If, after months of confinement, you are in the mood for a culinary treat, a trip to A Coruña in northern Spain should be on your menu. Mounted on an isthmus in the northwest corner of Spain, Galicia’s second city makes for a fantastic weekend.
It has a growing reputation as a gastronomic center, thanks to ‘Los Vinos’, its bustling wine district, vibrant food markets, award-winning tapas, a craft brewery and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
However, A Coruña is not only about gastronomy, but also outdoors: its unique hammerhead shape means that there are beaches just a few minutes walk in any direction from the medieval Old Town, as well as a beautiful historic marina and 16 km of scenic drive along the Atlantic coast.
Ocean City: A Coruña on its dramatic promontory
Corunna Airport is 8 km from the city center and, after checking in at your accommodation, make your first port of call as a marina.
The bay itself is charming, but the historic buildings that line the main avenue are an impressive display of Galician, ancient and modern style – tall, former fishermen’s cottages, now clad in spectacular glass facades. One belongs to billionaire Amancio Ortega, founder of the fashion chain Zara.
Take a walk and you will find yourself dodging cyclists and joggers, while after lunch the residents take their post-prandial spot.
Either way, continue along the water’s edge to the Castle of San Anton. Built on a small island and connected to the mainland by a short bridge, this former 16th century fortress is today the city’s history and archeology museum.
For those who want an appetite, take a bike or scooter ride or stroll along the coastal path following the north coast of A Coruña towards the Tower of Hercules. This 2,000-year-old monument is the oldest active lighthouse in the world.
Another climb, to the top of the 180-foot tall tower, will reward you with fabulous views and will likely be made to the sound of bagpipes, an essential instrument of traditional Galician music and a favorite of street performers, at least one of which be at the bottom of the tower to encourage climbers.
To enjoy the view more comfortably, accompanied by first-class food and wine, A Coruna’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Arbore de Veira, offers superb views of its clifftop location.
Center: boats tied up outside the Rosalia de Castro theater
A Coruna’s gourmet reputation owes much to its fresh seafood, and the city’s fish market is a fisherman’s paradise. With stalls selling fresh octopus and crustaceans – local delicacies – lobsters, mussels, fish of all varieties and a whole load of edible delicacies, the market is a profusion of noise and color.
The city organizes gastronomic events throughout the year, such as the Bocata Gourmet festival, where chefs compete to make the best sandwiches – and extensive sampling of their efforts is definitely encouraged.
Craft beer fans should head to La Cerveceria, in the city center. Estrella Galicia beer (not to be confused with Barcelona’s most famous Estrella Damn) is a regional icon and has already been brewed here. Head to the restaurant to taste the beers offered with excellent traditional Galician food.
Explore the cobbled streets of the Old Town of A Coruña for an intimate and even romantic experience. It’s easy to get lost in this historic neighborhood, which dates back to the 13th century.
History enthusiasts may want to choose British military hero Sir John Moore (aka enthusiastic actor Suso Martinez) as a guide. It brings the history of the region to life with stories about the Napoleonic Wars and the local heroine Maria Pita, after which the impressive main square is named. Here you can take a restorative break in romantic cafes that line the square before looking for the shopping area a few blocks away. The first Zara store opened here in 1974.
The Old Town really comes alive at night, when the local tapas seduce you in bars on Barrera, Troncoso and Franja streets, known as ‘Los Vinos’
Exclusive souvenirs from A Coruna can be found in Sargadelos’ hand-painted and colorful pottery. Fans can also visit the factory on the outskirts of the city.
Art enthusiasts will find a jewel in a museum in Picasso’s childhood home, Casa Picasso. The young artist spent five years in Corunna, moving here with his family at the age of ten, but art historians say it was here that he became an artist, completing more than 200 works and holding his first exhibition at the age of 14.
Unfortunately, there are no paintings at Casa Picasso, but there are drawings and memories of his years in the city.
The Old Town really comes alive at night, when the local tapas seduce you in bars on Barrera, Troncoso and Franja streets, known as ‘Los Vinos’.
Each place has its own specialty, from cod to cockles, arancini to smoked sardines, fried octopus to apple caviar. Local wines like Ribeiro, or a glass of Estrella Galicia, make the perfect accompaniment. If current restrictions allow, you can find groups of friends enjoying an impromptu music and dance session in one of the bars.
Even if you don’t participate, the night will end in true Spanish style.
Sarah Bridge was a guest at A Coruna’s only five-star hotel, Hesperia Finisterre, where double rooms start at £ 125 a night in high season (nhhotels.com) Flights to Corunna with Vueling and Iberia cost from £ 150. Book tours at visitsguiadas.coruna.es and, for historical tours, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.