There are several stunning places to visit in northern Spain. Galicia especially takes the cake when in comes to seafood, wines, and beautiful scenery.
Without further ado, here are the top 5 towns to visit in Galicia, Spain:
Also see our post on the Top Reasons to Visit Galicia, Spain
Okay, so this isn’t technically Spain, but Valença is a beautiful town located close to the Spanish-Portuguese border. The Minho River creates a natural separation of the two countries, but a quick car ride across the old international bridge takes visitors directly into the heart of Valença and into another world.
Valença is an ancient, walled city that dates back to Roman times, but it’s the city’s distinctive 12th century fortress is what makes it a popular spot for tourists who are already in neighboring Galicia. After a quick stop at the local tourism information office, visitors can stroll through the cobblestone walkways where charismatic cafés, lace shops and boutiques line the street. High up on the bastions of the old fort there are gorgeous panoramic views of the Minho and the surrounding countryside.
Valença is located about an hour drive southwest of Ourense, Spain along the A-52 and A-55 highways.
For travelers who can appreciate the simple joys in life (i.e. great seafood and ocean breeze) A Guarda definitely forms part of the top 5 towns to visit in Galicia, Spain! The main feature of A Guarda is the charming seaside promenade, but if you drive out of the center and up the mountain you can visit the Celtic ruins of Santa Tecla as well as the Santa Tecla Church. This wonder of archaeology is an ancient Celtic settlement that stands as a testament to Galicia’s Celtic roots. The ancient people of Galiza inhabited the area over 2,000 years ago and lived is Castros, or small, circular fortifications made of stone. They typically lived high on hilltops and communicated with other villages via bonfires and smoke signals. The ruins at the Santa Tecla settlement give visitors a deeper understanding into the lives of these simple, but industrious people. A model Castro has been erected to give a better idea of what they may have looked like.
A Guarda is located about an hour drive south of Vigo along the AP-9 and PO-552 highways.
The origins of Pontevedra date back over 2,000 years to the time when Galicia (at the time known as Gallaecia) was being integrated into the Roman Empire. The name Pontevedra alludes to two of the city’s distinctive features- its bridge (ponte) and its lush landscape (vedra.) The Ponte de Burgo still stands today over the Lerez River.
Pontevedra continued to thrive throughout the Medieval Ages as a trading hub and has since been a frequented stop on the Camino de Santiago (The Walk of St. James.) Pontevedra is now a bustling city full of university students, superb restaurants and captivating architecture. The ancient section of Pontevedra is a delight to explore on foot, as is the walkway along the marina. Pontevedra is near the heart of the Rías Baixas wine region, famous for its delicate Albariño variety. Wine tourism in the area is booming; other stops along the Rías Baixas route include Sanxenxo, Cambados and O Grove.
See our article on The Best White Wines of Galicia, Spain
Pontevedra is located about a half-hour drive north of Vigo along the AP-9 highway.
On March 1, 1493, Christopher Columbus’ ship, the Pinta, arrived in the port of Baiona with the news of the discovery of America. It was the first news of the discovery to reach Europe and the event is celebrated every year in Baiona. The town boasts a scenic shoreline and an impressive fortress perched high above on the Monterreal Peninsula- the Parador de Baiona.
This remarkable 10th century Medieval castle fortress was intended to deter invaders. Baiona is the oldest port in Galicia and happens to be a strategic location because of its proximity to the Cies Islands and its coastal position in northern Spain. The Parador de Baiona features a luxury hotel within the castle walls, but non-guests are always welcomed to visit the castle. Walking along the perimeter will thrill you as you gain a bird’s eye view of Baiona and the open ocean surrounding it. Seagulls, pine trees and the ocean breeze add to the ambience. This is a must-see in Galicia!
Baiona is located a half-hour drive southwest of Vigo along the AP-9 and AG-57 highways.
This enchanting seaside town is best known for its distinctive promenade and attractive, galeria-style main street façade. This is the most attractive, and also the commercial, part of the town. Visitors who come to Muros for the first time will notice the hundreds of fishing boats and dinghies docked in the harbor.
Its tradition in fishing is not a new one; during the 15th century it was one of the largest seaports in Spain. But even before that Muros was inhabited as far back as 2500 BC during the Bronze Age. Straight off the promenade is the main plaza, enveloped in small town life- children playing, people reading newspapers and the local bar serving up ice-cold beer. Muros boasts an outdoor market twice a week. Interesting fact: the arched entrances to the shops along the main promenade were once designated as fish cleaning and selling stations. The fishermen who lived in the houses did not want to stink up their homes so they sold their catch, feet from the harbor, from these covered areas.
Muros is located about an hour and fifteen-minute drive west of Santiago de Compostela along the AC-550 highway.
Did you like our picks for the top 5 towns to visit in Galicia, Spain? If you’ve been to Galicia or planning on going, leave us a question or comment below!
