attractions in Santiago de Compostela

10 best tourist attractions in Santiago de Compostela and easy day trips

Pilgrims once traveled from all over Europe on months-long journeys on foot to get here. The ultimate goal of the faithful was to venerate the relics of Saint James (known in Spain as Santiago) which were miraculously transferred to this site in Spain from the Holy Land. During the Middle Ages, this holy city was equal to Jerusalem and Rome as a place of pilgrimage. Still one of the most revered shrines in Christianity, Santiago de Compostela continues to draw modern spiritual pilgrims. The old pilgrimage route is approached as an extensive walking, cycling or horse tour. No matter how visitors arrive, Santiago de Compostela is a rewarding destination in the heart of the beautiful Galicia region. The historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the beautiful Santiago Cathedral is one of the most remarkable monuments in Spain.

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1 Cathedral of Santiago

Santiago’s cathedral

The most sacred Christian monument in Spain, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, is a sight worthy of an arduous pilgrimage. The cathedral stands majestically on the Plaza del Obradoiro with its towers rising above the city. A beautiful example of early Romanesque architecture, the building was built between 1075 and 1211 on the site of an earlier ninth-century church destroyed by the Moorish army of Almansor in 997. The cathedral was renovated many times in different architectural styles, including Gothic, Plateresque and Neoclassical. Welcoming pilgrims is a beautiful entrance called thePortico de la Gloria. Created by Master Mateo in 1188, this doorway is a profusion of statuary with 200 figures from the story of the Apocalypse and the figure of Saint James the Apostle. TheObradoiro Facade (opposite the square) was created by Fernando de Casas y Novoa. This opulent facade is considered the finest example of the Spanish Baroque style.

The grand first impression of the cathedral sets the stage for an inspiring spiritual experience. Enter the serene sanctuary, a grandiose space of three naves with a stunning surface area of ​​approximately 8,300 square meters. Directly below the opulent Baroque main altar is the main attraction for all pilgrims to Santiago, theCrypt of Saint James the Apostle, patron saint of Spain. TheFiesta de Santiago (Feast of Saint James) is held every year that July 25 falls on a Sunday, considered a feast day for the Holy Year. TheCapilla de las Reliquias, the first chapel in the south aisle, contains tombs of kings and queens from the 12th to the 15th century. Beyond the south transept to the right of the Puerta de las Platerías lies a beautiful 16th-century Plateresque monastery, one of the largest and most beautiful in Spain.

Outside the cathedral, the Plaza del Obradoiro is a tourist attraction in itself. Several other important monuments grace this square including theHospital Real, a 15th-century hospital converted into a luxury parador hotel, and the Palacio de Gelmírez, a medieval archbishop’s palace.

Address: Plaza Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Santiago de Compostela

2 Hostel of the Catholic Monarchs

Hostel of the Catholic Monarchs
Hostel of the Catholic Monarchs

This former pilgrim hostel is a beautiful example of Gothic Plateresque architecture, with a decorative facade and four courtyards. In 1499, the Catholic Monarchs created a wonderful retreat for weary pilgrims who had traveled from far and wide on the Way of Saint James route. It is easy to imagine the joy that travelers must have felt when they reached this beautiful destination. Continuing the tradition of hospitality, the historic building has been renovated and converted into a luxury Parador hotel. Guests will enjoy the comfortable rooms and regional Galician cuisine served in the hotel’s gourmet restaurant. Visitors can also continue their spiritual journey by worshiping in the beautiful chapel here, theCapilla de Enrique de Egas.

Address: 1 Plaza Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela

3 Camino de Santiago in the Museum of Pilgrimages

Camino de Santiago at the Museo das Peregrinacións M a n u e l / photo gewijzigd
Camino de Santiago at the Museo das Peregrinacións M a n u e l / photo gewijzigd

The Camino de Santiago is the name for the pilgrimage path to Santiago de Compostela. This important medieval pilgrimage began in the ninth century with several routes, also known as the Way of Saint James, originating from all over Europe. Pilgrims set out on their journeys with the aim of venerating the saint’s grave in Santiago. During the High Middle Ages, a pilgrimage culture flourished and beautiful Romanesque churches were built along the main stopping points. The symbol of the pilgrims is the shell. Historical sites related to the Camino de Santiago are indicated with a shell icon. Modern pilgrims tie the shells to their backpacks.

ThePilgrimage Museum allows visitors to discover the fascinating history of the pilgrims of Saint James. The museum explains the importance of the relics of Saint James to the pilgrims and illustrates the cult of Saint James through ancient objects and religious objects. Historical information describes the origins of Jacobean worship, beginning with the archaeological transfer of the saint’s apostolic body (relics) from Jaffa in the Holy Land to Libredón, the name of the hilltop site now part of Santiago de Compostela. Exhibits also show the influence of pilgrims on the development of the craft guilds of Santiago de Compostela. The museum has two locations: one is located on Calle de San Miguel and the other on Plaza de las Platerías, the square overlooking the cathedral.

Addresses: Calle de San Miguel 4 & Plaza de Platerías, Santiago de Compostela

4 Old Town (oude stad)

Old Town
Old Town (oude stad)

Santiago’s atmospheric old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and extends south of the cathedral and cathedral Plaza de las Platerías. In the middle are two parallel streets, theRúa Nueva and theRúa del Villar with the 18th century Casa del Deán at the end. These two colonnades are the hub of city life and are filled with cafes, restaurants and boutiques. Tourists will enjoy strolling through these charming pedestrian streets. Much of the Casco Antiguo and the area around the cathedral is closed to vehicular traffic, adding to the picturesque Old World atmosphere.

