I wrote in an earlier post about Vigo that I found it difficult to write about the city due to a mixture of having to many stories and experiences from living there for 5 months, but barely any photos. I studied abroad at the time when smart phones were only starting to become common and I didn’t own one yet, so I couldn’t easily carry around a readily available camera through my phone like I do now on trips. Plus, the majority of my days in Vigo were spent in the routine of going to school, and not making concrete plans. The majority of meals I ate in Vigo were cooked in my apartment, and were not Spanish cuisine. My roommate and I were extremely stingy buying groceries so that we would have more money to travel and have experiences. Vigo is also not a common tourist destination, and while we found some incredible places to eat, I didn’t have a list of places I wanted to try.
Another thing going against me while writing this post, is I’m writing it 6 years after I lived in Vigo. Checking google maps, the restaurants I do remember eating at are no longer there besides Tommy Mel’s American 50’s Diner. My first day in Vigo, this is the restaurant I ate at after university orientation with two other exchange students from the United States-my soon to be roommates. The only reason we ate here was that we were too hungry to wait for any other restaurant to open. In Spain, everything is pushed back in the day, but maybe nothing quite like dinner and nightlife. By 8 pm we couldn’t wait another hour or two for restaurants to open so this is where we ate. We quickly adjusted though and soon found our favorite spots in the city for tapas, sushi, and other authentic cuisine for the area.
- Euro Alcohol
We found as many cheap places to drink as we could. Our first legal drinks (I was only 20 when I left for Spain) was at a Chat y Tapas that the international students organization hosted at a local bar for all of us to get to know each other. Our drinks-I had sangria-only cost a Euro and the tapas came with. My roommate and I each chose one-paella and a bocadillo de caballo (horse sandwhich)-and then split the food so we could try both. The beer at McDonald’s was also only a Euro (McBeer as my family likes to call it.) Talking with some of my friends who had studied in other countries, it sounds like they stopped at American fast food places quite frequently. Vigo only had the one McDonald’s, at least that I was aware of, and I only stopped in there one time. I do think it can be fun to at least check out the McDonald’s in other countries, because their menus do change to reflect the country and culture. You can buy macaroons in Switzerland, we had some fancy pastries from one in Italy, most European locations serve potato wedges, and I know Burger Kings in Japan have served black eel burgers before.
2. Gambas (Shrimp)
Vigo being a port city meant a lot of fresh seafood. Garlic shrimp was one of our favorite tapas to get.
3. Jugo de naranja (Orange juice)
Spain is a huge exporter of oranges. While Vigo is on the opposite coast of the major region that produces oranges, they still seemed to be everywhere, and orange juice is a very popular beverage served with breakfast.
4. Roscón de Reyes (King’s Ring/Bread)/5. Sushi
King’s Ring in Spain is their version of Kings Cake. It is a sweet bread topped with sugar, candies, nuts, and dried fruits. It is traditionally eaten on January 6th. The grocery stores were still selling them when we arrived closer to the end of January so my roommates and I bought one to share. It was also sliced in the middle and filled with frosting or creme. This sushi we had is still the most expensive meal I’ve every paid for. Between myself and just one friend, we paid over 70 euros, which at the time was equivalent to around $95. But it was worth every bite.
A bocadillo is a traditional Spanish sandwich made usually with a baguette that contains different combos of meat and cheese, or tortilla de España (a quiche like dish made with eggs and potatoes). Chorizo is a common choice and they are sold at most cafes and bars.
7. Café y té
I am personally not a coffee drinker, so while my roommates would stop for un café I would always ask for un té. Often we would also order a croissant or pastry.
8. Pastries and croissants
Speaking of pastries, it was so tempting every day to stop at a panadería (bread shop or bakery) all the time. Even getting the pre-prepared croissants at the grocery stores were better than 99% of options you can choose from in the United States.
I love the Spanish culture of tapas (meaning little plate). In Spain there are different versions of tapas restaurants you can find. Particularly in more touristy areas you can go to restaurants and the table will all order multiple tapas that you can pass around to share so you can try everything. A more traditional version is that the food comes with your drink and you don’t get to choose what the food is. Most cafes turned into bars at night. We had one across the street from our apartment we loved to stop at. We would order a drink and they would drink out a plate of either meat or potatoes and bread. About 15 minutes later they would bring out the next tapa with a different food item. This would continue and over the course of an hour or two, we would get a full meal, only having to each pay for a few drinks.
10. Pulpo (octopus)
I know that pulpo can be found in a lot of areas of Spain, however the region of Galicia where Vigo is located is known for their pulpo. This was served as one of the tapas mentioned above, and had a mix of calamari and pulpo on the plate.
We stopped in a supermarket that was in the basement level of a mall. This was the largest grocery store I saw during my time in Spain. Along with all the normal foods, we found self-serve olives, and different candies. My cousins would have loved these trucks full of candy!