The city of Pontevedra on the last section of the Portuguese Way is home to an elegant old town. Sitting pretty in the heart of the ‘ría’ of the same name, Pontevedra has been shaped by a rich maritime and trading past. *(Rías are the fjiord-like bays in Galicia)
Since the old town is mainly car-free and open to pedestrians only, it is easy to wander around its old granite streets and admire the elegant buildings. To truly capture the essence of the city, you should also stop for a bite or a quick coffee in one of the many lively squares and watch the world (or at least the locals!) go by for a while.
These are 5 things you shouldn’t miss when you are in Pontevedra:
Capela da Peregrina
The 18th century Peregrina Chapel might not be the oldest but it is certainly the city’s most emblematic building. This baroque church has an unusual rounded façade and was built in the late 18th century in honour of the Virgin guiding pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela, hence its name. The Pilgrim Virgin is the patron saint of the city and of the Portuguese Way. Every August, Pontevedra celebrates its main festivities, also taking the Peregrina name.
San Francisco Convent and Church
Another important religious building in the city is the 13/14th century Convento de San Francisco, the impressive Saint Francis Convent and Church, located in the Praza da Ferrería. Legend has it the church was founded by Saint Francis himself.
Guilds and Squares
Many of the lively squares and streets in Pontevedra’s Old Town take their name after guilds or trades, a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. This includes the lovely and quintessentially Galician ‘Praza da Leña’, the firewood square; the Praza da Verdura, the vegetables square; and the Praza da Ferrería, the blacksmith square. In the firewood square you will find a classic ‘cruceiro’, elegant houses with granite arches, terraces where to chill and the Pontevedra Museum, another must-see in the city. As with most old towns in Galicia, Pontevedra’s squares come to live in the late afternoon/early evening, when locals like to head out and socialise, discussing the news of the day over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, particularly on sunny days!
You will probably be familiar with the Rías Baixas name, as it refers not only to this part of Galicia but it’s also the home of Albariño white wine. The Rías Baixas are also an important centre of seafood production, such as mussels and oysters. Therefore, it would be a real shame to stay in Pontevedra and not visit its food market, ‘mercado de abastos’, where you will find an abundant and mouth-watering range of fish, seafood, meat, cheeses and all kinds of local deliciousness.
A stroll by the sea
The best way to discover this fantastic city is on foot. After you have acquainted yourself with Pontevedra’s historic pedestrian-friendly quarter, enjoy a bit of greenery in the Alameda park or head for a bit of sea-breeze along the promenade.
And if you decide to stay in Pontevedra more than one night and take a day break, you should explore the region’s beautiful sandy beaches that attract locals and Spanish tourists every Summer, such as O Grove, the spa-island of A Toxa or venture to the Cíes Islands natural park, an authentic paradise.
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