5 Collegiate Church of Santa María la Real de Sar

Collegiate Church of Santa María la Real de Sar amauanos / gefotografeerde foto
Collegiate Church of Santa María la Real de Sar amauanos / gefotografeerde foto

On the outskirts of the city, this remarkable collegiate church of Santa Maria dates back to the 12th century. The building has an interesting tower and flying buttresses on the outside that were built in the 17th and 18th centuries. Typical of a Romanesque church, the plan has three naves separated by pillars and the capitals are decorated with plant motifs. The sanctuary features barrel vaulting with ribbed arches, creating a graceful sense of space. The interior is illuminated by the side windows and a rose window. Be sure to visit the monastery, a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture. The arcaded colonnades have beautiful decorative details and offer views of a tranquil garden. The church is open to the public for visitors every day.

Adres: Plaza de la Collegiata de Sar, Santiago de Compostela

6 Galician Center for Contemporary Art

Galician Center for Contemporary Art Jose Luis Cernadas Iglesias / modified photo
Galician Center for Contemporary Art Jose Luis Cernadas Iglesias / gewijzigde photo

The Galician Contemporary Art Center offers a wonderful insight into the region’s modern culture. The center is dedicated to contemporary Galician art, which is displayed in sleek exhibition halls. Next to the historic San Domingos de Bonaval Monastery, the center is located in a beautiful modern building designed by the Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza. From the building’s terraces, visitors can enjoy beautiful views of the historic district. Part of the property includes a beautiful park that belonged to the neighboring monastery. In addition to the permanent collection, the center also organizes temporary exhibitions related to trends in art.

Address: Calle Ramón del Valle Inclán 2, Santiago de Compostela

Official site:

7 Casa do Cabildo

Casa do Cabildo Aestudio / photo modified
Casa do Cabildo Aestudio / photo modified

The Casa do Cabildo is considered one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in the Galicia region. This impressive aristocratic house was built in 1758 and is known for its beautiful facade that adorns the cityPlaza de las Platerías. The Casa del Cabildo was a source of inspiration for the Spanish author Valle-Inclán and is described in his story Mi Hermana Antonia. The building was renovated in 2011 and converted into an exhibition space; the monument is part of the association of museums in Santiago de Compostela. The Casa do Cabildo is open to the public when art exhibitions are held here.

Address: 2 Plaza de Platerías, Santiago de Compostela

8 Museum of the Galician People

Museo do Pobo Galego juantiagues / gemodificeerde photo
Museo do Pobo Galego juantiagues / gemodificeerde photo

The Museum of the Galician People opened in 1976 and is housed in the former Monastery of Santo Domingo de Bonaval. The exhibits illustrate the defining aspect of Galician culture, such as seafaring and traditional customs. Several spaces present Galician clothing, music, painting, sculpture, architecture and archaeology.

Address: Calle San Domingos de Bonaval, Santiago de Compostela

9 City of Culture of Galicia

City of Culture of Galicia juantiagues / photo modified
Cidade da Cultura de Galicia juantiagues / photo modified

In a beautiful contrast to the historic buildings of Santiago de Compostela, this sleek, modern building complex brings the city into the 21st century. The City of Culture includes a museum with temporary exhibitions, a library and a central square for outdoor performances. The Cidade da Cultura is a short bus ride from the historic center of Santiago de Compostela.

10 Pazo de San Lorenzo de Trasouto

Pazo de San Lorenzo de Trasouto amazons / photo modified
Pazo de San Lorenzo de Trasouto amazonos / photo modified

In a dense forest of oaks, this elegant Galicianpazo (palace) was converted from a medieval monastery. San Lorenzo de Trasouto was founded in the 13th century by the Bishop of Zamora. Originally a hermitage dedicated to Saint Lawrence, it was later a Franciscan monastery. The country house is surrounded by idyllic gardens full of lush plants, trees and flowers. The palace is used as a venue for weddings, conferences, meetings and banquets. Tourists can visit the building by appointment.

Address: Robleda de San Lorenzo, Santiago de Compostela

Where to stay in Santiago de Compostela for sightseeing

We recommend these charming hotels in Santiago de Compostela, close to the old town and other top attractions:

  • Parador Hostal Dos Reis Catolicos: luxury, historic hotel, central location, old-world charm, large dining room, monastery gardens.
  • San Francisco Hotel Monumento: 4-star hotel, old meets new, glass elevators, stone walls, inviting courtyard, beautiful pool.
  • Altair Hotel: mid-range boutique hotel, a stone’s throw from the old town, excellent staff, stylish decor, great breakfast with homemade jam.
  • Hotel Atalaia B & B: budget guesthouse, friendly service, modern rooms, comfortable beds.

Day trips from Santiago de Compostela

Historic seaside resort of Vigo

Historic seaside resort of Vigo
Historic seaside resort of Vigo

The historic seaside resort of Vigo is located 87 kilometers from Santiago de Compostela along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and the estuary of the Rías Baixas. The city’s historic district has the atmosphere of a fishing village. Vigo is known for its Galician cuisine based on fresh local fish. The town has an interesting 20th century church, the Shrine ofNosa Señora da Guía, inspired by the Baroque architecture of Santiago de Compostela. Housed in a beautiful 17th century pazo (palace) with beautiful gardens, theMunicipal Museum shows an excellent collection of archaeological finds and paintings by Galician artists. Another interesting cultural attraction isGalicia Marine Museum, which informs visitors about the history of fishing and the traditional seafaring way of life of the Galicia region .

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