Vigo Guide Galicia Spain | Portugal Visitor
Vigo (Galicia, Spain)
Vigo is a large port city located in the province of Pontevedra in Galicia, northwestern Spain. This lively, modern, industrial town has a population of around 295,000 people.
The city is situated on the Ria de Vigo, the southernmost of the Rías Baixas, deep-water, sunken estuaries that dot this part of the Atlantic coast.
Now one of the largest fishing ports in Europe, the sea has always been an important factor in the socio-economic development of the area.
Vigo is also the largest city in Galicia, ahead of A Coruña, which has a population of around 245,000 inhabitants.
Two languages are generally spoken by the region’s inhabitants, Galician (Galego) which is close to Portuguese and Spanish. The city is also the most ethnically diverse in Galicia.
Historically, Vigo is a fairly recent city. There is only sparse evidence of the Roman presence in this once fairly remote area of northwestern Spain.
By the 16th century, Vigo’s port was important enough to be attacked by Francis Drake in both 1585 and 1589. In response to English and later Ottoman attacks, Philip IV of Spain began the construction of the city’s castles and defensive walls.
During the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714) the naval Battle of Vigo saw an English fleet defeat a combined Spanish and French navy. In 1791, Vigo, along with Redondela and Pontevedra were occupied by the British for a brief period in retaliation for Spanish support of the Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland.
Later during the Peninsular War (1807-1814) the area was occupied by the French for a short time.
Vigo’s history really takes off in the 20th century with the growth of the fishing port and the car industry. The Nationalist government under Franco made Vigo a tax-free zone in 1947 which spurred growth and the city’s population grew exponentially as a result.
The main sights in Vigo are its 17th-century fortresses, Castelo de San Sebastián and the Fortaleza do Castro, as well as the historic fisherman’s houses in the Casco Vello (Old City).
The twin castles occupy a hill in the center of the city and are now a large, green space popular with walkers who can admire the remains of the scenic stone walls and entrance gates.
The Co-Cathedral of Santa María is a co-cathedral with the one in Tui on the border with Portugal, forming the Diocese of Tui-Vigo.
The church dates from the second half of the 16th century after the originally was sacked and badly damaged by Drake in 1585.
Misfortune struck again in 1809 when a powder magazine exploded in the nearby Castelo de San Sebastián and damaged the building yet again. The present church dates from 1838 and is noteworthy for its superb mosaics and general robustness, not surprising considering its past history.
The Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo (MARCO) is housed in an historic, restored 19th century prison. It has no permanent collection but stages temporary exhibitions throughout the year. It opened in 2002.
The Museo do Mar de Galicia examines the city’s relationship with the sea and the region’s marine environment. It, too, is located in another historic 19th century building, the Alcabre-Molino de Viento canning factory. There are exhibits concerning the fishing industry, navigation and the species of marine creatures in the nearby Atlantic Ocean. Visitors can see ships’ instruments, model ships, paintings, photographs and live marine creatures in tanks.
The Museo Quiñones de León (Museo Municipal de Vigo) is the oldest museum in the city. Its exhibits include collections of art, in particular Galician paintings, as well as historical and archeological pieces dating back to the Romans and the Stone Age. It is housed in a fine 17th century mansion house with a lovely, redeveloped garden complete with a tennis court. The sport was introduced to Galicia by English seamen.
The Museo Etnográfico Liste grew from a private collection of agricultural implements and traditional crafts. Now with over 2,000 pieces, the museum showcases the traditional culture of Galicia with clothing, footwear (Including wooden clogs), medicines, tools, and religious items all on display.
The Fundación Laxeiro began in 1999 to preserve the works that the painter Xosé Otero Abeledo, nicknamed Laxeiro (1908-1996) donated to the city. The permanent collection consists of 64 of his paintings.
Museo Verbum – Casa das Palabras, close to Samil Beach, is an interactive museum dedicated to human communication based around the various themes of languages, letters, literature, sounds, technology, words and writing. The fun, modern museum space includes an auditorium and cafe/restaurant.
Real Club Celta de Vigo (Os Celestes; “The Sky Blues”) are the local football team. A solid La Liga team they play their home matches at the ageing 29,000 capacity Balaídos Stadium (Estadio Municipal de Balaídos). Tickets are usually available for games except against the bigger teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona. The L16 bus from Vigo-Guixar Station stops near the stadium as do these other Vitrasa buses: the L7, L8, L11, L17, L23 and L27.
There are several beaches close to the city center. The best of them is the sandy Praia de Samil (Playa de Samil). Others include Praia do Cocho das Dornas, Praia dos Olmos, Praia do Cocho and Praia de Santa Baia. The best beaches, however, are on the Cíes Islands (see below).
The Cíes Islands consist of three islands, Monteagudo, do Faro (Isla do Medio) and San Martiño. There are no cars or hotels on the islands to preserve the pristine natural environment. However, there are cafes and restaurants for both refreshments and food.
Now a National Park, the Cíes Islands are home to over 22,000 pairs of seagulls. In addition, there are petrels, pelicans, as well as birds of prey on the islands. There are, however, now only a few surviving Iberian guillemots. The waters around the islands attract dolphins, sharks, and even whales.
The main beach is Praia das Rodas which links the two main islands. In addition, there are the pretty coves of Praia de Nosa Señora and Praia das Figueres. Activities include walking up to the Montefaro lighthouse (one of three on the islands) and enjoying relaxing on the beaches or in the (cool) water. There are four trails altogether including the recommended Monte Faro trail and Alto del Príncipe trail.
The uninhabited islands are reached by boat from Vigo. There are also boats to the islands from the ports of Baiona and Cangas on the Galician coast. The boat from the Estación Marítima de Vigo takes about 40 minutes.
The Tourist Information Office is also located at Estación Marítima de Vigo where the ferries leave for the Cíes Islands.
Vigo has over 150 hotels and other places to stay if you are planning on spending some time in this lively port city.
The Sercotel Bahía de Vigo is a popular 4-star hotel near the ferry port to the Cíes Islands. Facilities include a restaurant serving traditional Galician cuisine.
The Sercotel Tres Luces has spacious, contemporary rooms and a restaurant close to MARCO.
Other places include Hotel Atlántico Vigo on Rúa de García Barbón, which offers more budget, 2-star lodgings.
B&B Hotel Vigo is another budget option near the El Corte Inglés department store.
See a listing of hotels in Vigo
Trains from Vigo run south to Tui and to other destinations in Spain.
There are Celta trains twice a day connecting Vigo to Campanhã Station and São Bento Station in Porto. The Celta train also stops at Valença Station, Viana do Castelo Station and Nine. The service is operated by Comboios de Portugal.
At Vigo-Guixar Station, the terminus of the line, it is possible to transfer to RENFE regional trains to the cities of Pontevedra, Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña and also take trains to Ourense, Madrid-Chamartin and Barcelona-Sants.
Vigo’s Peinador Airport (VGO), 9 km east of the center, has domestic flights to Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Madrid and Barcelona. The Vitrasa bus 9A connects Vigo’s Vigo-Urzáiz Station to the airport. The L8, L16 and L24 buses run from Vigo-Guixar Station to the airport.
There are lots of bars and restaurants to enjoy the region’s delicious seafood including several Michelin-starred establishments. Vegetarians need not dismay as there are also several vegan and vegetarian eateries in the city.