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It may be overstating things to call La Coruña a "shrunk-down Rio", which one website does. Brighton may be a more fitting comparison, given the dramatic weather that can hit this city, located as it is on an exposed isthmus in the far north-west of Spain. But it does have some of the best urban beaches in the country, and there's a bohemian feel in the bric-a-brac and street-fashion shops of grungy Orzán district behind the sea front – this is where global high-street fashion brand Zara was born. There's also a buzzing bar culture, with the Estrella Galicia brewery based here, and good dry white wines from the local Albariño grape.
Recently renovated Hotel Lois offers a capsule-sized sleepover, with 10 modishly minimalist, bright white bedrooms within a few minutes' walk of the old town and Riazor beach. The restaurant, on the ground floor, serves traditional Galician fish and meat dishes, and there's a bar on the lower floor with a good local wine list.
As you'd expect with a major port, fresh seafood is on most restaurant menus. Abica is a stylish tapas joint-cum-delicatessen, where customers can sit at the bar or at the communal table on the shop floor and eat octopus (fresh from the city's Plaza de Lugo fish market) with potatoes – a local staple – or tuna with sun-dried tomato pesto. Or you can try grilled octopus with piperrada (stewed peppers) at Alma Negra (Calle Barrera 13A), last year's winner of the La Coruña best tapas competition.
Like most Spanish cities, La Coruña has a bar-hopping tradition, with tapas providing ballast for the booze. The main runs are in Calle Galera, Calle Franja, Calle Barrera and Calle Estrella. Share a plate of prawns and a jug of Ribeiro – the local white wine, drunk from white china bowls. And Tasca a Troula, at Calle Barrera 24, even serves crocodile tapas.
Domus Casa Del Hombre (mc2coruna.org/domus, daily 10am-7pm, entry €4, €2 concs) is an interactive museum of the human body, in a srtiking sail-shaped building facing Riazor bay. It was designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, who was also the brains behind Barcelona's Olympic stadium. It is worth seeing for the building alone, but inside there are 200 interactive exhibits relating to the human body, from genetics to sensory faculties.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
1. In what way does Coruña resemble Rio de Janeiro?
a) The weather
b) Its geographical location
c) The atmosphere of the city
d) The beer and wine
2. Which of these does not describe Hotel Lois?
a) Opened recently
b) Hotel with bar and restaurant
c) Small rooms
d) Central location
3. What is the only meat dish mentioned in the article served?
b) Alma Negra
c) Tasca A Troula
4. What seems to most impress the writer about Domus Casa del Hombre?
a) The architecture
b) The range of exhibits
c) Its originality
d) That the architect has an impressive portfolio
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