduled various activities aimed at the general public and for at all ages. Its program includes: children’s shows, concerts, correfocs, sardanas, parades of giants and bigheads, workshops, guided tours, etc.

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Catalonia Day
The Eleventh of September is, from June 25, 1980, the National Day of Catalonia. This Day, although it commemorates the painful memory of the loss of liberties of September 11, 1714, is a manifestation of the recognition of the will of the Catalan people to demand the recognition of our national rights and the hope of a total national recovery.

Sant Martirià festivities
The Festa Major de Banyoles is celebrated every year on the weekend before the day of Sant Martirià, on 24 October. In the local calendar, the Festes de Sant Martirià are, after the Festes d’Agost and the Carnestoltes, one of the most important festive moments. The festivities have been celebrated at least since the year 1300 and among the religious acts dedicated to the saint are the veneration of the relics and the singing of the Joys that is done in the church after Mass. The Festa Major of Sant Martirià de Banyoles is structured around two main axes: the competitive days of cobla and sardana music and the musical programming of Les Barraques, a model of festive space from the city of Banyoles now quite widespread in other places.

Magic Festival
The Magic Festival on Carrer Troba’m aims to bring the world of magic closer to the citizens of Banyoles. Close-up magic, salon magic, illusionism, fortune-telling, mentalism and a long list of others have a point of reference in the city to show the kindest and closest side of an incomparable artistic discipline.

Jazz Festival
FEMJazz! Festival of Musical Emergencies, brings to the city of Banyoles the emerging talents with the most potential in the national jazz scene. The festival’s organizers, members of the Banyoles Music Workshop and active musicians who know these new values first hand, consolidate a project with more than 20 years of history. With a solid line-up that goes through all styles of jazz, the festival is an opportunity to enjoy the first-person musical experience.

Forest Night
Nitdebosc is a neighborhood party carried out by the young people of Can Puig, who, tired of the limited cultural offer, came together in order to bring a new dimension to the neighborhood and bounce back in the city of Banyoles. Nitdebosc is a multidisciplinary party where there is room for all the expressions and the format varies from year to year in order to give a current, different, free and quality offer. The Can Puig Residents’ Association has always been dedicated to keeping the neighborhood alive and making improvements. Years ago, activities were carried out in the forest and with the aim of recovering this space, in 2003 it was decided to develop Nitdebosc.

Phonica, Festival of the Voice of Banyoles
The Banyoles Voice Festival was born in 2004 as one of the musical proposals that the city launched in the framework of the capital of Catalan Culture. The (a) phònica explores the voice and all its aspects with performances and parallel activities for all audiences, and, edition after edition, has been consolidated to become a reference proposal in the territory, in addition to ‘an engine of impetus for musical and cultural creation. In recent editions the festival has gathered more than 18,000 attendees.

Ethno Catalonia
Ethno is a folk, ethnic and traditional music program organized by Jeunesses Musicales International. Els Ethno is aimed at young musicians up to the age of 30 with the aim of preserving and enhancing the traditional musical heritage. Young musicians gather in these artistic residences characterized by democratic and egalitarian learning: there are no teachers or master classes but workshops in which young people teach and share among themselves the music and culture of their country, with the only guidance of leaders who coordinate the group and prepare the arrangements. The equipment of the Ateneu – CMEM of Banyoles CMEM of Banyoles CMEM of Banyoles will therefore become a real musical laboratory where performers from all over will rehearse and prepare the musical production that they will perform live as a multiethnic orchestra.

Natural space

The Lake of Banyoles
The lake is the origin and the main sign of identity of the city of Banyoles. Together with its lake basin, they are considered to be the largest karst complex in the Iberian Peninsula and a unique area of great geological, ecological, landscape and cultural value.

The Lake Basin is a living phenomenon since its origins that over the years has led to the formation of different ponds and ponds integrated into the lake phenomenon. Ponds are formed when water flowing through the limestone aquifer comes into contact with the upper layers of gypsum which dissolve and produce large cavities or shallow water caves. When the aquifer decreases its volume of water and the land collapses, a series of sudden subsidence of the soil take place which lead to the formation of rounded ponds and ponds of varying dimensions.

