Galicia was the first place I ever visited in Spain. It brings a lot of memories: I barely spoke Spanish back then. The fact that in Galicia they usually speak Gallego rather than Castillian Spanish which I was studying, didn’t make it any easier. But it was my first international exchange and I had a blast. I haven’t been there since, but recently my Favourite Travel Companion decided to move there, so I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days there and explore a bit. So here’s an idea for an itinerary of the two most important cities in the region: Santiago de Compostela and La Coruña.
Galicia is an autonomous region at the north-west of Spain. I always feel like the north of Spain is generally less appreciated internationally and it needs to be known better. The Mediterranean coast being a more popular tourist destination, this is a calmer, more peaceful place with the local culture and landscapes which are second to none. The culture of the north is very rich. Music, food and traditional celebrations are often very different to what we typically think of Spanish culture, based on the south.
Santiago de Compostela
This place lives and breathes history and religion. In the centre of the old town, the Cathedral of Santiago is the jewel that attracts thousands of pilgrims each year. Santiago welcomes pilgrims of all nationalities and denominations. It has become a symbol of hospitality and tolerance. Indeed, the streets, walls and pavements of the city are decorated with la concha, the symbol of the apostle Santiago.
I personally would love to walk the Camino at some point in my life. To anyone interested in getting to know more about Camino de Santiago I recommend a film by Emilio Estevez The way.
You can enjoy Santiago even if you didn’t spend three months walking to get there though. Its old town is thriving with life in local cafes and shops, inviting to get lost in the narrow streets between the dark-stone buildings. The cathedral amazes with its grandeur, towering over Plaza de Obradoiro, where you can hear the typical local music.
I had the opportunity to visit the cathedral last time I was there. We even got the chance to walk on the roof with the guide. But this time it was rather unwelcoming, closed for renovation, so I had to skip the visit to the cathedral and explore the rest of the city centre.
Although unlikely to be featured in travel guides due to its rather unappealing architecture, Coruña makes up for it with its wonderful location on a peninsula surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. I love the cliffs and the landscapes reminding me of Scotland.
A must see is the end of the peninsula, with the Torre de Hercules, a lighthouse guiding the ships to the port. It has been first built by the Romans and got its name from a legend. The legend says that it is here where Hercules buried the head of a giant- Geryon after killing him. He then ordered a city to be built on the site.
Torre de Hercules houses a museum and you can climb to the top to enjoy the view of the city and the sea. It is surrounded by a huge park which is easy to get to from both sides of the city going along the coast. The coasts in Galicia are beautiful and much more rocky than the Mediterranean part of Spain.
Galicia is famous for its seafood as Coruña is one of the most important fishing ports in the world. If you’re looking for a truly local foodie experience, go for pulpo a la gallega– a seasoned octopus. Another typical dish is mariscada– it’s big, usually for two people, with all different kinds of seafood. Look for it at the city centre- the marina and Plaza Maria Pita.