Located in Galicia on the Atlantic coast of north-west Spain, the city of Ferrol has a history dating back to prehistoric times and a long association with the sea. The Phoenicians are known to have set up cod-salting stations here long before the Romans established the Bay of Ferrol as a fishing port. In subsequent centuries the port grew into a major fishing port and developed as an important naval shipbuilding centre. The presence of the shipyards of the state-owned shipbuilding company, Navantia, in Ferrol ensures that this role continues to this day.
The city’s other claim to fame is as the birthplace of the military dictator Francisco Franco who ruled Spain from from 1939 until his death in 1975. Ferrol only reclaimed its current name in 1982 having been known as ‘El Ferrol del Caudillo’ (the leader) under Franco’s regime.
As a port of call the main attractions of Ferrol for cruise ship passengers are the architectural reminders of its maritime legacy, its proximity to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Santiago de Compostela and its abundance of excellent seafood tapas bars and restaurants.
Port of Ferrol
As your cruise ship enters a narrow channel in the entrance to the Ferrol Estuary, passengers should look out for the impressive castles of San Felipe (port) and La Palma (starboard) on the approach to the natural harbour in which the Port of Ferrol is located. Ships will dock right in the centre of the old town allowing passengers to walk around the local tourist attractions. Visitors planning to visit Santiago de Compostela or A Coruña are advised to take official shore excursions due to infrequent bus and train services from Ferrol.
Airport Transfers to Ferrol Port
The nearest airports to the Port of Ferrol are A Coruña (45km) and Santiago de Compostela (90km). A Coruña deals mainly with domestic flights via Madrid so for cruise ship passengers needing to transfer to or from Ferrol the airport in Santiago is most likely a better option. Such passengers are advised to take a taxi or pre-book private transfers to or from Santiago de Compostela Airport as public transport services on this route are inconvenient.
Ferrol Tourist Attractions
Whilst the small town of Ferrol is hardly filled with tourist attractions there are a number of interesting sights related to its military and maritime history. The Ferrol Naval Museum is dedicated to Spanish naval history and contains many exhibits of old equipment and scale models of ships. The adjacent Exponav (Canton de Molins) is a shipbuilding museum which is well worth a visit along with the Arsenal Militar which is the city’s military dockyards.
The pretty churches of San Francisco and Nuestra Señora del Socorro are the other main sights to look out for during a wander around Ferrol. All of these attractions are within easy walking distance of where your ship will be docked.
Insider Tip: There is a chain of hotels in Spain called ‘Paradors’ which are often housed in historic buildings. Their bar and restaurant areas are generally open to the public which allows visitors to admire their grandeur. The Parador de Ferrol is a typical Galician mansion in the heart of the old town where you can take a lunch or coffee break during your sightseeing.
A little further afield is the 17th century Castle of San Felipe which you sailed past on your approach to the harbour. Lying 10km to the south-west of Ferrol port this impressive fortress is in remarkably good condition and provides lovely views across the estuary towards the Castle of La Palma. If you aren’t taking an official excursion to the castle it can prove a little tricky to get to by road so check if there’s a boat tour leaving the port in Ferrol during your visit.
Excursions from Ferrol
If you’re planning on taking a shore excursion from Ferrol the number one destination par excellence is to Santiago de Compostela which lies 100km to the south-west. The cathedral of this historic city is believed to be the burial place of Saint James the Great which attracts more than 250,000 pilgrims arriving annually having walked the famous Camino de Santiago. A little nearer is the lovely city of A Coruña which is only 50km to the south-west and a popular port of call in its own right.
Lesser known excursions from Ferrol which may be offered by your cruise line include the Fragas de Eume Natural Park where you can hike through Atlantic Woodland to the historic Caaveiro Monastery. Some passengers also enjoy a trip to the Galician Ceramic Factory of Sargadelos combined with a visit to the charming Roman town of Betanzos.
One Night in Ferrol
If you happen to be staying in Ferrol overnight you should take the opportunity to dine at one of the region’s fine seafood restaurants and sample some Galician wines. Highly recommended is O Camiño Do Inglés (Calle San Francisco, 17), which is named after ‘The English Way’, one of the lesser known pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. The restaurant offers the highest quality of Galician cuisine and a wine list to match. If you can’t get a table just take a walk along the same street which is full of excellent restaurants and tapas bars.
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