I have been to A Coruña, also known as La Coruña, in Northern Spain countless times. So when I found out that the Princess Cruises route I was going to be taking included a stop here, I was really excited to rediscover the city, and to find out old and new things to do in A Coruña.
I grew up less than a couple of hours away from the city, so this is a part of the world that I feel very familiar with. The rugged coastline, the green headlands and the persistent grey sky feel like home to me. However, it would be the first time I’d visit the city as a tourist, so I arrived with a fresh pair of eyes and an open mind. This is what I found.
Table of Contents
- 1 Things to do in A Coruña on a day shore excursion
- 2 Visiting Spain? Check out my other Spain articles
- 3 Check out my other articles about cruising
- 4 Like this post? Pin and save for later
Things to do in A Coruña on a day shore excursion
Meet A Coruña’s heroine
The main square in A Coruña is Praza de María Pita (María Pita Square). This magnificent square is the beating heart of the city and the perfect place to start exploring. But before you do, stop for a coffee on one of the café terraces and admire the impressive architecture of the Town Hall, a modernist building built in the early 20th century. You will be surrounded by arcaded buildings crowned with beautiful galleries typical of the city.
But the most important feature in the square is the statue of María Pita. María Pita was the local heroine who in the 16th century fought against the invasion of the English Armada led by Sir Francis Drake, or as he’s known locally, Pirate Drake.
Get lost in the Old Town
A Coruña is located in the very northwest tip of Spain, in the autonomous region of Galicia. The oldest part of the city, known as Cidade Vella or Old Town, was built on the site of an ancient hill fort that was inhabited until the 2nd century, when the Romans arrived and took over.
Get lost in the narrow streets of the Old Town and stop to admire the monuments and squares, as well as the odd piece of street art you will come across. The granite-clad pavements and buildings give the area a gloomy air and atmosphere, that’s exacerbated by the harsh weather this part of Spain is famous for.
Discover the City of Glass
Take as stroll along the seafront on the Avenida de la Marina and you will find the famous galleries that give the city the nickname of City of Glass. These galleries make one of the largest group of glass structures in the world, and they are one of the most iconic images of the city.
Originally, fishermen used to live in these buildings, and they used to keep their boats under the arcades. You can still see today some of the rings they used to tie their boats. The main façade of the buildings faces the Praza de María Pita, and the façades facing the sea were actually the back of the buildings.
It was during the Modernist period at the beginning of the 20th century that the galleries became popular. It was a way to maximise the amount of light and enjoy the views while getting protection from the harsh Galician weather.
Join the locals for tapas
The region of Galicia is famous for its food, in particular seafood. And you can’t really visit Spain without trying the local fare in the local style – tapas.
You will find the best tapas bars within the Old Town. We ended up in a bar called La Bombilla, an institution in the city according to a local we met at the bar. Although we later found out from a local friend that I managed to meet for a quick drink, that the original owners had moved out and opened another bar in the same street. Still, locals flocked to La Bombilla at lunchtime and we joined them, of course!
Feeling nostalgic about my grandma’s cooking I ordered a caldo gallego (a traditional Galician vegetable broth), chorizo con patatas (fried chorizo with sliced fried potatoes), tortilla (Spanish omelet – one of the foods you must try in Spain) and calamares a la romana (fried calamari). All this cost, believe it or not, around €5 and it was delicious!
Sipping caldo, in particular, took me back to the wintery Sundays of my childhood, with my family gathered round the table for lunch.
Visit the oldest working lighthouse in the world
Visiting the Torre de Hércules is one of the must things to do in A Coruña. It is the symbol of the city after all. It was built by the Romans in the 2nd century and it’s truly unbelievable that it is still working. It’s the oldest working lighthouse in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Being a working lighthouse, it is perched on a promontory overlooking the Atlantic. The walk from the city along the seafront to the headland is a lovely walk in itself, with the golden sand beach of Orzán to one side and the city to the other.
They say that it’s about the journey, not the destination. However, in this case, even though it’s a lovely journey, the destination is the highlight. The lighthouse itself is beautiful, but it doesn’t look as old as Roman. It was majorly modified in the 17th and 18th century and recently restored, but this doesn’t take away from its beauty. For me, however, it was the surroundings that really took my breath away. The endless sea ahead with waves breaking in an unforgiving way against the rocky coastline, and the blustery wind really give drama to this place.
Say hello to Brogan
Ok, this one I have a personal interest in, obviously. You may have wondered before where the name of my blog, Brogan Abroad, comes from. Legend has it that Brogan (or Breogán) was the Celtic King that founded the Kingdom of Galicia and one of Galicia’s most revered heroes. Many years ago I became the human to a dog, a very energetic English springer spaniel who I called Brogan as a link to my roots. When he was no longer around and I started focusing more and more on my travels I decided to honour my roots and my dog with the name of my blog.
But enough with the soppy story… At the bottom of the headland where the Torre the Hércules stands, towards the land, there is the statue of Brogan, the Celtic King. I, of course, had to go and visit and quietly thank him for the inspiration that evolved into something I never foresaw.
Brogan is very significant in the Galician culture, and this is reflected on the regional anthem, which refers to Galicia as the Home of Brogan (Fogar de Breogán). And it will always be very significant to me too.
End the day with sangria
After exploring A Coruña, it was almost time to get back to our cruise ship, the Sapphire Princess. But we still had some time for a cheeky drink and the sun had come out by now. The fog and grey skies very often burn off in the afternoon in A Coruña, so we headed back to the port looking for somewhere to stop on the seafront. And of course, there was no better place than one of the bars on the arcades right below the galleries. We sat on the sunny terrace facing the port and ordered one last sangria before we headed back to the ship.
Do you have any questions about things to do in A Coruña on a shore excursion?
Let me know in the comments!
Visiting Spain? Check out my other Spain articles
- 19 Exciting Things to Do in Valencia, Spain – An Insider’s Guide
- A Photographic Journey Through Alicante’s Old Town, Spain
- 10 Modernist Buildings in Barcelona You Shouldn’t Miss
Check out my other articles about cruising
- Confessions of a First Time Cruiser – Is Cruising for Me?
- 33 First Time Cruise Tips – Everything You Need to Know Before Your First Cruise
- Cruising Spain, France and the Channel Islands with Princess Cruises
- The Perfect Itinerary for One Day in Bilbao, Spain – Cruise Itinerary
- 10 Adorable Things to do in Guernsey, Channel Islands UK – Cruise Itinerary
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Disclosure: This trip was taken in partnership with Princess Cruises, who hosted me on this trip. As always, all views are my own.
Teresa is an award-winning travel blogger based in London. She’s on a mission to explore the world through responsible cultural and adventure travel, and through deeper, more meaningful local experiences. She’s a lover of adventure, the outdoors and everything food related, and she’s always looking for ways to make a positive impact through sustainable travel.