Ferrol, a Fortified Jewel Near La Coruña
13 January, 2015
One legend has it that the Breton saint St. Ferreol founded the city after landing there in a boat escorted by a choir of seven mermaids, but scholars still cannot agree on the origin of the name the city has been called since Medieval times.
The first people to settle in the area were Celts. And there is evidence of Phoenician and ancient Greek settlements, too. When the Romans conquered Hispania in the first century BC, a fishing village stood on the site of today’s city. Soon the locals began exporting preserved fish to the rest of the Roman Empire. The name “Ferrol” first appeared in church records in the year 1087, referring to a donation made by villagers to the nearby monastery of San Martín de Jubia.
From La Coruña
Ferrol has easy access to La Coruña, only 40 minutes’ distant --via a very scenic stretch of the AP-9 motorway, crossing the Eume river and others-- and to other towns in northern Galicia such as Villalba, Naró, and Ortigueira. You’ll see hills and extensive green meadowland crisscrossed by streamlets, along with panoramic views of the sea. You may wish to stop along the way at the Parque Natural Fragas do Eume, where you can admire Europe’s best-conserved Atlantic coastal woodlands, some 9,000 hectares of virgin forest. The triangular park, lying between the towns of As Pontes, Pontedeume and Monfero, will show you that “enchanted forest” isn’t just a figure of speech –you will expect to see elves and wood sprites frolicking amongst the ferns and lichens, and the springs and waterfalls, all under the leafy canopy of ash, alder, oak, and poplar trees, which the sun’s rays have difficulty penetrating in some spots. You might also visit the equally enchanting Caaveiro monastery, dating from the year 934, and which overlooks the forest.
A Stroll through the Magdalena District
Ferrol’s urban essence is concentrated in the old quarter, the Barrio de la Magdalena, a commercial and entertainment district featuring such Belle Époque jewels as the 1892 Jofre Theatre, the Magdalena Market, the 1923 fish market building called “La Pescadería”, the Casino Ferrolano (also erected in 1923), the Hotel Suizo (1916), and the Banco Hispano-Antigua Fonda Suiza (1909-1910). The rationalist, geometrically laid out district resembles Barcelona’s Ensanche, and at its extremes lie two broad squares, the Plaza de Amboage or, more properly, del Marqués de Amboage, and the Plaza de Armas). There are numerous 18th C. and 19th C. homes with fancy wrought-iron balcony railings on stone corbels and white, wood-framed glass-enclosed balconies, as well and modernist buildings from the early 20th C. The whole neighbourhood was designated as a protected cultural treasure in 1983. The main shopping streets are Real, Magdalena, Igrexa, Dolores, Galiano, and María. For tapas, drinks, and sit-down meals the calle del Sol is the place to go.
A Fortified City
Well worth visiting are the fortifications, whose construction began in the reign of Phillip II (b. 1527 d. 1598) that protected the city against attacks from the sea, including the San Felipe Castle, and the Arsenal, a unique building now housing the Naval Museum. It connects to the Magdalena neighbourhood via the ornate, neo-classical 1765 gateway known as the Porta do Dique.
The Spanish Armada
Ferrol has an important naval base and large military and civilian shipyards. Since the 15th it has been a key military installation, particularly during the heyday of the Spanish Empire, the first on which “the sun never set” –the Spanish Armada has both the discovery of America and the first circumnavigation of the world to its credit. Sea dogs, history buffs, and landscape lovers alike will find much to rave about in Ferrol. Perhaps you should book a flight to La Coruña with Vueling a take a closer look? Check out or flights here.
Report by Isabel y Luis Comunicación
Pictures by Juan Balsa, Diputación de A Coruña y Concello de Ferrol
13 January, 2015