Galicia is a region in northwest Spain and a wonderful vacation destination. What to see and to do? These are the top things to do in Galicia Spain.
Forget paella, flamenco and sangria and discover Galicia, the other side of Spain. This region in the northwestern part of the country is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. With its pristine beaches, green landscapes, rich history, and delicious gastronomy, Galicia offers a unique experience for any traveler.
Which places are worth visiting in this interesting region? I went on an unforgettable road trip in Galicia and in this article, I will tell you all about the most beautiful places in Galicia. From the majestic Santiago de Compostela to the green Ribeira Sacra and the impressive cliffs at Cabo Ortegal. I’ll make sure that you’ll be just as impressed by the diversity and beauty of Galicia as I was.
Top things to do in Galicia
What is there to see and do in Galicia? These are the best things to do in Galicia Spain.
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is a world-famous pilgrimage site and the terminus of the Camino de Santiago (literal translation: I walk to Santiago). It is also the capital of Galicia and Santiago’s historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The heart of Santiago de Compostela is dominated by the enormous Cathedral of Santiago, which is said to contain the remains of St. James the Apostle. The large square in front of the cathedral is always filled with emotional pilgrims, as they just completed their journey to Santiago.
Beyond the cathedral, Santiago de Compostela has much more to offer. For example, go for a walk in Parque da Alameda, a green oasis overlooking the city. Make sure to sample some local delicacies at Mercado de Abastos or just get lost in the city’s narrow streets. There is plenty to see and do in Santiago!
Parque Natural Fragas do Eume
Would you like to escape the city and do you enjoy exploring nature reserves? Visit Parque Natural Fragas do Eume, one of the most beautiful natural areas in Galicia. The park stretches along the Eume River and is filled with ancient oaks, chestnuts, and birches.
The most enjoyable way to explore the park is to go hiking. There are several adventurous trails that lead you through the dense forest and along the river. One of the most popular destinations in the park is the partially renovated monastery of San Xoán de Caaveiro. As it is located on a cliff, you have a beautiful view of the canyon from the monastery.
Pontedeume is a charming coastal town at the mouth of the Eume River. One of the city’s most striking landmarks is the medieval bridge, from which the city gets its name. The “ponte” (bridge) of Pontedeume is an impressive sight.
Another notable historical landmark is the Torreón dos Andrade, a 14th-century tower that is the only remnant of a larger castle complex once owned by the important Andrade family. In addition, Pontedeume is a perfect base to explore nearby Fragas do Eume.
The cliffs of Cabo Ortegal
Personally, I found the area between Cedeira and Cariño to be one of the most beautiful places in Galicia. The coastline here is jagged, high (some cliffs tower over 600 meters above the sea), green, and pristine. It’s a very rural area, no big cities with flats, just nature. These are some of the highlights in the area:
- There are many viewpoints along the route. Make sure to check out the views from Miradoiro Chao do Monte, Miradoiro Dos Carrís and Miradoiro do Cruceiro.
- Visit Garita de Herbeira, this is the highest point at 650 meters.
- Horses and cows roam freely in this area. They frequently wander onto the road, so drive carefully.
- San Andrés de Teixido is a picturesque village in the green hills. It has a mysterious atmosphere. It’s also a great place to try goose barnacles, a type of interesting-looking seafood.
- Cabo Ortegal with its lighthouse is one of the northernmost places in Spain. It feels like you’re at the end of the world (it’s somewhat similar to Cabo de São Vicente in Sagres, Portugal). On the rocks, you might spot some goats climbing around.
In addition, there are many more viewpoints, hiking trails, and other attractions in this area. A perfect place for a road trip or a fun coastal walk!
Tip! Make sure to check your body for ticks after visiting this area, as they are very common. A tick remover is (unfortunately) essential during a vacation in Galicia.
El banco más bonito del mundo
“El Banco más bonito del mundo,” or “The most beautiful bank in the world,” is a picturesque spot located on the northern coast of Galicia, near the village of Loiba. To be fair, the bench itself is not that beautiful, but it does offer one of the most breathtaking views in Galicia.
The bench overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, with stunning views of the cliffs and vast ocean. Because of this view, visitors and locals have called the bench at this spot “the most beautiful bench in the world,” and that nickname has stuck.
Keep in mind that it’s a popular spot, so it’s best to go off-season or come early in the day if you want to enjoy the view in peace.
Tip! There are several adventurous hiking trails in this area (including a camino naturale), so put on your hiking boots to discover the most beautiful views on foot.
A Coruña is a lively port city on the Atlantic Ocean, located in the northwestern corner of Galicia. Torre de Hércules is of the main attractions in the city and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also, make sure to check out Ciudad Vieja (the old town) in A Coruña. This neighborhood is filled with narrow, winding streets, cozy tapas bars, and historic buildings such as the Castillo de San Antón and the Iglesia de Santiago. A fun city to visit!
