Santiago de Compostela travel guide

Cities and towns

About Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela in Galicia is the destination of the famous pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago, and a remarkable place of historic and religious importance. 

Pilgrims have made the journey to Santiago de Compostela for over a century along the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St James, which has been designated a World Heritage Route by UNESCO and the First European Cultural Itinerary by the European Parliament. With routes of the Way coming from across Europe, the most famous route is the French Way from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. The pilgrimage route takes pilgrims to the catedral de Santiago de Compostela where the tomb of the apostle James the Greater resides in the underground mausoleum from Roman times. Legend states that James' body was brought to the Spanish coast, where he had preached, by 2 young disciples in a boat led by angels. His body was buried on Monte Liberum Donum where it was discovered by a hermit nearly 800 years later in the 9th century after heavenly lightsd him there. The news of the hermit's discovery was passed onto King Alfonso II of Asturias who made James the patron saint of his kingdom. Pilgrims began arriving soon after the city's foundation and the construction of a chapel which over the years became the exquisite Romanesque and Baroque cathedral that we see today. The city boomed in the Middle Ages as a result of this pilgrimage which was the most profoundly experienced religious and cultural phenomenon of the time.

A visit to the cathedral is unmissable in order to admire the stunning architecture and to travel below the cathedral to the underground cemetery containing St James' tomb amongst other Roman, Swabian and medieval tombs. There is ad tour of the rooftops available or why not explore the cathedral museum, containing archaelogical finds from excavations below the cathedral as well as the chapel of relics, cloister, crypt, royal pantheon and treasury? The fiesta de Apostol Santiago takes place across the second half of July, with fireworks, music and dancing and a High Mass where the giant censer botafumeiro is used. Taking 8 men to set it in motion, it swings purifying incense over the congregation. Due to its religious importance, and the wealth this accrued, there are also many beautiful convents and churches in Santiago de Compostela and some stunning palaces including the Pazo de Raxoi, once the Archbishop's palace and now the City Hall. Santiago de Compostela has much to offer those interested in the region of Galicia with the Museum of Galicia and a Museum of the Galician People. There is also a pilgrimage and town museum in the former Banco de España that contains models of the cathedral and town, and the Galicia Centre of Contemporary Art. Surrounded by hills, there are some excellent scenic viewpoints of the city and countryside. Enjoy wandering the streets of Santiago de Compostela with ad tour, or an audiowalk using an mp3 player if you would rather take things at your own pace. Relax and have fun in the greenery of Alameda Park, the main green space in the city, or visit one of the smaller gardens.

An excellent city for shopping, Santiago de Compostela is split into 4 shopping centres - the malls of Compostela, Area Central and Santiago Centro in the district of El Ensanche, which is full of international brands, Spanish franchises and clothes shops, and the open shopping centre of Compostela monumental in the Old Town, the home of many Galician fashion boutiques, prestigious brands, gastronomic shops and traditional products and souvenirs. The Artesania de Compostela brand authenticates the local and traditional nature of artisanal products such as ceramics, leather goods, silver products and more from 300 local workshops. Galician food is full of fish and seafood (known as morisco) such as hake, turbot, clams, spider crabs, trout and salmon. A stew called caldo gallego is a popular dish made from a mixture of pork, chicken, chorizo, pig's ear and snout with boiled potatoes, chickpeas and turnip tops. Galician beef makes tasty T-bone steaks and sirloin is enjoyed barbecued. For dessert, taste a slice of tarta de Santiago, a cake made with ground almonds and cinammon that has been made for over 200 years and is marked with the apostle's cross on top. Ribeiro wines are great with dinner and why not finish the evening with a glass of eau de vie, a a clear fruit brandy? Eau de vie is used in a local drink known as queimada, which is made whilst reciting spells to protect against the curses of witches and goblins. Enjoy it in one of the many tapas bars and see where else the evening takes you.

Why visit Santiago de Compostela?

  • St James' Way
  • The Cathedral
  • Shopping
  • Food and Drink 

Overview

  • Country: Spain
  • Region: Galicia
  • Province: A Coruña
  • Population: 95,000
  • Coordinates: 42.885776,-8.545012

Coordinates shown are based on the WGS84 system, please check driving directions before departing.

Nearby attractions

A visit to Santiago de Compostela cathedral is unmissable in order to admire the stunning architecture and to travel below the cathedral to the underground cemetery containing St James' tomb amongst other Roman, Swabian and...

One of the city's most interesting monuments, San Anton castle (Castillo de San Antón) in A Coruña was constructed during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Aquarium Finisterrae, the 'aquarium at the end of the world' stands on the Atlantic coast below the Tower of Hercules lighthouse.

The oldest operating lighthouse in the world, the Tower of Hercules is a Roman lighthouse dating from the late 1st century AD. Standing 59m high, the tower has been remodelled several times, most significantly the Neoclassical...

Places to visit nearby

A Coruña in Galicia is a busy port town and historical city, famous for the Battle of Corunna during the Peninsular Wars, which juts out on a pretty peninsula into the Atlantic.

A Coruña in Galicia is a busy port town and historical city, famous for the Battle of Corunna during the Peninsular Wars, which juts out on a pretty peninsula into the Atlantic.