Don’t ask for flamenco when in Vigo. This is Galicia, a proud region in Spain’s northwest that even has its own historic language: Galician.
With some 300,000 inhabitants, Vigo is the largest city in the region. And although you might be able to find a flamenco dancer here, flamenco can definitely be more frequently encountered in other parts of Spain. Any local will tell you that.
Galicia’s own traditional dance and music reflect that the region has a history of its own. This was once an area that belonged to the Celts. As such, it was connected to both Scotland and Bretagne (France). Over the centuries, impressions from many other civilizations have continued to shape both lifestyle and language in Galicia and Vigo.
Vigo boasts one of the world’s largest fishing ports, for starters. Tokyo’s fishing port is larger, but only if taking into consideration fish that is intended for other purposes than human consumption. After arriving to Vigo on a cruise ship, you will probably understand why it is said that the city supplies half of Europe with fish: The fishing boats are plentiful.
Once you’ve disembarked from your ship, take the opportunity to experience world-class seafood. Shellfish, in particular, is of high quality, but there is a fish dish to please every palate.
Make your way to the A Pedra area, for example, where oyster restaurants nowadays are as plentiful as tradesmen and smugglers used to be a couple of hundred years ago.
Although the port area is the center of gravity, there is also much to be experienced in the other parts of the city and the neighboring areas. The beaches around Vigo, for example, have been recognized for their qualities. In 2007, The Guardian, a U.K. newspaper, put the Rodas beach (on the nearby Cíes Islands) in first place on a list of the world’s best beaches.
Cruise ships dock close to the city center (even the largest ships, such as RCI’s Independence of the Seas). The cruise terminal, Alberto Durán, was recently renovated. The port area offers nice walks and a wide range of restaurants, culture and shopping.
- Vigo’s main park and the city’s main museum – the Quiñones de León Museum – are located in the same place.
- MARCO is the region’s Museum of Modern Art, inaugurated in 2002. The exhibitions are often interesting, focusing on Spanish art and artists.
- You can also experience art while strolling the streets of Vigo. Streets and squares are garnished with interesting sculptures, such as the startling diver in the port. One of the parks in the center of the city – Parque Charlie Rivel, commonly known as El Castro – features both a castle ruin and an astonishing view of the sea.
- There’s more to be experienced on foot. Intersected by tiny streets, Vigo has an area with a large number of fishermen’s houses – some of them dating back to the 17th century. In the alleys of the Berbés quarters, you will find several cafés and small bars. For a more trendy atmosphere, head for the area known as El Arenal.
- While you’re walking, take the opportunity to do some shopping: This city is in no shortage of shops selling everything from clothes to souvenirs.
- The idea behind the Liste Ethnographic Museum is to provide and convey knowledge of Galicia’s ethnographic heritage. The museum is situated in central Vigo.
- With the sea as its closest neighbor, the Museo do Mar de Galicia (Museum of the Galician Sea) puts focus on the importance of the sea to this region of Spain. The exhibitions include an aquarium that reproduces the three primary ecosystems of the Galician estuaries and a large-scale model of a mussel platform.
- VERBUM – Casa das Palabras is an interactive museum related to all aspects of human communication. The museum is designed as a cultural and recreational space where visitors can participate actively while exploring the elements included in the exhibition.
- For a different perspective on this region of Spain, take a ferry to the Parque Nacional de las Islas Atlanticas de Galicia – a national park consisting of several islands just off Vigo. If you hop on the local ferry, it will take you 50 minutes to reach Islas Cíes, which is one of the four groups of islands that constitute the National Park. Once a place for pirates, this is now a true nature’s paradise where thousands of birds nest in the cliffs facing the sea. Plus, you will find one of the world’s best beaches here: the Rodas Beach.
Vigo provides an excellent starting point for excursions that take in the fascinating region of Spain known as Galicia. Highlights include:
- Catholics consider Santiago de Compostela to be the world’s third most important pilgrimage site. The town features not only a well-known cathedral – the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela — but also a very old university. Santiago de Compostela is also worth visiting for its architecture. Distance from Vigo: 55 miles/88 kilometers.
- Tuy, an ancient town that has been important in the history of Galicia, is situated on the Portuguese border. There are many monuments and beautiful sights to visit, as well as many restaurants where to enjoy typical Galician cuisine. Distance from Vigo: 19 miles/31 kilometers
- A tour of Bayona. The port and the fishing fleet are the two factors that make this one of the most important coastal towns in Galicia. Some tours will take in Mount Castro along the way, from where you will have a splendid view of Vigo. Distance from Vigo: 25 miles/40 kilometers.
- In Pontevedra, you will be able to experience the 14th century Church of Saint Marie. It is one of few Gothic churches to be found in this area of Spain. Pontevedra is also a town with one of the nicest historic quarters in Galicia. There is a bullring too, the only one in Galicia. Distance from Vigo: 18.5 miles/30 kilometers.
- Other tours will focus on one or several others of the quaint towns and villages that can be found all over Galicia. One example is Orense, with its thermal baths from Roman times. There are also several other spas and resorts close to Vigo.
Vigo’s airport has daily connections to Madrid, Barcelona and Paris. For flight connections, it might be good to know that Oporto, Portugal’s second largest city, is situated close to Vigo. Getting to Oporto’s international airport, with a lot of connections to Europe, the U.S. and the rest of the world, takes an hour or so from Vigo.
367 miles/590 kilometers away, Spain’s capital, Madrid, is quite some distance from Vigo. Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, is closer: the distance is 285 miles/460 kilometers.
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