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Tower of Hercules, A Coruña

The best things to do in A Coruña

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2 May 2019 by Sophie Sadler

Beautifully poised on the Galician coast of northern Spain, A Coruña is a port city that combines natural beauty with an intriguing past. Indeed, look beyond its beach-clad good looks and you’ll discover the likes of painting masterworks, delicious seafood and a rich history that spans from the Romans to medieval pilgrims.

Tower of Hercules

Dating to the end of the first century AD, the Tower of Hercules is the oldest Roman lighthouse and the only one in the world that remains in service to this day. It’s a UNESCO-listed treasure that once guided pilgrim ships into port. Although its appearance has changed with an 18th-century update, the Roman remains are beneath the four outside walls and the classical myths and legends live on. After all, it’s where Hercules killed the giant tyrant Geryon after three days and nights of continuous battle. Once there, allow for some time to wander at the adjacent open-air sculpture park and take in the views. ​

The UNESCO-listed Tower of Hercules
Tower of Hercules

The English Way (Camino Ingles)

With France off-limit during the Hundred Years' War, English pilgrims would travel most of the way by ship to Santiago de Compostela – home to one of the world’s great cathedrals. They would land in the Galician port of A Coruña to walk the 47 miles of the English Way. Although it usually takes three days to travel  to Santiago, you’ll be able to get a sense of the pilgrims’ journey with just a short stretch, weaving between rolling farmlands and rural villages. A Coruña, as the starting point of the Camino, continues to preserve numerous architectural references of those times.

 Waypoint for the Camindo de Santiago
Camino de Santiago waypoint

Picasso’s House

Pablo Picasso called A Coruña home between 1891 and 1895, with the work he painted here now adorning museums in Paris and Barcelona. However, you can visit the humble 19th-century townhouse that he shared with his parents and two sisters right here, with much of the second-floor apartment kept in its original state. There’s even a considered collection of his sketches, engravings and paintings, along with work by his father.

Exterior of the Instituto da Guarda
Instituto da Guarda, where Picasso studied in A Coruña

A Coruña Fish Market

For many, this is the most memorable experience of their visit to A Coruña. The Plaza de Lugo Fish market has been open for business since 1910, selling produce from the estuary-strewn Atlantic coastline. It’s served by Spain’s largest fishing fleet, and has been named one of the seven wonders of the culinary world by Rick Stein no less.

A fish market in Galicia, Spain
Galician fish market

Indulge in the foodie capital of the Spanish Northwest

A Coruña is a melting pot of traditional and avant-garde cuisine, the place where some of the boldest and most innovative chefs have chosen to use local and seasonal products in their amazing culinary creations. Unsurprisingly, seafood is a particular speciality, and pulpo is a special highlight. This simple Galician octopus dish is a popular tapa appetiser, coming softly boiled and lightly dressed in paprika. Be sure to wash it down with a visit to Los Vinos – a series of old narrow lanes largely given over to cutesy wine and tapas bars. Be sure to also try the croquettes with air-dried beef and O Cebreiro cheese, along with the squid rolls and grilled queen scallops.

Traditional Galician octopus dish – pulpo

Finisterrae Aquarium and Science Museums

The fish lucky enough to escape the markets end up at Finisterrae Aquarium. Also known as the “Casa de los Peces”, or “House of the Fishes”, it’s the chance to learn about Galician marine life over four different exhibition halls, each with its own specialism. While there are 338 species on display, the Nautilus Room is a particular highlight – a room entirely submerged in a large pool of five million litres. Its decoration is even reminiscent of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus submarine. Besides the Aquarium, A Coruña is the home of three other interactive museums that house fascinating facts about humankind, science and technology.

Tiger shark, Finisterrae Aquarium

Monte de San Pedro

For the best overlook of the city, head to the Monte de San Pedro. A panoramic lift ascends the cliff face, offering fantastic views before you even reach the summit. It’s part funicular, part futuristic glass-and-steel bubble. Then, at the top, short walks lead you between increasingly impressive viewpoints, the ancient lighthouse and a giant gun emplacement, left over from WWII.

Mt. St. Peter
View from Monte de San Pedro

The Old City and its galleries

Like most Galician towns, A Coruña has a medieval centre. It’s a pleasure to wander its narrow cobbled streets, admiring the impressive Constitutional Square and the townhouses of famous Galician poets and writers. There are also three important churches, with the Church of Santiago one of A Coruña’s oldest buildings. The houses, with their traditional white galleries ​that line the waterfront area next to the Old Town, are undoubtedly one of the best-known landmarks.

A Coruña old town, Galicia
Concello da Coruña

Sunset strolls along Europe's longest sea promenade

For a city whose history has always been inextricably linked to the sea, it's perhaps little surprise that A Coruña is home to the longest seafront promenade in Europe. Stretching for eight scenic miles and lined with more than 1,000 red Art Nouveau street lamps, it passes right through the entire city centre and offers direct access to no fewer than five ‘blue flag’ beaches.

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