Islas Atlánticas de Galicia National Park
The only national park in Galicia is Parque Nacional Marítimo-Terrestre de las Islas Atlánticas. This is a series of islands located on the west coast of Galicia, near the cities of Pontevedra and Vigo. The park includes the islands of Cíes, Ons, Sálvora, and Cortegada.
The most visited part of the park is the Cíes Islands, often called the “Caribbean of Galicia” for their pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. Praia das Roda was even named the most beautiful beach in the world by The Guardian newspaper. In addition, the islands are a great place to go hiking and admire the flora and fauna. A fun and relaxing stop when you’re visiting Galicia.
Pontevedra is one of the most beautiful cities in Galicia and is located on the west coast. The city has a beautiful historic center, and that’s a great place to wander around and just get lost. It is largely car-free, so it is very safe to walk around.
The Museo de Pontevedra is an absolute must-see. This museum is spread over several buildings and has an impressive collection of art and artifacts, from prehistory to modern times.
Furthermore, Pontevedra is known for its festivities, such as the Fiesta de la Peregrina held every August, which attracts thousands of visitors with music, dancing, and traditional processions.
Discover the hidden monasteries
Did you know that there are an awful lot of monasteries (ruins) in the forests of Galicia? You can often reach them by car, but it’s even more fun to visit them during a hike. These are some of the beautiful monasteries I visited during my tour of Galicia:
- Monastery of Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil: partially renovated in a jungle-like landscape. It is a great stop during a circular hike from Parada de Sil.
- Mosteiro de San Pedro de Rocas is one of the most extraordinary monasteries in the region, it is partially carved into the rock. There is also a small museum here where you can learn more about the Ribeira Sacra.
Did you know you can also sleep in a monastery? The Paradores hotel chain refurbishes old buildings and transforms them into luxury hotels. Although they are quite modern, you can still see much of the history. I myself slept in Parador de Santo Estevo, near the Sil River. A unique place to spend the night!
Lugo is a city not to be missed during your tour of northwest Spain. It is the oldest city in Galicia and has an impressive Roman wall (Muralla de Lugo) surrounding the historic center. This defensive structure, built in the 3rd century AD, is exceptionally well preserved and is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. You can walk the entire 2.1 kilometers of the wall, which is a fun walk with great views of the city.
In the city, you will find many narrow old streets, historic buildings, and cozy squares. The beautiful cathedral (Catedral de Santa María) dates back to the 12th century and is definitely worth a visit. Next to the cathedral, you will find Domus Mitreo, a museum with remains of ancient Roman houses. It’ll give you a nice insight into Lugo’s long history.
Discover wine region Ribeira Sacra
Do you need peace and quiet and do you like a glass of wine? Then a visit to Ribeira Sacra is highly recommended. This region, whose name means “holy riverbank,” stretches across the provinces of Lugo and Ourense, along the Miño and Sil rivers. I myself was very impressed by this beautiful area (and I didn’t even drink any wine).
Ribeira Sacra is best known for its steep terraces with vineyards, some of which date back to Roman times. Wine tastings and vineyard tours are therefore popular activities in the region. It is also an area full of historical monuments, as it is dotted with old monasteries and churches.
The rivers have carved deep canyons into the landscape and next to the vineyards, you will see many forests and steep cliffs. Ribeira Sacra is a great area to go hiking or take a road trip, it is an incredibly beautiful place to visit.
Take a boat trip down the Miño or Sil rivers
Two major rivers run through Ribeira Sacra: the Miño and the Sil. One of the most enjoyable ways to get to know the area is to take a boat tour. This way, you will not only see the impressive wine terraces but also several small villages and vast forests on the steep slopes. Who knows, you might even spot an eagle!
I myself took a boat trip down the Miño River with Martin from Sacra Activa, which was a wonderful experience. He knew all the beautiful places and views along the river and even dropped us off briefly to visit a stunning waterfall (Fervenza de Augacaída). He also has a nice terrace along the river, where you can do some wine tasting or buy local delicacies in his store. Highly recommended!
Located in southern Galicia, Ourense is known for its thermal springs. The city and surrounding areas contain a network of natural thermal springs that have been expanded into spas and bathhouses. The most famous are the hot springs of Ash Burgas, in the middle of the city, with water reaching temperatures of 60 to 67 degrees Celsius. I felt it briefly and it is indeed really hot!
Also make sure to explore Ourense’s historic center, as it is a maze of narrow streets, picturesque squares, and impressive buildings. The city’s most important monument is Catedral de Ourense from the 12th century.
The Roman Bridge (Ponte Romana), is another distinctive symbol of the city. This historic bridge straddles the Miño River and offers great views of the river and the city. Personally, I found Ourense a really pleasant city and would have loved to stay there a little longer.
Explore the gardens of the pazos
In Galicia, you will find many so-called pazos, similar to the large manors in England or the chateaus in France. Most of these pazos are privately owned and not open to visitors; however, some of their gardens can be visited (for a fee). During my visit to Galicia, I visited two different gardens:
- Pazo de Oca: a castle-like structure with huge gardens where you can walk around for hours. There are ponds, statues, a labyrinth, and many fruit trees.
