Most renowned as one of the major pilgrimage spots seconding only Jerusalem and Rome, Santiago de Compostela, the capital city of the Region of Galicia, attracts thousands of visitors each year. It is believed that the city is the resting place of the remains of St. James the apostle. Despite the strong connection the city has with the Catholic faith, Santiago has clearly much more to offer.
From mild weather all throughout the year, breath-taking architectural marvels, lively atmosphere, and rich culture, Santiago is guaranteed to not only enlighten the faithful but to also heal the ordinary traveler’s soul. Here are ten of the best things everyone can enjoy while in the city of Santiago:
1. Visit the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
No visit to the capital is ever complete without seeing this gem. However debated the validity of the city’s claim over the remains of St. James the great may be, it doesn’t stop hundreds of pilgrims and non-pilgrims from visiting. From its Romanesque architecture and incredible interior design, it never fails to make anyone stop and marvel at the sight.
The cathedral is open all year round from 7:00 am to 8:30 pm. The pilgrims’ mass starts at 12 noon during weekdays and 10 am during weekends. For those who would want to catch the pilgrims’ mass, be sure to be there at least an hour earlier to save yourself a seat as it does get crowded. Tours are also allowed within the cathedral however, it may prove difficult for those who do not speak the Spanish language. Audio guides are available in Spanish, Galician, French, German, and English in the Praza de Obradoiro.
As a final reminder, please do observe proper decorum and silence while inside the cathedral as it still is a holy space before a tourist destination.
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
Address: Praza Obradoiro S/N, 15704, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Website: Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
2. Catch the Botafumeiro in action
Equally famous as the cathedral itself is the Botafumeiro - a giant censer swinging from the ceilings of the cathedral. It’s one of the largest of its kind in the world, it even takes a total of eight men to make it move. The Botafumeiro is used like any other censer and makes its appearance during the opening of the mass and at the end of the Eucharist, however, it is not entirely easy to catch it in action.
The Botafumeiro only operates on special occasions like the Epiphany on January 26, Resurrection Sunday, the Ascension, the Apparition on May 23, Pentecost, the Martyrdom of St. James on July 25, The Assumption of Mary on August 15, All Saints Day on November 1, Christ the King, Immaculate Conception on December 8, Christmas Day, and during the transfer of the remains of the Apostle on December 20. Other than these dates, the Botafumeiro can operate by request at a price.
Address: Praza Inmaculada s/n, 15704, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
3. Cathedral of Santiago Museum
West of the cathedral building lies this museum which houses a collection of important archaeological exhibits and a library holding the history of the city and most specifically, the cathedral. There are 6 different types of tours that take you to 5 different areas of the cathedral and one which is a combination of two tours.
The museum is open from Monday to Sunday from 9:00 am - 8:00 pm during April until October and 10:00 am - 8:00 pm during November until March. It is closed on the 1st and 6th of January as well as the 25th of July and December. The tours are centralized at the Visitor Reception Center in Praza Obradoiro.
Cathedral of Santiago Museum
Address: Praza Obradoiro S/N, 15704, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Website: Cathedral of Santiago Museum
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Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain
4. Take a breather in Mirador Parque da Alameda
Santiago has a lot of parks and gardens but Alameda’s Park is its oldest and most ingrained in the history and culture of the city. The park is a short 10-15 minute walk from the cathedral so it’s perfect for those who would want a break from exploring the city’s icon. Not only does the park boast its ninety species of flora, centuries old statues and monuments, but it also provides visitors a fantastic view of old town and the museum.
Mirador Parque da Alameda
Address: Parque da Alameda, Paseo da Ferradura, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Website: Mirador Parque da Alameda
5. Museum of Galician People
Located just outside the walls of Old Town lies the former convent of San Domigos de Boneval which is now occupied by the Museum of Galician People. The museum seeks to teach its visitors the ethnography, archaeology, and art the Galician people of past and present have. They have galleries dedicated to their relationship with the sea, the land, and most importantly their people.
It is closed every Monday and is open on weekdays from 10:30 am - 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, while it is open from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm on weekends.
Museum of Galician People
Address: Rua Ramon del Valle Inclan 3, 15703, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Website: Museo do Pobo Galego
6. Plaza Cervantes
In the heart of the city sits this small quaint square where you can find the statue of none-other than Don Quixote. The plaza primarily serves as a meeting point or pit stop for those who are approaching the finale of their Camino as the plaza leads to the cathedral. The plaza is lined with several shops and restaurants to cater to the incoming pilgrims and non pilgrim’s needs.
Address: Plaza Fonseca, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Website: Plaza Cervantes
7. Centro Galego de Arte Contemporenea
Amidst the number of Romanesque buildings in the city the CGAC lets you break away from the usual scenery. As its name depicts, the center is devoted to contemporary art as well as the other trends during the past decades. The CGAC is Santiago’s statement to the world that their people are able to embrace diversity. They hold several exhibitions, workshops, and incursions in fields other than the visual arts.
The CGAC is open every day except on Mondays from 11:00 am - 8:00 pm. Entry is free of charge.
Galician Center of Contemporary Art
Address: Rua Valle Inclan, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Website: Galician Center of Contemporary Art
8. Monasterio de San Martin Pinario
There’s no debate over the staircase’s ability to make one and stop and stare. But the staircase is not the only thing the monastery has to offer. The monastery has a church and a museum within its compounds which have their own unique charm. The museum has some items which are not usually seen in museums of its kind, like old stuffed toys and wax dolls to name a few.
Monasterio de San Martin Pinario
Address: Praza da Inmaculada 3, Santiago de Compostela, 15704
Operating Hours: November-April: Tuesday-Saturday 11:00 am-1:30 pm and 4:00 pm-6:30 pm, Sunday 11:00 am-1:30 pm; May-September: Monday-Sunday 11:00 pm-2:00 pm and 4:00 pm-7:00 pm
Entrance Fee: 2-3 EUR (2.5-4 USD)
Contact Number/s: +34 981583008 / Ext. 514 & +34 676962264
Website: Monasterio de San Martin Pinario
9. Shop in Mercado de Abastos de Santiago
From bread, meat, seafood, dairy, and fruit to flowers, jewelry, perfumes, and clothes, you literally can find anything and everything here. The market is a lively, often busy but pleasant little part of town. With kind shopkeepers, guaranteed fresh produce, and warm ambiance, there is no question as to why this market is so loved by both locals and tourists. If you’re ever looking for the perfect place to shop for souvenirs or just shopping in general, this is the place to go.
Mercado de Abastos de Santiago
Address: Praza de Abastos, Torre Central Baixo, 15704, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Operating Hours: 9:00 am-3:00 pm
10. See the Tuna de Derecho de Santiago perform
What better way to end an evening than listening to one of the city’s most famous performers? The Tuna de Derecho is a troupe of students (usually law students) coming from Santiago University who sing, play instruments, and even do gags on the side. They usually play for tips or when you purchase their CDs. The joyful atmosphere these talented men deliver is definitely infectious as they never finish a performance without leaving their audience with a smile.
Tuna de Derecho de Santiago
Address: Rua de Jerusalen, 8, Bajo, 15705, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Time for some healing
Pilgrim or not, the city of Santiago de Compostela will leave you refreshed. Because more than the views and the activities, the thing that makes everyone come back to Santiago time and time again is the experience. Whether you’re soul-searching or just taking a break from everything, Santiago de Compostela is sure to provide you what you’ve been looking for.
So stop waiting, come and visit Santiago de Compostela now!
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