Dublin has its Guinness, Granada boasts Alhambra beer, Sevilla Cruzcampo and in Málaga they brew Victoria beer. But here in Galicia, walk into any watering hole and you will come across a rather tasty beverage called Estrella Galicia (Galician Star). This pale lager is drunk in bars across Spain, with plenty more exported to markets including Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico and the United States. In fact, annual production now tops more than 100 million litres!
In the bustling Galician city of A Coruña there’s never a dull moment when it comes to entertainment. For aside from the wealth of museums to visit there are some great shows, concerts and exhibitions taking place on a daily basis. During the next few weeks, for example, there will be literally dozens of shows that are suitable for all ages and tastes, in the theatres and performance halls around A Coruña.
Now there are Spaniards and there are Galicians, or Gallegos. Known as Galegos in the local tongue, people from Galicia are Spaniards by nationality, yet not all Spaniards are Galician. To make matters even more confusing, nationalities such as the Argentineans have a habit of saying Gallegos when referring to Spaniards in general.
If you are wandering around the narrow, cobbled streets of A Coruña’s historic old town, you’ll discover a myriad of tempting tapas bars, magnificent monuments and beguiling buildings. However, there’s also a Military Museum (Museo Militar Regional) near the old Roman town walls, which boasts a collection of more than 1,600 objects from the mid 18th century to the middle of the 20th century, donated from both the military and the public. Housed in a building that is itself steeped in history, having been a former correctional prison and the headquarters of the Civil Guard amongst other things, you can quite easily lose yourself for an hour or two if military history is your cup of tea.
In the past it was assumed, perhaps rather logically, that the language spoken in Spain was Spanish. Today, as we become more knowledgeable about our neighbours, we realise that things are seldom that simplistic. As a result, we know that ‘Spanish’ is also known as Castilian, and that there are other languages spoken in specific regions of the country. Of these, Basque and Catalan have received the most publicity in recent years, but there is another important language in Spain, and it’s called Galician.
It’s not all about the Camino de Santiago, rugged Atlantic coastline and tapas of the eight-armed variety in this corner of Spain. For high in the mountains of Galicia, (just east of Ourense) is the Manzaneda Ski Resort, which is becoming increasingly popular with international snow sport fans. The village is hidden amongst the dense forest in the snow-capped slopes of the Sierra de Queixa, where you’ll find an alpine style retreat offering breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside from its well-kept slopes.
For those who haven’t heard about this famous pilgrimage route, it is a blister-inducing 750 kilometre long walk from the traditional starting point of Roncesvalles in the northeast of Spain to Santiago de Compostela in the northwest. Although there are countless starting points all over Europe, you can begin this ancient pilgrimage anywhere you chose, though the majority tend to start in the French town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Known as The Way of Saint James in English, this UNESCO recognised collection of centuries old paths has seen its popularity soar in recent years since the Hollywood film The Way, starring Martin Sheen, came out in 2010.
Everyone knows about the blister inducing pilgrimage route that reaches its culmination at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela – but in addition this beautiful historic city has so much more to offer. Quite uniquely, the capital of Galicia boasts an almost completely pedestrianised old town that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site (since 1985). Anyone familiar with the historic old town quarters peppered around the Iberian peninsula will be even more impressed with Santiago, which has a tantalising maze of narrow, medieval cobbled streets just made for exploring. Visitors who enjoy nothing more than wandering impulsively around Gothic Spanish streets will be left breathless by the staggering beauty to be found in the many squares, medieval buildings, ecclesiastical monuments and arcaded walkways in Santiago’s atmospheric centre.
Those who have a fondness of the oceans and all things nautical will be duly impressed by A Coruña’s extraordinary Aquarium Finisterrae. Translated as the ‘aquarium at the end of the world’, it lies on the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean, just a fishing line’s distance from the ancient Torre de Hercules lighthouse.
It’s that time of year when the evenings are darker, the heating is turned on and the chestnut sellers are out in force. Although many people’s natural inclination is to hibernate, it’s actually an ideal moment to go on a weekend getaway to the far-flung corners of Galicia. The region is full of quaint and quirky towns and cities ripe for exploring in the winter months and, as an added bonus, you can take advantage of the low season rates in hotels, hostels and guesthouses. So here are four of the best places to visit over a long weekend according to our staff.
No visit to A Coruña would be complete without spending a few hours wandering around the Casa del Hombre Domus (House of Man) in open-mouthed awe. Touted as the first interactive museum in the world devoted to the human being, this is one of the most fascinating places in the entire province to take your family. There’s no missing this museum, as it is housed in an eye-catching building sitting proudly opposite the city’s sea front, where it is visible from Riazor Beach. Designed by the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki (the talent behind Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium), the striking façade is shaped like a large sail covered in layers of slate and is one of A Coruña’s great architectural achievements.
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