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Santiago City Guide
- Places of Interest
- Getting to
- Getting around the city
There are few places in Spain so steeped in history and myth as Santiago de Compostela. Best known as the burial place of Santiago, thousands of pilgrims flood the city all year round as the final destination on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, bringing a wealth of different people to the city from all over the world. Few are disappointed by what they find in Santiago de Compostela after many weeks of hard trekking. The stunning cathedral, the ample cultural possibilities, the buzzing student feel of the city; Santiago de Compostela is the kind of city you want to come to again and again.
Myth has it that the body of Santiago was brought from the Holy Land in a stone boat to Padrón, on the coast of Spain, before being buried 17km inland at Santiago de Compostela. In 813 it is said a religious hermit was brought to the burial place of Santiago by a guiding star (hence the name Compostela). The Asturian King Alfonso II erected a church on the holy remains and soon after pilgrims began flocking to the site.
However, Santiago de Compostela is so much more than a sacred pilgrimage site. As well as boasting a multitude of historical and cultural activities, the city is home to a rich and lively nightlife, largely due to the significant student population which reaches 40,000 during term time. The city is also the gateway to the intriguing region of Galicia, of which it is the capital. Take in the spirituality of the cathedral, wander the winding medieval streets or sample the famous gastronomy of the region, Santiago de Compostela is bound to enchant you just as it has so many people over thousands of years.
Places of Interest
Catedral del Apóstol
This stunning cathedral makes the long trek along the Camino de Santiago worth every step. It has a mesmerizing baroque façade, added in the 18th century. At 12.00 every day a mass takes place for pilgrims, which is something not to be missed. To the right of the façade is the entrance to the Cathedral Museum, which houses the cathedral's cloister, treasury and crypt.
Colexiata de Santa María do Sar
Situated about 1 km south of the old town, this Romanesque building is notable for the way in which it obviously tilts to one side! Inside, the beautiful cloister still remains, and there is a small museum, mainly of Romanesque sculptures.
Colexio de Fonseca
This is the original seat of the Universidad de Santiago, and boasts a beautiful courtyard, university library and exhibition gallery.
Hostal dos Reis Católicos
This hostal was originally built by Fernando and Isabella to house the poor and infirm, but now it is a luxury Parador hotel.
Mosteiro de San Martiño Pinario Church
If you follow the cathedral walls northwards towards Praza da Inmaculada, you will see the imposing Mosteiro de San Martiño Pinario rising up on the far side. The façade hides two 17th century cloisters, only open during the summer when the monastery opens to house tourists and pilgrims.
Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea
This museum houses a variety of impressive modern art pieces.
Museo das Peregranacións
This museum is dedicated to the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Well worth a visit.
Santiago de Compostela is beautifully green and full of parks and gardens where you can take in the beauty of your surroundings. The city is also fully equipped for a variety of sports, such as golf, fishing and hiking.
Getting to Santiago de Compostela
There is an airport 11km east of the city. Ryanair flies daily to and from London Stansted, as well as to Rome, Frankfurt and a variety of places in Spain. Air Berlin flies to and from several German cities. Iberia also flies up to six times daily to Madrid, three times to Barcelona and Bilbao and once to Amsterdam and to Brussels. AirEuropa and Spanair also have flights to Madrid and Barcelona.
There are both day and overnight trains to Santiago from Madrid Chamartín (42.20€). Hourly trains run to A Coruña (from 3.60€) and to Pontevedra and Vigo (5.45€ and 7.40€). There are six or more daily trains to Ourense (from 6.60€) and one to Irún, on the French border, which stops at León, Burgos and San Sebastián.
Hourly services run from Santiago's bus station to A Coruña (6.15€, one hour), Noia (2.95€, 45 minutes) and Muros (5.70€, two hours), and nine daily services to Pontevedra (4.95€, one hour) and Vigo (7.25€, 1.5 hours). There are also 10 daily services to Ourense (9.20€, two hours), and up to five daily services to Cambados and O Grove (6€, two hours).
ALSA operates up to six daily buses to Madrid, two or three to Oviedo, Salamanca, Cáceres and Seville, and one to Barcelona, Porto and Lisbon. With ALSA, you can also travel to Paris, London, Brussels, Amsterdam and Zurich from Santiago.Daily services also run to places along the Costa da Morte and the Rías Baixas, and cities to the east such as Lugo, Santander, San Sebastián and Burgos.
Getting around the city
You can get around most of Santiago on foot, but if you want to go somewhere slightly further out then you have at your disposal 16 different bus lines, 4 of which are circular and go to most parts of the city. One journey costs 0.80€.
Try and go to the Pilgrim's mass in the cathedral if you get the chance, which takes place every day at midday. This mass is to greet pilgrims who have walked for many miles to reach Santiago de Compostela.