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Santiago de Compostela: are you ready to hit the road?

Taking the road that leads to Santiago de Compostela is the dream of many people. Learn all about it and set off on your journey in 2023

Santiago de Compostela is an ancient pilgrimage destination, with trails scattered all over Europe. A journey of reflection that brings together adventure, conviviality and introspection, besides treading incredible roads.

In this guide we will tell you about the city, the legend, the moments, but also the Portuguese and European paths, besides important tips in case a Santiago's path is in your plans. Prepare your backpack and embark on this journey.

Before embarking on the so-called Santiago roads, let's explore the city - the gastronomy, the monuments, and the life that pulsates through the streets steeped in history. A city worth visiting, beyond the pilgrimage.

Santiago de Compostela, Capital of Galicia

Santiago de Compostela grew up around religion and Catholicism. The university and religious tourism are important sectors in the economy of the capital of Galicia, founded in the 9th century.

Lofty and sad from the top of its baroque architecture, of stone soiled by time, the city, whose center has been a UNESCO Intangible Heritage Site since 1985, has many charms beyond its facades.

With a unique life that fills terraces on summer days and nights, Santiago de Compostela lives between mysticism and reality - a land of saints and witches, well worth a visit.

To visit Santiago is to eat tapas, the Spanish way. It means jumping from café to restaurant and tasting the best delicacies of the region, which range from seafood, to cheeses, to the famous wines of the Rías Baixas.

Visit the Abastos Market, which has been held since 1941, where you can find everything from vegetables to traditional Spanish sausages, as well as artisans working with wood, leather, and other materials.

But to visit Santiago de Compostela, is also to lose yourself in the medieval historical center full of unique details that will make any walk worthy of historical report.

Experience the Galician night in the street, like any Spaniard: at night, the streets fill with musicians and itinerant shows (puppet shows, theater or dance) that give another life and charm to the city.

The legend behind the story

Despite the hustle and bustle of today, Santiago de Compostela grew up in the shadow of the disciple Saint James (Santiago), who came from Palestine to evangelize the Iberian Peninsula.

The story goes that St. James arrived in Spain on a ship carrying gold and tin. Upon docking, the disciple of Jesus Christ quickly began to spread the good news, until he was condemned to be beheaded by Herod Agrippa I, becoming the first martyred disciple.

The legend comes after his death. Santiago was taken by two disciples to be buried in the far reaches of Galicia. In the 9th century, several nights followed by rains of stars, witnessed by a hermit of the Pelaio woods, were the motivation for the bishop of Iria Flavia, Teodomir, to have the area excavated, until a marble chest was found with the remains, thought to be those of the disciple Saint James.

From here on he was the man to build the Legend. Three churches were built in his memory, which soon began to be pilgrimage destinations, until the reign of Alfonso III, who ordered the construction of the majestic cathedral we know today.

From then on, until our days, word of mouth, evangelization, did the rest, and more and more pilgrims came to Santiago de Compostela, turning the city into the 3rd holy place immediately after Jerusalem and Rome.

Monuments not to be missed

It is in this mysticism that the city has lived since its foundation. Santiago Cathedral, between neoclassic, baroque, gothic and romantic, is majestic.

Look at the exterior facades and enter accompanied by an audio guide and the visit will make more sense. In the Cathedral area there are several squares such as Obradoiro, Quintana and d'O Toural, with several esplanades and cafes.

In the heart of the city, stroll through the exuberant Alameda Gardens. The Parque San Domingos de Bonaval is also worth a visit, an old Dominican farm with a cemetery and right next to the Pantheon of illustrious Galicians.

In the old town, worthy of photographic record the old Baroque Hospital and the Church of the Convent of San Agostiño. Side by side with the magnificence of history and religion, Santiago de Compostela has been establishing itself as a central pole of Galician culture. Proof of this are the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, designed by Siza Vieira, and the Palacio de Congresos e Exposicións de Galicia.

Where to eat

Besides seafood, the almond tart is another delicacy that you can't miss on a visit to Santiago de Compostela. The Orrela restaurant with its informal atmosphere is a good option to eat the region's famous seafood.

Another option is the Bierzo Enxebre Sl. But above all explore the central area of the city, restaurants for all pockets and tastes will not be lacking.

Where to stay

Stay at the Quinta da Auga Hotel Spa Relais & Châteaux or at the Parador de Santiago - Hostal Reis Católicos and enjoy the atmosphere of crusaders, kings and queens. At more modest prices the Hotel Montenegro Compostela is a good option.

After getting a good idea of what your destination will be, it's time to pluck up the courage and embark on the pilgrimage routes - Caminos de Santiago, which we will explore in the next 'chapters' of this pocket guide.


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