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Santiago tourist information

There are many reasons to choose Santiago as your study trip destination. It is small: 90.000 residents and 45 minutes of walking distance between their opposite ends. It is also quiet and welcoming. It is a really friendly city.

Compostelanos like to socialize on the streets: tapas at noon, joyful times in a cafeteria in the monumental area, sunbathe in the Plaza da Quintana or listen to the Municipal Music Band at Rúa do Vilar on Sundays

It has quality services, as it is the administrative capital in Galicia and base to its regional government. It is home to one of the oldest universities in Spain (a yearly amount of 35.000 students) and it is the end of the Camino de Santiago.

It is not only a centre of religious pilgrimages. It is a young and exciting city: a third of its population are university students.

It possesses a cultural and leisure offer that lasts all year round, with yearly programmes in the Auditorio de Galicia, in theatre halls, museums and on the city's streets and squares. There are specific times when this offer becomes more intense: Cineuropa in November; concerts for every taste during the Apostol festivities in July and the Ascension in May; traditional celebrations along the streets on Saint John's night in June; open air dance festival in June...

The origins of the city trace back to the tenth century. It is a beautiful town with a great historical and artistic value. A World Heritage Site, as the way that leads to it, and with one of the biggest and best preserved historic centres in Spain. It is surrounded by a large number of parks and green areas with easy access and well integrated in the city.

It is extremely well located, equidistant from the main cities in Galicia and with good communications to them: A Coruña to the North and Vigo to the South. It is also one hour away from the best beaches in the North of Spain. As well as having good travel connections with the North of Portugal. But especially, Santiago de Compostela is lesser known as destination for linguistic trips. It does not suffer the saturation of foreign students which happens in other more traditional destinations.

 


How to get to Santiago de Compostela

International airport 9 Km. From the city centre.

Daily direct connections to Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, Málaga, Alicante (Iberia, Spanair, Vueling, Air Europa).

Direct international connections:

To check updated information on all connections to Santiago Airport, please visit: http://santiagoaeropuerto.com/destinos


Monuments

“Santiago de Compostela is one of the most irrefutable World Heritage Sites. This city due to its monumental integrity, collects specific and universal values (...) in an ideal city which radiates History and timelessness at the same time "

UNESCO-ICOMOS report, 1984.

We do not want to bore you 😉 , but Santiago has been largely awarded not only for the treasures that shelters but also for the carefulness invested in them.

  • World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
  • European Town Planning Prize.
  • Award Europa Nostra, for the restoration policies concerning the cultural heritage in the city's historic centre.
  • European city of culture in the year 2000, shared with Avignon, Bergen, Bolonia, Brussels, Krakow, Helsinki, Prague and Reikjavik.

As you can imagine, we can boast about a long list of monuments which you could enjoy when you come, but what we are really excited about is wandering through its welcoming streets, day and night alike. Either on a sunny or rainy day (here we say that in Santiago the rain is art 🙂 ).

All the monumental area is pedestrianized and keeps its medieval structure, with narrow streets (sometimes so narrow that only one person fits) and colonnades that provide shelter from the rain.

The monument list is very long, nevertheless we offer you a selection so you could have an idea of our heritage and cultural wealth.

 

The Cathedral

The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela is the most outstanding and remarkable work of the Romanesque art in Spain. And, as you may know, the finishing line in all the pilgrimages to the city

Its main facade  is located in the Plaza del Obradoiro, where you can also admire many monuments more, that together create a magnificent and extraordinary combination. When you visit the interior of the cathedral, stop for a while in front of the Pórtico de la Gloria, the pinnacle work of the Romanesque sculpture carved by the Maestro Mateo in only 20 years.

When you come, do not miss a visit to the cathedral's rooftops. From there you will enjoy an extremely special view of the city that you will like to photograph.

And if you have the chance, you will also enjoy watching the enormous Botafumeiro (thurible) in action. Apart from Good Friday, it usually swings every Friday at 19:30.

 

Hostal de los Reyes Católicos

This hotel was built in the 16th  century by order of the Reyes Católicos to deal with the sick and the pilgrims that arrived to the city. Nowadays it is a 5 star hotel which belongs to the network  of Paradores Nacionales.

One curious fact: In the astonishing Plateresque facade you can visualize many gargoyles with fantasy motifs, except for one where you can clearly see a human ass 🙂 It is said that the stonemason was not happy with his working conditions and decided to protest in this singular fashion.

