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We recently popped over to Galicia, ostensibly to dine at Culler de Pau. But as we were there, we thought we'd extend our stay to make a long weekend of it, taking in Pontevedra and Santiago de Compostela. We did a shed load of research in advance, so if you want to avail yourselves of that, here's a guide to where we went.

Pontevedra

lyonview2At night down the gorgeous backstreets of Pontevedra.

This city, situated at the mouth of the river Lérez by the sea is really a good option if you don't fancy the crowds of Santiago de Compostela. The medieval town centre is gorgeous - it's not overwhelmed by tourists and (bonus) the mayor banned cars in the city centre a decade ago so it's really lovely to wander around. At night you might happen upon - as we did - concerts springing up in one of the many town squares. It's a super place to base yourself for a few nights.

We got two particularly handy recommendations from L’Oculto Tapas in Brockley, of of whose owners - Ana Gomex - was brought up not too far away from here and whose sister now lives in Pontevedra.

lyonview2Grabbing a beer and some excellent tortilla at Casa Fidel O'Pulpeiro.

Casa Fidel O'Pulpeiro

Calle de San Nicolás, Nº 7, C.P. 36002 Pontevedra

A trad spot tucked away down a side street - as the name suggests it specialises in octopus (also a speciality of the region). We arrived early for lunch to find them fishing it out of a homemade smoker in the street (and tried it in some croquetas). Order the house wine here and you'll get it served in the traditional Galician china bowls.

lyonview2From Envero, scallops in a tomato cream with seaweed caviar.

Envero

Rúa Laranxo, 21, 36002 Pontevedra

A contemporary vinoteca, this is where to come if you love your wine and are after some more modern Spanish dishes. Our favourite dish was crocante de polo marinado served with a gorgeous turmeric aioli.

Tragolargo

Rúa Sarmiento, N.6, 36002 Pontevedra

This wine bar is situated in a lovely medieval building in the oldest part of town. We only popped in for dessert - an excellent chocolate mousse, which frankly made us wish we'd come for lunch or dinner.

 

Other places we'd have liked to fit in but didn't get around to included:

  • Ultramar- the Pontevedra outpost for Galician chef Pepe Vieira 

 

Santiago de Compostela

lyonview2Abasto 2.0 - our recommended spot to eat at Santiago de Compostela's famous food market

As both the capital of Galicia and the endpoint for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, this city is obviously bursting with amazing sights. You simply mustn't miss a wander around their 11th-century cathedral.

But... it's also great for eating and drinking too. Here's where we went.

Mercado de Abastos

Rúa das Ameas, s/n, 15704 Santiago de Compostela

A pilgrimage point for any foodies - almost as many people visit this as they do the cathedral. Once you've wandered round the 19th century covered market, picking up vacuum-packed jamon or cheese to take home with you, you have two clear choices ahead of you. The first is to head inside to Mariscomania where for an additional 5 euros, they'll cook whatever you've just bought in the market. There's also a bar here too. The second is Abastos 2.0...

Abastos 2.0

Praza de Abastos, Rúa das Ameas, 13 -18, 15703 Santiago de Compostela

Arguably the top foodie destination in Santiago, this restaurant specialises in putting together menus based on the market's best produce at any time. You can eat a set menu indoors for 30 euros, but it was more fun for us to sit outside on one of the terrace tables and let our waiter ply us with Albarino and whatever he thought we should be eating - which turned out to be the freshest oysters, langoustines and a cracking tuna tartare.

lyonview2Tomatoes at Altamira

Altamira

Rúa de Altamira, 18, 15704 Santiago de Compostela

Although this is a hotel restaurant, its position right beside the market means the food is spot on. Having seen tomato salad on the menu we had to come back and have it because there's almost nothing better than a plate of Spanish tomatoes drowned in olive oil.

Casa Pepe

Cantón de San Bieito, 5, 15704 Santiago de Compostela

This has a great wine selection - but really the star of the show at this corner taperia here was their amazing jamon.

lyonview2Damned good croquetas at Con Culler.

Con Culler

Rúa do Franco, 55, 15702 Santiago de Compostela

This hole in the wall spot, just down from the cathedral, serves up some of the best croquetas in town. We went for the standard jamon e queso and the bacalao ones and both were standouts.

Pub Momo

Rúa da Virxe da Cerca, 23, 15703 Santiago de Compostela

Yes, it's a bit on the lairy side, but if you're here earlier in the evening, the massive garden complete with water feature at this popular nightspot also has particularly lovely views over Belvis Park.

lyonview2A Padron pepper-topped toastie at Pepe Paya

Pepe Paya

Rúa do Cardeal Payá, 8 Baixo, 15704 Santiago de Compostela

Particularly good for trying local Galician wines by the glass - we had the biggest Spanish toastie ever here - topped with cheese, ham and a whole load of padron peppers. 

 

Other places we'd have liked to fit in but didn't get around to included:

  • Secretos de Galicia - A modern food hall with a grocery store, ice-cream shop, beer hall and a few restaurant traders.
  • En Tartas LESTEDO 1957 - A really good looking bakery - famous for its cheesecakes as well as local speciality Tarta de Santiago and empanadas.

 

Vineyards

Possibly our biggest regret from our brief trip here was in not getting out to see a vineyard as we were in the heart of Rias Baixas where so many amazing albarinos come from. You really do need a hire car for that (see below).

Lots of the vineyards are open to the public - this website's a good place to work out where you might want to visit. It's good value too - you could be trying a flight of three wines with a tour around the vineyard for as little as 10 euros.

One option you could try - the dates didn't quite work for us - is the wine bus from the town of Cambados. It doesn't go every day - but does take in a small number of vineyards over a morning. You should ask at the local tourist office for more info when you arrive.

 

Getting there

The easiest airport to use is Santiago de Compostela which Ryanair flies to, making it a great budget break option. 

 

Getting around

It's easy to get to and from the main towns via their train network which is fast, clean and cheap. But, if you're hoping to really get into the countryside or see any vineyards here you'll need a hire car.

 

Where to stay

We couldn't, in all conscience, recommend where we ended up staying in Pontevedra (long story), but we did think the local parador looked rather special.

In Santiago de Compostela we fared much better. Our hotel - Eurostars Araguaney - may have been a little oddly decorated, but it was a short walk into the old town and - very important - had a lovely courtyard pool. We paid about 120 euros for a twin room there.

 

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