Visit Santiago de Compostela; a travel guide to the city of Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Photo of Santiago de Compostela (Galicia region)

Visit Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela is in the province of A Coruna and is the capital of the Galicia region of Spain.

Santiago de Compostela is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. It is also the final destination for one of the most famous and most popular pilgrimage's in the world, the Camino de Compostela. There are various routes which lead to Santiago de Compostella and its fabulous St James Cathedral. The main route is from St Jean Pied de Port in France.

Visit Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Santiago's medieval centre is utterly beautiful and very well preserved. Ambling round the narrow streets there are churches, plazas, Baroque and Romanesque mansions and of course the Cathedral of Santiago itself. (Santiago means St James in Spanish).

The Praza do Obradoiro is the main square in Santiago and the cathedral occupies one side of the square. Other fine buildings are on the square making the square one of the finest world-wide.

The Santiago Cathedral with its Baroque towers is a very striking building. It is a Romanesque building and was built during the 11th and 12th centuries. Its ornate Portico de Gloria is an important work of Medieval Art.

The Portico de Gloria is carved with a vision of Purgatory and the Last Judgement and Christ and his Apostles stand above the main door. St James statue sits below that of Christ with the Tree of Jesse below him. Pilgrims perform the act of supplication with their five fingers pressed into the roots of the Tree of Jesse. Millions of pilgrims have done this and five holes (for each finger) have been worn into the marble.

Pilgrims then enter the cathedral and approach the High Alter, kiss the silver cape of the statue of St James and receive their cerificate called a Compostela.

Try to visit the cathedral during one of the special services when the incence is swung. There is a pulley system for swinging the incense burner (Botafumeiro) and this is operated by eight priests. The incence was originally used to fumigate the pilgrims!

The bones of St James are said to be buried in the crypt beneath the alter.

The Cathedral also has some excellent Gothic cloisters.

The Palace (Pazo) of Xelmirez is on the other side of the cathedral from the cloisters. This was the Palace of the Archbishop Xelmirez, an important figure in the history and development of Santiago.

Also on the Pazo de Obradoiro is the Hostal de los Reyes Catolicos. This was built as a hospital and accommodation for sick pilgrims but is now a magnificent parador. Fernando and Isabel had this built as thanks for their conquest of Granada.

There are various beautiful squares in Sandiago including the Praza das Praterias and the Praza de Inmaculada. The latter is home to the Convent of San Martino Pinario whose church has a carved Plateresque facade. The Praza da Quintana looks onto the cathedrals elaborate clock-tower.

The Convento de San Paio de Antealtares is the oldest monastery in Santiago. It was built in the 9th century to house the bones of St James before these were removed to the cathedral.

The Camino de Compostela

The Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela is the final destination for the Camino de Compostella also known as the 'Way of St James'. The most popular pilgrim route to Santiago begins at St Jean Pied de Port in France and is 730 km long. An alternative route from Leon is 350km. Pilgrims spend the nights in refugios which have communal dormitories often with kitchens which are for pilgrims walking or cycling the route.

Museums in Santiago de Compostella

The Museo das Peregrinaciones is a museum of pilgrimage including a 12th century guide for pilgrims.

The Muse de Pobo Gallego is housed in the Santo Domingo convent which has a wonderful triple stairway and a peaceful convent garden. The museum features gallego traditions.

The Centro de Arte Contemporaneo de Galicia has contemporary art and sculpture and is housed in a building designed by Alvaro Siza.

See also:

Map of Santiago de Compostela and places nearby

Santiago de Compostela places to visit

See more places nearby in the Galicia guide