If you are about to start or have completed a Camino de Santiago, you will inevitably visit the city’s magnificent cathedral. But what else is there to do in Santiago de Compostela? Quite a lot, actually, so we suggest adding an extra night or two to your itinerary so that you have time and energy to fully appreciate its charms.
Read on to find out what to do in Santiago de Compostela.
Join the pilgrims in Praza do Obradoiro
However you arrive in Santiago, you are likely to wind up in this enormous square in front of the cathedral. You’ll find all types of pilgrims contemplating the architecture of the intricately carved cathedral while reflecting on their personal journey.
Visit St. James’ tomb in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
The cathedral itself is a striking blend of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture that began its existence as a modest chapel dedicated to St. James. From these humble beginnings, the current monument is home to numerous saintly chapels and statues and the impressive Portico da Glória. Most popular of all are, unquestionably, the crypt containing the supposed remains of St. James and his statue. So much so that they require a traffic light system to control the flow of visitors who come to express devotion.
Attend a Pilgrims’ mass
The daily mass at noon in the cathedral is a touching experience, whether you have completed a Camino or not. Held in honour of those who have made their pilgrimage on foot or by bike to Santiago de Compostela, it’s possible to get your name read out if you register in advance at the pilgrim office.
Nowadays, the gigantic incense burners, botafumeiros, only swing on special occasions but you might be in luck. Their original purpose was to mask the stench of weary unwashed pilgrims who had spent weeks on the road.
Celebrate in style
If your budget is flexible, why not celebrate your own accomplishments with a glass of wine on the terrace of Hostal de los Reyes Católicos? This beautiful building was built as a hospital at the turn of the 16th century for pilgrims, and is now a luxury hotel.
For more modest pockets, there are plenty of bars in the neighbouring streets and squares.
Or, if you prefer to mark the occasion with cake, try the Tarta de Santiago – an almond tart bearing an image of the sword of Saint James. You won’t have to look far to find one of these!
Learn about Galician culture at the Museo do Pobo Galego
Visiting this ethnographic museum gives you two experiences in one. It’s housed in the former convent of San Domingo de Bonaval, which has a wonderful triple spiral staircase, and the fascinating artistic and architectural features of old church.
The museum itself holds displays about local traditions, agricultural and seafaring activities and reconstructions of characteristic village houses, some of which you may recognise if you have done the Camino.
See the region’s best contemporary art
Next to the Museu do Pobo Galego is the Galician Centre of Contemporary Art. The award-winning building was designed by renowned Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira and contains works by both emerging and established Galician artists.
Promenade in Alameda Park
Santiago de Compostela’s most popular park dates back to the 16th century and has long been the site for local celebrations and leisure activities. Take a stroll along the leafy Paseo da Ferradura for picture postcard views of the cathedral and old town.
Relax in the pretty Bonaval Park
Also designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira, what was once the cemetery for the São Domingo de Bonaval Convent is now a peaceful green space filled with flowers and lawns where you can sit in the shade and admire the views across the city.
Explore the medieval streets
Santiago’s historical centre was classified as UNESCO World Heritage in 1985, thanks to the wealth of buildings from the Middle Ages onwards. Among them, you’ll find a range of souvenir, boutique and gourmet shops, restaurants and cafés.
At some point, you are bound to encounter the former market square of Praza de Cervantes, dominated by an imposing building that was once the City Hall. This attractive square has a less endearing history – during the Inquisition, this is where trials and punishments were carried out.
Pick up some local produce at Mercado de Abastos
Established in 1873, the city’s popular indoor market is housed within a robust and attractive granite building. Open from 7 am to 3 pm Monday to Saturday, this is a great place to come to experience the sights, sounds, aromas and flavours of Galician produce and pick up some delicious treats.
Take another Camino to the end of the world
While Santiago de Compostela marks the end of the journey for many pilgrims, it doesn’t have to be. If you have time, why not continue to the very edge of the peninsula at Fisterra, which the Romans thought of as the ‘end of the world’? This is a quieter route and the end point has been a symbolic and meaningful destination for thousands of years.
Our tireless team is available to help all those who wish to discover the Camino de Santiago in a calm and comfortable way.