A Coruña, Galicia
With a population of 244,850 A Coruña is actually the second most populous city in the autonomous region of Galicia, making it the seventeenth most populous in the country. Located directly above Portugal, this region is often compared to Ireland for its lush greenery and cliffs along the seaside. Because of the city’s strategic location, it changed hands repeatedly over the years. To name just a few, at one point it was a Roman stronghold, later raided by Normans, and also run by the Catholic Monarchs.
Today, A Coruña is an incredibly busy industrial hub, making it the richest city in the region. The harbor of A Coruña, known as El Puerto de Ocio, is bustling with commercial and private boats. La ciudad vieja (the old town) is picturesque and offers visitors much to take in in terms of history and architecture. The Paseo Marítimo, which stretches nine kilometers of seaside making it one of the longest seaside promenades in Europe, is well-worth a stroll on a sunny day.
While the city itself has plenty to keep visitors entertained, if you are interested in venturing out we recommend seeing the Family of Menhirs, a series of seven stone totems. Although reminiscent of a Celtic funeral ritual, this unique structure is actually the work of contemporary artist Manolo Paz who was particularly interested in paying homage to the region’s Celtic past. Galicia is sometimes referred to as the seventh Celtic nation and the music and traditions one can find in A Coruña certainly support that. For fans of nature and hiking, Monte Fraga de Cerquieros is recommended as well.
Transport options to arrive: Plane, Train, Bus or Car
While trains and buses exist, they are not the best value in terms of time-to-cost ratio. Unfortunately, this region of Spain is a bit less well-connected than others and so public transportation options are not always ideal. However, don’t let that deter you! The entire area and particularly the city of A Coruña are well-worth a visit. Driving is our personal recommendation for the sake of mobility and freedom. Check out our articles on car rentals and car-sharing through Bla Bla Car.
Recommended time of year to visit and length of visit: This beautiful port city benefits from mild temperatures year-round, which means that the winter months are not nearly as chilly as those in neighboring areas but the summers are not particularly hot either. That being said, we recommend visiting in summer for the most predictable and enjoyable weather and allowing at least 2-4 days to tour the area.
Fun Fact: A Coruña is the official name of this port city in gallego (the language spoken by Galicians) whereas La Coruña is the official name in castellaño (Spanish). Still, you will hear some locals refer to it simply as Coruña―perhaps in order to avoid choosing among their two official languages in this instance. During our stay in A Coruña, we did not have any difficulty finding gallegos (that is, Galician people) who were able and willing to speak Spanish with us. However, we did notice that most gallegos opted to speak their local language among themselves so don’t be surprised if you’re greeted with a few expressions you’re unfamiliar with. As soon as you respond in Spanish (or, imaginably, English) they will seamlessly switch for you.
Top three must-sees:
1. Torre de Hércules (Tower of Hercules): At 1900+ years old, this is the oldest functioning Roman lighthouse in the world. Climb up and discover great views of the city. There is also a beautiful mosaic compass rose dedicated to the Celtic people at the foot of the famous structure. FREE entrance on Mondays.
2. Puerto de Ocio (Harbor of A Coruña): Take a stroll past the many picturesque sailboats and other recreational ships and up towards the Castillo de San Antón. As you do, you’ll notice Galicia’s signature white wood-enclosed balconies of the buildings across from the port. These kinds of balconies are known locally as galerias and are the result of particular difficult weather and high winds in the area.
3. María Pita: The city’s main square (called ‘Plaza Mayor‘ in most other cities), the Galicians choose to refer to this square by the name of the famous defender of Spain, María Pita, who stood up to the English invaders in 1589.
One thing to eat: Navajas (Razor Clams)
These shellfish are called “navajas” due to their unique shape that is equated to pocketknives. As someone who doesn’t typically order seafood, Dani was a bit mortified when the dish arrived, looking slimy and raw but she can confirm that the clams ARE grilled and actually have a taste much more similar to steak than most shellfish she’s tried. It’s definitely a unique experience that we highly recommend whether you’re a seasoned seafood lover or rather apprehensive. ¡Atrévate! Dare to try them!