Pontevedra is beautifully picturesque and unsurpassed in its province for its historical importance. The old city centre is well preserved and contains numerous historic buildings and monuments. Pontevedra is proud of its cultural and natural heritage. It is known internationally for its urbanism and pedestrianization.
A city of 83,000 people (2018), Pontevedra is the capital of the Rias Baixas region and of the province of the same name, one of the four that make up Galicia, an autonomous community within Spain. The Rías Bajas (Rías Baixas) coastal region has an abundance of natural beauty (mountains, green hills, rivers, lakes, estuaries, and seashores).
Pontevedra is built on a hill, although most of the city is flat with some streets sloping down toward the Lérez River. The majority of the city occupies the south bank of the river, although it has spread out in all directions.
The climate is mild and rainy year round, with the humidity that one would expect of a coastal area receiving significant precipitation. While summer is the "high season" for tourists, pleasant weather occurs throughout the year.
Archeological evidence shows that the town existed as far back as Roman times. The city took its name from the nearby bridge, "Pontus Veteri" (Old Bridge). From the Middle Ages through the end of the 16th century, the city was one of the main ports and most populous cities in Galicia, though it afterwards declined first due to the disappearance the Castillian Crown, then later because of successive wars. During the 19th century the Spanish provinces were created and Pontevedra was designed as a provincial capital, bringing new institutions, industries, and population to the city.
Until the Spanish Civil War, Pontevedra was a social and cultural centre, but after the war, as power was centralised in Madrid, industry migrated to Vigo because Franco's government gave this city a free-trade zone and a Development Pole.
Today Pontevedra is undergoing a cultural renaissance, and its population is increasing due to its quality of life and the several international prizes the city has been awarded.
Galician (Galego) and Spanish are commonly spoken, but signage is increasingly in the local language. Galician shares characteristics of Portuguese, as well as Spanish, and anyone conversant in the Romance languages shouldn't have a hard time understanding written Galician.
Bus service is common from many destinations in Spain, Portugal, and beyond. The bus station is on Rúa da Estación, Tel: +34 986 852 408.
The international airport Lavacolla Airport (Santiago de Compostela) is only about 30-40 minutes from Pontevedra via the Atlantico highway (AP-9) and the bigger Sá Carneiro Airport (Porto, Portugal) is about 1 hour and 40 minutes away. Flights connect to those cities from Madrid, and other cities in Spain and Europe (London, Paris, Geneva, Frankfurt...).
Distances to Pontevedra: Madrid 600 km, Lugo 150 km, Ourense 100 km, Santiago de Compostela 56 km.
The city is ideally sized for walking, and nearly all of the items of historical or artistic interest are within easy walking distance of the city center, right in front of the Pilgrim's Virgin Church. Local buses are available and reasonably priced, and taxis are plentiful. Fares are typically small because distances are not large.
Car Rentals (unnecessary in the city, but may be useful to tour the countryside):
- Avis (c/Peregrina, 49) - Tel.: +34 986 852025 - Fax: +34 986 855992
- Europcar (railway station or c/Calvo Sotelo) - Tel: +34 986 853150 - Fax: +34 986 864198
- Enterprise (bus station or c/Calvo Sotelo) - Tel: +34 986 842815
The old city, which is at the top of modern Pontevedra, contains several worthwhile sites.
- The Sanctuary of the Apparitions (in Rúa Sor Lucía) - a place of pilgrimage and Catholic worship in the historical centre of the city, where lived Sister Lucia, the little shepherdess and seer of Fátima, and where the same nun reported several apparitions of Our Lady and Child Jesus.
- The Church of the Pilgrim Virgin (Iglesia de la Peregrina): This very ornate old chapel's bells chime the hours. According to tradition, the Virgin Peregrina guided pilgrims who disembarked in Baiona on their way to Compostela. It was built at the end of the 18th century and has a scallop shell base. It features two styles: Baroque and Neoclassical. In the centre of the church, there is an impressive altarpiece with the image of the Virgen Peregrina. The font with holy water is an enormous shell brought from the Pacific Ocean.
- The Basilica of Santa María la Mayor: Gothic and Renaissance style. There are impressive and interesting sculptures on the façade around the portal.
- Church of Santo Domingo: These medieval ruins date from the 1300s and form part of the Provincial Museum of Pontevedra.
