Visiting Santiago de Compostela in Spain

View of Santiago de Compostela

TripSavvy / Chris VR

Santiago de Compostela is the final destination for most people on the Camino de Santiago (some continue to Fisterra). The cathedral is the main attraction in Santiago. Note that they speak Galician here, a language very similar to Portuguese, although almost everyone speaks Spanish, and they are quite happy to do so.

There is an airport in Santiago de Compostela, though it doesn't have a lot of international flights.

Best Time to Visit

To join in on the festivities, you may want to plan a visit around July 25, during their Feast of Santiago. You will see some nice fireworks the night before (the fogo do Compostela). From fall until spring, you can expect rain.

Number of Days to Spend (Excluding Day Trips)

Two days. You might want longer if the rain keeps you indoors!

Hotels

For hotels in Santiago de Compostela, check out the following

If you're after a budget-priced bed in a dorm, try Hostelworld.

Things to Do

  • Visit the Cathedral del Apóstol.
  • Eat Local Seafood. In particular, the 'pulpo a la gallega' (boiled octopus) is renowned, though the texture isn't for everyone.
  • Museo das Peregrinacións. Even if you haven't arrived in Santiago on foot as a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago, learn about the origins and significance of Europe's most important pilgrimage.
  • Home-made Chocolate con Churros. Café Metate is a former chocolate factory, and the owners still make their own chocolate.
  • Santiago's many other museums and religious buildings including Mosteiro de San Paio, Colexiata de Santa Maria do Sar and the Museo do Pobo Galego.

Day Trips from Santiago de Compostela

  • The town of Coruña is very close and is worth at least an overnight stay.
  • The Rias Bajas, to the west, is a possible day trip, though public transport is poor.
  • Fisterra, the end of the world, according to the Romans, is also close by.

Distance to Santiago de Compostela

  • Barcelona—711 miles (1,145 kilometers)—11 hours by car, 17 hours by bus, or one hour and 30-minute flight. There is no direct train. 
  • Madrid—374 miles (602 kilometers)—six hours by car, seven hours and 45 minutes by bus, eight hours and 30-minutes by train, or one hour flight.
  • Seville—595 miles (957 kilometers)—nine hours by car, 14 hours and 30 minutes by bus (overnight only—one per day), or one hour and 30-minute flight. There is no direct train. 

First Impressions

Santiago's old town is very compact, with winding, narrow streets. Most of the center is pedestrianized so that you won't be needing a car while here.

Cathedral

From the train station, it is a 20-minute walk north up to the cathedral. To get there, take Rúa do Hórreo, up to Praza de Galicia. Carry on past Praza de Galicia until you see Praza de Toural on your left. At the far end of this plaza is Rúa do Vilar, which will take you up to the Catedral del Apóstol.

The Cathedral itself could well occupy a few hours of your time, depending on how much you like cathedrals. It is certainly one of the most intricately designed buildings in Spain and does warrant some attention.

You are now in the heart of the old town of Santiago de Compostela, with plenty more to see to your right and straight ahead.

From the bus station, which is a little to the east of the city, take the road immediately ahead of you and follow the road for approximately 1,600 feet (500 meters) until you see some steps descending on your right. Descend these steps and follow the road round. You will eventually find yourself on Praza de San Martiño Pinario. The cathedral is a short walk to the south of here.

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