Ourense is one of Galicia’s 4 provinces and like the other three it has a self named capital. Unlike Lugo, Pontevedra and la Coruna, Ourense is land locked and has no coastline. As a result this is the least developed and most isolated of Galicia’s major cities, but it is still an attractive cathedral town and welcomes an increasing number of tourists.
The only real down side to Ourense is getting there. Most tourists tend to base themselves in la Coruna province (typically Santiago de Compostela), and this makes the trip to Ourense a several hour long drive, albeit one through stunning scenery.
General information about Ourense
Ourense’s early beginnings were as a Roman settlement around 2000 years ago and it has a visible history that includes a well preserved Roman Spa and bridge.
Because of its relative isolation, the city has developed independently of the other major cities in the region, but it still has a strong flavour of Galicia. What also sets it apart from the other provinces is the lack of any towns of notable significance, other than the capital itself.
Ultimately, Ourense is a “one city” province and it has the weakest economy and the lowest population of Galicia’s four conurbations. That said, Ourense city is large and has one of the best original old towns in Galicia with some stunning plazas and a buoyant cafe culture, especially at night.
If you want to visit Ourense you are best advised to book some accommodation in the town or, alternatively, to allow for a long drive to and from this city.
Things to see and visit in Ourense city
Tip 1. Ourenses most famous feature is the old Roman Spa that still gushes hot water from its many outlests into some small bathing vats. It is no longer in use, but has been preserved in an ornamental garden setting.
Tip 2. The city cathedral, now mainly used as a museum and exhibition centre, attracts many tourist and demonstrates a variety of architectural styles. It offers permanent displays connected with the city, region and Christianity.
Tip 3. Still with ancient heritage, the city has a large Roman bridge, parts of which date back almost 2000 years to the Roman occupation. The bridge spans the river Mino, the life blood of the city and is Ourense’s most famous structure.
Tip 4. Galicia’s towns are full of plazas, but the prazo de Maior (main square) in Ourense is one of the most beautifull. Although not large, this plaza is overlooked by some excellent examples of Galician architecture and the overall effect is visually rewarding. It also leads to an impressive church which is our tip 5 below
Tip 5. The church of Santa Maria la Madre, is possibly the most photographed building in the old town. Although relatively small, the main facade of this building is a fine example of regional design and keeps the camera shutters ticking over.
Another church, the church of Santa Eufemia, is also popular with visitors to the city.
Travelling to the city of Ourense and beyond
Getting to Ourense is more difficult than reaching any of the other cities in the Galician region. Travelling from Santiago requires a car journey of at least 2 hours each way and the main dual carriage way will only take you part of the distance.
One of the drawbacks to visiting Ourense province is the comparative lack of other sizable towns besides the capital. This means that visiting the city can be a single stop journey if you do not plan carefully, however there are other towns worth seeing and this is a buoyant wine making province, so look out for bodegas.
Once in Ourense, the old district can be explored easily on foot and there are tourist information offices offering guidance on what to see.
Ourense is a large city, so there are hotels, restaurants and plenty of other facilities available to the visitor.