Vigo's formidable port is choked with trawlers and fishing boats and lined with clanging shipbuilding yards. The city’s gritty exterior gives way to a compact and lively center that clings to a tiered hill rising over an ancient Roman settlement. A jumbled mass of modernist buildings and granite, red-roof fisherman's houses hide the narrow streets of Vigo’s appealing casco vello (old town). Vigo’s highlights can be explored in a few hours.
Fishing is central to the livelihood of thousands who live and work in Vigo, and its fish market handles some of the largest quantities of fresh fish in Europe, which is consumed across the continent. From 10 to 3:30 daily, on Rúa Pescadería in the barrio called La Piedra, Vigo's famed ostreras—a group of rubber-gloved fisherwomen who have been peddling fresh oysters to passersby for more than 50 years—shuck the bushels of oysters hauled into port that morning. Competition has made them expert hawkers who cheerfully badger all who walk by their pavement stalls. When you buy half a dozen (for about €8), the women plate them and plunk a lemon on top; you can then take your catch into any nearby restaurant and turn it into a meal. A short stroll southwest of the old town brings you to the fishermen's barrio of El Berbés. Ribera del Berbés, facing the port, has several seafood restaurants, most with outdoor tables in summer.