Lifestyle in Galicia
In much of the world the lifestyle available to you is heavily dependent on how rich you are. Whilst this holds true to an extent in Galicia there is a great deal on offer completely for free, and things that do cost are generally reasonably priced (if a little basic) rather than overmarketed “premium branded” as is so prevalent further north in Europe.
For many people a property can provide a lifestyle, and the great properties available for low prices in Galicia mean that people who could only dream of such things in colder countries further north are able to have gardens, swimming pools, terraces and private space in great locations and with enough spare bedrooms to invite their friends and family out too (this can actually turn into a problem!).
The mild climate means that a large part of the year is open for outdoor living. This encompasses anything from having a coffee or meal at a street or terrace cafe (or your own terrace) to going to the beach or outdoor sports.
For keen gardeners what can be grown in Galicia is a revelation, and nature doesn’t really stop for winter in the north European way.
The Galician coast is one long sequence of fabulous beaches that cater to all tastes from blue flag lifeguard patrolled family beaches to hidden coves and wild Atlantic surf beaches. Parking is normally available nearby and rarely costs anything, and drinks and snacks are only slightly more expensive if bought near to the beach. In July and August most beaches get quite busy (but nothing like the Mediterranean Costas), but the rest of the year you more or less get them to yourself.
For those into outdoor pursuits Galicia has stunning walking (including various national parks and the famous Camino de Santiago), mountain biking, surfing, canoeing, diving, sailing, horseback riding and so on, and the best sites for these activities are rarely crowded.
Galicia also offers a wide range of miscellaneous other activities such as natural thermal baths in Ourense, vineyard tours and wine tasting, and historic architecture such as Santiago’s cathedral and the Roman walls of Lugo.
Finally, shopping. The shops in most Galician towns are still typically small, family owned businesses and provide a friendly and knowledgeable service that is now increasingly hard to find. Of course the downside to this is that you can feel as though you are living in the early 1980s, in which case you can visit one of the many huge new shopping centres that have appeared on the outskirts of the cities in recent years. These offer everything you could want from modern Euroshopping and are generally newer, cleaner, easier to park in and less crowded than their UK equivalents.
When you combine all of the above with less crowded roads, good transport links and generally nice weather it’s hard to see why anyone wouldn’t want to live in Galicia – the only real drawbacks are that you will need to speak Spanish if you do and that it’s hard to earn a living here.
Food is a major part of the Galician lifestyle and small, family run restaurants and bars abound, especially near to the coast where there is more demand due to the tourist influx that comes every July and August.
It is fairly rare to find either chain restaurants or pre-prepared food in Galicia, although that doesn’t necessarily imply that every bar you go into will deliver a culinary delight.
In general Galicians eat and drink exactly and only what Galicians have eaten and drunk in the preceding centuries, ie. local produce.
Restaurants featuring cuisines other than Galician/Spanish do exist in the cities, but only really where they can survive on the business from immigrant populations and international tourism, because the food adventurousness of the average Galician is basically zero (with a side order of suspicion).
Still, as long as you’re not a teetotal vegetarian Galicia has some amazing food and drink to offer. Galicia’s culinary speciality is the incredible array of seafood that comes from the Rias, sheltered waters rich in nutrients from the rivers that formed them. There are various mini-seasons for each type of wriggling or beshelled thing pulled from its crevices in the Rias and accompanying fiestas where industrial quantities of said things are eaten en masse in giant tents erected in the streets of the towns most famous for that particular seafood.
If you are vegetarian you will find that although more or less any vegetable and fruit can be grown in Galicia it is extremely difficult to find anything vegetarian on a restaurant menu anywhere in Galicia other than in the major city centres.
The standard options are fried potatoes (possibly with an aftertaste of fish), omelettes (Spanish or French style), salads (specify no tuna) and pimientos de Padron (little Galician peppers fried in oil). If you don’t mind rennet in your cheese the options are slightly widened, principally by the inclusion of pizzas.
Most people don’t know that Galicia makes wine, let alone that it makes some exceedingly good wines.
The most famous region is Rias Baixas, which is the coastal zone to the north of Pontevedra. Here they produce delicate white wines using the albariño grape, the best of which export to top end hotels and restaurants worldwide.
Lesser known, although that is changing rapidly, are the other predominantly white wine producing regions of southern Galicia, Valdeorras, Monterrei and Ribeiro.
Galicia also makes some very good red wines, most notably from Mencia grapes in the Ribeira Sacra inland region near Ourense.
Whilst you can obtain very bad and very cheap wines (normally the two go together) in Galicia, the definite trend is to produce higher quality wines to meet an expanding market of people prepared to pay 5-15€ per bottle (double that for restaurants) for something interesting and good.
Take a look at our Events and places to visit section for details of regional wine fiestas.