Lugo, Spain – A Roman-built town in Galicia
Discover charming town is on the Camino de Santiago
One of the last towns on the Camino de Santiago before reaching the holy grail of Santiago de Compostela, Lugo is often overlooked by travellers who either miss it out completely or spend a night recuperating here rather than enjoying this small city’s charms.
I spent almost a year in Lugo, and I fell in love with the place. It can be hard to remember that you’re in the 21st century here, thanks to superbly preserved Roman Walls, viaducts, and bridges. The sublime gastronomy made from the freshest ingredients will get foodies’ tongues wagging, and you can even bring the family here to enjoy the festivals of San Froilan and Arde Lucus.
Influence from Roman and Celtic cultures can still be seen in the town today, no time more so than Día de las Mozas (Women’s Day) during San Froilan, where traditionally, women from the surrounding villages came into the city to find a husband, or in the traditional dance and music from the city, where the gaita (bagpipes) are used to make wonderfully haunting melodies.
The city is set against the backdrop of breath-taking landscapes of Galicia, the greenest region in Spain. The surrounding countryside offers excellent hiking, quaint and mysterious small villages, and hidden bodegas just waiting to welcome you in to sample their wines.
Spending a night here simply is not enough to enjoy everything that Lugo has to offer. Instead, stay here for a long weekend (or a whole year, as I did) to really get a feel for this unique, little city.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
Lugo doesn’t have its own airport, and it can be quite tricky to get to. The closest airports are Santiago de Compostela and A Coruña. Both are around the same distance away, but Santiago de Compostela is more convenient since there is a direct bus connection.
If you’re travelling from Madrid, a bus is a much cheaper option than the train and it will get you there just as quickly.
For those who drive, it’s a good idea to rent a car when visiting the city. The surrounding countryside is stunning, but it can be difficult to reach on public transport.
Do – Activities & Attractions
Step back in time and walk on the only complete Roman Wall in the world.
La Muralla, as it’s called by the locals, is a reason alone to visit Lugo. The fantastically preserved wall dates back 17 centuries and completely surrounds the historical centre of the town. Doing laps of the wall is a great way to observe city life from afar and take in the views of the Galician countryside in the distance. At night, it’s beautifully lit and you can get some excellent pictures of this UNESCO world heritage site, which is twinned with the Great Wall of China.
Become a Roman or Celt at Arde Lucus, Spain’s biggest festival.
Surprisingly, Lugo is home to Spain’s biggest festival, Arde Lucus (Lugo burns). This festival now attracts people from all over the country, deciding if their allegiance lies with Romans or Celts, and spending the whole weekend in their chosen costumes.
During the festival, there are chariot races, slave auctions, and pop-up forts in the city. It really must be seen to be believed! Arde Lucus usually takes place in the middle of June and is always on a weekend.
Indulge in traditional Galician food and wine.
Lugo is famous throughout Spain for its food, and the city is a great place to taste traditional Galician dishes such as pulpo a la gallega (octopus with paprika, olive oil, and boiled potatoes), empanadas (Galician pies filled with cod, tuna, or meat), and churrasco (a plate with several different cuts of pork or beef).
The best thing about Lugo is that during kitchen open hours, every drink is accompanied by a free tapa from the kitchen, and a pincho. Be careful though, after a few weeks or months here, you might notice your waist size has increased…
Take a stroll along the Rio Rato.
It would be a stretch to say that there’s hustle and bustle in Lugo, but sometimes it’s nice to just get out into nature. The Rio Rato is one of the tributaries of the Miño, and is within walking distance of the city centre. You can follow this pleasant stream all the way from underneath Lugo’s Roman Aqueduct to where the two rivers meet. It’s a great place to while away a sunny weekend afternoon.
