Compact, charming and very tourist-friendly, PONTEVEDRA is the quintessential old Galego town. Located just short of its namesake ría, at the last bend in the Río Lérez, it was supposedly founded by a Greek hero returning from the Trojan War, and later became a prosperous medieval fishing port. Although it has lost its ancient walls, it still centres on an attractive zona monumental. A maze of pedestrianized flagstoned alleyways, interspersed with colonnaded squares, granite crosses and squat stone houses with floral balconies, the old quarter is always lively, making it perfect for a night out.
The boundary between Pontevedra's old and new quarters is marked by the Praza da Peregrina – site of an eye-catching Baroque pilgrim chapel, the Santuario de la Peregrina, with a floor plan in the shape of a scallop shell – and the Praza da Ferrería, a paved square lined by arcades on one side and rose trees on the other. Amid the surrounding fountains, gardens, and open-air cafés, all the daily rituals of life in a small town take place, especially during the Sunday paseo. It's also the prime location for the city's many festivals, the busiest of which, Os Maios, lasts through the whole of May.
Assorted narrow lanes lead north from Praza da Ferrería into the zona monumental; Rúa Figueroa for example swiftly reaches the attractive little complex of old stone houses adjoining the picture-postcard Praza da Leña. The twisting streets hereabouts are packed with tiny bars and restaurants. Prime areas to start exploring include the zona's prettiest squares: the tiny Praza da Cinco Rúas is a central hub, from which five streets lined with bars run spoke-like in all directions; the arcaded Praza da Verdura is a lively nightlife centre, where several bars have open-air tables; and the elegant Praza Teucro, with its orange trees, holds some grown-up wine bars.
Leading down from Praza de España towards the sea, on the other hand, the Alameda is a grand promenade watched over by magnificent buildings and dotted with monuments commemorating largely naval achievements.
Set in the centre of Pontevedra, capital of Rias Bajas, in a varied landscape, where splendid beaches low-lying hills mingle in a town dotted with stone granaries ...