 

Casa do Cabido

This House is a baroque monument from mid 18th century. Its function, with no more than 3 metres of depth, was to close the beautiful Plaza de las Platerías. The name of the square is connected with the metalsmith workshops established there since the Middle Ages, in the ground floor of the cathedral

Pazo de Bendaña

A baroque urban palace  from the 18th century and located in the Praza do Toural. A place worth visiting due to its chimney and central stairway, built in wood and stone.  The Praza is also one of the many inviting and bustling squares in the city.

Pazo de Fondevila

A baroque palace built on the magnificent Casas Reais street. Through this street the pilgrims who reach Santiago by the French Route, enter the city.

Church and convent of San Domingos de Bonaval

The church, dating back to the 14th century, is home to the Panteón de Gallegos Ilustres, positioned in a side chapel of the church, where are buried, among others, the writers Rosalía de Castro and Castelao. The church is connected through its interior with the convent, from the 13th century. This place holds the Museo do Pobo Galego, where is kept the ethnographic memory of Galicia. Do not miss the spectacular triple stairway: each of its three ramps leads, independently of one another, to all the floors in the convent.

Pazo de Xelmírez

A Romanesque building, a bishop's residence from the 12th  century. On the second floor you could admire the old medieval kitchen and a thirteenth century Party and Dining Hall.

Convent and Church of San Francisco

The convent of San Francisco de Valdediós was founded by San Francisco de Asís on his visit to Santiago de Compostela in 1214. The current temple is from the 18th century.

School of San Xerome

Founded in the 16th century, it was a school for poor students and nowadays operates as the  university's rectorate.

Pazo de Raxoi

18th century palace which used to be a residence for the boys in the Cathedral's choir and a seminary. Nowadays it is the town hall.

School of San Clemente de Pasantes

Founded in the 17th century to teach theology, in this moment functions as a secondary school.

Parks and gardens

Santiago is a stone city crystallized by many parks and gardens, some of them really old, where you could relax and enjoy nature. Check this out: Santiago has more than one and half million square metres of public green spaces, and due to these environmental and landscape qualities the city has received many awards and international recognition.

The parks are numerous and wonderful, but at least try not to miss, the group of the Alameda park (19th century), the oak groves of Santa Susana and the University’s South Campus; the park of Santo Domingo de Bonaval and the one in Belvís. All of them integrate monuments and interesting constructions.

El Camino de Santiago

What is El Camino?

As the legend goes, in the 9th century, a hermit named Pelayo (Paio in the Galician language) who lived in the Libredón forest (where the current Compostela is located), saw some strange lights over an old Roman necropolis. In the mist of this odd event, he decided to inform bishop Teodomiro of Iria Flavia, the highest ecclesiastic authority in the region. When they inspected the area, they found an old tomb that the bishop identified as the tomb of the apostle Santiago, whose body had been moved to Galicia after his death in Palestine in the 1st century. On that same place a small church was built (which later will derive in the current cathedral) to shelter the remains and relics of the apostle. The news spread rapidly all over Europe, and immediately the pilgrimages started from all corners of the continent, giving birth to the Camino de Santiago. This constant flux of pilgrims from many origins facilitated important cultural exchanges between the different countries where the Camino passed by, and today is considered as the germ of the European identity.

The reasons to do the Camino are many: a sport challenge, a quest for the authentic and oneself, religiousness, contemplation of rich and different landscapes, the pleasure of the gastronomy, a taste for the adventure, the knowledge of the extraordinary cultural and architectonic heritage, a possibility to socialize with people from different cultures and languages...Any of these reasons make the Camino a thrilling and unique experience.

The most important "Caminos"

Although there are many different routes, these are the most important:

