Vigo is the largest city in Galicia, the most north-western region of Spain. The city is arrayed along the sloping southern shoreline of its namesake ria or estuary. Over 300,000 people call Vigo home and it’s a lovely place to spend a couple of days exploring the sights, as well as taking a ferry to the Islas de Cies in the mouth of the estuary.
Vigo is supposedly the largest fishing port in the world with around five kilometres of wharves where stocks are landed. If you love seafood then this is probably as good a place as there is in Spain to sample the fruits of the ocean. On the Rua de Pescaderia there are permanent granite tables where people sell fresh oysters on an almost daily basis. Fish is also sold at the Mercado de Pedra throughout the day and at stalls along the seafront early in the morning where the fish is fresh.
For an orientation to the geography of the area, it’s best to climb up the streets and staircases to the top of the city, called the Castro Park. This hill offers spectacular views over the city, the estuary and the Cíes Islands. When I was there I saw police and coastguard boats speeding towards the Atlantic side of the islands.
In the gardens of the castle, the visitor can see the remains of settlements from the Castreño or hillfort culture (dating between the 3rd century BC and the 2nd century AD), the steep walls of a seventeenth century fortress, and monuments to the renowned mediaeval troubadour Martín Códax. There are three anchors in the gardens in memory of the Battle of Rande, otherwise known as the Battle of Vigo Bay.
From the castle gardens, head towards Rei Square, which contains the Town Hall, and then on to Paseo de Alfonso XII, where there is another fine lookout point over the estuary and the port. This street contains numerous examples of the city’s symbol, the olive tree. I continued along Poboadores and Anguía streets towards O Berbés, the old quarter of the fishermen which still preserves some of the typical houses, with arcades and archways. Nearby is the fish market and there are plenty of places to eat.
Teófilo Llorente Street leads to A Pedra Square, with its market and oyster sellers. I then headed along Oliva Street until I reached the Collegiate Church of Santa María, the Cathedral of Vigo. Afterwards, I continued to Almeida Square, which contains the fifteenth century Casa Ceta and the Casa Pazos Figueroa, a Renaissance building from the sixteenth century, occupied by the Camões Institute.
The best beaches in the area are on the Islas Cies. The number of visitors is strictly controlled and you can’t just turn up at the ferry and buy a ticket as they’re sold out weeks in advance. These islands were the haunt of pirates in the past, such as Sir Francis Drake who used to raid Spanish shipping from his hideout here.
Nowadays, the islands are nature reserves. The Illa de San Martino is an off-limits bird sanctuary and the other two, Illa do Monte Ayudo and Illa do Faro, are connected by a narrow strip of sand that creates a lagoon. The ferries run here from Vigo and less often from Cangas and Baiano. There’s a light house and some beach bars. If you want to get away from the crowds, the beaches on the Atlantic side are more likely to offer you the solitude you’re looking for, though they might be breezier.
The final item to mention about Vigo is that there are two railway stations in the city, Vigo Urzaiz and Vigo Guixar. Make sure you know which station your train is arriving at or leaving from. My train from Pontevedra arrived at Urzaiz and my train to Porto in Portugal left from Guixar.
I’d previously purchased my ticket for Porto, but I spoke to the attendant at Guixar station about a ticket for A Coruna. I made sure she got a good look at me, my face, and my black travel bag. All identifying marks to relay to the various groups who would now be coming after me, I felt sure. I also enquired in my English-accented Spanish what time the trains were to A Coruna from Urzaiz and repeated one time in particular, 8:58 am, as though this was the train that most interested me. I bought a ticket for this train.
I did some shopping – different shoes, black trousers, a shirt with racing cars on it, a Spain baseball cap, and above all else an orange bag. All these items were taken back to my hotel and sneaked through a side entrance. Before going upstairs, I asked whether I could checkout the night before as I had an early start.
They agreed. I didn’t want the hotel staff to see me in my new outfit as I would look different and they wouldn’t recognise me. Once out of the hotel in the morning before light, I would be able to have breakfast and also get rid of the items I had been wearing, in various bins on the way to the station.