With their eyes and minds set on the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, pilgrims often arrived by boat to A Coruña and Galicia during the Middle Ages. If you arrive to this city in Northern Spain in a somewhat similar fashion, on a cruise ship, you might be interested in knowing that there is still a pilgrimage route leading from A Coruña to the reputed burial place of one of the apostles of Jesus Christ: Saint James the Greater. The route is called El Camino Inglès, or The English Way.
Then again, there is plenty to experience in A Coruña itself, meaning that you might find a number of reasons not to walk the 47 miles/75 kilometers to Santiago de Compostela. Besides, there’s always the possibility to join a shore excursion to the city, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (see below under Shore excursions).
The port is one of the most important fishing ports in Galicia (and in Spain). Much of what the sea produces is offered for sale in A Coruña. If you want to experience the atmosphere at the local fish market, make your way to the port area and you might be able to see the fascinating spectacle when glittering sardines, fresh caught lobsters and percebes are sold. This crustacean, known as Goose barnacles in English, is a Galician specialty.
The city itself invites you to stroll where you will be able to experience both Roman architecture and modern building style. Take a walk along the promenade for an immersion in A Coruña’s architecture, culture and atmosphere. Skirting the city, this 6.2 mile/10 kilometer promenade is the longest of its kind in Europe. Remember to bring your swimwear: You will find two very popular beaches in the heart of the town, Riazor and Orzan.
With some 245,000 inhabitants, A Coruña is the second largest city in Galicia, a region of Spain that is well-known for its strong local culture. The Galicians even have their own language, Galician, which is an official language here. The fact that Galicia has two official languages explains why you will hear some people refer to the city as La Coruña (in Spanish), while others refer to it as A Coruña (in Galician). The Galician name is the official one.
The Transatlantic Quay is within walking distance of the city center.
- Nearly 2,000 years old, the Hercules Tower has come to be A Coruña’s symbol. The Romans constructed the lighthouse toward the end of the first century A.D. or in the early years of the second century. It is the only Roman lighthouse in the world to still be in operation. You will find a sculpture park nearby, beautifully situated near the sea.
- Another historic building, somewhat younger than the Hercules Tower, is the Castelo de San Anton. Built in the 1100s, the fortification keeps watch over the city and its port. The Castelo de San Anton was originally built as the chapel of San Anton, but became a castle in 1587. Today it houses the Museum of Archaeology.
- A Coruña’s Galerias have become well-known outside of the city. These characteristic glazed window balconies can trace their origins to the 18th century, when yard workers started to incorporate ideas from shipbuilding when constructing houses. The intention was to provide shelter from challenging weather. The many Galerias explain why A Coruña has become known as “The City of Glass.”
- A square in A Coruña’s amiable Old Town has been named after the local heroine María Pita, who took an active part in the fending off of the English Armada in 1589. The colonnaded square is flanked not only by buildings featuring glass galleries on their upper floors but also by the imposing Town Hall with its impressive towers. If you choose to immerse yourself in A Coruña, you will find many more squares throughout the city.
- Coliseum is the colloquial name for Plaza de Toros de La Coruña, the city’s bullfighting ring.
- At the Domus, or the House of Mankind, visitors can allow themselves to be fascinated by the human body. This interactive museum was designed by the avant garde architect Arata Isozaki. Originally from Japan, Isozaki’s merit list includes the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles and the Center of Japanese Art and Technology in Kraków, Poland.
- You will find the Aquarium Finisterrae close to the Hercules Tower, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The aquarium allows visitors to add another dimension to their visit in this part of Spain: the local marine fauna.
- The Museo de Bellas Artes is an art museum featuring works by world-famous artists such as Goya and Rubens, but also art by Galician artists from the 19th century onward.
- A Coruña can be experienced by coach, car or minivan. Most of the tours will include the Hercules Tower (see above), which is a city landmark. Sometimes, one or more small towns surrounding the city will also be included in the tour.
- Other tours will put focus on the local Galician cuisine, while still taking in some of the most well-known attractions.
- A one-hour transit by coach will bring you to the third most important place in the world for Christian pilgrimage: Santiago de Compostela. The town features a very well-known cathedral. Distance from A Coruña: 47 miles/75 kilometers .
You will find the local airport some 5 miles/8 kilometers from the city center. It mainly handles domestic Spanish flights.
The distance to Madrid, Spain’s capital, is some 365 miles/590 kilometers. Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, is 380 miles/610 kilometers away.
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