“I don’t know how anyone could live in a place where it rains so much. I know I couldn’t!”
These were the words I told my Galician friend during my first visit to Galicia. She rolled her eyes as if to say, “If I had a nickle…” We had been walking around the old town of Santiago de Compostela when of course, it started to rain again. This was only about the tenth time during my week-long stay there.
“Galicians love the rain, and plus we need it! That’s why it’s so natural and green here,” my friend replied. “Also you never know, you may live here someday!”
After that I never visited Galicia ever again…
That’s because later that same year I moved to this rainy region and I’ve been living here ever since! This September marks FOUR YEARS. My friend was right—you never know what the future has in store for you.
I already wrote a post about why a small Galician town is now my home, so you can read that love story later. Here I want to show you why my pueblo is the coolest, why it’s famous, and why it’s worth a visit on your next trip to the Spanish northwest.
Welcome to Noia, Galicia!
My little pueblo cariñoso of Noia is located 20 miles west of Santiago de Compostela on the coast in the Rías Baixas. In other words it’s smack-dab between green mountainous wine region and white sandy beaches. Galicia is the “land of a thousand rivers” and I live where those rivers open into the sea. Noia is a quaint fishermen’s town of about 15,000 people, most famous for the shellfish berberechos (cockles) and its Medieval old town. This year the town celebrated its 850th anniversary since its founding. Happy birthday, Noia!
Besides how gorgeous this area is, I also love living in Noia for many other reasons.
Noia is in the perfect central location for visiting Galicia’s main cities of Coruña, Vigo, and Santiago. You can get to Ourense and Lugo in less than 2 hours by car as well. For me one of the main highlights is paying small-town prices to live while being only a cobblestone’s throw away from city life. Did I mention that Galicia is one of the cheapest regions in Spain? Trust me, paying low prices for breathtaking views in an already inexpensive region never gets old.
But what really made me fall in love with this town were the people (hence the boyfriend noiés). Everyone is incredibly welcoming and Noia has a hometown feel to it, so the transition from living in the Midwest of America to here felt like an upgrade.
Galicians are beyond generous, too. Whether they’re offering you fresh vegetables from their gardens, an umbrella when you forgot yours, or constantly trying to pay for things for you while you’re out, they’re always trying to help other people, especially foreigners like me. Visitors are definitely welcome—there are even guided walking tours around town daily during the summer months.
Ok, so now that you know why it’s so lovable, when should you book a trip to visit this awesome town? Here’s my guide to Noia and recommendations for your next stay so you’ll love my pueblo as much as I do! (Well, maybe not THAT much!)
How to Arrive to Noia
From Santiago de Compostela there are buses almost every hour that you can catch from the bus station, train station, or at the stop in front of the university campus. The company is Monbus and the trip takes roughly 45 minutes to an hour.
If you rented a car take the main highway (AG-56 and CG-1.5) directly there.
What to See and Do in Noia
Besides parking yourself at some bar’s terraza with a cold Estrella Galicia and enjoying the coastal views—which I completely recommend—there’s a lot more to see and do in Noia.
Igrexa de San Martiño
In the very heart of historic Noia is the 15th-century San Martiño Church in the Tapal Plaza. Go inside the church, see the cruceros, and explore the shops along the old Medieval streets.
Igrexa de Santa María a Nova
There’s an even older church in town called the Church of Santa María Nova. Inside this 14th-century structure you can see tombstones and learn some history of Noia. Throughout the year there are different displays and decorations inside since the church no longer holds mass. Walk outside to see flower-covered gravestones and tombs in the cemetery.
Alameda is the main boulevard in town. Next to the row of palm trees is the town hall, the San Francisco Church, and statues in the garden commemorating famous Galician authors from Noia.
With views this pretty, you’ve got to walk down by the water. Start at the old bridge and go along the ría to the boardwalk. If you follow the coast you’ll come to the newer bridge. There you can walk up on the bridge and see nice views of the surrounding area.
Across the big bridge you can exit on the stairs and walk a minute to Testal beach. If you go by car I recommend continuing on to Boa for another gorgeous beach.
Where to Eat in Noia
Now to my favorite part—food! Galicia is world-famous for its cuisine because it’s made with the region’s best resources: locally-grown produce and fresh seafood. Make sure to try Galicia’s most famous dish: octopus!
This is one of the newer restaurants in town and less than a minute walk from the San Martiño Church. It’s probably the best spot to order different tapas to try since most other restaurants only serve larger plates for sharing. My favorite dish is the solomillo al cabrales, chopped up pork and fries covered in a strong Asturian blue cheese sauce.
If you want to taste very traditional-style Galician food, this is where to go. The restaurant is owned by a very nice family so the dishes taste like delicious home-cooking you’d eat at your Galician relatives’ house. Order anything here because you can’t go wrong!
Last but not least, my favorite but also the pricier of the three spots is Ferredor. This is my boyfriend’s and my go-to spot for date nights or anniversaries. To really try Noia’s bererechos or other Galician seafood I definitely suggest you eat here. They have seafood platters with a variety of types to share between multiple people and excellent croquetas made fresh every day.
Where to Drink in Noia
My famous line I tell all my American family and friends is: “Every restaurant in Spain is a bar, but not every bar is a restaurant.” With that being said, these bars are in Galicia, so although you can’t order food you’ll still get a free tapa with your drink!
The aforementioned bar with a terrace where you should stop for a cold one would be this place. It’s in the old town right by the water and is the perfect spot to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Pass by the Coliseo Noela theater (or stop in if there’s an event) on the Curro street to visit this bar. I love this spot because it’s one of the cheapest in town with great music and friendly owners. Plus the look of the bar is so classically Galician with wooden doors and old stone walls. It’s a great place to experience historic Noia.
Speaking of historic, Taberna Lelé is the oldest bar in town at almost 100 years old and a must-see in Noia. Lelé is unique, not because it offers warm hospitality, a pristine setting, or even stocked lavatories—it doesn’t usually. Instead it offers a rustic experience similar to the original bars of Galicia from its time, and at a cheap price! It’s definitely one of the best spots in town. Try Galicia’s artisan liqueurs: licor café, creama de licor, and if you want to put hair on your chest, licor de hierbas.
When to Visit Noia
There’s no doubt that the winter rain in Galicia is infamous. However what most people never hear about is how perfect the summer weather is here. By May it’s sunny, then it stays really nice and warm until around the end of September. Of course there are always a few wet days sprinkled in there, but those are the best months to visit. Every Thursday and Sunday year-round there’s a street market throughout town.
These are special festival weeks that would make your visit even more fun!
San Marcos — Last week of April
For San Marcos (which is April 25th) Noia holds a 5-day festival with music, rides, games, and horse shows. The main foods are pulpo a feira (octopus) and churrasco (grilled meats like pork ribs). As you can see my friends and I haven’t grown up and still love riding the bumper cars.
Feira Medieval — Second weekend of July
The Medieval festival is by far my favorite party of the entire year. All of Noia dresses up in costumes and the whole town is decorated to look like how it was in Medieval times. Acrobats and musicians put on performances around town and there are stalls that sell knickknacks and food. This festival takes place every year around the 13th of July.
Festas San Bartolomeo — Last week of August
At the end of August Noia puts on a week-long festival to celebrate, well, Noia! Every day there are different concerts, food, rides, and at the end on Sunday night there’s a huge fireworks show out over the ría.