I have visited Santiago de Compostela three times and it is a city that, beyond its world-famous cathedral, has a lot to offer. The truth is that the second visit was made as the final stage of a week-long section of the Camino de Santiago. In fact, on that occasion I did not plan to get to Santiago, because we started from Burgos, but a series of injuries to the battered knees and feet of my traveling companions made us accelerate the train and taxi ride (yes, cheating, I I know).
There are many things to see in Santiago de Compostela, a city full of historical places, but which combines its ancestral air with beautiful green areas and a youthful air contributed by its great university tradition.
1. Cathedral of Santiago
Built between 1075 and 1211, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela displays a combination of architectural styles: Baroque, Romanesque, and Gothic. Its greatness and external beauty can be admired from the Plaza del Obradoiro, among ecstatic pilgrims who cry with joy and take photos as the culmination of a physical and internal journey.
After passing under the Pórtico de la Gloria you will be able to admire the interior chapels, the ornate ceilings and columns and, if you are lucky, the swing of the great botafumeiro.
In addition, through a small entrance you can access the upper floors, getting one of the best views to see in Santiago de Compostela.
2. Cathedral Museum
Inside the cathedral there is another jewel to see in Santiago de Compostela. It is the Cathedral Museum and in it you can find the history and the backbone of the city. By contemplating the works of art, tapestries, paintings and crafts you will come to understand the origins of the cathedral and its surroundings.
With the entrance you can also visit the medieval choir, the cloister, a library and the upper floors, with their great views.
3. Convent of San Francisco
Franciscan monks lived in this former convent during the 18th century. However, the monks of the order have moved to more modern premises and a hotel and a restaurant have been created in the old convent.
In the restaurant, decorated with baroque and neoclassical ornaments, they serve tasty meats. Be sure to try the pilgrim’s menu, made with old traditional dishes from the convent’s heyday. Without a doubt, it is one of the most curious places to visit in Santiago de Compostela.
4. La Alameda Park
And after so many buildings and places, we are going to show that there are also beautiful outdoor spaces to visit in Santiago de Compostela.
This is the case of La Alameda Park. Its oak, eucalyptus and horse chestnut trees cast shadows that are appreciated on hot summer days and shelter from the air during the harsh Galician winter. At any time of the year, it is a good haven of peace almost in the heart of the Old City, ideal for having a drink at noon, walking, reading a book or kissing with passion.
Among the statues in the park, those of the two Marias stand out, representing two women who used to walk at 2 in the afternoon, every day, through the streets of the center, dressed in a striking way and trying to flirt with the university students.
5. Food Market
The Mercado de Abastos is one of the most colorful places to see in Santiago de Compostela. Since the last quarter of the 19th century, the interior of the beautiful building located on the Rúa das Ameas, the different stalls of seafood, fish, meat, cheese, vegetables, fruit, and much more have been lined up.
In it you will find both locals and tourists and include new features such as being able to ask (for a small price increase) to cook the products purchased on site or being able to taste fresh milk directly from a dispenser (you just have to bring the bottles). As it usually happens with the markets, it is a perfect place to take the pulse of the city.
6. Old City
Around the cathedral there is a tangle of alleys that are among the most beautiful to see in Santiago de Compostela.
It wanders among the hidden squares – like the one of Cervantes -, beautiful statues, ornate fountains and low houses. At the bottom of the same, restaurants and cafes are the perfect place to have a drink while watching life go by. Stroll through the mythical Rúa do Franco (also known by the nickname “Calle de los Vinos”), Rúa do Vilar and Rúa Nova and feel the atmosphere of a legendary city.
7. The House of Culture
Designed by Peter Eisenmann, the Casa da Cultura is a large white mound that attempts to emulate the curves and headlands of the earthy hills.
The high cost of its construction was the cause of great controversy, but the Casa da Cultura de Santiago is among the best places to visit in Santiago de Compostela, if only to admire its extraordinary architecture. Visit the library and check the program of events to see the exhibitions they are holding. Concerts and workshops are also organized.
8. San Martín Pinario Monastery
The 10th century Baroque Benedictine monastery and church are open for visits for a very reasonable price.
The church has a beautiful staircase and the choir, made by Mateo de Prado in walnut wood, is considered one of the most impressive in Galicia. When you visit, try to imagine the hustle and bustle of the monks’ daily lives, who would leave in the mid-19th century. The monastery is now used as a university residence, hotel, and also houses a museum with a wide variety of historical artifacts.
9. Eugenio Granell Foundation
Eugenio Granell was a surrealist painter born in Spain.
The foundation owns a collection of his works, as well as a collection of curious objects that he and his wife collected during their travels. The foundation also has works by other surrealist painters such as Miró, Copley or Cruzeiro Seixas.
They organize temporary exhibitions, workshops, plays and conferences, and it has a large library dedicated to surrealism and 20th century art. If you are an art lover, it is undoubtedly one of the best places to see in Santiago de Compostela.
10. Monte do Gozo
When I saw Monte do Gozo on the horizon, I recognize that a great feeling of joy came over me. From the top of this small 380 meter-high mountain, two large statues, representing two pilgrims, point towards Plaza del Obradoiro.
There are not a few who rest in the hostel that is here, to face the last stage of their Camino de Santiago frescoes.
The views of the surroundings of Monte do Gozo are the best to see in Santiago de Compostela.
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