BRING THE WORLD HOME

A step-by-step guide

Santiago de Compostela

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Welcome to our Santiago de Compostela guide, where we have carefully selected the must-see places and added personal suggestions. It’s a quick and simple guide that you can consult at any time during your trip.

We have focused on providing useful and practical recommendations that will enhance your trip, including off-the-beaten-track locations. We consider this guide a compilation of our favorite spots in the city.

We have also included gastronomic suggestions that will delight your palate and immerse you in Granada’s delicious culinary culture.

We hope you enjoy our guide and it inspires you to explore all the treasures that this wonderful city has to offer!

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Santiago de Compostela

a little bit of history!

Santiago de Compostela’s history dates back to the early 9th century when, according to legend, the tomb of Saint James, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, was discovered in the area. This discovery transformed the city into one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in medieval Europe. The name Santiago de Compostela itself is derived from “Sant Iago,” meaning Saint James, and “Compostela,” which is believed to originate from the Latin words “campus stellae,” translating to “field of stars.”

During the Middle Ages, the city thrived as a center of Christian pilgrimage, attracting thousands of pilgrims from all over Europe. The construction of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral began in 1075 and continued over several centuries. The cathedral is a masterpiece of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architecture and is a symbol of the city’s religious and cultural significance.

Throughout the medieval period, Santiago de Compostela faced various challenges, including invasions and conflicts, but it managed to preserve its religious importance and architectural heritage. The Way of St. James, or Camino de Santiago, became a network of pilgrimage routes leading to the city, contributing to its growth and cultural exchange.

During the 19th century, Santiago de Compostela, like many other European cities, underwent significant urban transformations and modernizations. The city’s architectural heritage was preserved, and efforts were made to enhance its appeal to tourists and pilgrims.

In the 20th century, Santiago de Compostela continued to evolve as a cultural and educational center. One of the most significant events in the city’s recent history occurred in 1985 when UNESCO designated Santiago de Compostela’s Old Town and its pilgrimage routes as a World Heritage Site. This recognition highlighted the city’s historical and cultural importance on a global scale.

Today, Santiago de Compostela remains a vibrant city that seamlessly blends its ancient heritage with modern life. Pilgrims and tourists from around the world continue to visit the city, exploring its narrow cobblestone streets, admiring its architectural marvels, and experiencing the spiritual journey of the Camino de Santiago.

selective focus photography of person standing on train station

PUBLIC
TRANSPORTATION

Santiago has an extensive bus network operated by Transportes Urbanos de Santiago (TUS). Buses cover most parts of the city, including popular tourist attractions, making it an affordable and accessible mode of transport for visitors.

Taxis are readily available in Santiago de Compostela. While they are more expensive than buses, they offer a convenient and comfortable way to travel, especially if you’re traveling with luggage or in a group.

The city center of Santiago de Compostela is quite compact and pedestrian-friendly. Many of the main attractions, including the famous Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, are within walking distance of each other. Walking is a great way to immerse yourself in the city’s charming atmosphere and discover hidden gems.

Santiago's Cathedral

A masterpiece of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architecture, is the final destination for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. It houses the shrine of St. James the Great and features intricate sculptures, chapels, and the Botafumeiro, a massive censer.

You can’t miss the Portico da Gloria, the cloister, and the rooftop tour providing panoramic views of the city.

Plaza del Obradoiro

The main square of Santiago, surrounded by monumental buildings, including the cathedral, Rajoy Palace (City Hall), Gelmírez Palace, and San Jerónimo College. It is a central meeting point and the heart of the city. Enjoy the impressive facades, bustling atmosphere, and occasional cultural events.

Old Town (Casco Antíguo)

The historic center of Santiago with narrow winding streets, medieval buildings, and squares. It’s a charming area to explore, filled with restaurants, cafes, shops, and historical sites. Don’t miss Rúa do Franco, Plaza de Quintana, and the Convent of San Domingos de Bonaval.

