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The city of Pontevedra along the Portuguese Way

If you are going to walk one of the Portuguese routes, either the Portuguese Coastal Way or the Portuguese Interior Way, you will pass through the wonderful city of Pontevedra, the “Good City” (Boa Vila). Let’s find out more about this provincial capital and why Pontevedra has become a symbol of a sustainable city all over the world. We will introduce you to its historic center, to discover the incredible past that has left signs still present in the urban landscape.

Pontevedra: a bit of history

It is believed that the first human settlements dates back to Roman domination, since no evidence of previous origins has been recovered. This urban center, was initially called Duos Pontes and then Pontis Veteris, in reference to the Roman bridge originally built over the river Lérez. According to a legend, it was Teucro himself, hero of the Iliad, who founded the city of Pontevedra.

In medieval times, under the reign of Ferdinand II, the bridge was rebuilt to its present appearance (the Ponte de O Burgo). In the same period, in the city were made important works of construction and maintenance of the roads and bridges, in view of the increasing growth that the city was experiencing.


The city of Pontevedra experienced its period of greatest growth and prosperity under King Henry IV, when the city walls were enlarged due to the increase in population and thanks to the establishment of the Feira Franca (a feast still celebrated on the first weekend of September), which at the time lasted 60 days. Pontevedra grew to become the most important city in all of Galicia, mainly due to its port.  Unfortunately, this condition was destined to come to an end (towards the end of the 16th century), both because of the abandonment by the Crown of Castile and the silting up of the port.

A new chapter was written however in the 19th century. In fact, in 1833 when the provinces were constituted, Pontevedra was named capital town for its historical-monumental importance. During the civil war of 1936-39, there was a period of internal struggles that led to a shift of attention to the city of Vigo, especially from the point of view of its role as an industrial center.


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    Visit one of the most beautiful historical centers of Galicia

    The historic center of Pontevedra, was declared Historical-Artistic Joint in 1951 and it is no coincidence that it is among the best preserved in the whole Galician region. The facades of the historic center, where stone and granite prevail, take us back to a medieval past of prosperity and wealth.

    In the many squares we find a hectic life, people sitting outside at the bars and the streets of the center that at any hour are full of families enjoying a relaxing walk. Almost all the historical center of Pontevedra is in fact closed to traffic, pedestrians are the real protagonists in the streets of the center and this has a positive effect on urban life. A special care for the gardens of the Herreria or Alameda Squares allows us to get lost among the flowers and plants, while staying in the city.

    Now let’s discover some of the monuments that you can’t miss during your visit to Pontevedra.

    The 16th century Basílica of Santa María la Major,

    An asset of cultural interest, was declared a Historical Artistic Monument in 1931 and stands on the ruins of an ancient Romanesque church. This church represents one of the most important examples of the Gothic style in Galicia, with elements of the Manueline style. Interesting are some elements on the facade, such as the figure of Christopher Columbus, or the Christ of Good Travel, to whom the sailors dedicated their prayers before leaving for the sea.


    The church of the Pilgrim Virgin

    Right along the Portuguese Way, when you arrive in the city, you will find this chapel whose plant is shaped like a scallop shell. Begun in 1778, this monument in honor of the Virgin, which protects pilgrims on their way from Bayona to Santiago, was declared a Historical-Artistic Monument in 1982 and an Asset of Cultural Interest in 2011. Inside we find the image of the Pilgrim Virgin, patron saint of the province of Pontevedra and the Portuguese Way.

    Right in front of this church, you will find a statue that might intrigue you. It is in fact the parrot Ravachol, considered probably one of the most famous parrots in the world. Still today we celebrate a feast in its honor every year during the carnival! This parrot, which lived between 1891 and 1913, was the faithful companion of the pharmacist Perfecto Feijoo, and was so loved by the citizens of Pontevedra that a public funeral and a statue were dedicated to him.



    The Ruins of Santo Domingo

    A splendid example of the purest Gothic in Galicia, today we can only see the remains of the ancient 14th century Convent of Santo Domingo, which was declared a National Monument in 1889.

    Church of San Francesco

    This very central building, part of the Convent of San Francesco, has undergone several changes over the centuries. It presents in fact a single element of the ancient construction, the Romanesque facade with the rose window, while the rest of the structure dates back to the thirteenth century, although it was later modified in the Middle Ages and then in the Modern Age.


    Church of San Bartolomé

    Built by the Jesuits between the 17th and 18th centuries, it is a baroque work of great beauty. Inside, you will discover an image of the Virgin de la O, Patroness of the city, and one of the few representations of the pregnant Virgin Mary.

    The ancient medieval wall of the city of Pontevedra

    The remains of Pontevedra’s protective walls can be seen in different parts of the city. To learn more about the history of these ruins and the other historical monuments (as the old Castle), we recommend you visit the Interpretation Center of the Arzobispals Towers, right next to Plaza de España.

    The Sexto Edificio Museum

    The Sexto Edificio is a recently constructed building with 23 permanent exhibition rooms. Here, you can discover the evolution of Galician and Spanish art in general, from Gothic to contemporary works. It often hosts temporary exhibitions of great interest.

    Do not miss the exceptional wine and gastronomy of Pontevedra.

    Among the things to do in Pontevedra, at Galiwonders, we recommend you to try one of the best culinary traditions in the Iberian Peninsula. The seafood, the empanadas, the octopus, the different fish or meat dishes, and of course the Rías Baixas designation of origin wine. It will leave you with a wonderful memory of the city and its cuisine.


    Get to know the surroundings of Pontevedra

    Very close to the city of Pontevedra, you can visit Combarro, a beautiful fishing village, with its famous granaries (hórreos). Sanxenxo, famous maritime destiny and fall in love with beaches like La Lanzada or San Vicente do Grove. Just 40 minutes by car you can get to know the so-called Galifornia, the California of Galicia. In addition, a visit to cities like Baiona, A Guarda, Cambados and many other points of interest, will be the perfect excuse to book a few more days on the Portuguese way and enjoy the Galician landscape and its coasts.

    Pontevedra, a city awarded for its model of sustainable urban quality

    In the last 20 years, Pontevedra, has been the protagonist of a drastic urban change that has led the capital to win several awards in recognition of the sustainability and accessibility of the urban center for pedestrians and disabled people. Below we list some of the most important international awards won by the city of Pontevedra:

    • In 2011 it received the Spanish award for safe and sustainable mobility during the II Congress of Cities for Road Safety of Spain.
    • In 2013 it was awarded the European Intermodes prize in Brussels for its urban quality and its “Metrominuto” (This model inspired the urban plans of Florence, Ferrara, Modena and Cagliari).

    • In 2014 it also received in Dubai the UN “UN-Habitat” international award for its urban quality of life and accessibility policy.
    • In 2015 it received the following awards
    • The International award for urban excellence from the Center for Active Design, in New York City
    • The Eurochina prize for smart urban mobility, awarded by the French association Prospective et Innovation
    • The Award Ciudades que caminan (Cities that walk) of Torres Vedras, which promotes walking mobility

    Considered a paradise among Spanish cities, by the newspaper “The Guardian”, the city is often the protagonist of foreign reportages that want to copy its model.

    At Galiwonders, we invite you to get to know this wonderful city along your Portuguese Way, to get lost in the streets of its historic center and relax in one of the many bars with a good glass of local wine and some tapas to recover your energy. Contact us for any request for information and Buen Camino!

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