In this blog we’ve waxed (we hope) eloquent in telling you about the charms of the handsome “maritime queen” of Spain’s northwestern corner, verdant Galicia – its family friendliness, its creative restaurants, and most recently in describing its remarkable ancient Roman lighthouse, the Tower of Hercules. And this time we’re focussing on a side of the city that tends to get less ink than others: its diverse and interesting museums, and here are a half dozen not not to miss:
Right on the bay within sight of the Tower of Hercules on the nearby promontory (as well as a 15-minute drive from the old quarter’s hub, Praza de María Pita), this 22-year-old aquarium is divided into four halls – including one showcasing a five-million-litre (1.3-million-gallon) tank – and a large outdoor pool. In residence you’ll find a large variety of fauna from colourful fish to moray eels to sea lions/seals, and even Gaston the shark (a favourite of Galician schoolchildren). The human dimension also receives some attention, such as the lives and traditional culture of Galicia’s fisher folk.
In the old quarter on the inner harbour, on the other side of the peninsula on which A Coruña sits, San Antón Castle was built in the late 16th century which has since 1968 been home to the Museo Arqueolóxico e Histórico da Coruña. Apart from touring the ramparts, courtyard, sentry turrets, barracks, and chapel of the fort itself, visitors can get a good overview of its history as well as that of the city and the Galician Middle Ages in general. The archaeology section is also pretty interesting, ranging from the Palaeolithic to the Roman period, including the Bronze-Age so-called “castro culture” which preceded the Romans, named for the hill forts and communities built by ancient Celtiberians beginning in the 2nd century BCE (in particular check out the stunning jewellery, which includes torques, earrings, and a famous gold helmet, the casco de Leiro).
Open to the public in 1947 and occupying the 18th-century Convent of the Capuchin Sisters since 1995, the three-storey Museo de Belas Artes da Coruña features several major Spanish and other European artists (most notably Spaniards Francisco Goya and José de Ribera as well as 17th-century Dutch Baroque master Peter Paul Rubens). But its special value for art lovers lies in showcasing the most prominent artists of Galicia from the 19th century up till the present day, especially the 20th-century likes of sculptor Xoan Piñeiro and painters Fernandoz Álvarez de Sotomayor (also a onetime Prado Museum director), Manuel Colmeiro Guimaras, Laxeiro, and Luis Seoane.
Also on the bay, just a hop and a skip south of the aquarium, DOMUS is billed as world’s first and thus far only interactive museum, devoted to the various aspects of humanity, including or biology, genetics, evolution, language, and more. Perched on a rocky outcropping, a masterful wedgelike building designed in the mid-1990s by Japanese starchitect Arata Isozaki houses some 200 compelling exhibits; a hands-on “open laboratory”; an IMAX movie theatre; and a restaurant with a contemporary Mediterranean menu and inspiring sea views. As a bonus, there’s also a distinctive statue out front, by the way, Roman Soldier. by Colombia’s most reknowned artist, Fernando Botero.
Located near the Paseo Marítimo along the harbour and also known by its Spanish acronm MUNCYT, this futuristic glass cube of a building called the Prisma de Cristal houses more than 17,000 tech and scientific artifacts from the 16th century to the present day, along with rotating special exhibitions. Among them are all manner of industrial and research tools, and transportation vehicles, with examples such as Spain’s first computer (an IBM model acquired in 1959) and – of particular interest to us – a section devoted to Iberia, including a section of the Boeing 747 which in 1981 brought Pablo Picasso’s Guernica to Spain, where it now resides in Madrid’s Reina Sofía Museum of Contemporary Art).
Centrally located in the 19th-century section of town, this restored second-storey flat is where one of Spain’s most legendary painters lived with his family from age 10 to 14 (1891 to 1895) while his father was a teacher at the local school of fine arts and young Pablo enrolled as well. In addition to many of the original furnishings and objects of the era, the museum displays reproductions of 29 of Picasso’s first artistic outings – including watercolours; pen and pencil sketches; and oil paintings on canvas and wood, in which we can see the beginnings of recurring themes such as doves and bulls – as well as four of his dad’s. Admission is free, and guided tours can be arranged in advance.
Sound appealing? Then come get to know this welcoming and multifaceted city this summer or fall (both lovely and refreshing times to visit) by booking an Iberia flight (at the moment from just 85 euros from Madrid)!