Betanzos

The city of knights

The beautiful town of Betanzos maintains an authentic medieval feel. Until the 19th century it was the capital of the province of Galicia, as it was home to the legendary Andrade family, the feared feudal lords of Galicia.

Plan your visit to Betanzos

There are a lot of things to see in Betanzos, a town which merits a relaxing visit, since there are numerous paths which allow you to explore the beautiful urban center. Unless you visit on one of the holidays which we discuss in the “What to see” section of this page—in which case participation in the festivities is the main activity—Betanzos is a destination that can be toured in just one day. One of the draws of this place is its geographic location, since there are numerous other nearby destinations where you can spend the rest of your trip. First, for those who are not satisfied with Betanzos’ high-quality buildings, characterized by Gothic architecture and a medieval feel, nearby Pontedeume (the Andrades’ other stronghold and the stage of the Irmandiño Wars) is a great complimentary destination. Those who are looking for an urban setting may choose the nearby city of A Coruña. You can experience an authentic Galician seaside environment in the beautiful port town of Cedeira, less than an hour to the north by car. Another excellent option for a daytrip is to head to Pontedeume and from there visit the important natural park of the Fragas do Eume, the site of the Caaveiro and Monfero monasteries. Those who visit during the summer can enjoy numerous beaches along the Ares River and the Betanzos River and take a swim in their cool waters. Our pages about eating and sleeping in Betanzos make it easy for you to find establishments with local flavor

Want to discover this place?

There are a lot of things to see in Betanzos, a town which merits a relaxing visit, since there are numerous paths which allow you to explore the beautiful urban center. Unless you visit on one of the holidays which we discuss in the “What to see” section of this page—in which case participation in the festivities is the main activity—Betanzos is a destination that can be toured in just one day.

qué ver en Betanzos

One of the draws of this place is its geographic location, since there are numerous other nearby destinations where you can spend the rest of your trip. First, for those who are not satisfied with Betanzos’ high-quality buildings, characterized by Gothic architecture and a medieval feel, nearby Pontedeume (the Andrades’ other stronghold and the stage of the Irmandiño Wars) is a great complimentary destination. Those who are looking for an urban setting may choose the nearby city of A Coruña. You can experience an authentic Galician seaside environment in the beautiful port town of Cedeira, less than an hour to the north by car. Another excellent option for a daytrip is to head to Pontedeume and from there visit the important natural park of the Fragas do Eume, the site of the Caaveiro and Monfero monasteries. Those who visit during the summer can enjoy numerous beaches along the Ares River and the Betanzos River and take a swim in their cool waters. Our pages about eating and sleeping in Betanzos make it easy for you to find establishments with local flavor.

Betanzos was a medieval fortress, strategically located on a hill protected by the Mandeo and Mendo Rivers. Some consider it the capital of the Galician Gothic style as it is home to some of the highest-quality, best-preserved Gothic churches. There are a lot of things to see in Betanzos, as it has one of the most well-maintained historical quarters in Galicia which was declared a Conjunto Histórico-Artístico in 1970. Betanzos offers some of the best examples of Gothic homes, medieval bridges, and folk-style architecture, which is characterized by wooden balconies and hórreos (crop storehouses which are elevated from the ground). Betanzos also hosts several significant festivals.

Start on Calle Emilio Romay to tour the historical quarter from south to north. On this street we find the former Convent of Santo Domingo, which houses the Museo das Mariñas. This museum has outstanding collections of Galician clothing, embroidery, tapestries, and lacework as well as archaeological pieces, educational materials from the García Naveira schools, and several medieval tombs. It was built from stone between the 16th and 18th centuries. The entrance is a modest Renaissance portico with a notable tower donated by Archbishop Monroy in the 18th century. One of the building’s façades gives way to the Plaza de los Hermanos García Naveira (Plaza of the García Naveira Brothers, Betanzos’ most important patrons), the site of the town market. On the other side of the plaza is a Neoclassical construction built by the Junta of the Kingdom of Galicia to house archives during the time of Charles III, now an exhibition space.

