If you are doing Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, seeing Santiago de Compostela is a spiritual and meaningful experience that celebrates and shows your dedication and personal power. But even if you are just passing by, Santiago de Compostela is a city worth seeing because of it’s gorgeous architecture, the breathtaking Cathedral, unique bars and inspiring people-watching journey. This place will change you, whether you are just passing by or staying a few days, if you find yourself in Spain – do not miss a chance to visit Galicia and Santiago de Compostela.
The best time to visit Santiago de Compostela is between March and May or between September to November. Winters are mild but it gets cloudy, rainy and windy. Summer season has great weather but it brings crowds and the heat.
- Santiago de Compostela is one of the three major Christian pilgrimage sites
- The legend says the town is the burial place of St James the Greater, patron saint of Spain, first Christian martyr, and one of the Twelve Apostles
- Camino de Santiago routes and the old-town center are both UNESCO world heritage sites
- If you want your Compostela certificate, you must walk at least 100 kms into Santiago
Santiago de Compostela is big enough to have just about anything you need, but small enough to feel like a friendly and welcoming community. You can see the whole city in one day but the spirit of Santiago de Compostela will lure you in to wanting to stay longer! However, if you only have 24 hours in Santiago de Compostela, here are some ideas on how you can make the most of your time there.
The Way of St. James, often known as the Camino de Santiago, is a network of historic pilgrimage paths that crisscrosses Europe and ends at the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish) in Santiago de Compostela. Once you check in your hotel, the star of Santiago de Compostela is its Cathedral.
Every day, more than 10,000 visitors come to visit The Cathedral of Santiago. Not only is it impressive to look at, but you can just stand in front and people watch for hours! The full tour includes the museums, the tribune, and the climb to the roofs, but the access to the main area is completely free. If you are visiting the Cathedral for the first time there is a ritual: see the Portico de la Gloria, hug the Saint James figure, go down to the crypt, and finally up to the rooftop!
Once you’ve done this, you can find the Museum of Santiago and the Pilgrimages near the Cathedral – if you want to know more about Camino de Santiago and it’s history definitely check it out. It might inspire you to try it yourself!
Down Virxe da Cerca street, which runs north to south through the old walled city, lose yourself in the market has been held every week since 1873. The current market complex was built in the 1940s, and the eight halls’ granite walls and whitewashed barrel-vaulted ceilings are reminiscent of the nearby church.
Around 70 different vendors run their businesses out of the stands in these halls, selling everything from just caught fish and shellfish to fresh fruits and vegetables (many of which are grown in Galicia’s northwest region). Even if you don’t like shellfish, it’s fun to wander by the ice beds and see the bright, striped fish, the scallops that are Santiago’s national symbol. There is no better spot to find authentic Galician goods like cured meats, soft cheeses, empanadas (savory pies), and homebrewed wine!
Santiago de Compostela is extremely picturesque, everywhere you go seems to resemble a sort of a fairytale. Spend a part of your 24 hours in Santiago de Compostela getting lost in the old town.
Countless restaurants and bars where you can enjoy the delectable seafood of Galicia, an old town center that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, daring contemporary art ,charming squares like Praza das Praterías (with the best view of the belltower, La Berenguela), or Praza da Quintana with its pretty stairs, as well as other monuments like the Monastery of San Martiño Pinario. Stop in all the shops – they have so many interesting things to see. From religious souvenirs to historical artifacts, from colorful interesting clothes to incredibly unique art!
Often missed by travelers because it’s not exactly a monument, this place is definitely worth seeing. It’s located in the old town near the Cathedral, and it’s a perfect spot to go for some quiet time. The most magnificent of all buildings is Compostelana University and its rooms include the Central Hall (decorated with frescoes by Fenollera and González), the Rectorship (with a fabulous 17th century stall), and the Libraries. If you are a digital nomad or just want to get away from the crowds, you can study or work in the library. The library itself is amazing – even if you don’t have work to do- check it out!