- Pazo de Santa Cruz de Ribadulla is a pazo that looks more like a large farmhouse, but also with beautiful gardens. It feels more adventurous here, with the dense forests, streams, and ponds. The avenue of olive trees is a magnificent sight.
Both gardens belong to the “Route of the Camelia,” so this colorful flower is frequently seen in the gardens. When I visited them in June there were only a few, but from what I’ve heard it’s a magnificent sight in February when they are all in bloom.
Tip! Would you like to stay in a pazo? I slept in Casa Grande de Rosende and that’s highly recommended. It was built in 1511 and is like you’re staying in a museum!
Hike a section of the Camino
The reason I was eager to visit Galicia myself is because the Camino de Santiago ends there. And yes, everywhere in Galicia you see the famous yellow arrows and blue signs of the Camino. Most people hike to Santiago, but you can also by bike or on a horse. There are at least five routes that end in Santiago de Compostela, and each has its own charm. The landscapes are varied and you pass through picturesque villages.
To experience the “Camino feeling,” it is fun to hike a section of one of the Caminos. And make sure to visit Praza do Obradoiro in Santiago, where hikers (and cyclists) are celebrating the end of their Camino.
Want to read more about the Camino? Check out: 16 Best Books on Camino de Santiago
Finisterre, or Fisterra in Galician, is a small coastal town located on the rugged Costa da Morte. At one time, the Romans believed this was the “end of the world.” The place where the Atlantic Ocean meets the green coast of Galicia has something magical and timeless.
Finisterre’s biggest attraction is its historic lighthouse, the Faro de Fisterra. As it was built in 1853, it is one of the oldest operational lighthouses in Spain. From here you have breathtaking views of the ocean and surrounding coastline.
Finisterre is also known as the traditional terminus of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. After reaching Santiago Cathedral, many pilgrims walk on to Finisterre. From Santiago, it is a trek of about 90 kilometers to the symbolic “edge of the world.”
With nearly 300,000 inhabitants, Vigo is the largest city in Galicia and one of the most important industrial ports in Spain. One of Vigo’s biggest attractions is the Cíes Islands, part of Islas Atlánticas de Galicia National Park that I mentioned before.
In addition, Casco Vello, the historic center, is also worth visiting. This is a maze of cobbled streets and squares, full of traditional houses, quaint boutique stores, and tapas bars. Climb the hills of Parque Monte do Castro for stunning views of the city and the sea. Here you will find the remains of a Celtic settlement and a medieval fortress. Other great places to visit in Vigo are Pazo de San Roque, Basílica de Santa María de Vigo, and Mercado da Pedra.
Enjoy the gastronomy
The food in Galicia is amazing. Everything is fresh, much is locally made, and has tremendous flavor. Are you getting excited? These are some typical dishes in Galicia you should try:
- Pulpo a la Gallega is probably Galicia’s most iconic dish. It is a simple but tasty dish made of cooked octopus with paprika. You can get it at the market as street food or go to a pulperia.
- Empanada Gallega is a kind of pastry filled with different ingredients. The filling can be fish, chicken, or beef with vegetables and they are packed in a delicious crispy dough.
- Pimientos de Padrón is small green peppers that are deep-fried and sprinkled with sea salt. Most are mild, but every now and then you’ll find a surprisingly hot pepper making it an adventurous dish at times.
- Tarta de Santiago is a traditional almond cake often finished with powdered sugar and the cross of St. James, the patron saint of Galicia.
Book a trip to Galicia
Sounds like a great region to visit right? Don’t wait any longer and book your trip to Galicia now!
✈️ Visit Galicia by plane – The fastest way to get to Galicia is by plane. There are international airports in Santiago de Compostela, Vigo, and A Coruña. Check WayAway to find the best deals and get cashback on plane tickets.
🚆 Visit Galicia by train – Are you interested in a more sustainable way of traveling? It’s easy to reach Galicia by train. Check Rail Europe for train tickets.
🚘 Rental car – Although you can reach places in Galicia by public transport, it is very useful to have a rental car. This makes it even easier to get to the more rural places. Check Rental Cars to find the best deals.
Check out this Galicia itinerary: epic 2 week road trip in Northwest Spain
🛏️ Where to stay – Check Booking.com for the largest selection and the most beautiful places to stay in Galicia.
Read more about Galicia and Spain
Fancy a vacation to Galicia or another beautiful Spanish region? Then order one of these travel guides for more tips and inspiration:
I myself travel to Spain multiple times a year, as it has become one of my favorite vacation destinations. Therefore, you can read a lot about a trip to Spain on this website. You might like to read these articles as well:
- Hiking in Galicia Spain: 10 incredible hikes
- 18 beautiful places to visit in Basque Country Spain
- Hiking the Camino del Norte | The Ultimate Guide
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I visited Galicia at the invitation of Turismo de Galicia. I always give my honest opinion about a destination. Read more about working with Travel with Co on this page. This article also contains some affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links it costs you nothing extra, but I get a small commission. This allows me to improve this website. Support Travel with Co.