Continue onto Calle Castro, which is lined with houses with sheltered balconies, until reaching number 2, where you’ll find the Museum of the Contemporary Image (Museo de la Estampa Contemporánea) inside the seat of the CIEC Foundation. The museum boasts works by distinguished artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Amadeo Gabino, and Luis Seoane, among many others. Guided tours are available by reservation, which can be arranged by phone or at the tourism office. Continuing along the same street you’ll reach the beautiful Plaza de la Constitución, in the area where the hillfort of Untia, which gave rise to the town, once stood. Here you’ll find the beautiful town hall, built from stone in the Neoclassical style. There is also the Church of Santiago, built in the 15th century in the Gothic style by the aristocrat Fernán Pérez de Andrade O Mozo in place of an older Romanesque church. The church’s entrance is on Calle de Lanzón. It has a basilica floor plan, three naves, and three apses. In the 16th century, the Clock Tower (Municipal Tower) was built adjacent to the church.

From the Plaza de la Constitución, heading north on Calle Roldán or Calle Pescadería you’ll reach the Plaza de Fernán Peréz de Andrade “the Good.” Here there are two extraordinary Gothic churches, both declared National Monuments. The Church of Santa María del Azogue was erected between the 14th and 15th centuries with a basilica floor plan, three naves, and a gable roof. Its main façade features a semicircular arch and a rose window. Just meters away is the Church of San Francisco, considered the best example of Galician Mendicant architecture. On the foundations of a 13th-century building, this church was constructed in 1387 by Count Fernán Pérez de Andrade “the Good” with a floor in the shape of a Latin cross, a single nave, and transversal arches which support the wooden arches of the ceiling. The church served as the Andrade family mausoleum and houses the spectacular Gothic tomb of Fernán Peréz de Andrade, supported by sculptures of a wild boar and a bear.

In the valley that surrounds the town you’ll find the vineyards of Betanzos. Wine production is on the decline, but you can still taste its bitter and fruity liquors at the bars that bear a laurel branch on their door. Several industries related to the production and preservation of wine developed, such as those of wine pressing, bottling, casks, and sealing, all of which left their mark on the town. Other industries that stood the test of time and which give their name to some of the city’s streets include tin and zocas (clogs). Nearby there is also a workshop that makes flutes.

In August, during the holiday in honor of San Roque there are two main events: the releasing of the paper lantern and the romería of Os Caneiros (an annual religious pilgrimage). The largest paper lantern in the world—25 meters high, 50 meters across, and 120 kilograms—is released into the sky on the night of San Roque (August 16) from Plaza de los Hermanos García Naveira. Then the two groups of pilgrims make their way through Mandeo Valley on decorated rowboats. The celebrations on August 18 and 25 have a rustic character and center around food and wine. On September 28 and 29, the romería of San Miguel, also known as the romería de los Alborotados, takes place, usually coinciding with the Festa do Mosto. Betanzos holds another wine festival on the second weekend in May.

During the rest of the year, the life of the town continues with various fun, traditional events. On the 1st and the 16th of every month is the biweekly festival, instituted by Sancho IV in the 13th century. The Santos festival (November 1), the New Year’s Day festival, and the May 1st festival are the most popular and best-known. One well-known historical festival is the Renaissance fair, held during the second weekend in July. During this event Betanzos travels back in time and the entire historical quarter of the city is converted into a traditional medieval city, featuring several booths with local products, activities of the time, and a variety of theater and street music performances.

Iglesia de Santiago

Other popular cultural events include the Bienal de las Balconadas, celebrated during even years in the months of July and August, when up to 200 paintings are hung outdoors, as well as the Gráfica engraving contest held at the high school.

Must-see

Dónde dormir en Betanzos
Iglesia de San Francisco
Dónde dormir en Betanzos
Plaza de los Hermanos García Naviera

Basic facts

Coordinates

43° 17′ 0″ N, 8° 13′ 0″ W

Distances

A Coruña 23 km, Santiago 66 km, Madrid 581 km

Parking

Underground at Plaza de los Hermanos García Naveira

Altitude

36 m

Habitants

13 445 (2013)

Holidays

Patron saint festival in honor of San Roque (August 14-25)

Renaissance fair, biweekly festivals (the 1st and 16th day of every month), Bienal de las Balconadas (July-August), Gráfica engraving contest, Tortilla Festival

Artesanía Lagoa: seals (for the transport and storage of water), oak and chestnut barrels, jars, zocas (clogs), presses and bottles for wine, basins, copper pans, etc.


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