The canals
The water from the lake comes out mainly through the five existing canals. The canals are built canals that cross the whole city from the lake, multiplying in numerous branches, to flow into the river Terri, at the exit of the municipality. Its origins go back to the founding of the monastery of Sant Esteve de Banyoles, in 812, when the construction of the canals was one of the first actions of the inhabitants of the town.

In ancient times, the lake drained naturally flooding the entire eastern plain, extending beyond the current boundaries. With the arrival of the Benedictine monks in the 9th century in the wasteland known as Baniola, the first inhabitants began to settle there. One of the priorities of that fledgling village was to dominate the waters of the lake and its wetlands to use them for agriculture and the nascent industry. The construction of the canals involved costly physical and engineering work. Gradually, a speck was built to raise the level of the pond one meter and lead the water through the first canals. By their route they chose the most suitable places that supposed less work and greater utility (it was necessary to anticipate jumps, irrigated areas and to avoid possible floods).

The first canals to be built were those of Teixidor and Ca n’Hort. In the 11th century, the irrigation of Figuera d’en Xo and Major was made for industrial uses; the last was the Guèmol irrigation canal, intended for agricultural activities, as it was used to irrigate the Banyoles plain. The canals also served as natural overflows for the wetlands of the lake, often preventing them from overflowing, draining them naturally. Over the years, the original layout of the canals has changed, incorporating new branches into the urban fabric that have been diverted, covered or discovered, depending on the social needs of the time.

Parks and gardens
The management of the parks and gardens includes the conservation, restoration and design of spaces, the usual tasks in gardening, as well as the network of services that make our stay easier: the furniture, the equipment, the revitalization, the information and environmental training and education.

Parc de la Draga
The Draga Urban Park is currently the largest green area in the city, with an area of 105,082 m2. The park was inaugurated in 1992 and is located north of Banyoles, right next to the lake, in the neighborhood of the Olympic Village. Its design allows to control the rises of waters of the Lake by means of the systems of drainage with buckets of floodable water; this system also involves a natural growth of wetland vegetation in suitable areas. The park has extensive lawns with native species, alders, poplars and walks that allow everyone to enjoy all this huge free space.

Manel Saderra Park
Manel Saderra Park is the second largest green area in the city, after Draga Park. It is located in the neighborhood of Sant Pere, in Pla de l’Ametller, in the southern part of the city, near the town of Porqueres. The space has been designed with extensive areas of grass and the passage of the open canal through its interior that brings together outdoor leisure in the area of Pla de l’Ametller.

Among the main products of the Banyoles vegetable garden are legumes and, above all, for their fame, hemp and garlic. The simplicity and efficiency of the irrigation system means that it has survived to the present day without undergoing major changes. The irrigation network allows water to access virtually anywhere. Only the position of the bagants, more or less raised, can block the passage of water or leave it free to the orchard.

A wooded area is a plant formation dominated by tree species, but with the presence of more or less important shrub, herbaceous and muscular layers. From an ecological point of view, the forest is a complex and rich ecosystem that is also bought by animal species. Banyoles has relatively few wooded areas, as it is a small and very urbanized municipality. However, the forests it contains are those of the temperate zone, as Mediterranean forests. The main feature of Mediterranean forests is the presence of evergreen tree species of relatively low port (10-15 meters), with often sparse crowns that allow a significant development of the shrub layer. The most common trees we find are holm oaks, oaks and pines.

The Banyoles Nature School is an entity focused on environmental education, awareness and communication. They offer different visits and workshops around the natural environment of Lake Banyoles, as well as other areas of natural interest close to the region.


Hiking Routes
The location and surroundings of Banyoles offer a wide range of possibilities to get closer to nature, culture and the history of the city of water. The routes and excursions we present to you are for walking or cycling and will captivate you for their great value (historical and natural) and beauty.

