Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia
Santiago de Compostela, capital of the Autonomous Community of Galicia in the north-western part of Spain, is best known as the final stop on the pilgrims’ Way to Santiago every year.
The pilgrimage to the tomb of James, the son of Zebedee, who was one of the most important of Christianity in the Middle Ages, has seen a revival of fervour since the end of the 20th century. Making Santiago de Compostela the main tourist destination in Galicia.
The city, millennium, is endowed with an impressive architectural heritage and numerous palaces and churches dot the streets and squares of its historic centre classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visit Santiago de Compostela
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
Built from the end of the 12th century on the remains of ancient temples under the patronage of Santiago de Compostela, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela surprises with its mixture of architectural styles due to its many transformations.
Romanesque cathedral with baroque facade, it is dedicated to the apostle James of Zebedee, patron saint and patron saint and protector of Spain.
Located in the historical centre of the city, it is the goal of one of the largest and oldest medieval pilgrimages in Europe. A pilgrimage that remains one of the most vivid centres of Catholic devotion in Europe today.
The cathedral museum: on the ground floor, the library exhibits botafumeiros, old incense-holders. The adjoining chapter house offers a collection of 17th century Flemish tapestries as well as three 17th century tapestries from Madrid. The first floor houses works by Goya, Bayeu and Téniers, while the basement is reserved for archaeology with pieces from excavations in the nave and south transept.
The treasure: installed in a Gothic chapel in the south arm of the transept, it is rich in numerous objects. Among them, a tympanum showing an equestrian figure of Santiago from the 13th century, a monstrance from the 16th century by Antoine d’ Arfa or a small altarpiece of alabaster and polychrome wood of English origin.
The chapel of the Plateresque relics next door preserves the head of James of Alpheus, Bishop of Jerusalem in the 1st century.
Open every day from 7 am to 8:30 pm.
The most famous square of the city, it is where the most emblematic monuments of Compostela can be found. A meeting place, the pilgrims end their walk there by meditating on the tomb of Santiago.
The Palazzo di Raxoi, the seat of both the municipality and the government of Galicia, where Santiago de Compostela is the political capital, stands out.
The northern part of the square is home to the Hospital of the Catholic Kings, built at the end of the 15th century by the architect Diego de Muros to care for the pilgrims who, in addition, could stay there for free for three days.
To the south is the Collège de Saint-Jérôme, a 17th century building also known as the Collège des Artistes. Founded by Archbishop Alonso Foncesca it now houses the rectorate of the University of Santiago.
Galician People’s Museum
The Museo do Pobo Galego is a private museum created in 1976 in the former Dominican convent of Bonaval.
Ceded by the Town Hall of Santiago to Padroado do Museo do Poblo, the Bonaval convent is as much a place of visit as the museum itself.
The convent is said to have been founded in 1219 by a pilgrim, Domingo de Guzmán, even though all the buildings date from the late seventeenth to early eighteenth century. An impressive staircase by Domingo de Andrade connects the cloister to the floors.
The museum has three sections: ethnography, archaeology (prehistory) and art, divided into eight exhibition rooms, two of which are devoted to temporary exhibitions. Its permanent exhibition remains mainly dedicated to ethnography.
Museum of Galician folk arts and traditions, the marine tradition, the small popular trades, the work of the fields are approached in a very didactic way.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10:30 am to 2 pm and then from 4:30 pm to 7 pm, Sunday from 11 am to 2 pm
The park of Santo Domingo is located on a hill of the barrio San Pedro in the northeast of the historic quarter of Compostela, behind the convent of San Domingo which houses the Museum of the Galician People.
Designed by the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza and the landscape architect Isabel Aguirre, it was rehabilitated and inaugurated in 1994. With a surface area of 3.7 hectares, it offers interesting views of the city while being close to its traditional access by the French pilgrimage route, el camino francés.
These different levels are delimited by schist walls. In the lower part of the convent was the former monks’ garden. There is a statue of Eduardo Chillida called’ Music Gate’.
The second part housing the old cemetery of the brothers offers a beautiful panorama on the historic quarter of the city. Separated by these old schist walls, an oak forest occupies the third part of the park.
Access: Cuesta San Domingo, 3. Open from 8 am to 11 pm.
Convent of Santo Domingo
Founded in the 13th century, this name of Santa Domingo was given to it in the 15th century. Between Romanesque and Gothic style with its baroque facade, its church is one of the largest in the city. The convent of Santo Domingo, classified as a national monument since 1912, also houses the tomb of the great Galician romantic writer Rosalía de Castro.
Access: Calle Bonaval.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10:30 am to 2 pm and then from 4 pm to 7:30 pm, Sunday from 11 am to 2 pm Free admission, guided tours.
Pilgrimage Museum. Museo de las Peregrinaciónes de Santiago
Dedicated to the apostle Santiago, eight rooms spread over three floors retrace the history of the pilgrimage to Compostela. Images, objects and documents explain the origin of this fervent popular devotion that has lasted since the Middle Ages and the different itineraries that make up the pilgrimage.
