Pontevedra

The Pontis Veteris (Old Bridge) of Medieval times

Pontevedra is right next to the estuary of the river Lérez. Pontevedra is the capital of the homonymous province; named this way because of its “old bridge” located at the end of its estuary. It is a city exquisitely preserved, it is the ideal city to stay a few days combining history, culture, gastronomy, handcrafted purchases and beaches.

Plan your stay in Pontevedra

You will need a complete weekend to visit Pontevedra; it is full of attractions although it is a small city. If you love wine, there are a lot of warehouses of albariño grape wine with designation of origin Rías Baixas in the city surroundings, as well as numerous places where you can eat local products for a reasonable price. Toja Island is also very close to Pontevedra, there are spas and many places with beautiful landscapes, monuments and interesting history as Combarro, O’Grove and Cambados. In our specialized pages where to sleep and eat in Pontevedra, we give more information.

Do you want to visit this place?

There is a legend about how Pontevedra was created by Teucro (one of the Greek heroes of the Troy conquest). Teucro founded the city with the name of Belenes, and then he return to Greece. This legend expanded during the Renaissance. This is why there is a poem in Latin inscribed in the front of the town hall. The translation of this poem is:

“The brave Teucro founded you / in the shore of this river / in order to you were in Spain / a wonderful villa, / the zebedeo sword / crown of your gentility; / a castle, a bridge and sea, / that is a stamp of your nobility.”

Pontevedra was very linked to its estuary during its history. Romans called Pontevedra Ad Duos Pontes and during the Medievo it was known as Pontis Veteris (Old Bridge), this name is still used nowadays. Pontevedra was declared “Port of Galicia” in 1452 to reactivate its economy, and in 1467, Pontevedra obtained the concession of celebrating a free taxes fair, which took place during 30 days in the Herrería square. The Columbus caravel, The Santa María (nicknamed “The Galician”), was built in Pontevedra’s shipyards. The guild of fishermen stored up wealth enough to be the main financier of the Santa María La Mayor temple construction. However, the industrial and commercial activities diminished a lot at the end of the century because of the lost of Lérez River draft. In the 17th century Vigo already had replaced Pontevedra as principal port.

Plaza de las Verduras

In June, 1809, Napoleonic troops of the general Ney withdrew to Pontevedra and they sacked the city after being defeated in the battle of Sampaio’s bridge. During the 19th century Pontevedra turned into the capital of the province with the same name, knocking down its walls some years later in order to facilitate its urban development expansion. On December 6th, 1931, Castelao and Bóveda, together with other leaders of the Pontevedra Galeguista Party (founded that year in June), summoned an assembly to gather all the nationalists in a Unified Galeguista Party.

Pontevedra, constructed with the patience of centuries, preserves one of the most important and elegant old towns in Galicia, it was declared Historical in 1951. The old town consists of a walled core of paved streets and quiet plazuelas with guild names, some of them arcaded. It is fill completely with educated and popular architecture buildings, nowadays it is almost for pedestrian use only. In its center, in España Square, you can find the Town hall, an eclectic building from the 19th century.

You can do a monumental tour starting at the Alameda, opposite to the Town hall, one of its most famous parks, this park is in the old garden from the Santo Domingo convent. You can find diverse official organisms and commemorative monuments on its surroundings, as the Héroes de Ponte Sampaio monument, which remembers the victory obtained against the Napoleonic troops in 1808. You can also see the Gothic Santo Domingo Convent ruins, it was founded in 1281, and only part of the church head-board remains, here there are some archaeological pieces because it is one of the headquarters of the Provincial Museum, and there is also part of the neoclassic work, realized according to Álvarez Reguera’s traces.

In Alonso de Fonseca Square you can find the Santa María la Mayor Church (15th century), it was declared minor basilica by Juan XXIII. It is one of the Galician art jewels, in which the Elizabethan Gothic is mixed with lusos styles and some trends of the Hispanic renaissance. It has three naves, ribbed vaults and lateral attached chapels. The most outstanding of the building is the main façade, work in granite made by Cornelis de Holanda and Juan Nobre, it includes an interesting plateresque facade. In addition, on the left of the south door of the temple you can find the Cristo del Buen Viaje (Christ of the Good Journey) sculpture, to whom devotees go in order to have his protection in their next journeys.

