Girona is especially noted for its 13th-century Jewish Quarter, El Call, which can be found branching off Carrer de la Força, south of the Plaça Catedral. The layout of El Call is a network of lanes that crisscross one above another, with houses built higgledy-piggledy, one atop the other, along narrow stone medieval streets. It is a treat to explore, with boutique shopping, artsy cafés, and lots of atmospheric eateries and bars.
The word call (pronounced "kyle" in Catalan) may come from an old Catalan word meaning "narrow way" or "passage." Others suggest that it comes from the Hebrew word qahal, meaning "assembly" or "meeting of the community." The earliest presence of Jews in Girona is uncertain, but the first historical mention dates from 982, when a group of 25 Jewish families moved to Girona from nearby Juïgues. Owing allegiance to the Spanish king (who exacted tribute for this distinction) and not to the city government, this once-prosperous Jewish community—one of the most flourishing in Europe during the Middle Ages—was, at its height, a leading center of learning.