Sant Antón castle
Torre de Hercules tower
Situated beside the Atlantic Ocean, A Coruña is a historic city whose history has maintained close links with its old fishing and commercial port. The peninsula on which the Old City stands also contains the Tower of Hercules, one of the symbols of the city, which is an interesting Romanesque collection of streets, squares and medieval churches.
The Aquarium Finisterrae, the Domus and the Science Museum are some of the places that show the more modern, recreational side of the provincial capital, which offers one of its most beautiful facets in the wide beaches of Riazor and Orzán. All this is completed with cuisine recognised throughout the country, marked by the excellence of its seafood and meats coming from the inland parts of the province. Although the origin of A Coruña could be in an old Celtic settlement, the history of the city began to be important in Roman times, when the port became a key point on sailing routes. A witness to this period is the Tower of Hercules, the only working Roman lighthouse and a real symbol of the city. Now declared a National Monument, it was built at the beginning of the 2nd century by order of the Emperor Trajan. There have been many refurbishments throughout history, the last of them in 1791, when Carlos III ordered the architect Giannini to restore and reface the tower. The harbour has always been the scene of some of the most important historical events in the city, like the defeat of the English privateer Francis Drake in 1589 thanks to the resistance of the people of Coruña, led by the heroine María Pita. The early medieval town is bounded by the Coruña peninsula. In its lively streets, good examples of Romanesque architecture are preserved. One of the most beautiful is the church of Santiago. Built in the 12th century, this church, the oldest in the city, has later additions from the 14th and 15th centuries. Its broad nave of pointed arches houses a polychrome sculpture of the Apostle Santiago (Saint James) dating from the 13th century. Because of its architectural interest, it has been declared a Historic-Artistic Monument. In the high part of the early town centre stands another equally outstanding church, that of Santa María del Campo. The building of this old collegiate church goes back to the 12th and 13th centuries and was carried out by the Seaman's Guild. One of its greatest attractions is a visit to the Museum of Religious Art housed in this building, which has works from the 12th to the 15th centuries. For its part, the convent of Santa Bárbara (15th C.) and the pretty little square of the same name are registered as Historic-Artistic sites. The convent precinct, standing on an old hermitage dedicated to the saint, was later extended in the 17th and 18th centuries. Coruña Baroque The Baroque style is present in other religious buildings, like the church of Las Capuchinas, finished with a beautiful façade in Compostela Baroque from the 18th century. Very close by are the churches of San Nicolás and San Jorge, both built at the beginning of the 18th century under Baroque dictates. The construction of the former, situated near to the City Hall, was planned by Domingo de Andrade. Meanwhile, the latter is important because inside it houses a side-chapel with the image of La Virgen de los Dolores, from the same period. The convent of Santo Domingo, whose narrow eighteenth-century façade hides a chapel dedicated to La Virgen del Rosario, patron saint of the city, is also worth pointing out. The city's most important civil buildings also deserve a visit. The City Hall is situated in the Plaza de María Pita, the nerve centre of the city. It is an elegant, monumental building built at the beginning of the 20th century, characterised by its porches and galleries and by three towers finished with attractive cupolas. Very nearby is the Emilia Pardo Bazán Stately Home, an 18th century aristocratic house in which this Galician woman writer - an outstanding figure of nineteenth century Spanish literature - lived. Currently part of the building is occupied by the headquarters of the Galician Royal Academy. Another sight not to be missed in the centre of A Coruña is the San Carlos Garden, declared a Historic-Artistic site. The walls of the fortress of San Carlos, which dates from 1843, house this unusual space in which the Archive of the Kingdom of Galicia is based and whose centre is presided over by the tomb of Sir John Moore, a British general who died in 1809 during the battle of Elviña. Surrounding the Old City is the coastal area, where A Coruña mixes the traditional and the modern. Beside the port in the Avenida de la Marina, are the typical houses with white glazed galleries (19thC), architectural elements making up one of the best known features of A Coruña and which earned it the name of 'Glass City'. The Castle of San Antón, at one end of the harbour area, was built at the end of the 16th century with a defensive character and later altered in the 18th. It currently houses the Provincial Archaeological Museum, which takes an interesting journey through Galician prehistory using various pieces of metalwork, objects and tools corresponding to the hill fort culture. On the long Coruña promenade there are other outstanding cultural opportunities. The Acuarium Finisterrae, situated near the Tower of Hercules, houses one of the largest aquariums in Spain, and includes rooms with interactive exhibitions related to the sea. Human beings are the central theme of Domus or the House of Man, located in a futuristic building designed by the architect Arata Isozaki. Inside, various interactive rooms show man from a multidisciplinary point of view. The promenade finally leads to the wide Riazor and Orzán, beaches, the main areas for the people of A Coruña to relax. The tour of the museums can be completed by visiting the Science Museum, situated in Santa Margarita Park, one of the provincial capital's most important green areas. Its outstanding feature is the Planetarium, while its permanent exhibition approaches scientific, technological and natural principles in an interactive way. Cuisine and surroundings The cuisine of La Coruña brings together the best of the coast and the interior. From the coast comes excellent seafood: small crabs, barnacles, spider crabs, Norway lobster, etc. Succulent recipes based on fish are also cooked, such as angler fish stew, Galician-style hake (with onion, garlic and carrot) or griddled sole. Pasties serve as a transition to the interior as they can be made either with fish and shellfish or with meat. As for meat, pork can be used to make the famous pork shoulder with parsnip tops, while Galician beef is protected with a Denomination of Origin. Any of the magnificent Galician wines that have a Denomination of Origin (Monterrei, Ribeira Sacra, Ribeiro, Rías Baixas and Valdeorras) can be used to accompany these dishes. And, for dessert, there is the famous Santiago cake (with almonds, sugar and flour). Around the provincial capital you can visit interesting places like Betanzos, declared a Historic-Artistic Site, Santiago de Compostela, capital of Galicia and World Heritage City, or Ferrol. In the capital of Compostela you can stay at the 'Hostal de los Reyes Católicos' Parador (15th C.), declared a National Monument. For its part, the Parador at Ferrol is one of the best places to stay in this seaside city. Some of the most important ecosystems in Galicia are preserved in A Coruña, like the Fragas do Eume Natural Park or the Complejo Dunar de Corrubedo and Lagunas de Carregal y Vixán Natural Parks. The Costa da Morte, a route along the steep Atlantic Coast passing through places like Camariñas, Corcubión and Fisterra has very interesting landscape.
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