Another place to see in the old town in Pontevedra is the Peregrina Sanctuary (18th century), this is a symbol for the city. The temple, work of the architects Antonio Souto and Bernardo Jose de Mier, possesses a plant in shell of pilgrims’ shape. A fountain leads, through a staircase, to a porch and to its convex façade of divided pediment between two twin towers, which mixes the baroque style with the neoclassicist style and it is presided by the Virgen de la Peregrina (Pilgrim Virgin) image (19th century), patron saint of the city and province of Pontevedra. In the small interior space stands out the major neoclassic altarpiece, realized in 1789 by Melchor de Prado.

Opposite this temple there is the well-known Ferrería Square which has turned into one of the most typical places in the city. The San Francisco Church (14th-15th centuries), is in a lateral of the square, it has a simple façade with tower and rosette, which spills the light into the inside of the long nave; the plant of the building has transept and triple head-board of polygonal apses. On the inside, it is important the sepulcher of the admiral and poet Payo Gómez Chamiro, from the 13th century. So close to it, in Castro Sampedro’s gardens that separate the monument from the square, you can find the Ferrería Fountain with Renaissance style.

There are a lot of squares in Pontevedra, but you should visit the Cinco Rúas Square too. There you can see the 19th century house where the writer Ramón María del Valle-Inclán lived while he was studying the baccalaureate and he published his first book, the collection of romantic stories Femeninas (1894). In this epoch was when the writer began to take his characteristic apparel: cap, hat and his long goat beard. The house cannot be visited because is private property.

In the Sor Lucía street is the Apariciones Sanctuary, it has no architectural interest but more than 12 million visitors go there because Sor Lucía, one of the clairvoyants girls of Fátima, had a vision on December 10, 1925. So close to it, in the parallel street, there is the Pazo del barón de la Casa Goda, with gardens and neoclassic façade, currently it is Inn of Tourism.

Basílica de Santa María

Another religious building that stands out in Pontevedra is the San Bartolomé Church, a baroque Jesuit church constructed between 1696-1714. On the inside, it has an extraordinary set of altarpieces and sculptures attributed to big artists as Pedro de Mena and Gregorio Fernandez, among others. Adjacent you can find the Sarmiento Building, headquarters of the College of Jesus’ Company up to its expulsion in 1767, nowadays is one of the headquarters of the Museum of Pontevedra. The Provincial Museum of Pontevedra was founded in 1927 and installed in several headquarters, specially in a few country houses (court palaces) raised in the last third of the 18th century in the Leña Square, they are clear examples of the Galician urban architecture. In its collection, the section of medieval art and the section of Spanish and European paintings of the 16th-18th centuries, as well as the artists’ works and popular Galician art are outstanding.

Its Teatro Principal has an important programme. The theatre was built in 1878 on the old San Bartolomé Church, as part of the original set of the Lyceum-Casino. It was reconstructed in 1997 after a fire.

Among the bridges that cross the Lérez river, the most important of them is the El Burgo Bridge, from the 12th century, though it is very modified. It is part of the Way to Santiago and on it the so called Lérez Peace was signed by the king Fernando II of León and the Portuguese Alfonso I.

Following the path through the shores of the Lérez River, you will arrive to the Xunqueira Island, natural protected space, you can go there by diverse bridges and walkways. It is known as the Sculptures Island, because it has twelve sculptural works of international artists realized in 1999 in granite, works that dialogue with the landscape, with the history of the stone and of the sculpture, with the local tradition and, especially, with the essence of the human beings and their relation with the environment. The island has been declared Place of Community Importance (LIC) and it is included on the Natural Network 2000.

Must-see

Ayuntamiento
Convento de San Francisco

Practical data

Coordinates

42° 26′ 1″ N, 8° 38′ 51″ W

Distances

Vigo 29 km, Santiago de Compostela 63 km, Madrid 614 km

Altitude

20 m

Inhabitants

82 400 (2011)

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