Access: Plaza das Praterías
Open daily from 9:30 am to 8:30 pm, from 11 am on Saturdays and from 10:15 am to 2:45 pm on Sundays. Closed holidays.
Upstream of the Arousa river, formed by the estuary of the Sar and Ulla rivers, Padrón, 25 km south-east of Santiago de Compostela, is famous for its pimientos de Padrón, which are enjoyed grilled with the tapas of many bars in Spain.
Known in antiquity and until the Middle Ages as Iria Flavia, it is in Padrón that according to tradition the apostle Santiago would have preached for the first time at the hermitage of Mount Santiaguino during his stay in Padrón.
Tradition also says that two of his disciples would have brought back, in seven days in a stone boat, his body from Palestine after his beheading in Jerusalem.
It is under the altar of the parish church of Padrón that is preserved the stone to which the boat that brought back the remains of the apostle was stowed. It was this stone, el perdrón, which later gave the town its name.
Access: by N-550 and AP-9 from Santiago de Compostela.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm and 4:15 pm to 7 pm.
Museum-House of Rosalía de Castro
This granite museum was the last resting place of the Galician writer Rosalía de Castro (1847-1885). The Casa de Matanza has been reconstructed as a rural house from the end of the 19th century with a lareira, typical wood stove.
Combining both rural and seigneurial style, the top floor preserves the writer’s personal objects and memories as if she were still living there.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 1:30 pm then from 4 pm to 7 pm Until 2 pm in the morning and 4 pm from July to September. Sundays and holidays from 10 am to 1:30 pm Admission: 2 €.
Granite promontory overlooking the ocean at 600 metres high, Cape Finisterre is the most western point of Spain.
There is an old custom practiced there, the origin of which remains uncertain, but probably pre-Christian. Associated with the notion of the “end of the known world” era, shoes and clothing are burned. The pilgrims of Santiago continue this tradition since the Middle Ages.
The cape lighthouse was built in 1853. Its tower is 17 metres high and its lamp, with a range of 30 nautical miles, culminates at 143 metres above sea level. Theatre of several historical battles, despite the addition of a mermaid compensating for the many days of fog, several shipwrecks took place in its vicinity.
The most dramatic accident of this rocky coastline called the Dead Coast, the Dead Coast, occurred in 1870 with the shipwreck of the Capitan Monitor in which 482 people died.
A land of legends and mysteries a hundred kilometres west of Compostela, Finisterre is a point extending into the vast ocean and its splendid sunsets. The ancient Celtic tribes who inhabited the area around the site believed that to the west of the known lands was an island offering another life to the dead. Discovering an altar dedicated to the solar star, the Romans called it Ara Solis.
Access: from Compostela, take the AC-546 to Fontecada, then direction Berdoias by the AC-441. Then take the AC-552, past Lobelos follow the VG-14 and AC-445.
By bus: from A Coruña, 1 bus every 4 hours. Duration: 3 hours and 50 minutes. Price: from 11 to 16 €. From Santiago de Compostela: 4 times a day. Duration: 3 h 10. Price: from 7 to 16 €.
Ría de Muros y Noia
The submerged river valley of Muros y Noia is one of the most beautiful’ rías bajas’ of the Coast of Death. Caught between the Montes de Ruñas and the Sierra de Barbanza, the region, not very urbanized, has several fishing ports and old villages built on the hillsides as well as beaches.
A small town nestling at the foot of Mount Louro, 75 kilometres from Santiago de Compostela, its old town is classified as a place of cultural interest.
The historic centre has many typical fishermen’s houses. Built of dressed stone, their ground floor includes vast arcaded galleries and the floors of large balconies. In the not so distant past, fishermen used to find themselves under these arcades to repair their nets and salt the fish.
Among its old lanes, two squares are worth a detour. The one in Santa Ana, which has a magnificent Calvary dating from 1789, and the one in Pescadería Vieja, which is characterized by an astonishing stone fountain and its numerous taverns. Prehistoric engravings have been discovered on several sites in the commune, which also has 25 km of coastline and large beaches.
Access: by the roads AC-543 and AC-550 from Compostelle.
By bus: several daily connections with a route to Santiago de Compostela-Noia-Muros.
This small town of about 15,000 inhabitants (2008) is also called’ Puerto de Compostela’ for its proximity and links with Santiago de Compostela. Legend has it that Noela, one of Noah’s daughters, came to live there after the Flood. It is in his honour that Noia’s coat of arms displays a Noah’s Ark.
Here, too, the old town, which has several monuments and buildings in the Gothic style, is classified as a place of cultural interest. Among them are the churches of San Martiño (15th-16th century) and the church of Santa María A Nova (14th century) which belongs to a style called Marine Gothic. In addition, the Santa María church houses a very important collection of noble corporate plaques from the Middle Ages and modern times.
The remains of Tapal’s fortress, along with ancient medieval ramparts, adorn the heights of the town, which include several pazos, old gothic mansions such as the Pazo Dacosta, the Pazo de los Churrachaos and the Casa da Xouva.
Access: by the roads AC-543 and AC-550 from Compostelle. By bus: several daily connections with a route to Santiago de Compostela-Noia-Muros.