  • French Route by Roncevalles: El Camino that connects Saint Jean de Pied de Port with Santiago de Compostela is the most important and popular hub of the Jacobean pilgrimages. The pilgrims cover 774km in Spain on a daily average of 20-25 km. It usually takes around 30 days to reach destination.
  • The Northern Route: Almost immediately after the discovery of the tomb of the apostle Santiago in the 9th century, the pilgrims started to follow the Asturian-Galician routes to reach Santiago as the meseta (where the French route will later pass through) was still occupied by the Muslims.
  • The English Route: The European pilgrims that travelled by boat until the Galician coasts, specially the British, disembarked at A Coruña or Ferrol to head to Compostela.
  • The Silver Route: La Vía de la Plata is the longest Jacobean route, as an extension of the Roman road which crossed the western side of the peninsula from south to north to connect the cities of Emerita Augusta (Mérida) and Asturica Augusta (Astorga). After the conquest of Sevilla and Córdoba in the 13th century, this south-north way was spontaneously reused by the Jacobean pilgrims coming from Andalucía and Extremadura.
  • Route to Finisterre:  As its name shows, the finishing line on this Camino is Finisterre (the ancient "Land's End") and Santiago is its starting point. The impressive landscape of the old edges of the Earth and the Costa de la Muerte (Cost of Death) make this route a very popular one.
  • The Portuguese Route: The itinerary depends on the staring point in our neighbour country. The most famous way leaves Porto and enters Spain by Tui.
  • The Primitive Route: The first pilgrims, in the 9th century, came from Oviedo. This route was regarded as very safe since it was far from the wars against the Muslims. Later, it kept its validity through time because of its spiritual value as it included the visits to the Holy Chamber in San Salvador de Oviedo and Lugo's cathedral.

Gastronomy

Galicia is famous all over Spain for its gastronomy due to the excellent quality of its raw materials: seafood, fish, meat, vegetables...In Santiago you can find all sorts of delicacies brought from the vegetable gardens and ports nearby.

The offer is really ample and you can find choices for every pocket: exclusive restaurants, affordable restaurants, seafood restaurants, wine bars and traditional bars. In the latter you could enjoy the famous tapas (bites that in the majority of the establishments are free of charge) with the drink of your choice.

Also, and since Santiago is a university city, is filled with restaurants offering daily menus at low cost.

To start getting into the city's spirit, you can have a stroll around the Mercado de Abastos (Food Market), located in the monumental area, and so you could discover the products from the region. You would love the hustle and bustle and the festive atmosphere in the place, surrounded by small shops and charming restaurants.

If you wish, you can buy in the market the products that seduce you the most, and for little money, some of the restaurants would cook it for you on the spot.

Remember that Thursdays are the best days of the week because the female farmers from the surrounding areas sell their products directly to you in the market.

 

Galician dishes that you cannot miss:

Marisco/Seafood: EVERYTHING!: langoustines, king prawns, prawns, shrimps, razor clams, oysters, scallops, mussels, clams, cockles, variegated scallops, spider crabs, king crabs or velvet crabs, which are all cooked boiled, grilled or with rice. We, Galician people, prefer them without sauces which mask the flavours of this outstanding seafood.

Pulpo a la gallega/Galician style octopus, nothing as typical as this in any party given (although the octopus is also delicious when grilled, it is a personal recommendation).

Empanada/Pie. The empanada is a big pasty filled with meat, fish, seafood or vegetables. For a Galician person, the empanada is nearly a national icon. Normally, the empanada is baked with wheat flour, but if you have the chance, try it also when elaborated with corn flour. You will be surprised by the intensity of its flavours.

Caldo gallego/ Galician broth. A marvellous starter when autumn arrives...

Fish: EVERYTHING!, but our favourites are: turbot, sea bass, sole, monk fish and sardines, grilled, roasted, in stew...however you most like!

Meat: our specialities are the highly appreciated Galician veal and the pork. The latter appears in the shape of pork shoulder lacón (lacón with turnip tops is a dish that drives us crazy) blood sausages, ham, chops... In wintertime we suggest that you order a cocido gallego, a satiating dish as there may be, where you throw pretty much everything: beef, chicken, pork, legumes, vegetables, potatoes... Something that will surprise you to know is that in Galicia we use all the pig's body parts: ears, tail, stomach, the snout...A tapa that might shock you a bit is the pig's ears, delicious!

Vegetables: not to be missed the famous pimientos de Padrón, Padrón peppers. As the saying goes “uns pican e outros, non” (some are hot, some are not). Another Galician delicacy are the  turnip tops (grelos), a vegetable that we love.

Desserts: or most typical dessert is the tarta de Santiago (made from ground almonds) with a drawing of the apostle's cross. But we also enjoy eating cheese as a dessert, many times with quince jelly. The options are a lot: Arzúa-Ulloa cheese, O Cebreiro, San Simón, pointy and smoked. But the most popular is the tetilla cheese, creamy and of a soft flavour. But do not also miss the  filloas (rolled pancakes) filled or not, the cañas fritas, the chulas de calabaza and the orejas.

Wines and Galician liquors: the most famous varieties are Ribeiro, Albariño, Rosal, Ribeira Sacra, Monterrei, Amandi, Mencía, Godello... In Santiago there are many wine bars where you could attend a tasting where they would explain you the characteristics of each one. And the most typical liquors are the caña or aguardiente blanca, the licor de hierbas and the licor café. The caña is the base of the queimadas, a special drink which consists of orujo sipirit burnt with sugar, orange or lemon peels and coffee beans, while a spell is cast against curses!!!!!!!

