Tucked in the northwest corner of Spain is the region of Galicia. Santiago de Compostela, the political capital of the region, is the destination for pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago across Spain, but La Coruña, the provincial capital, is a must-see unto itself. Located along the Costa de Morte, or Death Coast, the area around La Coruña is marked by quaint fishing villages, jagged sea cliffs and lighthouses.
La Coruña is Galicia's second largest city overall, behind Vigo. It is a port city on a peninsula, whose history dates back to the second century BCE, when the original Celtic tribes were first visited by the Romans. Later, it is reported that Julius Caesar arrived in Coruña, around 62BCE, in search of a metal trade, hoping to establish commerce with Portugal, France, and England.
Characteristic of Spain, much has changed since the visit of the Romans, but, much remains as well. If you have the opportunity to visit Galicia, make your way to La Coruña, or A Coruña as it is called in Galician.
La Coruña is a 6 hour drive from Madrid, but its airport serves most Spanish destinations, as well as service to and from London, Lisbon, Paris and Amsterdam; and its busy port disembarks more than 60 cruise ships per year.
When you arrive, plan to visit these fun sites.
1 Torre de Hércules or the Tower of Hercules
The 180 foot (55m) tower is the oldest Roman lighthouse, as well as the oldest continually operated lighthouse in the world, believed to be in operation since the second century AD. Built under Trajan, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Cite in 2009. The myth is that Hercules fought and buried the head and weapons of his rival, Geryon, and ordered that a city be built upon the site. Overlooking the North Atlantic Coast, the Tower offers spectacular views as well as an opportunity to meet this guy at the lower sculpture park.
2. Mount of San Pedro Park
For even better views, especially at sunset, head up to the Mount of San Pedro. A former military fort, this park is accessible by funicular or scenic winding road with views of the Millennium Obelisk and a mosaic octopus, which plays homage to the beloved pulp gallego, the region's signature dish. And you can dine at one of Galicia's most famous restaurants, the Mirador de San Pedro.
3. Paseo Maritimo/ The Promenade
No visit to a seaside city or town is complete without a stroll along the beach. Paseo Maritimo, or The Promenade does not disappoint. One of the longest in Europe, this 9km walk (eventually 13km) offers both ocean and city views, including the city's beaches, Riazor and Orzan on the upper side of the peninsula. The port is on the lower side.
4. Maria Pita Square
The city's Plaza Mayor in the Old Town (Ciudad Vieja) is named after La Coruña's heroine, who is said to have climbed the city's highest wall to defend La Coruña against the English armada, led by Sir Francis Drake, in 1589, following her husband's death. Be sure to eat some seafood, including the signature pulp gallego or a tapa and albariño and listen to street performers playing Galician bagpipes, gaita galega.
5. Marineda City Shopping Center
If you're up for a little retail therapy, check out the largest shopping complex in all of Spain and the third largest in all of Europe. Marineda City features anchor stores, such as Decathalon and Ikea, as well as entertainment, including bowling, and ice rink, go carts and a movie theatre. Fun trivia: La Coruña is House of Zara founder Amancio Ortega. You can visit the original store downtown.
Galicia is often overlooked for the more temperate, sun-soaked destinations in the South. However, the staggering landscape, the kind and humble Gallegos, and the hearty and fresh regional specialties makes Galicia a must-see and La Coruña has it all.
Even this guy...
And it's not hard to imagine why.