Santiago de Compostela: its best plans

Santiago de Compostela is so influenced by its Jacobean treasure, that many people visit it but most of them don’t really understand it. Very few people know that  you have to stay in Santiago for at least a couple of days, because if this city were a person it would be an extremely welcoming one. Stimulating and vibrant, it’s someone who does not stay at home even on bad weather days. Someone who remembers past stories and always look for new ones. In Santiago you have to stay to enjoy its streets, crowded with students, the taverns with that particular sea smell. You have to enjoy its life and the many plans it offers, even if it’s under the rain. By the way, do not forget to bring an umbrella!

Its look: first impressions

Obradoiro square santiago de compostela

Obradoiro square with the cathedral. | Shutterstock

The most superficial thing about Santiago de Compostela, what is known at first sight, what conquers in that way that has the beauty to conquer. Santiago is well known for its Obradoiro square and its cathedral, the Santa Apostólica y Metropolitana Iglesia Catedral de Santiago de Compostela. The superficial, in this case, is of priceless value. One should look for the perfect view of the cathedral from the Platerías square, where once, in the Middle Ages, goldsmiths stood to sell their goods. From this its name. Also the paths through the Alameda Park, with its two Marías always present. You have to walk through the historic center slowly and without a map.

The first impressions of Santiago de Compostela can appear from the many viewpoints that surround the city, but generally come from the old town, because it is where travelers land. The first thing you see, the first thing you wish to see. But staying in it is like staying in a person’s eyes, which in this case would be blue like the sea that feels close, or perhaps gray like the buildings that make up the city. It is not enough, however, to keep the first look. To get to know a place, as it happens with people, you have to wander around, walk a hundred times around the same places, ask a lot of questions and always be curious. All this fits very well with Santiago, university city, holy city, city of the past and of the future.

To know its personality

Santiago has always a house full of friends to whom it prepare the best dinner. Zamburiñas and razor clams from the nearby Rias Baixas and for dessert something with almonds: Santiago’s cake. In Galicia any excuse is a good excuse to eat, and also to drink. And Santiago is no exception. A city that smells like tradition while looking to the future, there are a thousand plans that speak well of a personality focused on culture and history, but with a clear space for life in society.

Compostela as a way of life


One of the streets of the old town of Santiago

That lovely, lazy rain gives way to moments of peace in the city, but there’s no reason to lock yourself indoors. The concept of ‘compostelanear‘ is one of Santiago’s secrets and basically consists of betting on food, drink and conversation while watching the rain on the other side of the windows. Of course, this can be done in any city of the geography, but you should not leave Santiago without knowing this term.

The Abastos market, a must see

Abastos Market

Abastos Market. | Shutterstock

Visiting the Abastos market is a nice way to fit among the inhabitants of Santiago. It is a covered space that has been runing since the late 19th century. A five-minute walk from the famous cathedral, this market consists of eight aisles offering typical local products. It is a perfect place, for example, to buy the prized barnacles, which can also be prepared in the bars that are there, to enjoy them immediately after purchasing them. A gastronomic and social experience.

Santiago, Holy City

Church of Santa Maria do Sar santiago

Church of Santa Maria do Sar. | Shutterstock

In addition to the popular cathedral, Santiago de Compostela has several religious buildings to visit. You can’t be a Holy City by any means, of course. The monastery of San Martiño Pinario, in Plaza de la Inmaculada, whose facade dates back to the 16th century, is one of the most interesting spots. Inside, in addition to highlighting the choir and its two cloisters. It houses a museum of religious art that has up to 12 exhibition halls full of paintings, sculptures and biographies of historical figures. Also noteworthy is the collegiate church of Santa María do Sar, built following the characteristics of the Romanesque style in the far 12th century on the banks of the river Sar.

A university city

university santiago

One of the most beautiful pictures of the university. | Shutterstock

The university face of Santiago de Compostela is very important to understand its personality, because every morning, afternoon and evening the university students take up the streets, the bars, the natural spaces of the city. It is essential to visit this five hundred year old university. You can access different guided tours that review the most emblematic places of the different faculties and those corners that have made this university one of the most important in Spain.

