Ferrol was always the ugly duckling of Galician cities. Marked by its military and industrial past, the city went through a series of economical crises during the 80’s and 90’s of the last century which led to a certain poor image for the visitor and to a slow but constant loss of population.
If you visit Ferrol today what you find is a completely different image. It is not the most monumental city in Galicia but it has developed a unique character and under that industrial appearance lays a wealth of Neoclassical and Art Nouveau heritage combined with an interesting food and wine scene and a noticeable past as a naval base.
Downtown Ferrol was built in the 18th Century together with the naval arsenal. It is locally known as “the chocolate bar” due to its regular pattern of streets and blocks. Walking around the Magdalena quarter, you will find neoclassical buildings like San Xulián and San Francisco Churches coexisting with spectacular Art Nouveau (known in Spanish as Modernismo) buildings like the Jofre Theater, the Romero Building, the Hotel Suizo Building or the Antón House with its unmistakeable red tower and balconies. There is an official Art Nouveau Walking Route with more than 20 stops all over the city.
As a naval city Ferrol is defined by its military architecture, as the castles at the entrance of the estuary (San Felipe Castle, San Cristobal Castle, San Carlos Battery) and especially its neoclassical naval arsenal which is a military-restricted area but can be seen from the Herrera Gardens or visited taking part in a free official walking tour.
Ferrol is also one of the two starting points of the Camiño Inglés (the English Way to Santiago), the way used by pilgrims from Great Britain and Ireland coming to Galicia by sea. The Way has its starting point at Dársena de Curuxeiras, the old fishermen port and, crossing the old town and the Magdalena quarter, it leaves the city to reach the Xubia Monastery after less than 15 km and then runs across Medieval towns such as Pontedeume and Betanzos before getting to Santiago after a six-day-walk.
Due to its location Ferrol is also a perfect base to explore the Rias Altas region, an area with plenty of impressive beaches, cliffs and castles and known for its seafood. During a visit to fishermen towns such as Redes, Mugardos or Cedeira you cannot miss the local culinary highlights: percebes (gooseneck barnacles), marraxo (a type of small shark), octopus stewed Mugardos style or, during the summer, O Couto peppers. If you are interested in contemporary cuisine O Camiño do Inglés is a perfect place to get into Ferrol food and wine scene.
How to get there
Bus is the best way to get to Ferrol.
From Santiago there are 6 rides a day operated by Monbus. It will take you about 10€ (return ticket, look out for special offers) and just under an hour and a half to get there. Check out Monbus web to find out exact hours and prices. Buses leave from Santiago’s bus station.
From Coruña you have a bus every hour operated by Arriva and it takes, astoundingly, about the same time and more money than from Santiago (1 hour run and about 15€ return ticket). Check out Arriva Noroeste’s web.