Special thanks to Turgalicia.
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I have read through your article – how you have described Galicia is fantastic and so very inviting!…hence I am calling on your experience and thoughts!
I am planning on spending some time in the Galician region in May/June NEXT year (dreaming and planning way ahead of time…and loving it!). I will be spending a couple of days in Santiago after walking the last leg of the Camino, from Sarria. Then planning on spending 2 or 3 days nearby Santiago – simply somewhere in the Galician region, then will be travelling by train down to Madrid for a few days, then home to Australia.
What would your recommendations be for the Galician area? I am hoping to spend 3 nights in airbnb accommodation, in the hope to experience wherever I stay as a local, rather than from a hotel perspective.
I am looking for a cultural, arty, pottering, relaxing but interesting type vibe, (obviously with good food in the mix as well…) if that makes sense??
My wish is that Girona was up there rather than way down where it is – as it is a place that has appealed to me for years…but I don’t want to spend a day travelling to it, and I really want to soak in more of the Northern Spain area since my walk brings me to the area to start with. So anything “Girona’ish” up there would be wonderful (not asking too much at all…haha)
Looking forward to hearing back from you.
Could you please recommend a couple of options for places to conduct a yoga retreat in Galicia. We will be a group of 12 to 15 planning to visit sometime in August.
I really enjoyed reading your blog; I’m planning a family 16 day road trip with my two teens from Paris to Galicia later this year. I have already reserved 3 nights in San Sebastien and 3 nights in Santiago and would like to book somewhere as a base for exploring the best beaches in Galicia? Any suggrestions would be very welcome.
Thanks for writing me. I would suggest go down to Vigo, there are plenty of beaches around that area. Here is an article about Vigo we produced: https://davidsbeenhere.com/2015/12/10/top-10-things-to-do-in-vigo-spain/
We’ve visited Galicia this year and for us the most beautiful city is Pontevedra!!
We will arrive Barcelona on 22 June and depart on 2 July. There are 8 of us with the oldest being my grandaunt who is in her late 70s.
We are foodies and plan for a road trip covering Galicia and Basque. Am thinking of flying into San Sebastian on June 23 and driving our way westward to Galicia, perhaps flying back to Barcelona from Vigo on July 2.
Appreciate if you can suggest we stay during these 9 days and which towns to cover?
Am thinking starting with San Sebastian as a base for 3 nights? then a mid way point and lastly somewhere in Galicia?
Thanks for writing me. I think you should focus on one region or the other. There is just way to much to cover and 9 days would be perfect to cover all of Basque country. Bilbao, San Sebastian, Victoria-Gasteiz and maybe Logrono to experience La Rioja. If you want to do both you would loose a lot of time driving from Basque to Galicia as you need to drive through the mountains of Asturias. For Galicia, Vigo, Ourense, Lugo, A Coruna and Santiago are the best choices. Let me know if you need some more help!
We are looking for ideas on where to stay when we visit our son in Nigran in May, 2017. We will fly into Lisbon and take a few days to travel to Nigran. We would like to stay locally and prefer a small village location with gardens/space/vineyards as opposed to city center. We will have a week in the Galicia area before we head back to Lisbon. We will have our own transportation. Thank you so much.
Hi Lisa, I didn’t visit Nigran. I did stay in Vigo for a few nights and visited the nearby town of Baiona, which has a parador hotel (gov’t run luxury hotel in a castle). Check it out here: http://www.parador.es/en/paradores/parador-de-baiona
If not, perhaps check out apartment rentals on airbnb or wimdu. Hope that helps! Have a great trip!
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my queries. I appreciate it for it is such a big help for us to design an enjoyable trip for everyone without the repetitive “are we there yet mom” questions .Thanks so much again.
Thank you so much for sharing. I just like to ask for your opinion as to where is the “central” base we could use as a family to explore Galicia this coming December since we are planning to take the kids, ages 7-18 from Porto to Basque Country on a road trip. Since we come from a tropical country, the theme of our travel would not be beaches but great historical sights, museums, food and of course great walks so we wont pile up too much on poundage and end up so bloated when we get to France. We have 16 days to explore Galicia, Asturias and the Spanish and Basque countries. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thank you and God bless you.
I suggest you base your family out of Santiago de Compostela. If you have 16 days I would do 7 in Galicia, then head to Oviedo and stay 4 days, then the last 5 days in Bilbao. Please take into account that you will be doing a lot of driving. There is a 4 hour drive from Santiago to Oviedo and a 3 hour drive from Oviedo to Bilbao.
Places you should visit in Galicia: Vigo, Ourense, Lugo, Pontevedra, La Coruna and a lot of historical towns.
Places you should visit in Asturias: Luanco, Aviles, Gijon, Covadonga and Llanes.
Places you should visit in Basque Country: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Victoria-Gasteiz, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and the wine town of Laguardia.