There are plenty of places to eat in Satiago de Compostela, but the one we recommend for lunch is Casa Manolo. You will find the place packed with pilgrims tired from their recently finished journey and you will find huge portions for a good price! Casa Manolo is a restaurant located in an incomparable setting within the old town of Santiago de Compostela, known worldwide among the pilgrims who come to the city, its traditional Galician food at a good price has made it famous to be selected in multiple guides as a necessary place of passage on the way. After that have a coffee in one of the many cafe’s around and continue your one day in Santiago de Compostela.
Some of the best views of Santiago de Compostela’s old district may be seen from the terraces of this unusual museum. The Galician Contemporary Art Centre (CGAC), designed by Portuguese architect lvaro Siza, is a striking structure. It creates a harmonious ensemble where the historic and modern aspects of the city merge, along with the San Domingos de Bonaval Convent and the corresponding park. Visitors can see works by modern Galician artists in addition to the Arco Foundation collection, as well as a variety of transient shows focused on the current major trends in art. The center features a number of rooms for both ongoing and one-time exhibits, as well as an auditorium, a library, a café, and office space.
Constructed in 1758, this lavish aristocratic palace is recognized for its magnificent facade and it is one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in the Galicia region. The structure is situated on the Plaza de las Plateras (Praza das Praterías) with a large fountain in the middle. In his work “Mi Hermana Antonia”, Spanish author Valle-Inclán describes how the Casa del Cabildo served as inspiration. The structure underwent renovation in 2011 and was transformed into an exhibition room; the monument is a part of Santiago de Compostela’s association of museums. When there are art exhibitions held here, the Casa del Cabildo is accessible to the general public.
Close to the Old Town, this beautiful and lush park, which is a must see in Santiago de Compostela. Both locals and tourists enjoy the gorgeous views of the Cathedral and the city! The park dates back to the 16th century, is a significant component of the urban landscape of the city and provides stunning views of the west front of the cathedral.
The Parque de La Alameda is a haven for Mediterranean vegetation, subtropical species, exotic blooms, and a wide range of roses. The eight-hectare park’s three distinct gardens and notable structures like the Iglesia de El Pilar (1717) and the well-known Porta dos Leóns (Lions entrance), carved in 1835, are among its many outstanding features.
There is a surprising amount of places to eat and drink in Santiago de Compostela. Every little alley has a cool bar, tapas restaurant or a cafe. But we’ve tried a few we really liked! The first one is Paraiso Perdido. A very interesting bar with a long history in Santiago de Compostela. You will find many locals here!
If you are in Santiago de Compostela on a monday or tuesday however, Paraiso Perdido is closed. In that case our second place goes to Modus Vivendi – the first pub in Galician history! Amazing for live music and live theater shows. Definitely check it out! And the third place goes to Fuco Lois where you can have reasonably priced drink in a great atmosphere, we loved it!
Where to Stay In Santiago de Compostela
Hotel Montenegro Compostela
Rúa de Xelmírez, 18, 15705 Santiago de Compostela
The elegant rooms of the Hotel Montenegro Compostela are housed in a 16th-century townhouse and are situated in the picturesque old town of Santiago de Compostela. Original elements like exposed stone walls and beamed ceilings are blended with contemporary white furnishings in each room at the Hotel Montenegro Compostela. Within 100 meters of the hotel are Santiago’s renowned cathedral and the terminus of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. It takes five minutes to walk to Monte da Almáciga Park, and there are lots of eateries nearby.
Hotel Praza Quintana
Rúa da Conga, 9, 15704 Santiago de Compostela
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Plaza de las Plateras, Plaza de la Quintana, and Plaza del Obradoiro are all within a minute’s walk of the opulent Hotel Praza Quintana, which is situated in the heart of Santiago de Compostela’s historic district. On the fourth level, with sloping ceilings and a partial view of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, are the rooms with views.