 

Parties and shows

Everybody in Galicia loves parties, also do the people from Santiago. And if they are an excuse to eat and drink, we like them even more 🙂 .

Every year we celebrate:

  • The Puppet Festival “Galicreques”: puppeteers from different countries show their productions: children's shows, open air representations, and night time performances.
  • International Short Film Festival CurtoCircuíto.
  • Festival Cineuropa: throughout the month of November it is shown the best cinema of the season, from the Cannes awards, Berlin, Venice or San Sebastian, to the small budget indie films, gathering the big names, the new producers, the documentaries and the projection of pieces specially restored for this non-competitive festival.
  • Competition “Santiago (é)Tapas”: The general public goes trough different bar and restaurant routes sampling traditional and creative proposals all at the same price, to choose and vote your favourite tapas.
  • Book Fair: happening over more than one week in Central Section in the Alameda park, between the end of April and the first fortnight in May.

In order to not tire you, hereby we describe you the most important festivities, but they are only a selection that we love!

FESTIVITIES OF THE APOSTLE SANTIAGO

They are the most important festivities in the city with celebrations during the second fortnight in July. The twenty-fifth of July is Galicia's day and so, a regional festivity. The celebrations last 15 days and mix the religious and official festivity with popular parties. The whole city is transformed and you can find amusement and fun nearly everywhere with big music concerts on the main streets which surround the Cathedral, smaller gigs on smaller squares in the monumental area, magic and clown performances, juggling...non-stop fun for all ages during two weeks!

The twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth are the big days. On the night of the twenty-fourth there is a spectacular fireworks show in honour of the Apostol, burning at the same time the huge pyrotechnic castle that resembles the Gothic facade of the Cathedral.

On the twenty-fifth you can see the botafumeiro, an extraordinary thurible of gigantic dimensions, swinging in the Cathedral, scenting it and covering it with a mystic halo.

During this fortnight the cultural activities stand out due to their quality and diversity. Music of all styles, dance and theatre, the street parades, the parties, the dances...invade Compostela. The traditional gathering of the music bands from all over Galicia and the regional costumes' exhibition and folk dances, are some of the other events in these festivities, which finish on July the 31st with a spectacular fireworks show.

When July the 25th falls on a Sunday, we celebrate the Compostelan Holy Year. This circumstance is repeated in cycles of 6, 5, 6 and 11 years. 1993, 1999, 2004 and 2010 were Holy Years, and it will be again in 2021.

FESTIVITIES OF THE ASCENSIÓN

Celebrated in the month of May, 6 weeks after Easter, all over the city and for a week. They are the most important festivities after the apostle's, in July.

As well as the cultural activities (concerts, theatre, street parades, etc...), we celebrate the most important and particular livestock fair in the whole year. During these festivities it is common to go enjoy a dish of pulpo á feira to the stalls in the oak groves of Santa Susana, where you could also enjoy the rides and the food stands.

FESTIVITIES OF THE BARRIO DE SAN PEDRO

San Pedro is one of the most special neighbourhoods in the city due to its communal spirit. Since 2004 a group of people decided to work on recovering the traditional festivities in the district, but also updating them.

At the same time, the area has been filled with beautiful shops and new businesses managed by young people, who have boosted the area keeping the nature of its past. For all this we recommend you to go for a walk in the area, either on festivities or not.

  • Festivities of the barrio de San Pedro

These festivities in the neighbourhood of San Pedro happen at the end of June. The celebrations are a reference in Galicia for its way of updating the traditional celebrations, merging contemporary elements such as the most modern music with classical formats as the romería (small religious  pilgrimages), or for its all-ages approach with a cultural and party offer designed for and by the neighbours.

NIGHT OF SAN JUAN (JUNE THE 23RD)

On June the 23rd, the summer solstice, we celebrate the magic night of San Juan, ancient party across many many cultures, to mark the start of the summer, the moment of maximum sunlight, the longest day in the year.

On that day the city is filled with bonfires that the Compostelanos jump to repel witchcraft and curses from the meigas (typical name for the Galician evil spirits). The busiest bonfires are those in the historic town.

That night we grill sardines in the open air accompanied by red wine and empanandas. There is also a lot of music, mainly traditional.

