Nestled in the verdant landscapes of Galicia, Spain, Santiago de Compostela is a city steeped in history, spirituality, and culture that offers a bunch of things to do. It’s not just a destination but the culmination of a profound journey for pilgrims who have completed the iconic Camino de Santiago. However, the magnetism of this enchanting city extends far beyond the pilgrimage, welcoming travelers from all corners to uncover its treasures.
Best things to do in Santiago
- First of all, stroll through the cobbled streets of the Old Quarter ♦♦ , where you’ll find yourself transported back in time, surrounded by picturesque buildings and cute shops. The Old Quarter was declared a Unesco site in 1986.
Once you can feel the local ambience, continue with the other must-sees in Santiago de Compostela:
- Marvel at the grandeur of the cathedral, an architectural masterpiece that has drawn pilgrims and travelers for centuries. But I’m afraid the Cathedral ♦♦♦ deserves a paragraph itself. What to see there? Read the paragraph below, please.
- For those with a predilection for local flavors and traditions, be sure to pay a visit to the bustling market ♦♦ , where you can savor the best of Galician cuisine and pick up unique souvenirs. You can even buy fresh seafood and have it cooked (Mariscomanía is the name of the place that offers this service). The market is not open on Sundays.
- Additionally, the Museum of the Cathedral ♦♦ and the Pilgrims Museum offer fascinating insights into the history and culture of Santiago and the Camino de Santiago.
- Be sure to take a moment to visit Alameda Park and capture the serenity and beauty of the Cathedral towers with your camera from there. To find the viewpoint, walk to Alameda Park from the Old Town. Walk through it until you see a modern building and two pillars on your right. Follow the pillars path for about 400 m. You will see the towers of the Cathedral from there. =)
- The other nice picture of the Cathedral is in Plaza do Obradoiro, from the steps on the left side, facing the Cathedral. The perspective from there is amazing!!
- Take a leisurely walk along the vibrant Franco and Raiña streets, where you’ll be captivated by the colorful displays of local food. After your visual feast, don’t miss the chance to grab some tapas, complemented by the exquisite local wines: Rias Bajas, Ribeiro, or Ribeira Sacra are the most renowned ones.
- If you are an architecture lover, don’t hesitate to visit Cidade da Cultura, an architectural marvel built by Peter Eisenman. The complex is a blend of modern and innovative design, offering a striking contrast to the historic charm of Santiago de Compostela. You can also visit it indoors, as the complex houses the Gaiás Centre Museum and a series of state-of-the-art libraries, and it’s free.
What to see in the St James Cathedral
An essential visit when in Santiago de Compostela is the Cathedral. It's awe-inspiring architecture and profound spiritual heritage are the highlights of the city.
The Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, as a pilgrimage temple, is open to all visitors for free. But beyond its spiritual significance, this cathedral is a treasure trove of art and history that beckons to be explored. Let's see together the options available for those who seek to delve deeper into the art and history of this remarkable site.
The 5 not-to-miss things to see in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
Outdoors, you can admire the 4 different squares that surround the Cathedral:
- Praza do Obradoiro, surrounded by not just one but four architectural marvels, each with its own unique story to tell. The centerpiece, of course, is the Baroque main facade of Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. In the middle of the square, find the scallop shell, a symbol of the Camino.
- Praza de Platerias, Praza da Quintana and Praza da Azibechería are the other 3 stone squares that surround the Cathedral.
- The main altar, presided over by Saint James. If you look closely at this Baroque masterwork, you’ll notice devotees and pilgrims embracing him. Follow the line from Azabachería Square to hug the apostle.
- the Sepulchre, below the main altar, is the real goal of the pilgrimage. Take a moment to visit the silver urn that contains the saint’s relics.
- the Holy Door, open only during the Holy Years. The next one is in 2027.
- to delve deeper into the secrets and rich heritage of this sacred site, I encourage you to consider joining my self-guided tour on Voicemap. This audio tour provides an immersive and informative experience, offering a deeper understanding of the St James Cathedral’s art, history, and legends.
SANTIAGO CATHEDRAL SELF-GUIDED TOUR
Looking for freedom and flexibility during your visit to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral?
Join a self-guided tour for
- personal connection
- in-depth insights
- an affordable experience
- no rush, no schedules.
Other things to see in the Cathedral
There is even more to admire in the Cathedral. You can also visit:
- the Portic of Glory ♦♦♦, the majestic medieval façade of the Cathedral, later hidden by the Baroque one as a way to protect it.
- the roofs and towers of the Cathedral. For those seeking a completely different perspective of both the cathedral and the city of Santiago de Compostela, this is an exciting option available.
- the absolutely wonderful Cathedral’s Museum ♦♦♦ . Among the treasures waiting to be unveiled are stunning pieces such as the Botafumeiro, diverse relics, and the Codex Calixtinus, a Medieval guide of the Camino.
To book any of these visits, go to the Catedral de Santiago site. There’s no need to book for the Museum, but DO for the Portic of Glory, or the roofs and the towers if you wish to secure a ticket.
How to prepare your visit
The Cathedral is open from 7 to 21. You must avoid the masses, as it is not allowed to visit the temple during the service. Pilgrim’s masses in the Main altar, are at 7.30, 9.30, 12, and 19.30.
For the mass and visit, get into the Cathedral through the Platerias door.
To embrace the Saint and visit the Sepulchre, go to Azabachería or Inmaculada Square.
Remember to dress decently and don’t keep luggage or big backpacks.