Eating: Vigo, Spain

Travel | June 6, 2016 | By

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Planning a trip to Spain? Why not consider Vigo, a lesser known gem of Galicia!

I love to travel, but more than exploring a new country or city, I love to explore the culinary specialities of a region.

Enter Vigo, Spain.

Ryanair recently launched a route from Dublin to Vigo, which meant I managed to pick up some cheap flights for a weekend away for the SO and I. With their reputation for seafood, I was naturally extremely excited to get stuck in. As it’s generally overlooked as a tourist destination, we got a cheap hotel (and a nice one at that, with a beautiful view overlooking the port), hopped on a plane, and took a weekend off.

One of the big draws of Vigo for tourists, both from the huge cruise ships that regularly dock in the port and from all over Spain, is Rua da Ostras (Oyster Street), on which local oyster merchants flog their wares. Shucking the oysters on the spot, you can buy however many you want and enjoy them in one of the local restaurants on the street. While these were delicious oysters, they were by far the most expensive I have ever eaten at €13 for a half dozen for the “big” ones (which looked pretty normally sized to me!). I have a suspicion they may have seen the tourist coming there!

The Albariño wine, another regional specialty, that accompanied was the perfect side for fresh fish – light and fruity.

Fresh Oysters from the Rua da Ostras in Vigo, Spain.

In the restaurants around this street, however, there’s lots of amazing seafood on offer. Our first night was spent in Casa Vella, one of the many seafood tapas restaurants in this area. After getting up at 3.30am for a 6am flight, which was then delayed by nearly 2 hours, by the time we got to Vigo and settled in, we were exhausted. That meant dinner needed to be filling, simple, and quick – perfect for seafood!

While the SO isn’t a fish eater and was happy odering the usual Spanish fare, I had eyes only for seafood, and I was eager to get stuck in! I started with another local specialty, Pulpo, or Octopus. This is traditionally served with smoked paprika and potato, as was the case here. This was by far the most tender octopus I’ve ever eaten. It was easily cut with a butter knife, and utterly delicious – a must have if you’re in Galicia! 

Pulpo (Octopus) with potato and paprika, a traditional dish.

Alongside washing this down with the local beer Estrella Galicia, I also opted for a plate of grilled baby squidChipirones as they’re known in Spain. These were also delicious, fresh and tender, but absolutely bombarded with garlic – a bit much for the delicate flavour of squid. A simple dressing of salt and lemon with some herbs would have been perfect. I’m pretty sure I could have fended off vampires for a week after this dish!

Grilled Squid, or Chiperones as they're known in Vigo, Spain.

The following day, after a particularly good sleep, we were feeling rested, and more importantly, hungry! We started the day with a visit to the Castro Fortress, which involved plenty of walking with the reward of absolutely beautiful scenery! The climb to the top is totally worth it, as you can enjoy views of Vigo from every possible angle. 

The hills of Vigo means you really should pack a pair of decent walking shoes, as it’s small enough to get around on foot. Also a good thing if you plan on consuming as much fish as me! Just take a look at this view, and tell me that’s not worth the walk!

The Castro Fortress

After all this, we were requiring a very decent feed. We hit O Porton on the Rua Da Ostras for more seafood, this time with a bit more of an appetite! First on tonight’s menu was Clams, served in a red pepper sauce. These were by far the largest, meatiest clams I’ve ever eaten, but they were let down by the overly sweet sauce. I’m a big fan of letting great seafood speak for itself, so I definitely would have gone for a light white wine sauce instead. The quality of the seafood though was marvellous.

I followed this up with my absolute favourite dish of the holiday, Cuttlefish (Chocos to the Spanish). These were nothing short of glorious, I could have eaten another 5 plates! Wonderfully seasoned with salt and lemon, and grilled over a super high heat so they’re incredibly tender – this cheap bit of fish was the star of my holiday. The tentacles were crispy, and the tubes meaty and tender. I could talk about these boys for hours!

Chocos, or cuttlefish, are a cheap and popular tapas dish.

I also polished off some small scallops, or Zamburiñas as they’re known regionally. Grilled and dressed with lemon juice and butter, they were perfectly cooked – juicy and tender!

It’s rare that I get to try something completely new, but I was very excited to get to Vigo and try my hand at a plate of Barnacles. This is an odd looking dish, and I’ll tell you something, they can be tough to figure out at first. If you’re worried about looking like a total idiot trying to figure out how to eat them (like someone I know…) I recommend googling it first, to save yourself some stares.

Barnacles, and how to eat them. Fresh in Vigo, Spain.

They’re a bit crazy looking, right? If you need help, you need to remove the tough, black outer skin to reveal the soft pink flesh inside. The meat is reminiscent of lobster; firm, but sweet and delicious. They do come with a slightly heftier price tag than most fish in Vigo, due to the fact that they’re hand picked – a dangerous practice usually undertaken by fisherwomen in the area. Even as a once off, they’re worth tasting!

Vigo is a beautiful city to explore. Although a little more industrial, it’s far from touristy. I recommend learning some basic Spanish for the trip, as very few locals speak English; after all, who are we to expect them to? But it certainly helps to have a few phrases for ordering food and asking directions. The city is small and everything is within walking distance. Even if fish isn’t your thing, there’s lots of other dishes on offer if you stay away from Oyster street. Explore the old town, which is bustling with options for dinner and/or drinks.

If nothing else, visit Vigo for the sunrise over Vigo port. This was at around 6am, and was well worth getting up for.

Sunrise over the port in Vigo, Spain.

Where to eat:

  • Casa Vella – Rua da Ostras. Delicious seafood tapas, with barnacles on the menu.
  • O Porton – Rua da Ostras. Please try the cuttlefish!
  • Chilam Balam – Oporto St. Mexican, for a break from the fish (if you need it!)
  • Maruja Limon – Montero Rios. A high class, Michelin star experience.

Where we stayed: A Junior Suite in the Hotel Bahia de Vigo. A slightly dated hotel and not the prettiest from the outside, but extremely well priced for the huge room with spectacular views. Let’s face it, we’re all on a budget!

Where to visit: 

  • The Castro Fortress – The Castle and the Gardens. 
  • Islas Cies – for a beautiful beach!
  • Rua da Ostras
  • Some of the many monuments decorating the city.

Have you visited Vigo recently, or in the past? Let me know your recommendations! And if you’re planning on going, enjoy your trip!