In fact, Spain is home to the third-largest amount of World Heritage Sites in the world, behind only Italy and China, with 44 sites on the list, and the small region of Galicia in the country’s northwest corner lays claim to three of those. Now, in my highly-biased opinion (having lived there for two years) I think there ought to be a few more Galician sites selected, from the monasteries and vineyards that perch along the Ribeira Sacra canyon to Atlantic islands like the Cíes and the Ons, but that’s a story for another post. Galicia’s three World Heritage Sites still capture part of what makes this region so very fascinating.
Santiago de Compostela’s old town
|Praza do Obradoiro|
A pilgrimage route here quickly grew in popularity and drew millions of medieval European pilgrims to this lonely outpost in northwestern Iberia: the Camino de Santiago. To accommodate the huge crowds, a stunning cathedral was built in the early 1200s in the Romanesque style, replete with austere granite arches and intricate religious sculpture. During the Baroque era, gaudy new façades flowered up all around the church, reinvigorating the faith of pilgrims and locals alike.
|A side-chapel in the cathedral|
The old town’s centuries-old houses are all built from local granite, sometimes whitewashed save for the windows, sometimes letting the natural stone show, and often capped with glassed-in balconies called galerías. Two of the major streets in the southern half of the old town—Rúa do Vilar and Rúa Nova—are bounded on either side by soportales or arched, covered walkways that spring out from these homes and provide shelter from the rain.
The Roman walls of Lugo
|Walking on top of the walls|
|...and next to them|
The “Tower of Hercules” lighthouse in A Coruña
|View from the top|
But when you climb up the staircases inside the tower, you still get to marvel at Roman engineering: heavy masonry blocks that have endured nearly two millennia of invasions and earthquakes and interior arches that have buttressed it from collapse. From the very top, just below the modern “lantern,” you can take in views of Coruña, sprawling toward the south, and the Atlantic, reaching to the northern horizon.
Which World Heritage Site on this list sounds most interesting to you? And have you been to any of these monuments? Share below in the comments!