Monastery of San Martín Pinario

A historic Benedictine monastery adjacent to the cathedral, featuring Baroque architecture, ornate altars, and impressive artwork. It reflects the city’s rich religious heritage. Check out the church interior with its lavish decorations and the monastery’s courtyard.

Museum of the Galician People (Museo do Pobo Galego)

A museum dedicated to Galician culture and traditions, showcasing artifacts related to rural life, crafts, and religious practices.

Mercado de Abastos

Santiago’s central market, where locals and tourists alike can find fresh produce, seafood, cheeses, wines, and other regional products. It’s a great place to experience the local food culture.

Alameda Park

A peaceful park located on a hill offering stunning views of the cathedral and the city. It features sculptures, fountains, and well-maintained gardens.

Praza da Quintana

A square located near the cathedral, known for the Holy Door, which is opened during Holy Years. It has a serene ambiance and is a significant site for pilgrims.

Monastery of San Francisco

A 13th-century monastery featuring stunning Baroque architecture and a church adorned with sculptures and ornate decorations. It’s a testament to Santiago’s religious and architectural heritage.

Cidade da Cultura de Galicia

A contemporary cultural complex designed by architect Peter Eisenman. It hosts cultural events, exhibitions, and performances, showcasing Galician arts and creativity.

 

  • Monte do Gozo: A hill located just outside Santiago, it holds great significance for pilgrims as it is the first place from where the towers of the cathedral can be seen. It offers panoramic views of the city and is a reflective spot for pilgrims completing the Camino de Santiago.

 

  • Belvís Park: A picturesque park with lush greenery, walking paths, and a medieval castle. It provides a peaceful retreat and a great vantage point to admire the cityscape.

 

  • Colexiata de Santa María a Real do Sar: A Romanesque church located along the Sar River. It features beautiful architecture, including a stunning rose window, and is a serene place to explore away from the bustling city center.

 

  • Museum of Pilgrimages and Santiago: This museum provides insights into the history of pilgrimages and the Camino de Santiago. It exhibits artifacts, art, and historical documents related to the pilgrimage tradition.

 

  • Library and Archive of Galicia: A modern architectural marvel, this library and archive showcase Galician literature, history, and culture. Even if you’re not a scholar, the building itself is worth admiring.

 

  • Galería de Arte Contemporáneo José Lorenzo (GAC): A contemporary art gallery featuring works by local and international artists. It offers a diverse range of art styles and is a hub for creative expression in the city.

 

  • Conxo District: A charming district with a local atmosphere, known for its stone houses, small shops, and traditional eateries. It provides an authentic glimpse into everyday life in Santiago.

 

  • Monastery of Santa Clara: A historic monastery with a Baroque facade and a peaceful courtyard. It’s a hidden gem away from the main tourist routes, offering a tranquil ambiance and beautiful architecture.
  • San Domingos de Bonaval Park: A scenic park surrounding the Bonaval Monastery, it features gardens, sculptures, and a viewpoint offering panoramic views of the city. It’s a lovely place for a leisurely stroll.

 

  • Rua da Raina: A charming street in the Old Town known for its medieval buildings, artisan shops, and cozy cafes. It’s a great spot to wander and soak in the local ambiance.

 

  • Museum of Sacred Art (Museo de Arte Sacro): Located within the Cathedral complex, this museum houses an impressive collection of religious art and artifacts, including sculptures, paintings, and liturgical objects.

 

  • Monastery of San Lourenzo de Trasouto: A lesser-known monastery with a tranquil atmosphere, featuring Romanesque architecture and a charming cloister. It’s a peaceful retreat away from the crowds.

 

  • Mercado da Trinidade: A local market offering fresh produce, seafood, and artisanal products. It’s a great place to experience the daily life of the residents of Santiago and sample regional delicacies.

 

  • Galician Center of Contemporary Art: A contemporary art museum showcasing works by Galician artists and international contemporary art exhibitions. It’s a hub for modern artistic expression.

