Santiago de Compostela is one of the most famous cities in Spain. It is the capital of Galicia and the final destination of Camino de Santiago – the famous pilgrimage that attracts a high amount of pilgrims every year.
All year around, Santiago de Compostela is a great city to visit. Regardless of weather you do the entire pilgrimage or just visit the city as part of a normal vacation, there is plenty to do. In fact, Santiago might be one of the most interesting cities you will ever visit, and in this article you will find out why.
A great history
Santiago de Compostela has been a famous city for centuries. The city existed already during Roman times, but with a different name. It became a popular target for pilgrims and travelers already in the 9th century. At this time, the legend said that the remains of the apostle James were brought to Galicia and placed in Santiago de Compostela. Later, the huge cathedral was built at the place where the apostle was said to be buried. And since then, a lot of miracles took place in Santiago de Compostela. For example, it was an area that was never really conquered by the Moors, and it became a stronghold for Christian fighters.
Ever since, pilgrims have been walking to Santiago. For that reason it is one of the most historic travel destinations in all of the world, and historically it has even been Spain’s most visited target during many years.
Aside from the legends and the pilgrimages, Santiago de Compostela is also the capital of Galicia. It has a lot of culture to offer, and it has a very special environment.
Architecture in Santiago de Compostela
The architecture in Santiago de Compostela varies from ancient to Gothic. In some parts of the city, you will also find modern architecture.
In any case, it is worth checking out. Santiago is a very picturesque city, and you will get a very special impression when you walk around the city.
A UNESCO World Heritage site
Particularly the old part of Santiago is impressive to walk around in. The old part of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and figures to be the most important attraction of the city.
The buildings in this old part of Santiago is a joy to visit. In many of them, you will find modern stores where they sell books, clothes or souvenirs. There are also plenty of restaurants, cafés and bars. Plenty of things to do, all year around. The best season to visit Santiago de Compostela, however, is probably in the spring. The Easter there is very special, but the summer is terrific as well.
All over the city, you will also find quite a few statues and monuments from all times throughout history.
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
The Cathedral is the main building, and it is an absolute must if you are visiting the city. The pilgrims have the Cathedral as their final destination, so naturally it is very special.
Its interior is extremely well decorated, and the size is magnificent. Add the whole legend on top, and it gives a very special feeling when you go in. According to the tradition, you fall to your knees when you enter, and you enter the Cathedral on your knees and not on your feet.
No matter if you are a pilgrim or a normal traveler, it makes sense to visit the Cathedral of Santiago and say a prayer once you are inside. A very unique feeling.
Short distance to other great cities
Santiago de Compostela is amazing in itself, but it is also close to other fantastic cities that you should consider visiting.
Vigo is perhaps the best. This port city is the largest in Galicia and has a lot to offer. Great seafood, wonderful people, amazing architecture and beautiful views. Here are 10 reasons to visit Vigo. You can take the train there very fast from the main station in Santiago.
A Coruña is a great alternative. While Vigo is south, A Coruña is north. The location of this city is unique, and like Vigo, it has plenty of amazing views. The centre of the city is very prestigeous, with great opportunities for entertainment.
Lugo is another Galician city, not by the coast, but more inland. You can take a bus to get there, or rent a car. It is located east of Santiago de Compostela
In fact, check out our introduction to Galicia here. We are describing all the best reasons to visit this province of Spain and if you are already interested in Santiago de Compostela, that article will certainly be worth a read too!
Santiago de Compostela is also somewhat close to another amazing province, Asturias. You can reach it in a few hours by either car, bus or train.
Northern Portugal is another option. The cities of Porto, Braga and Guimarães are all amazing. Speaking of that, a trip that includes both Galicia and northern Portugal is certainly recommended by us.
Camino de Santiago
Most travelers who visit Santiago are possibly pilgrims. The legendary Camino de Santiago has many different roads, but they all end in Santiago de Compostela.
The most popular way is the one that starts in the French pyrenées. By taking this route, you will cross northern Spain and get to see a lot on the way. This route was the background of the great movie, The Way – directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his own father Martin Sheen in the main role.
Some routes start as far as Paris! Others start from certain parts of Spain. There is also the Portuguese Camino, where you startin Portugal and walk north until you reach Santiago de Compostela.
After finishing the pilgrimage, many continue to explore other parts of Galicia. This is highly recommended, as it gives you even more wonderful experiences on your journey.
Visit Santiago de Compostela if you can
If you have the option to visit Santiago de Compostela, try to do it. You don’t have to walk the entire pilgrimage. It is a very good city to visit on a normal holiday. And if you happen to be in another Galician city, in Asturias or in northern Portugal, you can also do a one day trip to Santiago de Compostela.
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