Palaces, cathedrals, monasteries, museums, wineries and… Bagpipes!?
Did I just teleport to Scotland?
Call me ignorant but I NEVER in a 100 million years would have guessed that Spain had a dash of Celtic in it. Did you?
As you could image, I was a bit shocked when I rocked up to my bus in Galicia and there was bagpipe music sounding through the speakers. Where. Am. I?!
Surely the bus driver just has an affinity for bagpipes?
Nope, Northern Spain certainly has Celtic roots.
Who would have known? This was certainly the surprise aspect of visiting Galicia, for me.
This was my welcome to Galicia but I actually didn’t get to visit or learn too much more about its Celtic root, that will be for next time. What is there to do in Galicia? Well, plenty, but I was here to discover some gorgeous gardens, palaces and, of course, drink all the wine (it’s a tough job).
Here’s what to do when you visit Galicia.
Wineries and Other Things to Do in Galicia
One thing to keep in mind when wandering Green Spain is that the word palace takes on different meanings. We’re not talking about an extravagant Disney-esque type structure but instead, a stately home usually accompanied by a garden, and of course, a vineyard. Here are some of Galicia’s popular palaces, wineries, and gardens.
I think one of the main highlights of this area for me was visiting Pazo de Galegos winery.
This father son-ran winery is not only set in a beautiful palace with a vineyard and gardens surrounding them, but the wine is made meticulously. Grab the Mencia (red) or the Albarino (white), both were done incredibly well and the heart and soul they put into it is obvious.
Pazo de Rubianes offered up, some very nice wine as well. I don’t think you can get away with subpar wine in these parts, you just won’t last.
With quality being the main concern, the Albarino was the star at this winery.
Again, no winery is complete without a lovely palace and garden surrounding it, at least not in Green Spain. When you come for wine, make sure to take a nice stroll around the property and maybe even play with the three resident pooches that are frolicking through the bushes.
The old town of Cambados and the Pazo de Fefiñanes winery are close to the coast and may be worthy of a quick visit as well as the Galician version of Versailles, Pazo de Oca. An impressive 15th-century Baroque style fortress and garden that seems to go on forever. I definitely got lost, which is my favorite thing to do anywhere I go!
Lastly, Santiago de Compostela and the UNESCO historical quarters makes for a nice wander and will likely be your base during your visit to Galicia.
The well-preserved Old City hosts most of the activity within its walls including the grand cathedral. The Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is unlike any other you’ve toured. Its sheer size is something to admire. It holds relics and even has a crypt; the inside would take a day alone to explore. From a few floors up you can get a nice view of the square.
Next time I Visit Galicia…
I still am a bit blown away by the Celtic past of this part of Spain. I’m intrigued and I’d love to know and understand more. They are the seventh member of the Celtic league, however, this has stirred up controversy from its neighbors across the pond. Regardless, out of all the things to do in Galicia, this is what I found to be super intriguing! I found out about some of these spots after digging more into it after I had already left so here’s what I’d love to see next time I visit (because obviously, Galicia is on my repeat list)…
The giant granite display of Manolo Paz’s Menhirs looks totally insane and is an artist’s tribute to the Celtic past of the region. The summer solstice festival, Noche de San Juan, in June that involves a parade of witches and fire jumping looks like the highlight of their Celtic celebrations.
Lastly, there are ancient Celtic stone dwellings, Castro de Viladonga, that are all set on top of a mountain. Initially providing views of potential enemies and letting nature do some of the protecting, but now stand to simply provide as a base for some incredible looking views and quite a particularly gorgeous place to gain more insight on the history.
Here’s a helpful map of the things to do in Galicia.
Did you have any idea that Galicia had a Celtic past? Are you keen to visit Galicia on your northern Spain itinerary?
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This article is written in partnership with Spain Tourism Board and the local tourism board of Galicia, and in cooperation with The Travel Mob, for the #InGreenSpain campaign. As always, all opinions are my own and it will always be that way.
Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad since 2011 and blogging on Where in the World is Nina? for nearly as long. Nina helps people like you move around the world while making money. She loves talking about how to work abroad and online to travel longer!
I’m not at all surprised by Galicia’s Celtic roots. A large-scale DNA research project in Ireland in the past decade showed that the ‘Celtic’ population of the island had most likely migrated from northern Spain. The Celts themselves are supposed to have come from the Middle East and migrated into southern Europe before heading north. I’ve spent a lot of time in Spain, but I’ve never been to Galicia. I guess I’ll have to check it out sometime in order to meet my ‘Celtic’ cousins.
You definitely should visit! Thanks, Gearoid!