 

  • Parque Eugenio Granell: A small park dedicated to the Galician surrealist artist Eugenio Granell. It features sculptures and artworks inspired by his avant-garde style, creating a unique atmosphere.

 

  • Plaza de Cervantes: A charming square adorned with a statue of Miguel de Cervantes, the famous Spanish writer. It’s a lovely place to relax, surrounded by historic buildings and cafes.

 

  • Rúa da Troia: A vibrant street lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and cultural spaces. It’s a hub for contemporary art and creativity in Santiago.
  • Barrio de San Pedro: A picturesque neighborhood known for its narrow streets, traditional houses, and local markets. It offers an authentic glimpse into Santiago’s local life and culture.
Santiago is all of this and more! We understand that the best way to get to know a city is by exploring its streets and discovering every secret they hold. We can’t think of a better way to show you the city than for you to visit with us on a Free Walking Tour.

Tours and Activities in Santiago

Pulpo a la Gallega

This is Galicia’s most famous dish. It consists of octopus that is boiled and then seasoned with olive oil, paprika, and coarse sea salt. It’s typically served on a wooden plate.

Berberechos

These are small, flavorful Galician cockles often served as a tapa. They are usually boiled or steamed and served with a touch of lemon and parsley.

Caldo Gallego

This is a hearty Galician soup made with greens (such as turnip tops or collard greens), beef, potatoes, chorizo, and sometimes beans. It’s a warm and comforting dish, perfect for colder days.

Lacón con Grelos

Lacón is a type of pork shoulder, and grelos are turnip tops. This dish combines these ingredients into a flavorful and filling stew, often enjoyed during festive occasions.

Cachelos

These are boiled Galician potatoes served with a variety of accompaniments, such as chorizo or spicy sauces. They are a staple side dish in Galician cuisine.

Raxo

A dish made from marinated and seasoned pork (sometimes veal) that is sautéed and served with fried potatoes. It’s a flavorful and popular dish in the region.

Empanadas

These are savory pastries filled with ingredients such as seafood, meat, or vegetables. Galician empanadas are known for their thin, flaky crust and hearty fillings.

Almejas a la Marinera

Clams prepared in a marinara sauce, which typically includes tomatoes, onions, garlic, white wine, and sometimes a hint of paprika. This dish highlights the region’s excellent seafood.

Tarta de Santiago

A traditional almond cake from which the city gets its name. It’s usually topped with powdered sugar and the cross of Saint James, making it a popular dessert for pilgrims and tourists alike.

Filloas

These are thin, crêpe-like pancakes made from a batter of flour, milk, eggs, and sometimes a hint of anise. They can be served plain, sprinkled with sugar, or filled with sweet fillings like pastry cream or jam.

Leche Frita

Literally translating to “fried milk,” this dessert involves cooking milk with sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest until thickened, then cutting it into squares, coating them in egg and flour, and frying until golden. The result is a crispy, sweet treat often sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Bica

Bica is a dense, buttery cake flavored with lemon and sometimes anise. It has a rich, moist texture and is typically enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea.

Rosquillas

These are ring-shaped pastries, similar to doughnuts, made with a sweet dough that includes ingredients like flour, sugar, eggs, and sometimes anise or lemon zest. They are fried until golden and can be dusted with powdered sugar.

Melindre

Melindre are soft, sponge-like cookies flavored with lemon and often topped with a sugary glaze. They have a delicate texture and a subtle citrus flavor.

Almendrados

These are almond cookies made with ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites. They are typically shaped into small rounds or crescents and baked until golden and crunchy.

Orellas

Also known as “orejas” (ears), these are thin, deep-fried pastries sprinkled with sugar. They puff up during frying, resembling the shape of ears, and are delightfully crispy and sweet.

Canutillos

Canutillos are delicate pastry tubes filled with sweet fillings like custard, cream, or chocolate. They are often decorated with powdered sugar and are a popular choice in bakeries.

Albariño Wine

Albariño is a high-quality white wine made from the Albariño grape variety. It’s renowned for its crisp, refreshing taste and often paired with seafood dishes. Galicia, including the region around Santiago, is famous for producing Albariño wines.

