Few cities enjoy such a magnificent natural setting as VIGO. Arrayed along the sloping southern shoreline of its namesake estuary, it enjoys superb views not only of the bay itself, surrounded by green forest ridges, but also out towards the ocean. While it’s undeniably magnificent when seen from a ship entering the harbour, once ashore it fails to live up to that initial promise, and few visitors use it as anything more than an overnight stop.
Although Vigo is now the largest city in Galicia, home to some 300,000 people, Baiona, closer to the mouth of the ría, was the principal port hereabouts until the nineteenth century. Then the railways arrived, and Vigo became the first Galego town to industrialize, with the opening of several sardine canneries. It’s now Spain’s chief fishing port, with wharves and quays that stretch almost 5km along the shore.
Pride of place in the middle still belongs to the passenger port where generations of Galego emigrants have embarked for the Americas. These days, cruise passengers mingle with tourists arriving at the Estación Marítima de Ría off the Cangas ferry, and set off to explore the steep, cobbled streets that climb up into the old city, known as O Berbés and crammed with shops, bars and restaurants.
Along the seafront early in the morning, kiosks revive fishermen with strong coffee, while there and in the lively daily market hall nearby, the Mercado da Pedra, their catch is sold. Immediately below, on the aptly named Rúa da Pescadería, women set out plates of fresh oysters on permanent granite tables to tempt passers-by. On Rúa Carral, shops sell kitsch marine souvenirs.