The Compostela Harbor

Noia was built next to the harbor located at the mouth of the Tambe River. During the Middle Ages, its proximity to Compostela made it one of the most important towns in Galicia.

Planning your trip to Noia

The visit to the beautiful and historic Noia can take a whole day. The next day, there are two magnificent natural spaces in the surrounding area. If you take the scenic route from the AC550 coast towards the south, you can reach the park of the Dunes of Corrubedo and the lagoons of Carregal and Vixón. Then you can return through the interior road. Another possibility is to head along the coast to the north, where the Mountains of Pindo and Louro  are located, with the lagoon near the latter. In both options, binoculars are a good idea, so you can see the birds. Read about the things to eat in Noia and where to stay as well.

Do you want to learn more about this place?

The origin of the name Noia is unclear, but according to a famous legend, which is reflected in the coat of arms of the municipality, the villa was founded by Noé, who named the town in memory of Noela, the wife of his son Jafet. However, Puerto Compostela had  attracted the attention of numerous pirates and invaders. In 1115, some pirates were docked at the nearby island of La Creba, and they attacked the entire region. To prevent further attacks, King Ferdinand II ordered the village to be moved to its current settlement in 1168, somewhat south of the original location.

Towards 1319, the Pope appointed the Archbishop of Santiago to the French Berenguel of Landoira, but prevented him from entering the city of Compostela. The French Archbishop had to reside in Noia for a time, getting help from the knight Rui Soga de Lobeira – Warden of the Castle of Tapal – to combat his opponents. With the help of the people of Noia, they constructed a stone wall six meters high and built the Church of Santa Maria of Nova. A hospital was also created for patients and pilgrims, and a separate hospital for infectious diseases (for those suffering from leprosy who came by sea). The buildings had a price though, because at the end, Rui Soga was captured and decapitated for providing help to Berenguel. Noia would continue to suffer from violent attacks and assaults, by the Duke of Lancaster a few years later, as well as in the middle of the 14th century, when the rebellious Irmandiños (a brotherhood of peasants) burned the fortress of the Tapal. In 1589, Noia received a visit from the “counter-armada” of the English pirate Francis Drake, who opted to continue in search of more accessible military objectives.

qué ver en Noia
Calle de Noia

Motivated by the discovery of America, several adventurers from Noia went to explore, among them Anton Varela, who would accompany Magellan as an apprentice in his first voyage around the world. Another explorer from Noia was Basilio Vilariño, a pilot who toured the Patagonia, and would end up dying at the hands of the natives.

In the contemporary age, Catalan industrialists settled in Galicia with salt mills, especially sardines. This made the market of the tanning (leather) skins grow rapidly, a necessity for the shoe makers, whom have a lot of fame in Noia.

There is a lot to see in the historic quarter of Noia, declared a place of Cultural Interest in 1985, and it is one of the main attractions of the town. From any of the viewpoints that surround it, you can see its compact shape, with a cluster of houses at the foot of the Parish Church of San Martiño (San Martín) in the direction of the sea. It is like that of a small Galician Florence: roofs of red tiles, chimneys, towers and squares that give it a feeling of medieval intimacy. The whole historical ensemble is dominated by the presence of the religious building. The Church of San Martín, in Gothic style, emphasizes the sailor model of a single nave with large pointed arches with buttresses and covered with gabled wood. It was built due to the order of Archbishop Lope de Mendoza in 1434. It highlights the beauty of its monumental western facade, framed by two unfinished towers, one of them with a pyramidal crown. The facade is of a Compostela style, decorated with the Twelve Apostles, musicians, some elders presided over by the Salvador, and the Annunciation with sixteen angels. The rose window, surrounded by trumpeting angels, is outlined beautifully.

In the northern part of Noia, there are also the remains of the Fortress of Tapal, where the archbishops of Compostela lived during the summer, and the old medieval walls. Next to it, the Pazo de los Churruchaos, one of the beautiful large houses of Gothic origin from the villa with an interesting pointed window on its facade. Among the urban ‘pazos’ that are notable for their monumentality, the Casa da Xouba and the Pazo Dacosta (1399), with a sober façade on four sturdy pillars.

In the famous gardens and avenue lined with palm trees of Noia, you can find the weathered Town Hall and the Convent of San Francisco. The church of the monastery, built in the 16th century, has a Renaissance Gothic style and consists of a nave with a Latin cross. Inside you can see two interesting graves under lowered arches and, in the main chapel, the altarpiece, which depicts the Virgin, Santa Clara and San Francisco. In contact with the Franciscan cloister is the Town Council, built in the mid-twentieth century on the site that was formerly a hospital for pilgrims. Its gothic tower stands out, with a large access arch and ornamental battlements at the top.

One of the heritage jewels that distinguishes this villa is its exclusive collection of headstone tombstones. More than 500 slabs of stone, between the 14th and 19th centuries, make up the Museum of Tombstones of the Gothic Church of Santa Maria A Nova (14th century), one of the most prominent lithography centers in Europe. The church, built in 1327 by Berenguel de Landoira as an old Romanesque church outside the walls of the villa, has a unique nave, a flat roofing and thick walls. During the eighteenth century, a sacristy, a chapel and a portico were added. Inside, in addition to the museum, you can see the Chapel of the Rams and a beautiful baptismal fountain. Another building of great cultural recognition is the Noela Coliseum, which has an auditorium with a capacity of 342 people.

In the oldest part,  the Hospital de Adentro (also known as House of Grammar is preserved, one of the three medieval hospitals of the villa, next to the Holy Hospital and that of San Lázaro. It has a flat façade with an arch pointed at the coat of arms of the Archbishop of Compostela Rodrigo de Luna.

The Traba Bridge connects the suburbs of San Bernardo and O Couto. It is built on a bridge of the old Roman road that traveled the Galician coast from Braga and consists of four medieval arches with strong pillars to support the current of the river.

qué ver en Noia
Iglesia de San Martín
The economy of Noia is focused on two sectors: the services sector and the primary sector. In the services sector, it is mainly trade. The town, of commercial tradition, was formerly known for the quality of its furs and shoes. In the primary sector, the popular product was shellfish. The main shellfish caught in the estuary are the cockle and clam, both smooth and slimy like the slug.
In Noia, there are many festivities, the most popular being the Patron Saint of San Bartolomé and the Horse Fair of San Marcos. In recent years, the Medieval Fair has gained a lot of traction and popularity with its markets and representations in the old quarters of the town.

Things to See

Dónde dormir en Noia
Iglesia de Santa María a Nova
Dónde dormir en Noia
Puente Nafonso

Important Information


42° 47’ 6’’ N, 8° 53’ 16’’ W


40 km from Santiago de Compostela, 113 km from A Coruña, 100 km from Vigo, 633 km from Madrid


You can easily park around the village


10 m


14,659 (2013)

San Bartolomé (from the 23rd to the 28th of August)

Fair of San Marcos (25th April), Medieval Fair (second weekend of July)

Furs and shoes

About the author