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.
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.
When wandering around a Spanish city for the first time, one of the most pleasurable experiences on offer is to discover the wonderful delicacies in its local markets. Travellers who enjoy the life, bustle and particularly rich ambience of such indoor markets are spoilt for choice in the city of A Coruña, whose markets are exciting gastronomic havens often housed in spectacular, grand buildings.
Just as there are many routes to the Gothic city of Santiago de Compostela, so there are many reasons for embarking on this centuries old pilgrimage. The camino itself is around 800 kilometres long and forms a network of walking routes from across Europe that brings pilgrims to the Galician capital. In total almost 200,000 pilgrims attempt The Way of St James each year, stopping in historic cities and towns such as León, Burgos, Pamplona and Puente la Reina along the way, before arriving in the lush region of Galicia. Traditionally it was a religious pilgrimage to absolve yourself of sin, however, people of all walks of life and persuasions undertake the UNESCO recognised camino on foot, bike, horseback and even by donkey nowadays.
To foreigners Christmas in Spain is mostly associated with visits to the country’s various coastal costas, where the sun shines on sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and Mediterranean bays. Here, temperatures are mostly mild and those who escape the full effect of northern winters can indulge in café society, open-air shopping and even a round of golf. However, it is not the Christmas setting that most Spaniards experience, for most of the country’s interior tends to be in the grip of rather continental climatic conditions roundabout this time of year.
Plaza María Pita, also known sometimes as the Plaza Mayor, is the epicentre of the city of A Coruña not just because it is in the centre of its historic quarter. This beautiful classical square surrounded on three sides by elegant colonnaded grand residences facing the magnificent town hall is also very much the symbolic heart of this region.
The ancient tower that stands so mysteriously atop a promontory hill jutting out boldly into the Atlantic Ocean has protected the people of A Coruña since time immemorial. Indeed, this National Monument of Spain and a Unesco World Heritage Site is officially the oldest lighthouse in operation in the world today and has stood here long before the city as we know it took shape.
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