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In the far north-western corner of Spain, the region of Galicia is full of surprises for the first time visitor. Galicia has its own distinctive culture, history and language, and the city of La Coruña is the regional capital. Its setting in a spectacular bay makes it a natural location for a port, and La Coruña has performed this function for centuries.
Galician culture has its roots deep in the past, with one foot in the Roman world and the other in the Celtic culture that once occupied much of western Europe. In La Coruña you will find the Roman Tower of Hercules, an original Roman lighthouse that has seen continuous use for 2,000 years. As the world’s oldest lighthouse, it is now a World Heritage Site.
In many ways, modern Spain is a fiction comprised of numerous different nations and cultures, each having its own unique place in the overall whole. Gallego – the Galician language – is much more similar to Portuguese than it is to the Castilian dialect we think of as Spanish, and locals often joke that Portuguese is just poorly spoken Gallego.
One way for visitors to explore the history of Galicia is at the Archaeological Museum of La Coruña, located in the sixteenth century Castillo de San Diego, which features exhibits right back to the Bronze Age. Another more recent museum in La Coruña is the House of Man (DOMUS), which has a fascinating array of interactive displays to explore.
The culture and economy of Galicia has been dominated by the sea, and the location of La Coruña, of course, gives easy access by ship, and UK travelers often arrive on cruises from Southampton with operators like Royal Caribbean Cunard and Princess. It’s a fitting port of call, with much to explore and discover.
As befits a major maritime culture, the predominant cuisine of Galicia is seafood, and good eating can be found at every level from seafood tapas to the heaped platters of fresh shellfish served at the specialist restaurants known as marisquerías. The region’s signature dish is pulpo a la Gallega, Galician-style octopus.
La Coruña can offer some spectacular uncrowded sweeping beaches like the Playa del Orzan and Playa Riazor alongside one of Europe’s longest promenades. The proximity of the Atlantic ocean also delivers some fantastic waves for surfers to enjoy, whilst other water sports like sailing and diving are also available locally.
The links between La Coruña and Britain go back a long way. The port was granted trading rights to English ports when it first received its charter as a city in the fifteenth century, then in the sixteenth it was a major staging post for the Spanish Armada. Luckily, relations today are more relaxed and friendly, and a warm welcome is assured.