If you haven’t added Galicia to your bucket list, you should. There’s something magical about this land that has attracted Pirates, Spies and Heroes of almost every classical civilization in history, and it will steal your heart too.
Galicia is my home (technically my second home), and I grew with its green and blue landscapes, but I keep discovering new things every day. So Patricia and I decided to start a series of posts to share the best tips to Galicia with you, so you don’t miss a thing when you pay a visit. And our first stop will be on the Rias Baixas: Pontevedra.
Pontevedra and the surrounding area (known as Terras de Pontevedra – lands of Pontevedra) is mostly overlooked when planning a trip to Galicia, and believe me when I say it’s a big mistake.
Here’s why you shouldn’t skip Pontevedra on your trip to the north of Spain:
It has something for everyone
Pontevedra is a small noble town where politicians, writers, entrepreneurs and artists of all kind used to gather since the roman ages. While one could argue that nearby Vigo has much more to offer in terms of modern and urban culture, truth is that Pontevedra does have an impressive offer in terms of gastronomy, arts and culture too.
An easy walk around town will take you through the areas of the different guilds of a medieval town: shoemakers, ironworkers, greens, seafarers… And you will find many sculptures telling you the story of the city: from the Ravachol parrot at Peregrina to the musicians in front of Café Moderno and the the man checking the weights of the merchants at the old market.
Check out the restaurants at Praza da Leña and Praza da Verdura, for a taste of what Galicia has to offer. The collections at the Museum of Pontevedra, with a vast amount of archaeological remains. And the outstanding churches and monasteries of Peregrina, St. María la Mayor or St. Francisco. And if you feel lucky enough, try finding the treasure of pirate Benito Soto at Casa das Campás (now home to the University of Vigo).
Pontevedra is easily explored on foot
The city of Pontevedra is one of the easiest cities to explore on foot, bike or a wheelchair. While it certainly is on a slope, you can avoid the steep parts easily without missing any important spot.
What’s more, you can reach everything in less than 20 minutes on foot, from the Peregrina square. Which is awesome, because you can see everything easily and even stop to have some tapas or wine (or both) without feeling the pressure of time.
It’s location perfect for a trip around the Rias Baixas
Ok, you won’t find a ship to Cíes Islands departing from Pontevedra, but, besides that, the city has quite a location if you are planning to visit this beautiful region:
A few kilometers away from Combarro and Cambados, and right next to the stunning beaches of Cangas, Moaña and Marin, you will be able to choose to travel by the (expensive but fast) highway, by the old train route by the sea, or the many typical winding and beautiful roads.
Just some bad news here: public transport is almost nonexistent to many interesting spots, so be prepared to take the road if you want to fully enjoy the region.
It has one of the biggest collections of Rock Art in Europe
Whether you are into archaeology like Indiana Jones or just a bit interested in human history, Pontevedra’s nearby collection of marks in the rock will sure impress you. Here you will find one of the biggest collections of rock art in Europe and (almost all of it) easy accessible and free.
Where they marking territory? Just artistic expressions? Maybe some kind of magical communication with the gods? Make your own theory while you check out the beautiful rocks by the beach and over the “Ría de Pontevedra” or hit the road only 25 kilometers away to the night tours through Campo Lameiro Archaeological Park.
Discover our top 5 rock art sites in Pontevedra
It’s one of the best cities in the world (according to UN)
Yes, that UN, the United Nations!
This small city has evolved without losing its essence and always thinking on what’s best for the people who live there. That’s why Pontevedra is accessible, walkable and easily enjoyable for everyone, even for those who are not “urban” people.
Walk its street by day and mingle with the people who visit the fish market on their coffee break to buy a handful of sardines, the ladies who go from church to church as if they were on a pilgrimage and the students getting late to school. Or wait for the night and join the locals on a tour of local beer and wine and some amazing food, and listen to great live music on one of the many spots in town.
Some extra info
Pontevedra is well explored on foot but you will most probably need a car to explore the small villages and interesting sites nearby (Combarro, Cambados, the petroglyph sites…).
There are several private parkings available around town and many public parking areas (pay, but weekends are free.)
How to get there
By train: Renfe operates direct trains from Vigo, Santiago de Compostela and even Madrid and Barcelona on a daily basis. Connecting trains with Portugal, Ponferrada or Irun are also available.
By plane: Closest airport is Vigo (VGO 30km), next: Santiago de Compostela (SCQ 59km).
El Camino de Santiago: Portuguese way.