Santiago de Compostela is a city that everyone should visit once in a lifetime. Well, or rather, Galicia in general. In this article I’ll go through all the essential things to see and do in Santiago de Compostela. Read on!
🗺 Things to do and see in Santiago de Compostela
Galicia is a place I’m particularly fond of because it reminds me of Ireland. I lived in the Emerald Isle for a while as an au pair, and travelling to Santiago de Compostela and Ourense made me feel “at home”. Green landscapes, rain -because I travelled in March- and friendly people everywhere.
Besides, here is the best tortilla de patatas I’ve ever tasted (so far). And that’s reason enough to come back (again and again) to Santiago.
If you haven’t planned your trip yet, I recommend this article about the best places to stay in Santiago de Compostela, and now let’s find out which are the must-see places in the city!
Santiago de Compostela Cathedral and Plaza del Obradoiro
The Plaza del Obradoiro is the heart of the old town of Santiago de Compostela. Here you will find the main façade of the Cathedral of Santiago, the Hostal do Reis Católicos and Pazo de Raxoi, the city’s town hall.
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is the destination for the thousands of pilgrims who arrive every day to its km 0. In summer it is usually crowded, so you can enjoy it almost in complete solitude.
Entry to Santiago Cathedral is free. However, you do have to pay an entrance fee to visit the roofs of the Cathedral, the museum or the Portico de la Gloria.
On my trip, the interior of the Cathedral was under construction and I could hardly see it as it deserves to be seen, so I hope that by the time you visit it, the work will be finished!
Don’t leave without seeing its famous Botafumeiro or giving the Apostle Santiago a hug.
If you want to know more about its history, you can take a guided tour of the Cathedral of Santiago.
Hostal do Reis Católicos
Hostal do Reis Catolicos, Santiago de Compostela Located in the Plaza del Obradoiro, it is another of the most symbolic buildings of Santiago de Compostela.
Plateresque in style, it was built under the order of the Catholic Monarchs as a hospital to help those in need of medical assistance. It is now a hotel and forms part of the network of Paradores Nacionales.
You can stay there, take a tour to find out more about its history or enjoy it from the Plaza de la Catedral de Santiago.
It is one of the green corners of the city, and I would say one of my favourites in Santiago de Compostela.
At first sight, it may not strike you as something to include on your list. But what if I told you that it has incredible views of the Cathedral of Santiago?
The photo is taken from there at sunset. The place is ideal to go for a walk, contemplate the landscape, meet the Dos Marías or meet Valle Inclán himself.
For me it is one of the best places to see in Santiago de Compostela.
Free tour around Santiago de Compostela
I love free tours and they are one of the things I always recommend to do when visiting a city. Even more so if it’s your first time there. Free tours are tours that you do for FREE and everyone contributes their own money, depending on how much you liked the tour or what you think it’s worth.
Plaza de la Quintana
In the Plaza de la Quintana there is a shadow of a pilgrim hidden in the wall of the cathedral. Will you be able to find it?
Rúa do Franco
Rúa do Franco is par excellence the street of bars. It is one of the main avenues of Santiago de Compostela. Here you will find an infinite number of bars where you can taste the delicacies that Galician gastronomy has prepared for us.
Some good places to eat in the area are Mesón 42 or María Castaña.
Plaza de las Platerías
It is behind the Berengela Tower, or clock tower, of the Cathedral of Santiago.
It is one of the squares surrounding the cathedral. There is a left-luggage office here, in case the information is useful.
This park is home to the Museum of the Galician People, a Gothic-style church and the Galician Centre of Contemporary Art.
Museum of the Galician people
The museum is located in the grounds of Bonaval Park. And, as its name suggests, it is a village dedicated to Galicia and its people.
The current site of the Museum of the Galician People was a former convent. The most outstanding feature is its baroque-style, helicoidal staircase.
It has 9 permanent halls dedicated to the sea, music, printing, architecture, society, etc.
Galician Centre of Contemporary Art
It is located in the grounds of Bonaval Park, right next to the Museum of the Galician People. Admission is free and it is open from Tuesday to Sunday.
If you’re in the city on a tight schedule, it’s not a place I’d recommend. But if you have enough time, don’t hesitate to go.
On the day I went there were three exhibitions. The first was feminist in nature, extolling the role of women. The second was related to the world of the homeless, but you needed to read about it to understand each figure. And the third and last one was a bit peculiar. I wouldn’t know how to describe it. It was an exhibition focused on experimentation. A beep, a looping knock-knock, a tongue licking a cheek.
Santiago de Compostela University
The University of Santiago de Compostela is worth a visit for being one of the oldest cities in the world, over 500 years old!
You can take a guided tour of the University in Spanish. It costs 7€ and they will show you many unknown corners.
This is very close to our next stop: the Faculty of Geography and History.
It is divided into two areas. The first is dedicated to the sale of food, and the second is a restaurant area.
The Santiago de Compostela food market is one of the ideal places to try Galician cuisine. Here I can recommend Amoado (where they serve traditional filloa dishes) and Frebas to try the filloa nachos.
Here is a more extensive list of recommended places to eat in Santiago de Compostela, in case you get hungry.
Plaza de la Inmaculada
This is located at the north door of the Cathedral. It was where pilgrims used to enter in the past, and where the Gate of Paradise was located.
In this square is the Monastery of Martín Pinario, the second largest religious building in Spain, after the Escorial. At the end of the 19th century it ceased to be a monastery. It is now part of the University of Santiago de Compostela. It is also a guest house.
Casa de Troya
This museum is dedicated to Casa de Troya, a 19th century university boarding house. Such was its fame that it even has its own book. Alejandro Pérez immortalised the place in his book “Casa de Troya”.