Galicia feels a little different than the rest of Spain. It has its own language, Gallego, and its own milder and damper climate. During the 20th-century reign of General Francisco Franco (a Galician himself), the region was isolated for its contrary attitude (and for the smuggling operations along the coastline). During that time, national funds for roads, development and industrialization were withheld, effectively keeping Galicia poor and rustic. As a result, even many years later, the area’s economy is still based on fishing and agriculture (tourism is up-and-coming) and a visit here can feel like a step back to a less-globalized era.
Vigo, with its large bay, has always been the workhorse of Galicia. The fishing fleet is still sizable, but is now joined in the water by more commercial shipping. The old neighborhoods down by the port are surrounded by increasingly modern districts and suburbs up the hill. Summer brings tourists from across Europe to enjoy Vigo’s beaches and to the spectacular Cíes Islands (Illas Cíes) offshore. This annual influx has modernized Vigo—cuisine, always considered a strong point, has become inventive; historic monuments on the avenues are now joined by a surprising amount of contemporary public art; international chains have appeared alongside the traditional shops by the port. The city proudly welcomes visitors to its slightly different corner of Spain, the beautiful Costa Verde.