"We meet up at O Sereo". The phrase is a classic among the people of Vigo when deciding on a meeting point in the city centre. The steel triton rising 12 metres (about 39 feet) high in A Porta do Sol Square, the city's zero mile, has been a point of reference since the work of the artist Francisco Leiro was installed there 25 years ago. In this time it has become one of the symbols of modern sculpture in the city.
Not everybody saw it that way when the fish-man, leaning on two black polished granite columns, disembarked at A Porta do Sol in the early hours of 7 November 1991. At that moment, part of the population even labelled it an eyesore, but time has proved Leiro right: O Sereo, weighing four tons, is now a key point of reference in the city's urban landscape.
The statue is situated in the heart of Vigo and it can be used as a compass to walk around it and get to know some of its main attractions. Wandering through the old town is a must, walking down from A Princesa Square to the neighbourhood of O Berbés, by the sea, the origin of the old port village that has now become a major fishing and naval economy at a European level. You can also enjoy a stroll down streets like Cesteiros, Rúa Real or the so-called "oyster street", where it is highly recommendable to make a stop and taste this delicious mollusc. The Co-Cathedral of Santa María, popularly known as the colexiata (collegiate church), is home to the image of the Cristo da Victoria (Christ of Victory), the city's main religious symbol.
The old town, which was abandoned for decades, has been given a major boost in the last few years after some intense rehabilitation work, the opening of new shops and restaurants with their own unique style and the founding of institutional and cultural buildings. Art enthusiasts must visit the Francisco Fernández del Riego Gallery (in Abeleira Menéndez Street), displaying a wide and valuable array of contemporary Galician works of art, by artists such as Laxeiro, Colmeiro, Quessada or Castelao, among others. Nature lovers must go to A Palma Street and pay a visit to the visitor centre of the Parque Nacional das Illas Atlánticas de Galicia (National Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia), a natural wonder made up by the islands of Cíes, Ons, Sálvora and Cortegada.
O Sereo is also the entrance to O Príncipe Street, the city's golden mile for shopping, where you can visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (MARCO). The triton sculpture is also a starting point to go to Policarpo Sanz Street and García Barbón Avenue, in the ensanche, the urban expansion area since the late 19th century, where you can admire valuable architectural examples such as the El Moderno Building, the García Barbón Theatre, the Casa das Artes (House of the Arts), the Bárcena House or the Odriozola House. If you want to delve into the city's visual history, you must definitely head for the Pacheco Archive, home to 140,000 images ranging from the late 19th century to the 1970s.
Walking from Policarpo Sanz and down Colón, towards the sea, you can take a pleasant break ambling around the area of the Náutico (nautical club) and A Laxe. There, at the ocean liner dock, disembark the thousands of people who stop at Vigo every year on their cruises, sea giants such as the Queen Mary II or the Harmony of the Seas.
In the opposite direction from O Príncipe, you should take a short walk down Elduayen Street. A mere five minutes from that area, the viewpoint on Afonso XII Boulevard offers one of the best views of the port and the ría (coastal inlet), with the O Morrazo Peninsula on the opposite shore and the Cíes Islands at the mouth of it.
On the summit of O Castro
Vigo will put your legs to the test if you walk up and down its steep hills, but this effort doesn't come without a reward: the way up through the old town brings to sight the old San Sebastián Castle, a halfway point on the way to O Castro Hill. On one of the hillsides is the hillfort settlement, an archaeological site with twenty old constructions that have been rebuilt, allowing visitors, in situ, to immerse themselves in the life of those who inhabited the village between the 3rd and the 1st century BC.
Some further sacrifice will take you to crown the summit and receive the special prize. At the top is O Castro Castle, with picturesque gardens and a breath-taking viewpoint. The ría of Vigo is at the foot of the hill, with the Cíes Islands in the background. The experience is priceless and, at the same time, cost-free.
If you have more time, since it is further away, you should pay a visit to Castrelos Park, another one of Vigo's musts. There, you can stroll around its gardens and visit the Pazo Quiñones de León, donated by the Marquis of Valadares in 1924 and home to the city's museum.
The Celta, a symbol
The sea, the industry… and the Celta. The football club is one of the city's hallmarks. Balaídos Stadium is close to Castrelos, so attending a match can become an experience to remember among the wave of supporters, called celestes because of the sky blue colour of the Celta football kit, who rally around their team.
And, when it comes to leisure time, Vigo has a wide array of activities to offer. O Marisquiño, the sport and urban culture festival which takes place in the month of August, is now attracting 125,000 people every year. The best riders and skaters in the world meet at this event. The summer concerts in the Castrelos Amphitheatre, with national and international artists, the ImaxinaSons jazz festival, or the music avant-garde festival Sinsal are other major appointments worth fitting into your schedule.
Vigo also allows you to enjoy examples of artistic expression in the street. In the last few years, the City Council has been developing an urban art programme for buildings' dividing walls and other public spaces. These impressive murals, of which 27 have already been finished, make up their own route across the city. O Sereo is also used as a point of reference. On the way to O Castro Hill we find one of Xavier Magalhães's works on the side of the stairs of the art gallery and another one by Nelson Villalobos, La caracola ("The seashell"), in Enrique Blein Budiño Street.
A day in this city has a lot to offer. You just have to decide on a meeting point. A Porta do Sol Square, with O Sereo watching over the landscape, can be the perfect spot. See you there.