Visit Lugo’s 12th century UNESCO World Heritage Cathedral
Another UNESCO World Heritage site, a church existed on this site from 755AD, but the construction of the current cathedral began in the 12th century. It’s a Romanesque building, subtly fused with a mixture of Baroque, Neoclassical, and Gothic elements. The cathedral is right next to a ramp which takes you up onto the Roman Wall.
Cross the River Miño on the Roman bridge.
No longer in its original guise, Lugo’s Roman bridge has been rebuilt many times. A steep walk down from the city centre, it’s a great place to spot wildlife on the river such as herons, and maybe even otters if you’re lucky. Like the Roman Wall, it’s beautifully lit and you can get some great shots of the bridge at night.
Stay – Accommodation
Situated in a historic building right in the heart of the city centre, Hostel Cross is a great option for budget travellers. Dorms include capsule beds, wi-fi, and air-conditioning. Rooms start at around £13 per person per night.
Hotel Mendez Nuñez
One of the best accommodation options in Lugo. The 4-star hotel offers many home comforts such as wi-fi, flat screen TVs, and a terrace and restaurant where you can have breakfast. The best rooms here have balconies and come with a view of the main shopping street – Rúa da Raiña. Prices aren’t as expensive as you’d expect for a hotel of this quality.
Hotel Monumento Pazo de Orbán
Constantly delighting guests, this hotel is a traditional 18th-century manor house within the city walls, where traditional and modern décor has been blended to create a luxurious ambience. The traditional Galician restaurant on site serves exquisite food, and the best rooms have a view of the Roman Wall.
Eat – Restaurants
As mentioned above, Lugo has some of the best gastronomy in the whole of Spain, and there are few international restaurants here. During San Froilan, try the casetas, where you’ll pass by octopus being boiled in massive pots in the open air.
During the rest of the year, A Caseta de Barra, Cinco Vigas, Petisco, and Aurora do Carballiño are some of the top picks for dinner. However, you can’t go far wrong in the Viños area of the old town, where most restaurants will guarantee you a tasty meal.
If you tire of comida gallega, head out of the historic centre to Itadakimas, a fairly new Japanese restaurant which offers great sushi.
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
The two best times to go to Lugo are during the main festivals – San Froilan, which runs from the 4th – 12th October, or Arde Lucus, which is usually in mid-June. The city really comes alive during these times. If you want more peace and quiet, avoid the festivals and travel in July or August, when the weather is good and there’s less chance of heavy rain.
Safety – Possible risks
There are very few safety risks for travellers in Lugo. It has the feel of a large village, and crime is very rare.
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
Lugo is one of the cheapest cities in Spain. Most restaurants offer menu del día for lunch for about €9-12, and you should expect to pay around €1.50 for a caña (small beer) and €1.10 for a coffee. Remember, during serving hours it’s customary to receive a tapa and a pincho with each drink. Accommodation is fairly cheap too.
The only setback cost wise is actually getting here. At the time of writing, you can only fly directly from the UK to Galicia from London airports, and Edinburgh during the Summer months. The flights are generally more expensive than to more recognised tourist destinations.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
Lugo is a very relaxed town, although at religious sites such as the Cathedral, you should dress appropriately. There are a lot of locally made products available, especially when it comes to food. Shop locally so your money is invested back into Galicia.
Reality Check – Be Aware
So, when you hear Spain, you think of sun, sea, and sand, right? Well, firstly we can rule out sea and sand as it’s about an hour to the nearest beach. The weather in Lugo is very unpredictable, and it doesn’t have a Mediterranean climate. The weather has more in common than the UK than the Costa del Sol or Mallorca, and there’s no time of year that you should travel without a raincoat. That said, the mercury surpasses 30 degrees in the Summer.
Also, because it’s a less touristy area, English isn’t as widely spoken as in other parts of Spain. The regional language, Galician, sounds like a mix of Spanish and Portuguese, but a learning a few words of Spanish will enable you to get by just fine.
http://www.ardelucus.com – Event guide to Arde Lucus.
https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/987 – Unesco guide to the Roman Walls.
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