Looking to the future

Cidade da Cultura

The impressive forms of the Cidade da Cultura. | Shutterstock

Santiago is an old city and likes to keep its own, but it has a young spirit and likes to experiment, to innovate. The Cidade da Cultura is an example. This group of buildings raised a few debates when it was installed at the top of Mount Gaiás. Its contemporary, extravagant forms can be seen in the distance from various points of the city and will surprise from each one of them. In this small city of culture is the library and archive of Galicia, also the Gaiás Center Museum, one of the most unique buildings in Santiago. One should not leave without looking at the Gaiás Donut, which makes you smile with what is perhaps the most original postcard of the city.

Going back to the city center, the Museum-Foundation Eugenio Granell will delight lovers of contemporary art, as it houses a large collection of surrealist art. It usually has temporary exhibitions that bring to Santiago movements from other countries and continents. Eugenio Granell himself, a native of A Coruña, was the driving force behind its creation.

Galician mythology

It is often said that there is no Galician corner without its legend and Mount Viso brings together many of the figures that star in this famous mythology. From the top of this place you can enjoy a perfect panoramic view of Santiago, the mountains and valleys that surround it. If you go hiking you will also enjoy the folklore. In the mythological path of Mount Viso are represented, in the form of sculpture, figures such as lamias or meigas, in which nobody believes, but surrounded by mystery.

To learn about its past

Pórtico de la Gloria santiago

Pórtico de la Gloria, on the list of Santiago’s must-sees. | Shutterstock

Because it is important to know the origin to understand the present. As has been said, Santiago is an ancient city that has its birth, as the city it is today, linked to the discovery of the remains of the Apostle Santiago, in the early 9th century. The relics of the Apostle and his disciples are found in a mausoleum of Roman origin under the main altar of the cathedral, inside a silver urn from the 19th century. This crypt can be visited, so it may be the most direct trip to the first origin of Santiago, but it is not the only one.

The medieval remains

Arch of Mazarelos

Arch of Mazarelos. | Shutterstock

The case of Lugo, with its ancient medieval wall practically untouched, is a strange case, since the usual thing is that, stepping into the contemporary era, these were pulled down to ease the expansion of cities. Santiago de Compostela demolished its walls in the 19th century, but some vestiges can still be found. The clearest is the arch of Mazarelos, one of the seven gates through which allowed the access to the enclosure. Near this arch is the fountain of Santo Antonio, as well as the only remaining tower.

The first wall was built in the 10th century, but it did not last long: Almanzor demolished it when he approached the city, the object of his desires. It was in the eleventh century when a second wall was built, five meters high and two and a half meters thick. Remains of this second attempt to wall Santiago de Compostela are still preserved.

The Galician people, in a museum

Museo do Pobo Galego

Staircase of the Museo do Pobo Galego. | Shutterstock

The Museo do Pobo Galego, in the northeast of the city, has both permanent and temporary exhibitions. The aim of all of them is to showcase the culture, traditions and art of Galicia. With more than 10,000 exhibits, from fishing boats to historical costumes, it also has architectural surprises such as the triple helicoidal staircase that unites, as is always the case in Santiago, past with present and future. In this museum, located in the old convent of San Domingos de Bonaval, from the 13th century, rest the remains of important figures of Galician culture, such as Rosalía de Castro. It is the Panteón de Galegos Ilustres (Pantheon of Illustrious Galicians).

Its friends: a trip to the surroundings

Tell me who you hang out with and I’ll tell you who you are, goes the saying, and although the surroundings do not determine the personality of a place, the geographical context is important to understand the place where you are. In this case, the sea can almost be smelled from Santiago. With the viewpoints and nearby mountains already explored, it is time to explore more spots.

Rias Baixas, the perfect partner


The village of Noia looks like this from a distance. | Shutterstock

A visit to the Rias Baixas is almost a must. A trip to Noia, a beautiful medieval village just half an hour by car, is a first and successful approach to this area of Galicia so popular and so authentic. It is essential to understand the relationship of the land with the sea if you want to leave it with the feeling of having known it. So you have to hit the road, the Rias are waiting for you with open arms.

A Ponte Maceira, the magic of little things

Ponte Maceira

Ponte Maceira. | Shutterstock

Another equally suggestive alternative is to discover the small towns and villages scattered around the capital, as is the case of A Ponte Maceira. Many pilgrims will know it on their way to Fisterra, but it is worth knowing it in the same way even if it is not from the Way to Santiago. It is located just twenty minutes from Santiago and its scenic wealth is superb.

It is a great way to complete the journey, although the basics have already been said. In Santiago de Compostela you have to stay, as many days as possible.

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