10 Best Things to Do in Santiago de Compostela

What is Santiago de Compostela Most Famous For?

    Santiago de Compostela is most renowned for housing the remains of Saint James within its grand cathedral, which attracts thousands of pilgrims travelling from France’s Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port every year. Even if you’re not religious, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela still impresses with its ornate façade, Baroque chapels, and beautiful sculptures of biblical figures. Monasteries-turned-museums are plentiful in the city’s historical quarter, each housing valuable artefacts dating back as far as the 10th century.

    Galician culture thrives in Santiago de Compostela, with fantastic seafood dishes readily available in most restaurants. If you’re a first-time visitor to this elegant city, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Santiago de Compostela.

    What are the best things to do in Santiago de Compostela?

    1

    Start the day at Praza do Obradoiro

    Enjoy a self-guided tour of this monumental square

    Praza do Obradoiro is flanked by 4 of Santiago de Compostela’s most iconic buildings, which are Hostal dos Reis Católicos, Pazo de Raxoi (City Hall), Colexio de San Xerome, and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Located west of the cathedral’s main façade, the cobbled streets leading off this main square are lined with cafés, bars, and restaurants with views of Renaissance and Gothic structures. The square is only accessible for pedestrians, making it a safe place to explore on foot.

    Location: Praza do Obradoiro, 15705 Santiago de Compostela, Spain

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    2

    Must-See: Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

    See the gigantic censer hanging from the altar ceiling

    Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, with its Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassical, and Romanesque architecture, is widely known as the city’s most beautiful building. Its western façade features a 13th-century Romanesque portico decorated with 200 sculptures of biblical icons, apostles, and prophets. Its high altar has a Baroque baldacchino (ceremonial canopy) completely covered in gold leaf. On special occasions, a gigantic incense burner called the Botafumeiro can be seen hanging from the ceiling. You can climb up to the stone rooftops of the cathedral to enjoy panoramic views of Santiago de Compostela.

    Location: Praza do Obradoiro, 15704 Santiago de Compostela, Spain

    Open: Daily from 7am to 8.30pm

    Phone: +34 981 583 548

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    3

    Relax at Parque de la Alameda

    Visit the Baroque Chapel of Santa Susana

    Parque de la Alameda, to the west of Santiago Old Town, is a 16th-century city park with beautiful sculptures, flowerbeds, and winding pathways. It consists of 3 distinctive spaces, namely Alameda Walk, the Oak Wood of Santa Susana, and the Ferradura Walk. There are more than 15 sculptures throughout the park, including one dedicated to Corelia and Maruja Fandiño. The sisters paraded around the Old Town in flamboyant costumes every day at 2pm, which locals believe was done to protest Spain’s oppressive society back in 1960s.

    Location: Paseo Central de Alameda, s/n, 15702 Santiago de Compostela, La Coruña, Spain

    Open: 24/7

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    4

    Try pulpo a la Gallega

    Enjoy this regional dish at Pulpería Fuentes

    Pulpo a la Gallega is a traditional dish consisting of boiled octopus sprinkled with paprika and sea salt. Also known as Galician-style octopus, it’s typically served on wooden plates with boiled potatoes or bread and enjoyed with red wine. Although you can find this dish in many restaurants in the city centre, it’s worth travelling 3.5 km south to Pulpería Fuentes, where locals claim to serve the best pulpo a la Gallega in Santiago de Compostela.

    Location: Pulpería Fuentes, Rúa do Campo de Conxo, 5, 15706 Santiago de Compostela, Spain

    Open: Monday from 8am to 3pm, Tuesday – Sunday from 8am to midnight

    Phone: +34 981 521 007

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    5

    Learn about Galician history at Museo do Pobo Galego

    Climb the 18th-century triple spiral staircase by Domingo de Andrade

    Museo do Pobo Galego (Museum of Galician People) features permanent and temporary displays on Galician art, tradition, and culture. There are over 11,000 items on display, from traditional costumes and jewellery to fishing boats and printing presses. The museum occupies a 13th-century convent house, with a chapel housing the remains of prominent figures such as Rosalia de Castro and Afonso Daniel Rodríguez Castelao. Tickets cost about €3, but you can visit the museum for free on Sundays.

