In the Galician city of Vigo in northwest Spain you can kick back and indulge in some of the finest seafood in the world; pad along white, sandy beaches; and absorb Galicia’s distinct culture – all without having to battle your way through heaving crowds of tourists.
While 80% of overseas visitors flock to Santiago de Compostela, the region’s capital, Vigo in contrast remains untouched by mass tourism – and all the more pleasant for it.
Perhaps many are put off by the fact that Vigo is home to the world’s largest fishing port – but for travellers who give the city a chance, all this is more than balanced out by the leafy, pleasant old town, glitzy marina, classy seafood restaurants, and dozens of beautiful beaches within easy reach of the centre. It’s also just a short boat trip over to the gorgeous Cíes Islands, part of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park, and the area’s sheltered position gives it warmer temperatures than are found in most rival Galician destinations. There are plenty of attractions, too. You can enjoy panoramic views from the ancient settlement at O Castro; explore a Galician stately home at Pazo Museo Quiñones de León; see contemporary art at MARCO; or find out about Vigo’s relationship with the sea at the wonderful Museo Do Mar De Galicia.
However, it is the cuisine that really leaves the greatest impression of all. Galician people are justifiably proud of their food, and Vigo in particular offers some outstanding gastronomic experiences. Local percebeiros risk their lives to collect barnacles from the cliffs before the fierce Atlantic waves crash in on them, and back at local restaurants they’re prepared freshly and simply and served up to well-heeled diners. Simpler tapas come at a much smaller price – with local favourites including Pulpo á feira (octopus), grilled sardines, stuffed pastry empanadas, and deliciously spicy Pimientos de Padrón (peppers). A stroll around the port area or the old town offers endless dining options, from inexpensive, laid-back tapas bars to upmarket fish restaurants. And since locals eat late, you have plenty of time for sightseeing without having to rush back early to catch a bite to eat.
Spanish airline Vueling now offers direct flights to Vigo from Heathrow or Barcelona.