Pontevedra has one of the best preserved historic centres in Galicia. It was also declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1951, and is undoubtedly the witness in stone of the medieval splendour of the city. Here, the cliché that the best way to discover a place is to stroll through its streets, squares and most emblematic places and immerse yourself in its culture, and also in its history, becomes true.
La Leña Square
The squares of Pontevedra are a faithful reflection of the history of the city. According to legend, the city of Pontevedra was founded by Teucro after his arrival on these shores after the Trojan War. As a tribute to this legend, the Plaza del Teucro, one of the most stately squares in Pontevedra, was named after him. Nowadays it preserves part of the noble houses that surrounded it from the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as a great heraldic wealth, such as the house of the Gago and Montenegro family.
Méndez Núñez is another of the squares named after a war hero. Casto Méndez Núñez was a counter-admiral, a native of Vigo, who lived and died in Pontevedra in the house of the arch that presides over the square, whose origin dates back to the 15th century and the Cru lineage. The history of Méndez Nuñez is not only linked to the frigate Numancia but also to the Pacific War. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, this house housed a valuable library promoted by Jesús Muruais, and where later literary gatherings would be held with great writers such as Ramón del Vallé-Inclán. Precisely of this writer we find a sculpture in the square.
This popular writer lived in the city in a house located in the Las Cinco Calles Square. A plaque indicates the house where Vallé-Inclán lived. Presiding over this place is an 18th century stone cross, specifically from 1773, from Estribela, and restored by the Museum of Pontevedra in the 1960s.
Las Cinco Calles Square
Some squares in Pontevedra, on the other hand, are named after the activities that took place there. This is the case of La Leña Square or La Verdura Square. In La Verdura Square, formerly Feira Vella, markets of all kinds were held throughout its history, until it was consolidated as the site of the daily vegetable market in the past. It is also the site of one of the four 19th century iron fountains commissioned by the architect Sesmero for the city. The square is also home to one of the jewels of the city’s local commerce, the Enrique Eiras pharmacy from 1876. On the other hand, the Square of Mugartegui, or Pedreira, because of the stonework of the stonemasons. Presiding over this place is the Mugartegui manor house built in the XVII-XVIII centuries by the Valladares family, and a great example of Baroque civil architecture. It currently belongs to Pontevedra City Council and houses the headquarters of the Regulatory Council of the D. O. Rías Baixas. The access arch to the square was part of the 16th century pazo of the Mariño de Lobeira family.
Finally, the Herrería Square, which actually forms four squares together with the Plaza de la Estrella, the Plaza de Ourense and the gardens of Casto Sampedro. Its origin dates back to the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century, when the city began its growth and expanded its walled enclosure. As its name indicates, this is where the blacksmiths who had their workshops in the arcades of the square worked. The surrounding houses and buildings have been transformed over the centuries, the two large modernist buildings of the early twentieth century and the pazo of Barbeito, or Casa de las Caras, whose decoration dates back to the sixteenth century. On the other hand, the Café Carabela, from 1947, houses a mural by Conde Corbal that recreates the surroundings of the square.
The Casto Sampedro Gardens deserve special mention, dedicated to one of the founders of the archaeological society of Pontevedra and a great defender of the cultural heritage of the city and the province. In its gardens there is a fountain, from the 16th century, which is mentioned in a traditional Pontevedra song: “Pontevedra is a good town, it gives drink to those who pass by, the fountain of the Ironworks, San Bartolomeu in the square”. The gardens are crowned by the church of San Francisco and what was once part of the convent rebuilt in the 17th century.