Things to do in A Coruña
For centuries, pilgrims from northern shores docked in the harbour of A Coruña on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Their Camino de Santiago journey had taken them across the seas, but they would still have 75km to walk before reaching the city of St James, the end of their pilgrimage.
Today, A Coruña is one of the starting points of the Camino Ingles route and also what is known as the Celtic Camino. Fashionistas will know it as the hometown of Zara, and soccer fans will remember its local team Deportivo. Still, the waves of the Atlantic Ocean have shaped A Coruña’s charm and character. The city’s port has experienced transit for hundreds of years, not only of pilgrims but also invaders, emigrants on their way to America, trade and commerce.
If you are starting your Camino from A Coruña, these are some places you shouldn’t miss in this fabulous and lively coastal city.
Torre de Hercules
If there is one single place you should visit in A Coruña, that would be the Torre de Hercules, known as Hercules Tower in English. The tower is a symbol of the city and its most iconic landmark. This impressive Roman lighthouse has guided ships into the city’s harbour for over 2000 years.
Listed as a World Heritage site, the tower was built on a headland by the Romans in the 1st century and is still used for marine signalling, making it the only fully preserved Roman lighthouse in operation worldwide.
Since the Middle Ages, the tower has also been associated with many legends and myths. One of the most famous ones would be the story of Ith and Breog, featured in the Book of Invasions and written by Irish monks in the 11th century. According to the legend, chieftain Breogan founded the city and built the tower. One of his sons, Ith, spotted Ireland from this tower and decided he would travel the seas to conquer this new land. He would be killed in Ireland and brought back to A Coruña. However, his brother Mil would then continue his pursuit and successfully conquer Ireland, giving the settlers the name Milesians (the sons of Mil).
The Atlantic Ocean surrounds the city and the 13km-long promenade, Paseo Maritimo, is where you’ll find all the locals strolling, cycling or running on a sunny day. If it’s sunny and hot, then it’s time to chill or go for a swim at one of the city’s sandy beaches, such as Orzan and Riazor.
Old Town and St James’ Church
A stroll in the traffic-free old town is another must. It is here where pilgrims will find the city’s St James’ Church, a classic Romanesque temple that has welcomed Camino pilgrims for hundreds of years. It is also the second oldest monument in the town, after the Hercules Tower.
Maria Pita Square
Before leaving the old town and continuing along the way of St James, every visitor should head to the city’s main square to pay respects to Maria Pita, the city’s heroine. The city’s square, Praza de Maria Pita, is named after her and you’ll find a statue dedicated to brave Maria, who defended the city from the attacks of Sir Francis Drake. If you’d like to know more about this fascinating character, you can visit her home place, now a museum, in the Rua Herrerias 28.
Harbour and ‘Galerias’
Just a hundred metres from Praza de Maria Pita, you’ll find yourself back at the harbour, where you’ll have the opportunity to appreciate the unique architecture of the city. Particularly beautiful are the seafront houses lined with their white balconies, known as ‘Galerias’, a classic feature in coastal towns and cities in Galicia.
And after a day of exploring and sightseeing, it’s time for some food. The city has many restaurants and small ‘Tascas’ where you can sample a wide array of classic tapas such as squid, chorizo, croquetas and tortilla. One of the classics is the minuscule La Bombilla. Did you know A Coruña is also the birthplace of Estrella Galicia?
If you have time to spare before setting off on your Camino de Santiago journey, we highly recommend spending a few days in this beautiful city by the Atlantic. With plenty of museums, festivals, parks and countless food sports worth investigating, there is plenty to do and see in A Coruña.