The oldest functioning lighthouse in the world is in Spain

The Tower of Hércules is an ancient Roman lighthouse located in A Coruña, Galicia. It is the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world. The Tower of Hercules was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2009.

Path to the Tower of Hércules.

Path to the Tower of Hércules. | Shutterstock

Tower of Hércules: between legends and history


There are many legends that speculate about the origin of the Tower of Hércules. According to the History of Spain by Alfonso X the Wise, Geryon had his subjects subjugated. He forced them to give them half of their goods and children.

Geryon’s subjects went to Hércules, who killed him. Hércules would have buried his head in the place where the Tower of Hércules stands.

Furthermore, the tower has been identified as the mythological Tower of Breogán. It is a construction that appears in the Irish mythological cycle of Lebor Gábala Érenn.

Breogán, according to Irish sources, was king of the Galician city of Brigantia. Brigantia has been associated with the Roman Brigantium, which would have been around A Coruña. The Tower of Breogán would have been renamed Tower of Hércules.

Hércules would have also changed the name of the city. He named it as the first woman to arrive, Crunia, and from there, A Coruña. However, the sources say that it was Alfonso IX who named it so.

Tower of Breogán.

Tower of Breogán. | Shutterstock


In historical terms, the origin of the tower is unknown. The Roman construction dates from the 1st century AD. According to the information given by the pottery found, it was built between 40 and 80 AD.

During the Middle Ages, the tower was probably used as a defensive site. Later, abandoned, it was used to build the castle of Santo Antón and the walls.

Already in the 18th century the tower recovers its function as a navigation lighthouse. The commercial activity with America is very intense. This lighthouse made navigation more intense.

Tower of Hércules.

Tower of Hércules. | Shutterstock

What to see in the Tower of Hércules

Analyzing the Tower

The Tower of Hércules is located on a hill to the north of the city of A Coruña. It measures a total of 59 metres high. It is very much restored on the outside, so that its Roman remains are reduced to the interior.

The exterior finish is the work of the 18th century restoration, carried out by Eustaqui Giannini. The architect covered the tower, in a neoclassical model, with granite ashlars. He was also responsible for the interior staircase to communicate the floors. Giannini also dismantled the dome and erected an octagonal body for the lighthouse.

The tower has a square plan with a cross inside. Four vaulted chambers articulate it inside. It is also divided into three floors, which were probably connected by an outside staircase or ramp. The last floor had a dome that housed the lighthouse fire.


Nowadays, from the Tower of Hércules you can observe the different archaeological campaigns carried out. There are also magnificent views of A Coruña and, in the distance, of the estuaries and the Sisargas Islands.

The lighthouse is working every night. The range of the four flashes it emits is 24 miles. In fog, it also emits a sound signal that accompanies the light.

Sisargas Islands.

Sisargas Islands. | Shutterstock

Sculpture park of the Tower of Hércules

The area around the Tower of Hércules also has an open-air sculpture park. More than fifteen works of contemporary sculpture by various artists can be seen.

The theme of the artists is divided into two. Firstly, mythological stories about the foundation of the Tower of Hércules. Secondly, references to the marine world, and the marine vocation of the Galician people.

Some works such as Pentacephalic Menhir, by Ramón Miranda, stand out. Also of great importance is the Rosa de los Vientos, by Correa Corredoira, where the Celtic peoples are represented. In addition, in front of the tower, there is a statue of Xosé Cid, representing Breogán, the mythical king of Brigantia.

Rosa de los Vientos.

Rosa de los Vientos. | Shutterstock

Information for your visit to the Tower of Hércules

Location: Avda. de Navarra s/n. 15002 A Coruña.
Telephone: 981 223 730.
Coordinates: 43º 23’N – 8º 24’W
Bus lines: 3, 3A, 5.
Prices of the Tower of Hércules: € 3.09 (general); € 1.55 euros (reduced). Mondays free.

Furthermore, if you wish to stay longer in A Coruña, we recommend the best accommodation. We will also inform you about the best restaurants.

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