    Location: San Domingos de Bonaval, 15703 Santiago de Compostela, Spain

    Open: Tuesday – Saturday from 10.30am to 2pm and from 4pm to 7.30pm, Sunday from 11am to 2pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +34 981 583 620

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    photo by santiago lopez-pastor (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    6

    Snack at Mercado de Abastos

    Stock up on cured meats, tetilla cheese and empanada

    Mercado de Abastos dates back to the late 19th century, making it one of Santiago de Compostela’s most important tourist spots. The indoor market is divided into 8 halls with over 300 stalls selling local specialities, fresh seafood, pastries, cheese, and cured meats. As with most markets in Spain, you can also find plenty of bars serving tapas and wines inside and along the streets surrounding Mercado de Abastos. Stock up on fresh seafood (a must-buy is goose barnacle) and have the market bar prepare it on the spot for a few euros. Located in the city centre, Mercado de Abastos is a 5-minute walk of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

    Location: Mercado de Abastos de Santiago, Rúa das Ameas, Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Spain

    Open: Monday – Saturday from 8am to 3pm (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +34 981 583 438

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    photo by juantiagues (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    7

    Must-See: Monasterio de San Martín Pinario

    Check out religious artefacts and a 15th-century apothecary at the museum

    Monasterio de San Martín Pinario is a medieval monastery in Santiago de Compostela. It features a 16th-century Plateresque façade with Doric columns and intricate carvings of Christ, Benedictine abbots, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Martin of Tours. Today, it houses a seminary, hotel, and a university residence. It’s also a museum of religious art, where you can see various paintings, sculptures, and biographies of religious figures displayed in 12 exhibition halls. One of these rooms feature an apothecary, which was built in the 15th century.

    Location: Praza da Inmaculada, 3, 15705 Santiago de Compostela, Spain

    Open: Tuesday – Sunday from 11am to 1.30pm and from 4pm to 6.30pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +34 981 583 008

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    8

    Shop at Centro Comercial As Cancelas

    Catch the latest films at its onsite cineplex

    Centro Comercial As Cancelas is a modern shopping mall in Santiago de Compostela’s commercial district. Located 3 km northeast of Museo do Pobo Galego, it houses a Carrefour supermarket, Primark department store, and popular high street brands such as Adidas, Bershka, and Zara. There are also plenty of dining options, where you can enjoy a variety of cuisine, from pastas, burgers, and steaks to Japanese udon and Chinese stir-fries.

    Location: Avenida Do Camiño Francés, 3, 15703 Santiago de Compostela, Spain

    Open: Daily from 10am to 10pm

    Phone: +34 981 568 282

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    photo by Nemigo (CC0 1.0) modified

    9

    See surrealistic artwork at Fundación Eugenio Granell

    Find over 200 oil paintings, etchings, and drawings by the Spanish painter

    Fundación Eugenio Granell (Eugenio Granell Foundation) commemorates the Spanish-born surrealist painter with displays of some of his most notable masterpieces. The building itself is an impressive example of Baroque architecture, with a grand façade displaying the shield of Bendaña and the statue of Atlas holding the sky. The museum also exhibits paintings by artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Roberto Matta, and Joan Miró. Workshops, conferences and plays are regularly held for those interested in surrealism and 20th-century art.

    Location: Praza do Toural, 8, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

    Open: Tuesday –Thursday from 11am to 2pm and from 4pm to 8pm, Friday from 11am to 2pm and from 5pm to 8pm (closed on Sundays and Mondays)

    Phone: +34 981 572 124

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    photo by juantiagues (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    10

    End the day with live music at Borriquita de Belém

    Sip on cocktails while listening to live jazz

    Borriquita de Belém has hosted live jazz since 1971, making it one of the oldest live venues in Santiago de Compostela. Located in the city’s historical district, the bar is within a 5-minute walk of Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Hotel Carris Casa De La Troya, and Mercado de Abastos. Aside from talented musicians performing jazz, blues, and rock music on most nights, you can also watch flamenco shows at Borriquita de Belém.

    Location: 22 Rúa de San Paio de Antealtares, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

    Open: Monday – Thursday from 7pm to 2.30am, Friday – Saturday from 8pm to 3.30am (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +34 653 471 551

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    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveler

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