- San Francisco gothic church.
- San Bartolomé baroque church.
- Santa Clara gothic chuch.
- Herrería Square: Where everyone goes to stroll in the evenings. When the weather is cold, nothing beats stopping at a street vendor for a still-hot packet of fresh roasted chestnuts.
- La Alameda and Palmeras Park: This public park is beautiful at sundown, when you can see the sun setting over the sea. It contains a monument to the region's seafarers. There was a small zoo there.
- A lot of old buildings with coats of arms like Casa de las Campanas.
- The farmers' market by the river-ria: stop and get some "queixo galego" (local cheese) and "pan galego" (traditional local bread).
- Several picturesque bridges: The Ponte do Burgo and the Roman bridge of Pontesampaio. The latter is where French invaders were stopped in their efforts to conquer Galicia. Local legend says a woman noticed the French troops advancing, and, after sounding the alarm, faced them off wielding only a sickle until the Spanish army arrived to defeat the French. The modern Tirantes bridge and the Corrientes bridge.
- A lot of picturesque squares like Leña square, Verdura square, Mugartegui square, Teucro square, San José square and many others.
- Benedictine Monastery of San Salvador de Lérez - (Tel: 986-841-471): Located in the Parish of San Salvador de Lérez, it is commonly known as San Benitiño. It was built in the 10th century by the monks of the Order of Saint Benedict and restored in the 16th and 17th centuries. A neoclassic templum with a Baroque facade from the 17th century, one wing of the 16th century cloister is joined to the south wall. During the 16th century, the cloister was a school of philosophy and humanities. The most interesting part is the chapel of Saint Benedict, which dates from 1700, where one can see the image of Christ. There is a popular tradition of walking kneeling below the altar of Christ.
- Sculptures Island park.
- Marismas del Alba natural park.
- Several interesting sculptures in the city centre: Ravachol parrot, The fiel Contraste, Valle Inclán, La Tertulia monument.
- Pontevedra maritime promenade by the ria.
- Pazo of Lourizán.
Arts and culture
- Museo Provincial de Pontevedra - various locations - Tel: +34 986 851-455 (closed Mondays). This museum is considered to be one of the finest historical and archeological museums in Spain. It is composed of a set of buildings located around the centric Plaza da Ferrería, among them two Baroque houses. Also included are the Gothic bases of the ruins of Santo Domingo Church and the Edificio Sarmiento, an old convent.
- CITA: Centro de Interpretación Torres Arzobispales Museum.
- Illa das Esculturas (Island of Sculptures) - near where the River Lérez empties into the ocean - Tel: +34 986 846-611
This open air public park by the river is ideal for a stroll or some physical activity, and it is the only one of its kind in Spain, showcasing sculptures by Francisco Leiro, Giovanni Anselmo, Fernando Casás, Dan Gram and Ian Hamilton, among others. Spread over 70,000 m², the works of art are integrated into the landscape, which features native wild flora and fauna.
For cycling you can use the other path of the river to go via Monteporreiro. For longer cycling routes the Monte da Fracha near Marcón is a good option if you are not unfit.
If the weather is rainy and you want to exercise, try the Gimnasio Municipal in Campolongo, where a gym and swimming pool are available.
Placeres and Pontesampaio offer a variety of recreational opportunities, although there are cleaner and better beaches for sunbathing and swimming next to the city and all along the Ría de Pontevedra for example Mogor, Aguete or Lapamán on the south bank of the Ría and Lourido, Chancelas, Areas, Paxariñas, Canelas, Montalvo, Pragueira or the outstanding La Lanzada on the north bank of the Ria.
- Festa da Romería de San Benitiño de Lérez: The date varies from year to year, but this summertime celebration takes place on the outskirts of Pontevedra. St Benedict is one of the most venerated saints in Galicia, and this devotion dates back to the late Middle Age. Lérez is an old Benedictine monastery, a sanctuary located on the Lerez riverbank where a small image of the saint is venerated.
- Carnival: Since 1876, Pontevedra's citizens celebrate the reign and death of King Urco. Nowadays, Carnival takes places in the streets, and features street bands and fancy dresses (costumes).
- Festa da Virxe do O: December 18th is the festival of this patron saint of the city.
