Santiago de Compostela
The end of the journey for weary pilgrims and the supposed resting place of one of the 12 apostles, Santiago de Compostela is a city with a dazzling artistic and historical richness. It is one of the essential destinations in the Catholic world.
You will need a lot of time to see the old centre and its vibrant ensemble of churches, monasteries and stately squares that have taken shape around the place of pilgrimage since the 1990s. The most important monuments all belong to a UNESCO site and its beautiful architectural achievements with details such as Romanesque sculptures that have been preserved for a thousand years.
Let’s look at the best things to do in Santiago de Compostela:
1 Plaza del Obradoiro
The “Praça do Obradoiro” is the most famous square and the heart of the city where the cathedral is located. Hundreds of pilgrims arrive here every day, and in the middle of the square, there is “kilometre 0”, the exact endpoint of the pilgrimage. Furthermore, on the square to the west is the town hall, the former neoclassical palace Pazo de Raxoi. To the north lies the Hostal de Los Reyes Católicos, an old hospital and to the south the San Jéronimo college.
2 Camino de Santiago
If you visit Santiago, the chances are that some people on the street have come a long way to be here. The Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) is a European network of paths that meet in Roncesvalles and Jaca near the Spanish border and then continue the 800 km long route westwards through northern Spain to Santiago. It is a Catholic pilgrimage to the supposed final resting place of the saint in the cathedral. To see a little Galician landscape, you can try to walk a small part of the route, marked by the famous shell.
3 Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
The reason for every pilgrimage is the visit of this Romanesque-Gothic cathedral as the final destination. According to legend, the remains of Apostle James lies in the crypt under the high altar. The construction of the temple began in 1077 under Alfonso VI of Castile and impressed the church impressively above the city. The facade of the cathedral (Fachada do Obradoir) is in Baroque style and was placed in the 18th century to protect the elements of nature.
4 Casco Historico
Within the city walls of Santiago, you will be forgiven for believing that you are stepping through a film set.
In the Santiago tourism office, you can download an mp3 that you can listen to while taking a lazy, three-hour walk past the most prestigious sights in the historic centre of the city, leading you to all the major squares and ending in leafy Alameda Park.
The little Rúa do Franco, which is connected to Prazo do Obradoiro, is a beautiful old street, a slender artery between old stone houses where many of the best restaurants in the city can be found.
5 Monastery of San Martiño Pinario
Monasterio de San Martin Pinario is a large Benedictine monastery complex located on Plaza de la Inmaculada square. The monastery was built in the 11th century in Baroque style with a gracefully detailed facade. Inside the monastery is a church with a beautiful gilt altar, a collection of valuable paintings and religious objects.
It was founded in the ninth century by a group of Benedictine monks who settled in the city after receiving news about the discovery of the remains of St. James. What you see today, dates from the end of the 15th century, the result of an injection of wealth after the monastery became part of the Benedictine congregation of the city of Valladolid. The church is a powerful piece of Baroque architecture, considered one of the most spectacular in Spain. Go to the choir to see the stunning detail of the carvings and admire the retables of 18th-century architect Fernando de Casas Novoa.
6 Hostal de Los Reyes Católicos
In 1499, the Catholic royal couple Isabella and Ferdinand founded this impressive hotel on Plaza Obradoiro Square as a hospital. It was then used for the reception and care of the pilgrims. Nowadays, a renowned and exclusive hotel in Spain.
7 Praza da Quintana
This square is completely isolated by the majestic monuments of the Casco Historico. The east side is blocked by the high, flat wall of the monastery of San Paio de Antealtares. It was founded in the 800s to provide the tomb of St. James, which was only recently discovered. On the west side is, of course, the bell tower of the Cathedral of Santiago.
It is called the Berengial, after Archbishop Berenguel de Landoira who supervised its construction in the 1300s. Along the stairs, the lower part of the square was a cemetery until the end of the 18th century.
Because you are so close to the beautiful coast of Galicia, you have to go further and see for yourself. Noia is the first city you c. Like many on the beach, it relies on fish and a massive harvest of shellfish that takes place in the fall. Just like Santiago, Noia has a charming old centre with the breathtaking gothic church of San Martino in the middle: when you enter through the leading portal, you look at the detailed engravings in the arch. The other reason to visit is to follow the wild Atlantic coastline of Galicia, which has deep fjord-like rocks, called rias here. You can walk from Noia to go to the nearest beach or get in the car to discover another 45 minutes within 45 minutes.
9 Palacio de Rajoy
The town hall on Plaza del Obradoiro square opposite the cathedral. Previously this 18th-century building was a palace built by Archbishop Rajoy that was used for various purposes. On the roof is a statue of the apostle James.