Best Things To Do In Vigo, Spain

Vigo

Updated On: June 08, 2024 by   Esraa MahmoudEsraa Mahmoud

Vigo is the westernmost city in Iberian Spain, on the Atlantic Ocean, and with lush mountain scenery all around. The Galician city of Vigo is located about 90 km south of Santiago de Compostela and just 35 km from the border with Portugal. The city is a seafood lover’s dream, where oysters hardly travel more than a mile from your plate.

Vigo’s location also gives it a microclimate with temperatures up to five degrees warmer than other Galician cities. If the sweltering temperatures in the Mediterranean put you off in summer, then Vigo’s calm ocean beaches and temperate climate will be more to your liking.

There are plenty of museums in Vigo: the Sea Museum, the MARCO Modern Art Museum, the Verbum Science Museum, and, of course, the wonderful Quiñones de León, where you can admire Goya for free and then take a stroll in the best park in the city. But still, the main attractions of Vigo are not inside the buildings but in the streets, in the port, by the coast, and even on the islands.

Being such a pretty coastal town, Vigo offers a wealth of attractions for visitors to see and do! What are the best things to do in Vigo and the best places to visit? Let’s find out!

Castro Fortress

Vigo

Surely the best introduction to the city and its epic landscapes is to survey them from the granite walls of this 17th-century fortress. From this dominant position, you will have the best view of the estuary, the port, the historic district, the mountainous landscapes, and the Cíes de Vigo islands.

The fortress was an artillery installation built in 1665 to defend Vigo against attacks from the English Navy and Portugal during the Portuguese War of Restoration. Embattled many times, it was finally recaptured by the citizens of Vigo themselves in 1809.

Within its walls, you will find formal gardens with lawns, carefully maintained flower beds, and a fountain in the centre, all with photogenic 360° views of the city. The Castro Fortress is an excellent start for your trip to Vigo.

Parque del Monte Castro

The park around the Castro Fortress is another must-visit while in Vigo. It is not so much an urban pleasure garden as a wild mountain in the middle of the city. If you feel like getting some exercise, you can walk to Monte Castro, and although it’s challenging, there are many exciting things to do.

One is the Iberian village on the lower slope, where they have restored three conical stone dwellings from the Bronze Age. You’ll also see the anchors placed on Monte Castro to commemorate the Battle of Rande, which took place in the Vigo estuary in 1702 between Anglo-Dutch and Franco-Spanish forces. During this battle, several treasure-laden galleons disappeared.

The Old Town

Casco Vello, or “Old Town,” of Vigo consists of one—or two-story stone houses, often leaning on each other at a precarious angle and divided by narrow streets sloping up the hill to the old port. However, there are also some elegant townhouses that provide an interesting mix.

Many are now arts and crafts businesses that display their wares on the connected exterior walls. Due to the increasing number of bars and restaurants there, Casco Vello has become a popular night out neighbourhood. The locals usually meet on the steps of the 19th-century church of Santa Maria.

The Old Town meets the Ensanche area at the Puerta del Sol square, which is the centre and heart of Vigo. Here, you will find museums, foundations, cultural centres, and the mermaid sculpture that has become the city’s trademark “El Sereno”. This is a man-fish sculpture, which contemporary sculptor Francisco Leiro created. “El Sereno” is a metaphorical expression of the union of man and sea, something that Vigo has stood on for centuries.

Galician Museum of the Sea

Vigo

The Galician Museum of the Sea is in an old cannery factory with a modern design. It is dedicated to fishing and all activities related to the sea, especially the ecosystem of the Rias Baixas. The museum has an aquarium and many explanatory videos.

This museum boasts one of the largest permanent exhibitions in Vigo. The Maritime Museum is a great place to learn more about the maritime history of the region in general and Vigo in particular.

Museo de Quiñones de León

The Municipal Museum of Vigo is the best (and free) place to experience the culture, art, and traditions of Spain’s northwest. It occupies a magnificent and authentic mansion in the Parque de Castrelos. The museum has only 29 rooms allotted for a permanent exhibition.

