Vigo: The Complete Guide

Vigo
CC BY-SA 1.0 / Zarateman

Vigo is a city and municipality located along the Atlantic Ocean in the province of Pontevedra, Galicia, northwest Spain. It serves as the capital of the county of Vigo and the Vigo metropolitan area. Vigo is the most populous municipality in Galicia and the 14th largest in Spain, notable for being the most populous Spanish municipality that is not a provincial capital. Covering an area of 109.06 km², Vigo had a population of 292,817 in 2016. According to the National Statistics Institute of Spain, the city itself has 198,537 inhabitants, with the remaining population living in rural and suburban areas within its parishes, making it the Spanish municipality with the highest percentage of rural population.

Situated in the southwest of Galicia, in the southern part of Vigo Bay, the city is located in one of Europe’s rainiest regions. Vigo borders the municipality of Redondela to the northeast, Mos to the east, O Porriño and Gondomar to the south, and Nigrán to the southwest. Across the bay lie the municipalities of Cangas and Moaña, all part of the southern Galician region known as Rías Baixas. Vigo is just north of the Portuguese border, with its nearest major city being Porto, the second-largest city in Portugal and a key urban center in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula.

Vigo and its metropolitan area are significant economic drivers for the region.

History of Vigo

Early History Vigo

Vigo’s history dates back to prehistoric times, with evidence of early settlements in the area. The Celts established a presence in the region, and their influence is still visible in the form of castros, ancient fortified villages.

Roman Period Vigo

During the Roman period, Vigo became an important port and trading center. The Romans recognized the strategic value of its natural harbor and developed infrastructure to support maritime activities. Remnants of Roman roads and villas can still be found in the area.

Medieval Era Vigo

In the Middle Ages, Vigo was a small fishing village. It was frequently attacked by Viking raiders and later by Norman invaders. Despite these challenges, the town gradually grew in importance, primarily due to its fishing industry and maritime trade.

Early Modern Period Vigo

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Vigo began to flourish as a commercial port. The town’s growth attracted the attention of foreign powers, and it was attacked by English pirates, including Sir Francis Drake, in 1585. The construction of fortifications, such as the Castro Fortress, helped protect the town from further incursions.

Vigo in the 18th and 19th Centuries

Vigo’s significance continued to rise in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Battle of Vigo Bay in 1702, part of the War of Spanish Succession, marked a pivotal moment in the town’s history. The British fleet attacked and destroyed a Spanish treasure fleet anchored in Vigo Bay. The 19th century brought industrialization, further boosting the city’s economic growth.

20th Century Vigo

The 20th century saw significant developments in Vigo. The city’s port became one of Spain’s most important, facilitating trade and contributing to economic prosperity. Vigo also played a crucial role during the Spanish Civil War, serving as a base for Republican forces. Post-war, the city experienced rapid industrialization, particularly in the shipbuilding and automotive industries.

Contemporary Vigo

Today, Vigo is a vibrant and dynamic city known for its bustling port, cultural heritage, and natural beauty. The city is a major economic hub in Galicia, with a diverse economy that includes fishing, shipbuilding, and automotive manufacturing. Vigo’s cultural scene is rich, with numerous festivals, museums, and historic sites attracting visitors year-round. The city’s strategic location along the Atlantic coast continues to shape its identity and development.

Vigo’s history, from its ancient roots to its modern achievements, reflects its resilience and adaptability as a key player in Spain’s maritime and industrial landscape.

Visiting Vigo for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Vigo on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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Best Time to Visit Vigo

Spring

Spring, from March to May, is an excellent time to visit Vigo. The weather is mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 12°C to 20°C (54°F to 68°F). This season is perfect for exploring the city’s parks, gardens, and coastal areas, as the landscapes are lush and vibrant with blooming flowers.

Summer

Summer, from June to August, is the peak tourist season in Vigo. The weather is warm and sunny, with temperatures ranging from 18°C to 28°C (64°F to 82°F). This is the best time to enjoy the beautiful beaches, water sports, and outdoor festivals. However, it can be crowded, so it’s advisable to book accommodations in advance.

Autumn

Autumn, from September to November, offers cooler temperatures ranging from 14°C to 22°C (57°F to 72°F). The crowds begin to thin out, making it a more relaxed time to visit. The pleasant weather is ideal for sightseeing and enjoying local harvest festivals and events.

Winter

Winter, from December to February, is mild with temperatures between 8°C and 15°C (46°F to 59°F). This is the off-peak season, providing a quieter and more peaceful experience. Winter is perfect for exploring Vigo’s cultural sites, enjoying the local cuisine, and experiencing the city’s festive Christmas markets.

Average Temperatures in Vigo

  • January 14°C 28
  • February 15°C 25
  • March 17°C 21
  • April 20°C 17
  • May 21°C 13
  • June 23°C 9
  • July 27°C 3
  • August 27°C 5
  • September 25°C 9
  • October 22°C 30
  • November 17°C 30
  • December 15°C 31

How to get to Vigo

By Air

The nearest airport to Vigo is Vigo-Peinador Airport (VGO), located about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the city center.

  • From Vigo-Peinador Airport:
    • Taxi: A taxi ride to the city center takes approximately 15-20 minutes.
    • Bus: The Line A bus service connects the airport to the city center, with a journey time of about 25 minutes.

By Train

Vigo has two main train stations: Vigo-Guixar and Vigo-Urzáiz.

  • Vigo-Guixar Station: This station handles long-distance and regional trains.
  • Vigo-Urzáiz Station: This station is primarily for high-speed trains (AVE) and connects Vigo to major cities in Spain.
  • From Madrid: High-speed trains (AVE) from Madrid to Vigo take around 4.5 to 5 hours.
  • From Porto: Regional trains from Porto to Vigo take about 2.5 hours.

By Bus

Several bus companies operate routes to Vigo from various cities in Spain and Portugal.

  • From Madrid: Buses from Madrid to Vigo take around 6.5 to 8 hours.
  • From Porto: Buses from Porto to Vigo take about 2 hours.

By Car

Driving to Vigo is a convenient option, especially for exploring the surrounding regions.

  • From Madrid: The drive from Madrid to Vigo takes about 5.5 to 6 hours via the A-6 and AP-9 highways.
  • From Porto: The drive from Porto to Vigo takes about 1.5 to 2 hours via the A3 and A-55 highways.

By Ferry

Vigo is a major port city with ferry services.

  • From Cíes Islands: Ferries operate regularly between Vigo and the Cíes Islands, especially during the summer months.
  • From Other Locations: Check local ferry schedules for routes to and from other destinations.

Local Transportation

  • Walking and Biking: Vigo is a walkable city with many attractions close to each other. Biking is also a popular way to get around.
  • Public Buses: The local bus network operated by Vitrasa provides convenient transportation within the city.
  • Taxi: Taxis are readily available for getting around Vigo and offer a convenient option for short trips.

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