Maritime Capital and Daughter of the Enlightenment
The city of Ferrol, in the province of Coruña, began its life as a naval base because of its geographical position. Everything you see in Ferrol can be summed up by the popular saying, “Ferrol: beaches, shellfish, and sun.” The part about the sun is a little ironic, but as the true Galicians say, “Se chove, que chova!”
Planning Your Trip to Ferrol
You can see everything in Ferrol in a weekend. The city is small, yes, but its surroundings are also beautiful and worth visiting. Its cuisine is also abundant and exquisite. If you stay in Ferrol, you can’t miss the incredible beaches of the Costa Ferrolterra, like those of Doniños and SanJorge. We also recommend the nearby towns of Betanzos and Pontedueme. You can also get to A Coruña in just over an hour by car. On the other hand, if you prefer to do go hiking and do things in nature, you cannot miss the Fragas do Eume. Finally, from the Ferrol pier, you can catch a boat to the town of Mugardos, where you can find the Murgadesa octopus. This river trip is perfect if you consider yourself a foodie.
Ferrol’s story begins in the 11th century, when the area was first populated. During this time, Ferrol Vello was nothing more than a than a sparsely populated seaside neighborhood, which pilgrims would visit along their journeys. However, we have to wait until the 16th century for the town to claim greatness. The Spanish crown became aware of the strategic possibilities of this town that was conveniently protected by the Ferrolana River, so they installed a port to house the Royal Armada. It was Felipe V, and later Fernando VI, who gave Ferrol a fundamental role in the naval history of Spain, making it the maritime capital of the Northeast.
Additionally, the maritime conditions in Ferrol allowed for the installation of the most modern naval yards in the country. This led to the Ferrol to become the first industrial city in Galicia, and an important naval and military center.
The height of the city came in the 18th century, which is why Ferrol is considered the Daughter of the Enlightenment. The naval yards fell out of favor, and those of the arsenal came into favor, which attracted a lot of labor. The city was expanded, creating the working neighborhood of Esteiro and the parliamentary one of Magdalena, with an interesting urban plan for the most affluent people of Ferrol.
In the 20th century, the direction of the naval yards was passed into the hands of the navy, until 1947 when they created the Empresa Nacional Bazán. Fromthe 60s, thanks to the industrialization process and the development of the shipyards of ASTANO, in Fene, the city experienced atimeofgrowth. But this naval industry awaited very difficult times, whose biggest blow would be the transfer to the fleet of Rota.
Ferrol, is deep in a crisis that it is desperately trying to escape from. The naval and military industry continues to be the driving force of the city. However, it is the second municipality in Spain that is losingitspopulation, and the reasons for this are clear. More people die than are born (twice as many, in fact), and more people are leaving the town than moving into it.
There are many famous throughout history that come from Ferrol. There have been writers such as Concepción Arenal and Torrente Ballester, politicians like José Canalejas and Pablo Iglesias (founder of PSOE), military leaders like Victoriano Sánchez Barcáiztegui and Guillermo Quintana Lacaci, and painters like Fernando Álvarez de Sotomayor (director of the Museo del Prado for more than 30 years) who all came from Ferrol. Performers and people on television have also come from Ferrol, like Paula Vázquez, Jesús Vázquez, Tete Delgado, and Javier Gutiérrez (who won a Goya in 2014).
Among all the things to do in Ferrol, we recommend starting in the district of Magdalena, which is now the center of the city. Its construction was ordered in 1761 by the illustrious monarch CarlosIII. Adjacent to the old fishing district, Ferrol Vello, it became one of the most intriguing urban proposals of the age. It took on the shape of a chocolate bar, a perfect rectangle. The attractions that stand out are the PlazadeArmas, where you’ll find the town hall; and the PlazadeAmboage, which is full of terrazas for eating and drinking with friends. The district of Magdalena is the epicenter of the tapeo and the shops.
The streets of Magdalena and Real conserve living remnants from Ferrol’s golden age, destined for the most wealthy. These buildings were constructed in the Classicist style, with wrought iron balconies and glazed galleries, which later would extend to all of Galicia to create a united image of the community. In the first decades of the 20th century, Modernistbuildings were also incorporated, which are true masterpieces.
Within the district of Magdalena, there are two churches that stand out. The first is the Concatedral de San Julián, which reached this category by the papal bull issued by Juan XXIII in 1959. One of its defining characteristics is that it was not built with a floorplan in the shape of a Latin cross, but in that of a Greek cross. It was constructed in 1772, and it is undoubtedly one of the most important buildings for the lives of the Catholic Ferrolanos. The second church, the Iglesia Castrense de San Francisco of the Neoclassic style, conserves a magnificent altarpiece designed by José Ferreiro in the Neoclassic style and valuable wood carvings.
Adjacent to San Francisco are the Jardines de Herrera, which are owned by the military, but they are open to the public. Here, you can experience incredible views of the Ferrol Estuary and the Arsenal Militar. The gardens are very well cared for, and they even have magnolias. They are ideal for resting up after a walk through the city.
Another area you should see in Ferrol is the district of Canido, where the concept of the Meninas de Canido was launched. The facades of the district are filled with color with the different interpretations of the famous Velázquez painting.
The last stop you have to make in Ferrol is the Ferrol Vello (Old Ferrol). It has been there since the 11th century, and it is the origin of the city. Nowadays, due to mismanagement and difficulties with restoration paperwork (since they are protected buildings), the entire district is in ruins. But maybe that’s what gives it its special charm. We also recommend trying the tapas in this area.
We also recommend visiting the Castillo de San Felipe, which is a must-see in Ferrol. Built in 1577, it still remains in good condition today, dur to remodeling efforts in the 18th century. It is located next to the Castillo de La Palma, next to the estuary. Its strategic position at the entrance of the estuary used to defend Ferrol from invaders.
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