The purifying rite of the bonfires is complete through another rite of water and magic plants, which are left in water during the night to wash ourselves with them in the morning. This is why every June the 23rd the Mercado de Abastos smells of wild flowers in the morning (thyme, mint, camomile, roses...) that are sold in bunches in stalls in that day only.

Night life

The rhythm of the city is imposed by the university students and the comings and goings of the pilgrims who visit us. So the city hardly sleeps and it is easy to find a place to meet with friends at nearly any time in the day or at night.

The cultural offer is constant and rich and varied: sculpture and painting exhibitions, concerts of many different music styles, street performances, film series, theatre series, guided tours of the museums and gardens, handicraft exhibitions...

You can also walk around the city with absolute safety and discover the city on foot without the necessity of a car.

 

Night walks around the monumental city

It is our favourite recommendation! The really special and cosy atmosphere of the narrow streets, the string of monuments, the street musicians and the relaxing environment will not leave you indifferent.

The monumental city also offers you a multitude of beautiful joints, where you could have a coffee or a drink. Many of them offer live music as well. In summer you can enjoy the outdoor shows in nearly all the squares full of spectators sat in the bar terraces.

 

Let's go out at night

Let's go for a wine: between 20:30 and 22 hours it is the time of the wine bars, very busy at these times any day in the week. In most of them, they serve them with tapas that in Santiago, in contrast with other places, are free of charge.

Let's go for dinner: if you want to have an informal dinner, you can order raciones with the wines. The most popular are squid, octopus, tortilla, Padrón peppers...The raciones are normally to share and it is usual that you pick with the fork directly from the platter.

If you want a more formal dinner, from 22:00 it is a good time. The majority of the restaurants take bookings until 22:30 or even 23:00 hours.

Let's go drinking: drinking time starts at 23h and spreads until 3:30, closing time for the first hour joints.

However if you still feel like partying, no problem at all: clubs open around 1 in the morning until more or less 5 or 6. At that time, to wrap up  the night in Spanish style, you could have chocolate con churros before going to bed 😉

Being Santiago a small city, the atmosphere in the majority of the places is diverse. Anyway, there are also specific joints for latin rhythms (Guayaba); others for mature people (La Carrilana, Makumba...); many "gay friendly" (Forum, Bolengo...); folk background (Casa das Crechas, Tarasca...); clubs and discos (Ruta, Sónar)...

 


Shopping

EATING

Not only in the Mercado de Abastos (Food Market), but also in the historic streets and the Ensanche (new town) there are many food shops to sample and buy. We recommend you aguardientes and wines as they come in gift boxes. The cold cuts, the canned food, and cheeses are preserved well and easily packed.

The Santiago cakes and the monastic confectionery, made by the female religious congregations are also ideal to take home. The Benedictines of San Paio offer macaroons, pastries, muffins, and tartas de Santiago. The Dominicans in Belvís are specialized in Christmas confectionery on request (pound cakes and almondies) and the rest of the year they bake delicious biscuits.

 

GALICIAN CRAFTS

The number of typical crafted objects is really varied, but we put forward three options so you can become familiar with it:

Silver and jet: as you know, one of the squares that circles the Cathedral is called Plaza de Platerías  because the workshops of the metalsmiths were established there since the middle Ages. There are many shops in the monumental area where you could appreciate these silver pieces combined with gold, coral, jet and semi-precious stones. You will see pendants, earrings, brooches...in the shape of scallop shells, figas (clenched fist hands that work as an amulet), Celtic torcs...

Sargadelos pottery: dinnerware and ornamental decoration which also recreate popular and cultured motives. Pieces as vases, tea and coffee sets, boxes, small sculptures or historical Galician figures.

Camariñas bobbin lace: the origin of the Camariñas (fishermen's village located in the Costa da Morte) bobbin lace craft  has to do with the arrival of Flemish lace making since the end of the 14th century. From that time it has played an important role in the traditions belonging to the women in the estuary, and it is regarded as really precious due to the quality standards and economic relevance. Since the 15th century it has not been a single luxurious dress without Camariñas bobbin lace. Nowadays you would see its pieces in clothes, tablecloths, bedsheets, baby's clothes...

You could also find shops that work with natural fabrics as linen, silk...leather goods stores, popular pottery, regional costumes and many more.

FASHION

As you probably know, Galicia is one of the creative centres for the Spanish dressmaking industry and exports to the whole world. Brands as  Adolfo Domínguez, Zara, Roberto Verino, Florentino, Purificación García have stores in Santiago.


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