words by Lee Osborne
10 Reasons to visit Vigo
There is no better expression of Spain’s cultural diversity than in this relatively undiscovered corner of the wild northwest. With its warm summers and mild winters, coupled with an infectious Celtic charm, there is no better time to take a deep breath of Vigo’s fresh Atlantic air.
1. Carris Hotel Beiramar
Avenida de Beiramar 57, 36202 Vigo
One of the benefits (there are several) of staying at the Carris is that it provides the ideal excuse to walk or jog your way in to the city each day. Located in what is best described as Vigo’s version of the London Docklands, a 15-minute walk from the centre, the hotel backs on to grand old seafaring buildings, reminders of when Vigo once prospered as a trading outpost with the new world. The Carris is the epitome of spaciousness, all clean lines and minimalist chic, its vast white walls awash with vibrant murals. Rooms are generously proportioned with bathrooms equipped with rainforest showers to invigorate you post run. As daylight fades, the sea air takes hold and ushers you in to a cocoon-like sleep . Request a port facing room and stir refreshed from slumber contentment to see the sun rise over the Ria de Vigo. Guests can enjoy free use of the gym and wifi. www.carrishoteles.com
2. Spectacular seafood
Galicia boasts some of the finest seafood in the world (Rick Stein and Gordon Ramsey are known admirers) so it would be rude not to indulge in delights such as grilled octopus, a staple in these lands: a plate of these tentacled delicacies, dusted with paprika is pure heaven. Octopus is a low calorie, lean seafood, and a good source of protein in your diet, boasting very little fat and nutrient rich. It also contains taurine, a great antioxidant that may help protect against some of the more stressful effects of exercise, as well as stabilizing blood sugar levels.
3. Café Castellanos
Colon 4, Vigo
An oasis of calm serving supremely crafted cha in fine bone china, just a stones throw from the chic, rather Parisian Plaza de la Constitución. Castellanos’s vibe is uber-relaxed, a rhapsody of raftan and white muslin that seduces you the moment you set foot inside. It could be right out of the pages of Donna Hay. Revive in all manner of varieties from the extensive menu showcasing the finest leaf teas India and Ceylon have to offer. We antioxidised on their sublime White Tea. The tantalising array of cakes on display can be sampled guilt-free as you’ll soon run it all off. www.cafecastellanos.com
NATIVE WINE VARIETY
4. Godello & Mencia
Whilst Albariño is the drink of choice to wash down the local seafood, if you’re in Galicia a while you may wish to alternate. Seek out lesser-known varieties like the mouth wateringly aromatic Godello with notes of white peach and dry lychee and the velvety light and fruity red Mencia. Both are delicious when drunk young, so go for ’10 or ’11 vintages.
– Bodegas Joaquín Rebolledo, Mencia 2011, Valdeorras
– Bodegas Joaquín Rebolledo, Godello 2011, Valdeorras
5. Trastienda del Quatro
Calle de Pablo Morillo, 4, Vigo
One of ‘the’ places to be seen in Vigo, Trastienda del Quatro would not look out of place in trendy Stoke Newington. Front of house it offers up relaxed tapas style dining, with more formal dining in the eclectically adorned room at the back. It is rammed full of locals most nights from 9pm onwards and there is a distinct lack of foreign accents. The wine list is cleverly chosen, offering food friendly varietals from all the main regions of the Iberian Peninsula. We paired a delicious Bodegas La Cana, Albariño 2010 with our main course of Monkfish. Beer connoisseurs can accompany their montadito with a chilled glass of frothy headed Estrella de Galicia from the in-house Cervecería. www.latrastiendadelcuatro.com
6. Playa de Samil
Paseo Maritimo de Samil, Vigo
Samil is an idyllic stretch of powder white sand, in an affluent leafy suburb of Vigo known mainly to locals. Jog along the promenade as the sun casts long shadows through the lofty pines before it dips down in a pinky purple haze behind the Islas Cies (see no.10) silhouetted on the horizon. Refuel with an alfresco smoothie in Camaleón and take in the view before the 5k jog back to the hotel.
7. El Castro
Locals will tell you there is no finer view of the city than from atop the hill fortress of El Castro. Climb the 150metres yourself and you’ll see what they mean. Immaculately groomed gardens abound, prime locations for picnickers, loves’ young dreams and huddled groups of dapper card playing pensioners in cloth caps; their wives patiently lying in wait, sheltering from (not the rain this time) but the incessant sun under umbrellas. Load your backpack with fineries from the delicatessen at El Corte Ingles on Gran Via, and head for the hill.
8. M.A.R.C.O, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Vigo
Príncipe 54, 36202 Vigo
MARCO is bang in the centre of town on Vigo’s shopping mile. So after some retail therapy indulge in some cool performance or installation art followed by a light bite in the MARCO Restaurante & Café. Their recession-busting 11euro lunch menu, three-health-conscious courses including coffee, whizzed up by Chef Alfonso Botas who crafts dishes utilising exclusively Galician ingredients. H&H recommends: Gazpacho with cream of carrot and orange and the Tempura salad with vinaigrette. www.marcovigo.com
9. Balnea La Toja
Head across the majestic Ponte de Rande suspension bridge and seek out the healing thermal waters of the Bienestar Thalasso Spa just across the River in Moaña. And while you’re there be sure to indulge in Balnea, a cool cosmetics brand born in upmarket O Grove on the nearby Isle of La Toja. There are sensitive skin remedying body oils, creams, perfumes and soaps that leave your skin gently moisturised while smelling divine. Our pick of the bunch is the Hidratante Revital Mixta/Grasa at 29euros. Amazingly the brand hasn’t made it to UK shores just yet but is available online in the meantime. You read it here first. Space NK take note. www.balnea.es; www.bienestarhoteles.com
10. Islas Cíes
Embark on a 40-minute boat trip to General Franco’s former hideaway during the Spanish Civil War. Cíes is like a little bit of the Caribbean that dislodged itself and somehow made it’s way across the Atlantic! There are few finer beaches than the stunning Praia das Rodas, a perfect crescent of white sand flanked by shallow dunes that shelter a tranquil lagoon of crystal-clear sea. Galegos are still dining out on it being voted one of the top 10 beaches in the world by The Guardian a few years back. Please do your bit for the environment and remember to take your litter back to the mainland with you to maintain the future natural splendour of this isle.
H&H recommends: hiring a tour guide Patricia Longa, proud ambassador for her native Galicia, not only provides fabulous company, but will regale you with fascinating tales and legends about the region. She can be booked through the Secchi S.L. Agency which is based out of neighbouring Santiago de Compostela.www.turismosecchi.com
For further information on Vigo visit: www.turismodevigo.es
How to get there:
Vueling fly direct to Vigo from London Heathrow, in peak season only. Check www.vueling.com for further details. Ryanair fly to nearby Santiago de Compostela, and Porto, as do Easyjet, just across the border in Portugal, with a twice daily bus service connecting the two cities. ryanair.com; easyjet.com