Mencía Wine

Mencía is a red grape variety primarily grown in northwest Spain, including Galicia. Mencía wines are known for their fruity and floral characteristics, making them a delightful choice for red wine enthusiasts.

Orujo

Orujo is a strong alcoholic beverage made from the distillation of grape pomace, the solid remains after grapes are pressed for winemaking. It’s a traditional Galician spirit and often served as a digestif. Flavored varieties, such as hierbas (herbal-infused orujo), are also popular.

Queimada

Queimada is a traditional Galician alcoholic beverage made by burning aguardiente (a strong spirit) with sugar, coffee beans, lemon peel, and spices. It’s a ritualistic drink, often prepared during social gatherings and served after reciting a spell for good luck and protection against evil spirits.

Licor Café

Licor Café is a Galician specialty made by macerating coffee beans in aguardiente along with sugar and spices. The result is a flavored liqueur with a strong coffee taste, often served as a digestif.

Santiago Beer

Santiago has its own local beers, and you can find various brands and styles in bars and restaurants throughout the city. Enjoying a cold beer is a popular choice, especially during warm days or with tapas.

Herb Teas

Galicia is known for its abundance of aromatic herbs. Locally made herbal teas, often infused with herbs like chamomile, lemon verbena, or mint, are widely available and offer a soothing and refreshing beverage option.

Café con Leche

If you prefer non-alcoholic options, a café con leche (coffee with milk) is a popular choice in the morning or after meals. Galicia has a strong coffee culture, and you’ll find excellent brews in local cafes.

Rua do Franco

This charming street in the Old Town is lined with boutique shops, offering a variety of goods, including local crafts, jewelry, and souvenirs. It’s a great place to find unique gifts and mementos of your visit.

Mercado de Abastos

Santiago’s central market is a paradise for food lovers. Here, you can find fresh produce, seafood, cheeses, wines, and other Galician specialties. It’s an excellent spot to experience the local food culture and buy high-quality ingredients.

Calle del Horreo

This bustling street is known for its diverse shops, ranging from clothing boutiques to souvenir stores. It’s a popular shopping destination among both locals and tourists.

Plaza de Galicia

This square is surrounded by shops and boutiques, offering a mix of clothing stores, accessories, and specialty shops. It’s a central location for shopping in Santiago.

Zona Monumental

Around the monumental area of Santiago, you’ll find various artisan shops selling handmade crafts, pottery, and religious souvenirs. These unique shops offer authentic Galician products.

Rua Nova

This street is known for its upscale boutiques, trendy fashion stores, and art galleries. It’s an excellent place for fashion enthusiasts and art lovers to explore unique pieces.

Praza de Cervantes

This square hosts a weekly market where you can find a variety of products, including clothing, accessories, and crafts. It’s a hot spot for bargain hunters.

Galerías Comerciales Casa Central

Located in the city center, these commercial galleries house a selection of shops offering clothing, shoes, accessories, and more. It’s a convenient indoor shopping option, especially during rainy days.

Extra Tip! Remember that most shops in Santiago follow the siesta tradition, closing for a few hours in the afternoon, typically from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Also, many local markets and smaller shops might close on Sundays, so it’s advisable to plan your shopping accordingly.

