On a hill overlooking the rivers Mendo and Mandeo is the elegant city of Betanzos, former capital of the Kingdom of Galicia, which welcomes pilgrims from all over the world with its stately bearing. A place where you will discover the moving story of the brothers who made it progress, an enigmatic park that was once the best in the world and the world’s richest tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette).
A great part of the history of Betanzos goes hand in hand with the Naveira brothers, Juan and Jesús. Two brothers who, like so many Galician people, decided to emigrate to America in 1869. There they managed to make a certain fortune and 24 years later they returned to their homeland determined not only to build their own Indian houses, but also to invest a large part of their fortune in constructing a series of social buildings to create jobs and improve the lives of their neighbours.
What to see and do in Betanzos
Betanzos Old Town
Declared ahistoric-artistic site in 1970, it is one of the best preserved historic centres in Galicia. In its oldest buildings the Gothic style dominates, as well as good examples of popular architecture reflected in its glazed galleries, its wooden balconies and its hórreos (granaries).
In the Plaza de la Constitución is the 18th century Town Hall, the work of Ventura Rodríguez, and the Bendaña Palace, from the 15th century and rebuilt in the 17th century. Next to it stands the Centro Internacional de Estampa Contemporánea, in the old Casa Núñez. The square is dominated by the 16th century Clock Tower, which is attached to the church of Santiago.
Plaza del Campo
Also called Naveira Square, it is dominated by a statue of the Naveira brothers, the great benefactors of Betanzos. It is located in the nerve centre of the city and is the place where the fair is held. In the center we find the Fountain of Diana Cazadora.
Church of Santa María de Azogue
Saint Mary of Azougue was built between the second half of the 14th century and the first half of the 15th century. It has a basilica floor plan and three naves. The altarpiece of the altar and the capital with the only agricultural calendar of Galicia stand out.
Church of San Francisco
San Francisco has a Latin cross floor plan and in its interior you can see the Thetombs of the medieval knights are the most interesting artistic historical element inside the temple, especially the sarcophagus of Fernán Pérez de Andrade, which is located at the foot of the temple, under the choir, and is supported by a bear and a wild boar.
Museum of As Mariñas
The Museum of As Mariñas was inaugurated in 1983 and reopened in 1993 after the integral rehabilitation of the building that houses it, the old convent of Sano Domingos (XVI- XVIII). Here you can also find the Library and the Municipal Archives.
This museum has a varied collection of pieces that make it a reference museum in Galicia. Its funds were completed with numerous donations from individuals. The ethnographic aspect of his collection must be emphasized.
Located in the outskirts of Betanzos, we find the magical Parque del Pasatiempo, considered the first theme park in the world. It was one of the great legacies of the Naveira brothers and construction began in the late nineteenth century. Of the 90,000 square meters that the garden originally had, today only a tenth is preserved.
In this encyclopaedic park we can find a great variety of elements: the Retiro Pond decorated with Roman figures and the Tower of Hercules and a mural of the 41 clocks that represent the time zones around the world. We can also find reliefs and sculptures of exotic animals such as dinosaurs, elephants or hippopotamuses, among others. It is decorated with figures such as the Panama Canal, the Wall of China, the Pyramids of Cheops in Egypt, elements of mythology, the mosque of Mohammed Ali, an aeroplane of the family tree of the Capital, and some means of transport such as an airship and a locomotive. A full-scale encyclopaedia!
The Betanzos omelette
It is well known that Betanzos makes one of the best potato omelettes in the world, albeit in the “betanceiro” style, a little overcooked and overflowing with raw egg. You can savour it in any of its restaurants accompanied by an overflowing cunca of wine.
Os Caneiros riverside promenade
This is an area of scenic beauty where we can find theremains of 19 mills, where part of the milling was left to the miller. Currently a hiking route allows us to visit this beautiful place.
Betanzos Balloon Fiesta
The night of the 16th to the 17th of August we can attend themost remarkable event of the town, the ascent of the famous balloon of Betanzos. It is the biggest paper balloon in the world, which flies over the sky obtaining the general applause of all the betanceiros and of the thousands of visitors who come to the city in these dates.