The royal home for this art museum is the “Pazo” Castrelos, a 17th-century seigniorial mansion. The collection features works by 20th-century Galician artists and some pieces that are part of the collection of the Prado Museum in Madrid but are kept here.

There are also large lawns with thickets of birch, plane, and beech trees and a rose garden adorned with the beautiful Príncipe de las Aguas fountain. Museo de Quiñones de León is one of the best places in Vigo.

MARCO Museum of Contemporary Art in Vigo

Vigo

This museum, abbreviated to MARCO, can be considered one of the best contemporary art museums in Spain. While there are no permanent exhibits here, the museum offers a program of themed performances, workshops, and cultural events.

The MARCO Museum opened its doors in 2002, regenerating a complex abandoned for decades. It is an incredible space in the city’s heart, using the old courthouse and prison of Vigo, which were built in 1861.

The prison had a practical “panoptic” design, according to the principles of the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham, and the former prison yards were equipped with glass windows to create rooms flooded with light.

Museo do Mar de Galicia

Also, in 2002, Museo do Mar de Galicia was designed to include parts of a former cannery on the Vigo waterfront. The exhibits demonstrate Galicia’s long connection to the ocean and inform visitors about the ecosystems right on the coast.

While there, discover the room dedicated to oceanography and underwater exploration, with diving equipment and navigation instruments. You will also learn about the massive fishing operation on the Galician coast, which transports tons of tuna, sardines, octopus, and shellfish for the Spanish market every day.

Islas Cíes

Islas Cíes is an uninhabited group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Vigo. What makes them so unique is the contrast between a very rugged cliff landscape to the west and two pristine, long, white beaches to the east.

This fantastic archipelago is located opposite the coast of Pontevedra and the mouth of the Vigo River. It was declared a nature reserve in 1980, and since 2002, its territory also includes the National Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia.

Cars are not allowed on the island, and the protection of the environment is taken very seriously. A day trip by ferry from the terminal in Vigo is ideal. One of the best activities to do there is hiking. There are marked hiking trails colour-coded by difficulty and lead along the cliffs to a lighthouse at the furthest point.

It is also an excellent place for a (kid-friendly) swim or sunbathing. There are no hotels on the island and only a small café on the pier where the ferry is. If you feel like it, you can stay overnight at a campsite that rents tents and sleeping bags.

Beaches on the Islas Cíes

Vigo

The beaches of the Cíes Islands deserve another entry because you can’t find more exquisite bays anywhere in the world. Playa de Rodas, one of the beaches on the island, often qualifies for the top ten lists of the best beaches on the planet and is an almost heavenly place if you want to sunbathe and swim in summer.

It’s an inland beach, protected from the ocean, with perfect white sand that adds an aquamarine glow under the water on sunny days. Praia de Figueiras beach is on the other side of Punta Muxiero, 350 meters long and a little less famous but no less ethereal than its southern neighbour.

Slurp Oysters

Vigo

With so many oyster beds on the city’s doorstep, it’s no surprise that oysters are Vigo’s speciality. The best and most fun way to try them is at the many stalls in La Piedra, which form part of the port.

Grab a plate, walk from the stall stand, make your selection, and sit down at the rather wobbly chairs and tables. Squeeze lemon juice over the oysters and slurp. For those who can’t eat raw oysters, several small restaurants just behind the booths will cook them for you.

We recommend pairing that with a glass of local Albariño wine. Besides the oysters, the fish and seafood in Vigo are incredible. If you don’t know where to start, just order a mariscada, a large platter with crab, seafood, and lobster. In Vigo, you will eat some of the best seafood ever!

Galician wine

Vigo

The old town of Vigo is located on a slope that meets the estuary of the old port, with alleys that lead to beautiful, arcaded squares like Praza da Constitución. This is the part of the city where the fishermen’s houses are, and more significant buildings such as the plush townhouses and the 19th-century church of Santa María have been placed side by side.

