Located on a hill on the banks of the river Miño, the city of Lugo preserves major remains of its Roman past, among them its ancient wall, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Inside the walls, the city conserves quiet pedestrian streets, wide squares and spacious gardens, where buildings such as the Cathedral, the Archiepiscopal Palace, and the City Hall stand out. But the historic quarter also houses some of the best restaurants in Galicia, where it is possible to sample the excellent fresh meats and fish which have earned Lugo's gastronomy recognized acclaim.
Lugo, located in the interior of the province on the banks of the river Miño, is the Galician provincial capital in which the most significant traces of Roman civilization remain. The greatest example of the city's Roman legacy is its wall. It was built between the 3rd and 4th centuries AD in what was known at the time as Lucus Augusti. This stone construction has managed to survive the passage of the centuries and continues to be the city's most distinctive architectural feature, marking the boundary between the historic quarter and the newer area of urban expansion. The uniqueness of this ancient fortress and its good condition mean it is the only Roman wall declared a World Heritage Site.
A good way of seeing the city is precisely by standing atop this imposing construction, some 10 metres high, and strolling along the 2,266 metres of its perimeter. From this position it is possible to admire the historic quarter sheltering below the walls.
Any one of the wall's ten gates gives access to an urban network of quiet pedestrian streets flanked by sober granite buildings. Some of the most emblematic of these are the Carmen gateway, more commonly known as Porta Miñá, which was traditionally used by the pilgrims heading for Santiago de Compostela; the Nova gate, San Pedro gate or the Santiago gate, built in the 18th century and which provides direct access to the Cathedral of Lugo.
The squares of Santo Domingo and España are two chief points in the centre. In the latter stands the magnificent baroque façade of the CIty Hall, which dates from 1738, and the adjoining clock tower, from the 19th century, although the original building was erected by Pedro de Artiaga in the 16th century. Next to the City Hall, sharing the limelight in this landscaped square are the most elegant cafés in the city, as well as sumptuous buildings such as the modernist Arts Circle.
Another monumental construction in the historic quarter of Lugo is the Cathedral, a Romanesque-Gothic temple which began to be built in the 12thcentury and whose work went on for more than a century, with subsequent additions of great beauty such as the Neoclassic façade, known as the the Santiago gate. The structure maintains original Romanesque traces in the central transept and most of the main nave, as well as in the wings. Elements such as the ambulatory, the main chapel and the north portico belong to the Gothic style, while the sacristy, the cloister or the chapel of the Virgen de los Ojos Grandes are baroque. Prominent inside is the rich choir carved in walnut, from the 17th century, as well as the reredos dedicated to the patron of the city, considered one of the crowning works of the Galician baroque style.
In the same square as the Cathedral premises, another renowned building completes this eclectic architectural collection, the Episcopal Palace. This baroque building dates from the 18th century and stands on the site of the old tower of the Counts of Lemos.
A number of busy shopping streets are spread around the arcaded praza do Campo, which in former times was the Roman forum and a medieval market. Very close by is the church of San Pedro, a beautiful example of medieval architecture which belonged to what was the convent of San Francisco, today occupied by the facilities of the Regional Museum, one of the most important in the province of Lugo.On the ground floor there are still some areas surviving from the former convent building, such as the Gothic cloister from the 15th century, the refectory and the kitchen, both from the 18th century. The museum's valuable collection contains an extensive exhibition of archaeological pieces, outstanding among which is a collection of pre-Roman precious metalwork, industrial crafts and sculpture. It also houses an art gallery which gathers works from the 15th century until the present day, with a special section devoted to Galician painters.
The narrow cobbled lanes of calle de la Cruz, Rúa Nova and adjacent streets form a genuine tapas route with stops in the many traditional bars and taverns which invite you in to enjoy the generous appetizers which accompany each drink. But this is only the start. “And to eat, Lugo”. So reads the famous motto of the city, whose historic quarter also houses some of the capital's best restaurants. In them, you can sample the best of Lugo's gastronomy: red meats, lacón con grelos (pork with a typical local vegetable), tetilla cheeses and a wide variety of fresh fish and seafood. Any of these specialities can be accompanied by the excellent wines which are produced in the south of the province, protected by the Ribeira Sacra Designation of Origin standard. Outside the walls, the city spreads out in a radius from the wall ringroad, which circles the old town. It is the starting point of important roads such as the shopping-friendly avenue of A Coruña and there are spacious green areas such as Rosalía de Castro park which, with its lake and woods, is an ideal place to stroll and rest. The park has a varied number of tree species, as well as a sculpture of the Galician writer. From the park's viewing point you get a panoramic take on the Miño valley, where the Lugo spa is located, famous for its thermal waters. Declared a Site of Cultural Interest, the thermal springs were first used by the Romans, who discovered several therapeutic properties in the waters.
A few kilometres from Lugo is Santa Eulalia de Bóveda, a Historic-Artistic Site of great archaeological and artistic value which dates from the 4th-7th centuries AD and whose original purpose is unknown. Declared a National Monument in 1931, the building is half-buried and has three naves separated by columns, with an apse at the end. Outstanding inside is the rich sculptural decoration and fine collection of late Roman mural paintings which depict vegetable, geometric and representational motifs.
You can also visit Vilalba, a town located on the northern route of the Pilgrim's Route to Santiago de Compostela. As well as a local Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology, it conserves the octagonal tower of the castle of the Andrade, converted into a Parador de Turismo. In Viladonga, some 25 kilometres from Lugo, is one of the most well-preserved castros (old Iberian-Roman hill-forts) in Galicia.
In the north of the province is the Lugo coast, with beautiful seaside towns such as Viveiro, Foz and Ribadeo. Viveiro, the most important city in the region of A Mariña, is located on the estuary of the same name, where the the river Landro meets the sea. This busy fishing town preserves three gates from its old medieval wall, the most prominent of which is the Porta do Castelo. In its streets it is possible to see the collection of buildings formed by the church and the convent of San Francisco, declared a Historic-Artistic Site. Next along is Foz, a major tourist enclave which has beautiful beaches. Standing very near this town is the Celtic hill-fort of Fazouro and Sargadelos can also be visited, a town famous for its outstanding production of contemporary Galician ceramics. Lastly, the coast reaches the estuary of Ribadeo, separated from Asturias by the river Eo. The natural landscape provides panoramic views such as that of As Catedrais, one of the most unique and biggest beaches on the Galician coast.
In the south, the provinces of Lugo and Ourense are separated by the canyon of the river Sil. The region is known as Ribeira Sacra, because of the large number of monasteries and hermitages established in the Middle Ages.