La Coruña (A Coruña) is a major port town, located on a promontory over the Golfo Artabro, a large gulf of the Atlantic Ocean in Galicia, the northern province of Spain. It is a vibrant coastal city full of history and culture and famous for its gastronomy, especially seafood and the foaming La Estrella beer.
The Romans came to A Coruña in the 1st and 2nd century B.C. and this led to the construction of A Coruña’s most outstanding landmark, the Tower of Hercules, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest Roman lighthouse in continuous use. Another historic event was the siege of the city by Francis Drake in the early 16th century, which was repelled by a heroine of A Coruña, Maria Pita.
A Coruña is also known as the Glass City because of an architectural particularity: enclosed glass balconies called galerias that adorn buildings along the harbor front and in other streets of the city too.
Modern times are reflected in the amazing museum of Science and Technology, in colorful street art along the port, and at my favorite hotel, called Moon (more on this special place below). A Coruña also has plenty of parks and green zones and two fabulous beaches that are very popular in the summer.
Fun Fact: You used to be able to get from one end of the city to the other on the eye-catching and fun red, white, and blue streetcars, the driver of which liked to ring his bell. Unfortunately, they were decommissioned in December 2020 (after my last visit there).
A Coruña has an international airport and is otherwise reached by motorway, train, or long-distance bus from other parts of Spain. The city is also a popular cruise ship port. The terminal is very conveniently located close to the center of town.
1. Tower Of Hercules
The amazing Tower of Hercules should be one of the first sights you visit in A Coruña for its fantastic view over city and sea and to marvel at how this monument has withstood the elements for over 2,000 years. The Romans sure knew how to build for the duration. But, over time, the lighthouse lost its importance and also deteriorated to a certain extent in that the outer ramp that once gave access to the top disappeared. However, extensive restoration has taken place and nowadays an interior staircase lets you reach the top to enjoy the view.
Around the tower is a beautiful sculpture park that you can circumvent on an easy trail that is 3.1 miles long. There is even a kids’ play area. There are several other routes, too, so you can easily spend a few hours in and around the Tower of Hercules.
Don’t miss your chance to see the sculpture of a fierce-looking warrior that stands at the access to the tower: This Celtic warrior is Breogan, who, according to legend, founded the city.
Pro Tip: To reach the tower, you can go by bus or drive, as there is ample parking.
2. Maria Pita Square
A Coruña adores her local heroine, Maria Pita, so greet her lovely statue, too, in the Plaza Maria Pita. When Francis Drake besieged the city in 1589 and was about to breach the city walls, he met with a strong defence, led by a brave woman, Maria Pita, who fought alongside her husband and, when he fell, grabbed his sword and led the remaining defenders to close the breach and repel the invaders, thus saving the city from the English.
The square, dedicated to her, is the most grandiose of A Coruña and is accessed from the port. It is surrounded by the richly decorated Town Hall and Council building, complete with arcades, many bars and restaurants, and the statue of Maria Pita on a stone plinth with her sword raised high over her head in the middle.
Pro Tip: The upper floors of some of the private buildings surrounding this square are adorned with the famous glass balconies.
3. Museum Of Science And Technology
A Coruña’s Museum of Science and Technology is a collection of innovations and inventions of science throughout history. Displayed in six halls and the brilliant Crystal Prism Building, you’ll find such extraordinary things as the landing gear of the Boeing 747 that brought Guernica back to Spain from New York, the lantern of the Tower of Hercules, and the first computer that was imported into Spain.
You can also climb into the cabin of a jumbo jet and see what developments in science and technology have occurred in the 20th century and are being worked on for the future. It’s not only entertaining but also highly educative. Bring your kids if you have some with you.
4. A Coruña Beaches
Due to its location, it will seem that A Coruña is surrounded by the ocean, although there is a spit of land before it broadens out to the promontory. Like much of Galicia, the coastline is of a great variety: cliffs, rocks, sandy beaches, and everything in between. The sea is also much wilder and colder here than it is, for instance, in the south of Spain. But A Coruña has breathtaking (literally depending on the weather) beaches on each end.
Riazor Beach And Orzan Beach
The two main beaches are located on Riazor Bay on the northern side of town and are called Riazor and Orzan respectively. Both face outwards towards the ocean and have large waves and are accordingly supervised by lifeguards. These beaches are very popular with surfers, but if just sunbathing is your idea of “having a beach,” you can find tiny coves with sandy beaches, too, although some are more accessible than others.
5. Monte De San Pedro
Interesting as it is to explore the many beautiful sights of A Coruña itself, an experience not to be missed is a day out at Monte de San Pedro, especially for the way you’ll get there: by glass elevator.
Monte de San Pedro is a park and observation point 430 feet above the sea. There is an information center, a cafe, a wine cellar, a restaurant, and even a cigar lounge plus a picnic area, playground, and barbecue facility that will allow you to enjoy the view over the sea, the bay, and the tower of Hercules in any way you like.
Pro Tip: You can walk uphill in about 20 minutes, but it’s much more fun to ride up in the bubble elevator. It is a lift in the form of a glass ball that was installed in 2007 and can carry 24 passengers at a time. The views along the way are even better.
6. A Coruña Glass Balconies
The glassed-in balconies or galerias are such a typical architectural feature of A Coruña that they have earned the city the moniker “Glass City’.
Houses in A Coruña are usually colorful — anything from yellow to pink, very much in contrast to the white villages of the south. Their facades, facing south, are adorned with wall-to-wall sheets of glass, letting the sun in and keeping rain and humidity out.
Remember, Galicia is a green and lush part of Spain, but that is because it rains a lot, so these balconies made a lot of sense. Interestingly, they were first used in Ferrol (another Galician city) and not on buildings but on the sterns of Spanish galleons and then meandered south to A Coruña where the style was adopted by the wealthy citizens. No curtains, blinds, or even flower pots obstruct the shimmering glass facades.
Pro Tip: You will find the most impressive galerias in Avenida de la Marina along the port front, and in Plaza Maria Pita.
7. Pay Respect To One Of Galicia’s Great Writers
Emilia Pardo Bazon was one of Galicia’s most influential and famous poets, novelists, and writers and a prominent defender of Galician culture and language in the 20th century. She belonged to an aristocratic family and lived in one of the typical Galician pazos (small palaces) in the middle of the city, which is now a museum. A visit there rounds out an overview of the history of this fascinating city from the Romans to Francis Drake to the present time.
8. Sleep ‘On’ The Moon
One of A Coruña’s most original hotels and a great place to spend the night is the Hotel Moon. Located in the center of town, next to the shopping complex El Corte Ingles, the theme of the hotel is the moon, the stars, and astronauts. You can’t miss it because an astronaut stands on the sidewalk near the entrance to greet the guests.
The modern and comfortable rooms are decorated with pictures of the moon and astronauts, meals, and snacks are named with the same theme and the bar/lounge area has stars on the ceiling and a glass floor.
9. Enjoy Galicia’s Best Seafood
A Coruña is renowned for its seafood, including pulpo Galegeo, which is squid cooked in the local way and has nothing in common with the rubbery, deep-fried squid rings that are so often served in other parts of the world. This squid is boiled in huge copper pots, cut up with scissors, and served with a sprinkling of cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and crusty bread.
Pro Tip: One of the best restaurants to get this and other fresh seafood is Marisqueria Rios all washed down with local Ribeiro and Albariño wines.