Almost all of them were built with Galician granite, which gives the old town a distinctly dignified atmosphere from many old Spanish neighbourhoods. Many street names correspond to old trades, and in Rúa Cesteiros, you can still find basket weavers in business and, of course, Calle de las Ostras.

Casco Vello

The old town of Vigo is located on a slope that meets the estuary of the old port, with alleys that lead to beautiful, arcaded squares like Praza da Constitución. This is the part of the city where fishermen’s houses and more significant buildings, such as the plush townhouses and the 19th-century church of Santa María, have been placed side by side.

Almost all were built with Galician granite, which gives the old town a distinctly dignified atmosphere compared to many old Spanish neighborhoods. Many street names correspond to old trades, and in Rúa Cesteiros, you can still find basket weavers in business and, of course, Calle de las Ostras.

The Ensanche

In the 19th century, Vigo grew dramatically, with the canning industry becoming one of the city’s primary sources of income. Most entrepreneurs behind this boom were from Catalonia, and the Belle Époque apartment buildings they built can still be found in the Ensanche neighbourhood, east of Casco Vello.

This is the centre of Vigo’s nightlife and shopping and the green Alameda Park, where you can rest your feet for a few minutes. You can walk along the breakwater to a red lighthouse at the estuary, probably the best place to watch the sunset.

Samil Beach

You don’t have to go as far as the Cíes Islands for a day at the beach – there are 45 beaches around Vigo. The most convenient is Samil, right where the Lagares River meets the Atlantic, and when you sit on these beaches or walk along the boardwalk, you’ll have the Cíes Islands and the mountains of Vigo as your backdrop.

The beach is 1700 meters long and has many recreational facilities, such as swimming pools, basketball courts, and a five-a-side soccer field. In summer, ice cream parlors and bars are open behind the beach. On really hot days, many people take shade on the pine-shaded lawns next to the boardwalk.

Ermita de Nosa Señora da Guia

On the city’s northeast side, just next to the estuary, is the Monte da Guía. Surrounded by evergreen and deciduous forests, it is one of the largest parks in the city and offers an instant escape from the traffic and activity in the streets of Vigo.

At the top, with extensive views, is the sanctuary of Nosa Señora da Guia. This chapel, with its high central tower, may look baroque, but it is actually from 1952 and was built on an earlier 16th-century hermitage. Take some time in the well-kept gardens to take in the views.

Go Hiking

Vigo

Vigo is a low-lying enclave surrounded by a protected mountain landscape densely forested with oak, pine, eucalyptus, and chestnut trees. So why not bring your hiking boots? You’ll be treated to even more great views of the ocean and the city.

For the committed hiker, there’s the GR-53, a 25-mile trail that climbs to the top of the chain of peaks that surrounds Vigo. If you just want to hike a section, plenty of access points from the trails lead directly to the edge of town.

A shorter and more family-friendly walk would be to follow the course of the Eifonso River, stumbling over old hermitages and waterwheel mills on the way.

Baiona

Another coastal town full of character is on the Vigo side of the estuary but closer to the ocean. In August, Baiona receives many Spanish visitors fleeing the heat for milder weather on the Atlantic. Before tourism, the economy was supported by fishing, and there is still a picturesque old port framed by the dark green hills of the promontory to the north.

Behind it, along a small peninsula to the west of the city, lies the walls of the 16th-century Castillo de Monterreal. Since the 1960s, the castle’s interior buildings have housed an upscale Parador hotel.

In the small port is a replica of the Pinta, one of the three caravels in which Columbus set out on his voyage. A visit in 1493 gives a vivid impression of how life was on board such a small ship for the brave explorer.

Take A Harbor Tour Around Vigo Bay

If you don’t have the time to make it to Islas Cíes, you can still enjoy a touch of the Atlantic, view the bustling harbor, the Vigo skyline, and the imposing span bridge with a harbor cruise. It is much shorter than the ferry to Islas Cíes, but still a great photo opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

I am sure you enjoyed this travel article on the best things to do around Spain, focusing on Vigo. If historic Spanish sites interest you, check out our latest post on 9 incredible Spanish Historic Landmarks.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *