Vigo is the main port for Spain's Galicia region, with Portugal to its south and the Spanish mainland to the east. Vigo's location between the mighty Atlantic and snow-topped mountains gives the region a cooler, damper climate than the rest of the country and has earned it the nickname of "The Green Spain."
This makes it a popular retreat for Spaniards keen to escape the searing summer heat, enjoy lush country scenery and tuck into some of the world's freshest seafood. And for cruise visitors, in Vigo you can experience "real" Spanish culture, meet the locals and enjoy a city and countryside still largely unadulterated by mass tourism.
Old Vigo rises in tiers to the 17th century hilltop citadel of El Castro, one of three that originally guarded the city. All were necessary to defend Galicia from successive hordes of invaders including Celts, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, French and British, who regularly invaded between the 14th and 19th centuries. Sir Francis Drake famously took the city (for a while, at least) in 1589.
If you have a strong sense of history, you'll find the ghosts of these ancient and unwelcome guests still lingering in Vigo's gray walls and steep streets. The old Ribera del Berbes fishing quarter -- at the bottom of the hill opposite the port -- dates from the 17th century reign of Philip IV and is well preserved and particularly atmospheric.
Although there is plenty to see and do further afield, first-time visitors to Vigo could simply explore the old city, enjoying its world-class seafood and taking in some of the large sculptures that adorn its cobbled streets and squares. These include El Sireno(The Merman) in Puerta del Sol and Los Caballos (a monument to the horses that once roamed free in Castro Park) in Plaza de Espana.
This art-loving maritime gem of a city -- with its beautiful neoclassical cathedral -- has been proclaimed a Spanish national historical monument. Give it your time, and it will reward you with wonderful memories.