On the doorstep of the vast Atlantic, in the far northwest of Spain, the Galicia region is a mythical land full of ancient cities and villages, lush forests, and sandy beaches; it has been a pilgrimage destination since medieval times and is the embodiment of a unique Spanish term for yearning: morriña. Here's our quick guide to family adventuring in this beautiful region.
Whether you are looking for an adventure holiday or a few days of relaxation, the region of Galicia is a fascinating destination with many treasures waiting to be discovered at every bend of the road: ancient cities, scattered old manor houses (pazos) transformed into mesmerizing places to stay, traditional stone granaries on stone stilts (hórreos), castros (fortified Celtic settlements), and even folk music festivals. Galicia is both open to the influences and novelties intrinsic to being a coastal region and simultaneously enxebre: genuinely rooted to its identity. Even the melodic accent of the spoken language charms. Let's get started.
See and Do
This port city, also known as the Glass City due to its galleries in the Marina promenade, is home to the oldest operating lighthouse in the world and is the birthplace and headquarters of the large retail group Inditex, whose flagship store is Zara. Spread over 13km of seafront promenade are many lovely monuments and museums, as well as numerous parks and child friendly areas all of which combine to make A Coruña a perfect place for a holiday with kids.
Some places of particular interest include:
- Torre de Hércules: Built by the Romans in the second half of the 1st century, legend has it that it was from this lighthouse, now a World Heritage Site, that the son of Breogán glimpsed a distant green land which led him to sail towards what is today's Ireland. Admission: Adults: 3€; Under 14: 1,50€; free tours available with admission but you must book ahead.
- San Antón Castle: This 16th century fortress is a pleasant walk from the old city center and is an historical and archeological museum. Admission: Adults: 2€; Under 14: 1€
- The Domus: an interactive museum of human physiology and perception. Don’t miss the interesting reproduction of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa made from over 10,000 photos of people, on display right at the entrance of the museum. Admission: Adults: 2€; Under 16: 1€
- Aquarium Finisterrae: an interactive center dedicated to marine biology, oceanography, and the sea in general. Admission: Adults: 10€; Under 16: 4€
- The National Science and Technology Museum (MUNCYT): Admission: Free
- Picasso's Childhood Home: Pablo Picasso lived in this large apartment for almost five years, while his father taught art at the Instituto da Guarda school on nearby Plaza de Pontevedra. You will find copies of the many paintings and drawings that Picasso did while here, testament to his precocious talent. Ring the bell to enter.
If you have the chance, don’t miss the popular bonfires on the beach of Riazor on the “noche de San Juan” (Midsummer night), marking the beginning of the summer holidays, and the Fiestas de María Pita, which has family friendly festivities that take place throughout the month of August.
For even more events and ideas for visiting A Coruña with chidren, visit this website.
Santiago de Compostela
This old city is the capital city of the Galicia region, and its origins date to its shrine to Saint James the Great (now the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela). It has been the final destination of the ancient pilrgrimage route, the Way of Saint James, since the 9th century.
- Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela: Built over the alleged burial site of Saint James, this Romanesque/Gothic/Baroque church has a fascinating history and is open every day. Don't miss the guided tour of the roof. 25th July is the feast of St. James, with a big display of fireworks and performances.
- Old Town: A Unesco World Heritage Site, Santiago de Compostela may welcome you with the sound of bagpipes resonating from the arcaded cobbled streets or perhaps by the serenading of the tunos – university students dressed in 13th century garb playing traditional instruments in the main square of Plaza del Obradoiro. Old Town bustles with the thousands of pilgrims who still arrive every year, and it is filled with restaurants and bars, and souvenir and jewellery shops. Look for their traditional silver and black amber pieces.
Incredibly beautiful but treacherous, this stretch of rocky coastline has been the site of many shipwrecks over the years. It is dotted with lovely little fishing villages and many calm, safe, beaches that are perfect for children. Two especially charming villages are Laxe, an enchanting town with a lovely walk to a lighthouse, and Finisterre, the latter receiving its name from its Roman designation of the “End of the Earth”; it the final destination of the Way of St James.
Bordering the ocean as it does, it is no surprise that Galicia has excellent seafood. Pulpo á feira is the most iconic dish of Galicia: octopus served over thinly sliced potatoes seasoned with paprika. Some good places to try this simple but delicious dish in A Coruña are Pulpeira A Nova Lanchiña and Pulpeira de Melide.
If the kids balk at eating octopus, there are some other specifically Galacian tapas to look for, including: Tequeño – a warm breadstick filled with melted cheese; Pimientos de Padrón – small peppers grown only in the small region of Padrón; Raxo (no paprika) and Zorza (with paprika) – pork morsels cooked with garlic and herbs and served on a bed of crisp potato slices.
For a quick tapas pit stop, try, La Bombilla near María Pita Square in A Coruña.
On the sweeter side, try out the Tarta de Santiago – a delicious sponge cake made with ground almonds and dusted with powdered sugar. Naturally, the very best are to be found in Santiago de Compostela itself!
If you are looking for a traditional Chocolate con Churros – fried batter sticks with chocolate for dipping – Bonilla Lavista will please both children and grown ups.
Looking for family-friendly accommodation in Galicia? Consider booking your stay via booking.com/amsterdammamas. Find the perfect accommodation for your family while supporting Amsterdam Mamas at the same time!
Ana Rial is a once rigorously-organised scientist from Spain turned into an all-over-the-place mum of two very busy half-Greek boys. She has been living for the past four years in Almere with her husband and kids and dreams about mastering the Dutch language, travelling, and having a personal chef.
Photo credits: Costa da Morte beach, Pulpo á feira, Picasso House Museum, Santiago Old Town – Ana Rial