Curiosities of Santiago de Compostela

  • The city’s name is closely associated with Saint James the Great, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. It is believed that his remains are buried in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.
  • The cathedral is famous for its Botafumeiro, one of the largest censers in the world. During certain religious ceremonies, this massive incense burner swings across the nave of the cathedral, filling the air with a sweet scent.
  • Santiago de Compostela is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the Christian world.
  • The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, is a network of pilgrimage routes leading to Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims from various countries and backgrounds trek these paths, forming a diverse and international community.
  • In addition to Spanish, the official language of Galicia, the region where Santiago is located, is Galician (Galego). Galician is a Romance language closely related to Portuguese and is spoken alongside Spanish in the region.
  • Santiago de Compostela celebrates a Holy Year (Ano Santo) whenever the feast day of St. James (July 25) falls on a Sunday. During these years, the city sees a significant increase in pilgrims and festivities.
  • Santiago de Compostela is one of the rainiest cities in Spain. The city’s lush greenery and gardens are a result of its frequent rainfall, contributing to its picturesque charm.
  • Historically, Santiago de Compostela was considered to be at the “end of the earth” in medieval Europe. Pilgrims traveled from distant lands to reach this symbolic endpoint of their journey.
  • Galicia, the region where Santiago is located, has strong Celtic roots. This influence can be observed in the region’s music, festivals, and cultural traditions.
  • Santiago de Compostela is home to one of the oldest universities in Spain, the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC), founded in 1495.
  • Galicia is renowned for its seafood, and Santiago de Compostela is no exception. The city’s culinary scene boasts delicious dishes featuring fresh seafood, octopus, and other regional specialties.
  • The Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is a stunning example of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architecture. Its construction started in the 11th century, and it took centuries to complete, resulting in a masterpiece of architectural evolution.
  • According to legend, the swinging incense burner, Botafumeiro, was used to fumigate and mask the smell of tired and sweaty pilgrims.
  • The scallop shell is the symbol of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Pilgrims often wear or carry a scallop shell as a sign of their journey.
  • Santiago is a hub for traditional Galician music. You can often find musicians playing bagpipes and other traditional instruments on the streets, creating a lively atmosphere.
  • It’s a tradition to grill sardines in the streets and enjoy them with friends and family.

Vieiras

The scallop shell is the symbol of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. You can find decorative scallop shells in various sizes, often used as ornaments or for hanging on walls.

Compostela Certificates

Pilgrims who complete the Camino de Santiago receive a Compostela certificate. Replicas of these certificates are available for purchase, making for a meaningful souvenir.

 

Tarta de Santiago

Take home a delicious almond cake wrapped in Santiago’s iconic blue and silver packaging. It’s a sweet reminder of your visit to the city.

Traditional Galician Liquors

Orujo (a strong spirit), Licor Café (coffee liqueur), and other Galician liquors are popular souvenirs. Look for locally produced bottles with unique flavors.

Traditional Galician Sweets

Indulge in local sweets like melindres (soft sponge cakes) and filloas (thin pancakes). They are available in charming pastry shops throughout the city.

Celtic Jewelry

Galicia has Celtic roots, and you can find beautiful jewelry inspired by Celtic designs, including rings, bracelets, and necklaces.

Galician Crafts

Handcrafted items such as pottery, ceramics, and woven textiles are available in local markets and stores. These unique crafts showcase the region’s artistic traditions.

Religious Figures

Miniature figurines representing saints or religious icons, popular among pilgrims as spiritual keepsakes from their visit to Santiago de Compostela.

Mugs

Ceramic mugs featuring Santiago’s landmarks or intricate designs.

If you want to discover the complete and up-to-date list of the best souvenirs from Santiago, check out our blog.

General recommendations

Delight in traditional dishes such as pulpo a la gallega (Galician-style octopus), empanadas, zamburiñas and Padron peppers. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor local cheeses and wines. Visit local markets like Mercado de Abastos for an authentic culinary experience.
 

Spanish timings may differ from your accustomed schedule. Many shops and restaurants close during siesta time (around 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.).
 

Explore, savor, and embrace the local culture of Santiago de Compostela to make your visit truly unforgettable.
 

Weather can be quite rainy, take it into account!
 

Santiago de Compostela is renowned for its stunning cathedral. Take the time to explore the interior, marvel at the architecture, and if possible, attend the Pilgrim’s Mass.
 

Even if you’re not a pilgrim, learn about the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. Visit the Pilgrim’s Office to understand the pilgrimage experience and its significance.

If you liked this guide and want to support us, visit our website and discover our exciting range of unique and personally designed souvenirs for Santiago!

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