Rua Das Galeras, 18, 15705 Santiago de Compostela
In the center of Santiago de Compostela, near public transportation, the Hostal Costa Azul provides accommodations that are family-friendly and good if you’re on a budget. A communal bathroom and heating are provided in each room. There are some rooms with the views of the Cathedral. Hostal Costa Azul is 300 meters from Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, and the tourism office is 700 meters away.
Just an hour away from Santiago de Compostela, situated beside the Atlantic Ocean, A Coruña is a beautiful city whose history has maintained close links with its old fishing and commercial port. The Aquarium Finisterrae, Domus and the Science Museum are a few of the spaces that show the more modern and playful side of the city of A Coruña, which offers one of its most beautiful scenes on the wide Riazor and Orzán beaches. The food of A Coruña combines the best of the coast and the interior!
An hour south from Santiago De Compostela. Everything is within walking distance in Pontevedra, and there is a ton to see. Real treasures, such as the superb jewelry dating back 4,000 years and the collection of gold and silver objects at the Museum of Pontevedra, which is unique in Europe. Additionally, there are other gems like the Church of Santa Maria, the Santo Domingo Ruins, and the Church of San Bartolomé. There are parks, tree-lined streets, riverside walks right in the midst of the city, and Galicia’s most significant historic district after Santiago. populated squares with fountains and gardens, stone homes with coats of arms on their facades, and sidewalk cafés with a vibrant ambiance that lasts into the early hours.
The city that gives the Ras Baixas’ southernmost estuary its name, Vigo, is located in the Galician province of Pontevedra on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. A historical neighborhood with a distinct nautical flavor has been left behind from its fishing roots, which contrasts with the contemporary amenities of its marinas. The cities and villages along the Vigo estuary and the Cés Isles, which are a part of the National Park of the Atlantic Islands, may both be visited from this city very easily. An additional reason to visit this area is the cuisine, which is based on fish and shellfish, the best in Galician coast!
Finisterre (Fisterra) – End of The World
On the rugged Costa da Morte is a fabled location known as Finisterre, or Fisterra in Galician. The Romans, who considered the settlement to be “the end of the world,” gave it its name. Today, Finisterre serves as many pilgrims’ camino’s conclusion, where they watch the sunset and burn their garments in a ritual to commemorate their rebirth. Cape Finisterre has one of the most stunning sunset in the world! It should come as no surprise that one of Europe’s westernmost locations would have a spectacular sunset, but it’s even more spectacular than you could imagine. Additionally, Cape Finisterre is located at a significant altitude above sea level so you have a magnificent view of the ocean from the cliffs near to the lighthouse. In June the sun sets at approximately 11.30 p.m, just before midnight!
- Spanish siesta – in Galicia and rest of Spain businesses and stores close between 2 and 4 p.m.
- Lunch and dinner hours – lunch is at around 2:00 – 3:00 pm, after that most places close the kitchen. Dinner starts around 9pm in the winter and even later in the summer – so plan accordingly!
- Bring an umbrella – if you happen to be in Galicia anytime but the summer – bring an umbrella, it rains a lot!
- Spanish and Galician Language – locals speak Spanish and Galician language, Galician is closest to Portuguese, but it reflects influence from Spanish.
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Romi is a llama coach from Split, Croatia. This sounds made up but it’s true. She lived in Toronto, Canada for about ten years, give or take, but she wasn’t working with llamas. She was working in PR, restaurants, daycares, one yoga clothing store. She doesn't know how she got that job as she has never done yoga at that point. She taught English in Colombia and Vietnam. Traveled the world for two years. Then she got into writing. Actually, she was always writing, but then someone paid her to write. Then more people paid because they saw she was making them money. Then it became a thing she does for a living. And here we are now. Specializing in travel, real estate, and digital nomad guides, familiar with SEO, and always ready to learn something new so she can branch out and take over the world.