The name of Corunas cruise dock – Transatlantic Quay – reflects its location on the north-western tip of the Iberian Peninsula making it – you might be surprised to learn – the closest European port to New York.
It is a charming mixture of old town and new town also with a couple of beaches along the two-mile stretch of coastline it overlooks. The colonnaded Maria Pita Square is at the heart of the old town, with many shops, bars and restaurants all around. There are various fascinating museums including the interactive House of Mankind plus an aquarium and planetarium.
Corunna is also the main Atlantic gateway to one of the most ruggedly scenic regions in Spain – Galicia. Among its attractions is one of the world’s great pilgrimage destinations: Santiago de Compostela, with its Romanesque cathedral.
For your info the Shopping centre just outside the Port Terminal offers free Wi-Fi.
The port is very central, right between the old and new parts of town so no shuttle bus is needed. A beautiful place and a very easy DIY destination for just for a wander.
On leaving the Dock area the local tourist service are normally on hand for street maps. There is a lot to do here, unusual statues to find and plenty of tours available for the DIY person if that is what you want with nearly everything within walking distance, the only exceptions are the lighthouse and aquarium, these are a fair distance from the ship.
There is a nice tourist tram that goes all the way from the port (east side of town) to the famous lighthouse (north side) and the beach (west side). The town has Europe’s longest urban sea promenade, nearly 10ks walk, with excellent views. The old town with its churches and plazas is worth a stroll, as well as the San Anton Castle right by the water (now an archaeological museum) and the San Carlos Gardens nearby.
As you walk out of the port there are 2 companies offering tours round La Coruna, both departed at 11.30 from just outside the port. Excellent tour with 4 stops, lasting nearly 3 hours and only €15pp.
If you are feeling fit, walk straight through the town to the far side. Here is a nice beach if you fancy a swim. Follow the road around to the right and up the hill passing the Aquarium and keep going until you reached the Tower of Hercules, a 2000 year old light house, still working. You can go to the top, €3pp, there is a desk you need to check in through, this opens at 10am. After a stroll around its base try a nice walk around the extensive gardens to its front and side, some great sculptures here. Now, if you do fancy the walk, do not follow the road and promenade around to the right when you leave the port, it is much further that way.
Closer to the port is the Plaza de Maria Pita, a most beautiful, expansive plaza and the gateway into the old town section. The square itself is dominated by The Town Hall building, really beautiful architecture. It is bristling with some top-quality restaurants and bars and within a short walking distance of the shopping district and also the city’s port.
In and around the old town are lots of nice seafood restaurants and tapas bars that offer local specialties like mussels, crayfish, scallops and octopus as well as the more recognised Spanish dishes like albóndigas (Spanish meatballs) or tortilla, along with local wine such as Al Barino and beer. We visited Mason O Gelego, just off Plaza de Maria Pita, a nice tapas bar we found on our first visit. Not much changed, same quiet place and 3 tapas, 1 water and 2 wines and staggering €15 (2015).
There is a good shopping centre with many know brand shops as well as the expensive ones. What you will find here is that the local people are quite friendly, but you not encounter the vying for our attention or tourist dollars that is so prevalent in other cities. It was easy to feel like a local.
Two trips (DIY) you could combine are:
The Towers of Hercules Sculpture Park; its lighthouse has been in continuous operation for almost 2,000 years. There are 239 steps to the top but the view over the city is worth the effort.
The Aquarium Finisterrae; this is located near the tip of the peninsula, very close to the Tower of Hercules.
They are both about 4 miles from the cruise terminal and 100 mts apart, so a taxi shouldn’t cost too much. For the aquarium the cost is 10 euro entrance (2013) but only 4 euro for senior citizens. You could also take the bus to the lighthouse, great views, and then take it again, all the way around the island. 2 hour trip for I think 1 Euro each, but beware, only 1 bus an hour.
Many cruisers take the excursion to Santiago de Compostela. This trip includes a brief introduction on the journey there (1 hour) and then your own time. It really is well worth a visit. The Cathedral is magnificent both inside and out, but the old and new town are worth exploring as well. La Coruna to Santiago de Compostela has the distance advantage over Vigo by about 20 minutes.
By Peter Dagnall
See our holiday photos click here.