There are plenty of reasons to visit Pontevedra city and its surroundings, but just in case you don’t have too much time to spend in the city, we’ve selected our favorite things to do in Pontevedra (and the most famous ones) for you.
Just a small warning before we start: Pontevedra is better experienced in a slow mood, on foot and with stops for drinks and food. And in case you don’t have time enough don’t run, every site is just a few minutes from the next one.
What you shouldn’t miss in Pontevedra City
The sanctuary of the pilgrim Virgin Mary is also known as the Peregrina. Built by the end of the XVIII Century, this is one of the most symbolic and representative buildings in Pontevedra.
The Virgin Mary inside is the saint patron of the region of Pontevedra and the City, but also of the Portuguese Way towards Santiago de Compostela. It is celebrated by the second Sunday of August every year.
But the church is not only famous because of that, it has a scallop shell layout, symbolizing the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, with a Baroque façade. You can also climb to the bell towers (pay) to get a good overview of the city from the top.
Close by: Right in front of the church you will find the sculpture of Ravachol parrot, an interesting figure of the Carnival parties in Pontevedra. Just a few steps away, at Praza da Ferraría, you will find some of the oldest cafes in the city and St. Francis Church, built in the XVIII Century (over the remains of a XIII convent) and where the most noble families of the region used to be buried.
Ruins of Santo Domingo church at Alameda
The old convent of Santo Domingo was built in the 13th Century by the Dominican order. It was partially restored into a Neoclassical building, but the construction went unfinished and later abandoned by the order. It was later a women prison, an asylum and a kindergarten until it was partially demolished.
Today, you can visit the 5 polygonal apses (a unique setting in all Galicia) built in the late XIV Century and a lateral wall for free. They were saved from demolition on the XIX Century by the Archaeological Society and declared a national monument in 1895.
Close by: It is worth taking a look at the Town Hall – the old customs house -, and right behind it: the sculpture of Fiel Contraste (the loyal checker, a person who would check that the scales of merchants were correct at the market back in the medieval times) and one of the oldest houses in town: Casa das Campás (an XV Century building where legends say bloody pirate Benito Soto hid his fortune – now a building of the University of Vigo.)
The Real Basílica de Santa María A Maior
There is no cathedral at Pontevedra city, but if there was one, it would surely be the church of St. Mary from the 16th century. Declared artistic and historical monument in 1931, Santa María combines the late Gothic with the Renaissance.
Its principal facade (from the 16th century) by Cornelis de Holanda and João Noble, is considered one of the most outstanding works of the Plateresque style in Galicia. Don’t forget to look at the image of Saint Xerome with glasses.
On the inside, there are several figures worth looking at, like Cristo del Desenclavo (16th Century) and Cristo de los Marineros (18th Century). And on the outside you will find the figure of Cristo del Buen Viaje, author and date unknown but long time protector of travelers of all kind.
Close by: Right below the temple are some of the only remains of the old city wall. And only two streets away, many pilgrims stop at Santuario das Aparicións, where Sor Lucía, the last survivor of the Fátima miracle used to live.
The Fish Market and the bridges
Pontevedra is not the typical city by the sea: you won’t find a fishing port or Fish Auctions at the market. But while most of the city has turned its back to the sea, it cannot forget its connection with river Lerez and its bridges, from which it took its name (Pontevedra = Pons Vetus = Old bridge).
The fish market is now a regular food market, like the many you will find at Rias Baixas region. But there are two things that make it worth looking at: the main hall is exclusively for fishmongers (climb to the top floor for better views) and their fresh product can be bought downstairs and eaten upstairs, where the restaurants will cook it for you right away.
There is also a plan to build a gastro market upstairs.
Close by: The river has many interesting bridges here in Pontevedra, specially beautiful at sunset when the tide is high. Also, check the Roman remains on the route of the Portuguese Way, including the old walls and the Mileage stone (between the Fish Market and the old bridge).
Museo Provincial – Museum of Pontevedra
The regional museum of Pontevedra comprises a series of buildings (Sarmiento Palace, the Castro Monteagudo building, and the García Flórez and Fernández López buildings) all around the old city. They host both permanent and temporary exhibitions, covering archaeology, Roman and pre-Roman metalwork, paintings (from the 14th Century on) and even literature and decor.
There is also a separate collection from Castelao, a Galician politician, writer and painter who lived in the city and remains as one of the most important celebrities of Pontevedra.
Admission is free and main buildings open till late (only close on Mondays), making it a great thing to do in Pontevedra when it rains.
Close by: The buildings of the Museum are located in different squares along the old town of Pontevedra, so going from one to the other will also help you visit some of the most beautiful corners of the City.
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).
The Way: the Portuguese Way goes through the city towards Santiago de Compostela.