The Colored Houses of Onyar

By Bryan | Published: 2nd Sep, 2018

I’ve been to Girona twice and the vibrant colored houses overlooking the river Onyar still fascinates me. 

The Houses of Onyar, Casas del Oñar (Spanish) or Cases de l'Onyar (Catalan) is the most familiar and well-photographed image of Girona, Spain. Across the bridges that span the river, the 19th-century old houses are standout with its distinctive shades of deep orange, yellow and rich browns. They perfectly blend in each of the house facades creating that stunning chromatic reflection towards the river. Postcard worthy. 


Most of the existing houses today were built in the 20th century, but the first buildings date back to the 19th century.

History has it, the original facade that lines up the river was built with no windows or balconies. These were actually the back of the houses that stood against the old medieval wall which used to run along the river. It served as a safety belt to protect the city from potential invasion. 

Time had turned these houses into a masterpiece.


The houses were restored and painted in 1983. The dramatic color swatch from yellow to deep orange or brown is a result of the rigorous work of two Catalan painters, Enric Ansesa and Jaume Faixó. It’s actually a collection of the ranges of original colors existing on the facades of the river derived from the natural clay earth pigments which can still be found in neighboring towns and villages today.


Whilst the colors may have sparked controversies and earned local detractors after the restoration, the final paint swatch of the Houses of Onyar — which are the colors we see today — made it one of the best-known attractions in Girona. 


One of the most important houses of the Onyar is the Masó House — the birthplace of the Catalan architect Rafael Masó i Valentí. He is the forerunner of the Noucentisme in Catalonia (Catalan cultural movement of the early 20th century, originated largely as a reaction against Modernism).

Casa Masó is identified by its white and blue facade, which stands out from the rest of the houses. It is located at 29 Ballesteries Street and houses the Rafael Masó Foundation headquarters since 2006.


Of particular interest among the bridges that span the Onyar river is the Stone Bridge ( built with light stone from the mid 19th century) and the Palanques Vermelles or the Eiffel Bridge — built in 1876 by no less than the Gustave Eiffel's company (that of the Parisian tower) with vibrant red iron bars crossed harmoniously.


Don’t forget to see other tourist spots such as the Old Town (Barrí Vell), Arab Baths (Banys Arabs) or experience the infamous "walk of shame" at the spectacular Baroque staircase of the Girona Cathedral (especially, if you’re a fan of the TV series Game of Thrones) and walk through the old city walls.


Then, cap it off and try the frozen desserts at Rocambolesc located at number 50 Calle Santa Clara. It is owned by the famous Can Roca brothers — best when shared with friends!


  • Kelley J.
    Spain is just an absolute dream. Everything there has such a rich history associated with it and everywhere you turn there is another bright and vibrant color for you to explore. I wish the United States had more of a culture surrounding color.
  • Bryan
    Like the city of Girona, Spain offers a lot of different colors, history and culture down from the south to mid up north. And you're more than welcome to visit anytime here, Kelley.
  • Nick
    Wow! Girona, Spain looks beautiful from these photographs. Unfortunately, my travels haven't taken me to Spain. I am definitely adding Girona to the top of my list though. The restored and painted homes are very picturesque. I'd love to take some pictures on the bridge spanning the Onyar River. Thanks for sharing, Bryan!
  • Bryan
    You should come and visit Girona, Nick! It's one of Spain's best cities.
  • lodi
    Girona is a place I have always wanted to go back to. I went with my family when I was very young, we have distant relatives in Spain. I can’t imagine being able to go anytime soon but I hope, within the next 5 years, I will find myself there. You did a great job with the pictures of the buildings. They look stunning.
  • Adam Davis
    You did a great job with the pictures of the buildings. They look stunning.

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