Return to Banyoles Lake
The return to Lake Banyoles is one of the most well-known walks in the area, both for visitors and for the people of Banyoles themselves. It is a circular route of low difficulty marked as route number 1. While doing this walk, which goes around the lake of Banyoles, we can enjoy the great natural wealth and landscape while entering the viewpoints and ponds in the area. It is a flat route, suitable for strollers.

The wetlands of La Puda and Les Estunes
Walking route that allows us to discover an area of wetlands and lagoons that are the habitat of the white stork. Following the route you reach the forest of Les Estunes, a place of holm oaks and oaks where you can see large plates of travertine with cracks that we can walk inside and where, according to legend, the lodges live. On the way back, we will discover a part of the daily life of the banyolins and banyolines of the middle of the s. XIX, through the Font Pudosa and the old spa we find there.

Can Morgat and Puig Clarà
Walking route marked as route 3 that begins in the church of Santa Maria de Porqueres, the most important example of the Romanesque in the region, next to the lake of Banyoles. Then, along the lake, you reach the lagoons of Can Morgat from where we can stop to observe the different species of birds and other animals that live there. Then the path climbs towards the hills to climb the Puig Clarà. Once up, at an altitude of 315 meters, there is a viewpoint from which you can enjoy an impressive panoramic view of Lake Banyoles and the city, as well as much of the Empordà plain. From the same point, in the opposite direction, we find another viewpoint that shows us which are the nearest mountains.

Route of the Recs
The canals of Banyoles are a unique infrastructure of the city. It is a network of small canals, built by the monks of the monastery of Sant Esteve in the s. IX, which conduct water from the lake. Thus, following the passage of water through the canals, we will enter the center of the village where we will discover the importance of water in the economy and life of the banyolins and banyolines.

Route to the Barrio Viejo
A walk through the historic center of Banyoles that takes us into the city’s past. Streets and squares guide us through the main monuments of the old quarter: Plaça Major, Llotja del Tint, Medieval Wall, Sant Esteve monastery, Gothic church of Santa Maria dels Turers and museums (Archaeological and Darder). Much of this route passes through pedestrian areas, being an itinerary adapted for people with reduced mobility.

Bicycle lanes
The Pla de l’Estany County Council has designed a network of bike lanes and greenways that connect different municipalities in the county. In this way, we can cycle from Banyoles to Camós, Mata (Porqueres), Melianta (Fontcoberta) or Borgonyà (Cornellà del Terri).

Rowing boat rental
Rowing in an environment such as Lake Banyoles is a pleasure. The Naviliera les Goges company offers the possibility of renting a leisure rowing boat to enjoy nature and sport first hand.

In the lake of Banyoles we find the ideal characteristics for the practice of the kayak.

Dragon boat
Dragon Boat is a sport and recreational canoeing modality that comes from Chinese culture, with the dragon as the main symbol. It is based on a boat made up of 10 paddlers, 1 helmsman and 1 drummer. It is an activity suitable for everyone, exciting and fun; and that reinforces teamwork.

The natural richness of Lake Banyoles allows you to practice sport fishing. To do this, you must have a recreational fishing license issued by the Generalitat de Catalunya; and a permit for a controlled fishing area (ZPC) specific to Banyoles lake and Vilar lake is also required.

Golf and Pitch and Putt
At 14km from Banyoles we find the pitch and putt Mas Pagès Golf. Mas Pagès Golf has an 18-hole course, as well as the Pitch & Putt of par 54 and standard 56.

Horse riding is a sport deeply rooted in the area. There is number of equestrian and equestrian clubs that in the region and offer the service of walks around the environment.

Balloon trips
A unique experience and a different vision of Banyoles and its surroundings is to see it from the air. The company Camins de Vent offers this possibility.

Altres esports
The city of Banyoles has the recognition of the regatta course as a facility with the seal of Sports Tourism Destination, awarded by the Catalan Tourism Agency. We are in an ideal environment for sports, both professionally and amateurly or simply for recreation. Triathlon, rowing and canoeing stand out.

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