- Festa da Peregrina: On the weekend of the second Sunday in August, this festival starts with a floral tribute to the "Virxe da Peregrina" (Virgin of the Pilgrim), whose shrine stands in the center of the old town. It includes fireworks (weather permitting), bullfights, a marathon, a regatta, bands, and artistic displays. This also coincides with the Honey Festival (held in Verdura Square).
- Autumn Festival: For one weekend in mid November, Plaza da Perdura is the venue for this cultural and commercial festival, bringing people to Pontevedra's historic centre to celebrate typical autumn produce like mushrooms, nuts, and legumes. Also on hand are several magostos (traditional chestnut festivals), folk games, and musical performances. Nearby restaurants offer typical autumn dishes to celebrate the festival.
- Feira Franca (Medieval Fair): Held the first weekend in September, it celebrates the open market held in Pontevedra starting in 1467, a privilege granted by King Enrique IV, and used to last a month (15 days before the Festival of San Bartolomé and 15 days afterwards). This celebration commemorates Pontevedra's era of greatest influence and prosperity, from the middle of the 15th century through the end of the 16th century. Food, recreation, and history all abound, and include music, drama, and historic costumes.
- Festa do Caldo Galego: On the second Sunday in March, this local dish is celebrated with its own festival. The stew is served in clay dishes, and the celebration includes a Caldo Galego contest. In an effort to preserve traditional recipes, including varieties which use squash, onions, rice, and chestnuts, each contestant much submit the list of ingredients. Entrants are divided into two categories: meat-based and vegetarian.
- Festa dos Maios (Mayfest): On the first Sunday in May, this festival celebrates Galicia's Celtic roots. This includes a contest for the best "maio" (a conical construction covered with branches and flowers, around which a group of children dance in a ring and sing while beating sticks to mark time. The child with the best voice sings under the "maio."
- Festa da Anguia: In late June, the Parrish of Pontesampaio hosts this celebration of various dishes prepared using eels.
- Festa do Demo: In late August is the Festival of the Devil, celebrating the symbolic struggle of good against evil. The "devil" chases the children with his pitchfork, then they get to play traditional games in the town square.
- Festa de Santiaguiño do Burgo: In late July, this festival ostensibly venerates the Apostle James, but includes food and sporting events in addition to its religious component. It includes the “Santiago Peregrino” marathon and fireworks. It is also held in conjunction with the traditional "Homage to Senior Citizens" celebration.
- Festa de San Sebastián: Honoring another patrón saint of the city, this occurs on January 20th.
You can buy typical sweets and drinks in many delicatessen shops like Juncal Alimentación in Peregrina street. If you want to buy an original gift, visit the Sargadelos shop at Oliva street and see the modernist ceramics of this old and legendary factory. Also in the Old and New Districts you can find many jewellery shops where to buy typical jewels made of silver and gold, many of them of celtic inspiration.
If you want to buy clothes, move to the New District and visit the stores that are all over these district in streets like Benito Corbal, Michelena, Peregrina, Oliva, Sagasta, Fray Juan de Navarrete... Here you can find Zara, Bershka, H&M, Sfera, Mango, Benetton, Lacoste, Levi's, Sephora, Rituals, Desigual... and other famous brands. Maybe the most original brand you could find is Rei Zentolo at Peregrina Square, a Galician brand with original and really funny T-shirts and other clothes.
There are three shopping centers in the city. The first one, A Barca, is located next to La Barca bridge and it has fashion shops, fast food restaurants and one big hypermarket, Carrefour. The second one, Carrefour Planet, is in San Blas- Salcedo, in the city outskirts and it has some shops and another big hypermarket, Carrefour. The third one, Vialia, is next to the railway station an in it there are some shops and multiplex cinemas.
As in Galicia in general you can eat decently in Pontevedra. Find pulperías in the back streets and sample the octopus. It's delicious--and generally cheaper than elsewhere in Spain. Pulpo a la Gallega is a dish of boiled octopus served on a bed of boiled potatoes, sprayed with olive oil, spicy paprika and sea salt. Many restaurants offer fixed price menus for lunch.
Galician gastronomy includes a wide variety of foods. Galician stew (caldo gallego) can be made with sausage (chorizo), ham, beef, or chicken, and contains chickpeas (garbanzos), potatoes, cabbage, and other leafy vegetables. "Lacón con grelos" is very common all over the region: pork cooked with turnip, potatoes and chorizo. Both are typical winter dishes. Although fabada, made from fabas (large white beans), smoked morcilla (blood sausage), chorizo, and manteca (lard) is usually considered Asturian food, some excellent versions can also be found in Galicia.
