Pontevedra surprises. And even if we travel to the Rías Baixas in search of the sea, fishing villages, beaches and green landscapes, it would be a mistake not to spend at least one day getting to know this provincial capital with its charming atmosphere.
With a pedestrianized old town, completely flat, well-kept and full of squares and rest areas, Pontevedra is a city made for walking. To stroll without haste, with time to look at the historic buildings that surround us, to take shelter in their arcades and to sit down, of course, to enjoy the rich local cuisine fresh from the sea, the orchard and the mountains.
We are facing one of the best-preserved historical centers in all of Galicia, the fruit of the medieval splendor that the city lived through and declared a Historic-Artistic Site since 1951. Its streets are responsible for making us travel back in time, the stone surrounds us and the squares brim with life. . The churches dot the itinerary and the majestic manor houses, with their coats of arms included, will mark a stop on our way. So put on comfortable shoes, we are going to walk through the center of the boa vila.
From square to square through the historic center of Pontevedra
Crossing streets and alleys we will be able to join the main squares of Pontevedra, small or large esplanades where some of the most emblematic buildings of the city are concentrated. There are so many that the mere fact of going from one to another walking will allow us to visit a large part of the monumental area, so it is convenient to do it without haste to be able to look at every corner and every detail that we will find in our path.
We can start our itinerary in La Alameda and Plaza de España, at the gates of the historic center and where we must not overlook the ruins of the Santo Domingo church, a Dominican temple originating from the 13th century of which the apses of the head of the fourteenth century and a side wall. Some of his pieces are exhibited today at the Pontevedra Museum.
We head towards the Praza das Cinco Rúas. A small crossroads, with a cross from the 18th century included, where we find the house where Valle-Inclán lived. In the immediate vicinity we have a few good options if we arrive here at lunchtime. Then, after going down to the Plaza de Celso García de la Riega, we will continue to Praza da Pedreira or Mugartegui, as it is presided over by the pazo of the same name built between the 17th and 18th centuries by the Valladares family. In it today is the headquarters of the Regulatory Council of the DO Rías Baixas.
A few streets away we find three more squares, each one more flirtatious. They are Praza da Leña, Praza da Verdura and Praza de Méndez Núñez. Large windows, stone arcades, iron balconies and arches that connect with other streets await us between one another. Then we will only have to wander a little until we reach Praza do Teucro. It is possibly the most stately in the city, surrounded by noble houses from the 17th and 18th centuries, and the imposing pazo del Marqués de Aranda y Guimarey.
And to finish, the main course before leaving the historic center of Pontevedra will be found in the group that make up the Praza da Estrella, the Praza da Ferraría and the Praza de Ourense. One of the most beautiful places in the city thanks to the Casto Sampedro gardens and the San Francisco church. After enjoying its greenery, we are just one step away from the busiest of all the city’s squares: Praza da Peregrina.
A basilica, a church, a chapel and a sanctuary
In addition to its pazos, its squares and its streets, there are several religious monuments that are worth exploring. The first, and perhaps more popular due to its relationship with the Camino de Santiago, is the Virxe da Peregrina sanctuary. It dates from 1778 and is an excellent example of Galician chapels with a central plant, specifically in the shape of a scallop, symbol of the pilgrimage to Compostela. The next stop is at the Basilica of Santa María, also known as that of the fishermen. Mixing Gothic and Renaissance styles, you can go up to its bell tower, from where we get views of the entire city, and visit a small museum there.
From there, if we cross the historic center from end to end, we will first come across the baroque chapel of the Nazarene on our way, which belonged to the cloistered convent of the Emparedadas sisters. It is from the 14th century, it is on Tetuan Street and it could go unnoticed if it weren’t for the image of the Virgin carved in stone that stands out on its facade. And at the other end of the monumental area we can finish our itinerary at the church of San Bartolomé, built by the Jesuits between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Its great facade rises with columns, shelves and windows, and inside we find the patron saint of Pontevedra: A Virxe da O. After all this walking, and if it has been our first visit, we will surely agree that, indeed, Pontevedra is a surprising city.