Being so close to the sea, Galician cooking has plenty of seafood, including recipes for hake (merluza), turbot, sole, grouper and sea bass, squid, octopus, mussels, and velvet swimming crabs. And the list goes on: clams and oysters, spiny lobsters, European lobsters, triple-grooved shrimp, and scallops.
“Empanadas” are also popular: a flaky pastry stuffed with any of a variety of fillings, including ham, chicken, cod (bacalao), octopus, mussels, cockles (berberechos), chorizo, potatoes and other vegetables, cheese, and olives.
Some typical desserts are: Santiago Tart (almond-based) and “filloas”, thin pancakes made from wheat. One of the best ways to end a walking tour is to stop in a pastelería and pick up a treat or two.
- Allo e Aceite, rua Nova de Arriba 7, ☏ . closed Su evening, M, Tu evening. €35-40 (2013).
- Mare e monti, av. Eduardo Pondal
- Il Piccolo, rua Virgen del Camino
- La Ultramar, rua Padre Amoedo
- Román, av. Augusto García Sánchez
- Santa Clara, rua Santa Clara
- Eirado da Leña, Leña square
- Icewolf, rua Dona Tareixa
- Loaira, plaza da Leña
- Creperies: Crepeo, Cre-Cotte...
- [formerly dead link] Solla, av. Sineira 7, La Toja road, San Salvador de Poio, ☏ . closed Su evening, M, Tu evening. menu €60-78, a-la-carte €50-65 (2013).
Galician wines have become much better known than they used to be. In the back street pubs it is often served in a bowl, and you can pick the size bowl you want. In the squares of the old town, such as the Plaza de la Verdura, bars offer drinks and tapas al fresco before lunch and for pre-after dinner. In winter many joints at the old town and cafes at the city centre offer chocolate (hot) with churros.
Accommodation is easy to find. If you arrive to any of the bus or train stations, you will see hotels on your way to the town and in the town centre.
- Hotel Madrid, Calle de Andrés Mellado, 5, ☏ . Very reasonably priced, comfortable, and central.
- Hotel Peregrino, Rúa Otero Pedrayo, 8, ☏ . The hostel for pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela.
- Hotel Boa Vila, Rúa Real, 4, ☏ . Right in the middle of the Santiago Way.
- Tourist Apartments, Casas à Beira. Rúa Gorgullón, 48, ☏ . In the Santiago Way.
- Hotel Avenida, Avenida Eduardo Pondal.
- Hotel Galicia Palace, Avenida de Vigo, 3, ☏ .
- Hotel Rias Bajas, Daniel de la Sota, 7, ☏ .
- Hotel Ruas, Sarmiento 20, ☏ . single €38-49, double €54-70, breakfast €5, menu €12 (2013).
- Hotel Dabarca, Av. Reina Victoria / Palamios,2, ☏ .
- Parador de Pontevedra, Barón 19, ☏ . Right in the historic district and part of the national system of Paradors, this is a restored baronial palace, with period furniture, wooden floors, etc. single €106-135, double €132-166, breakfast €16, menu €32 (2013).
- Police Telephone: +34 986 833 080
- Ambulance Telephone: +34 986 850 823
- Tourist Information, Marqués de Riestra, 30, ☏ .
Pontevedra is generally a very safe city. However, as with nearly everywhere in Europe, be aware of pickpockets, who may work in groups to jostle or bump you while a confederate lifts your wallet. Carrying a photocopy of your passport and only the amount of money necessary for the day's purchases is always sound advice.
- Take a bus along the south side of the Ria de Pontevedra as far as Combarro. You will need to ask somebody to tell you when to get off.
- You can visit the many beaches in both sides of the ría de Pontevedra, suchs as Portocelo, Mogor, Aguete and Lapamán on the way to the towns Marín and Bueu, and also the beaches Areas, Montalvo or La Lanzada on the way to the fishing village of El Grove and the Island of La Toja. Rent a car or take the buses from the bus station.
- Santiago de Compostela is nearly a half-hour journey by train , an hour by bus.
|Routes through Pontevedra|
|A Coruña ← Santiago de Compostela ←||N S||→ Vigo → Porto|