Sat on the shoulders of Portugal in a pocket of the north west, lies the verdant region of Galicia. Here, nestled in one of the notches of the green belt that wraps itself around northern Spain lies Santiago de Compostela, one of the country’s most culturally and historically significant cities.
Best known as the end destination for the thousands who walk the Camino de Santiago, a network of pilgrimage routes that stretch across Europe, it is estimated over 200,000 make the journey each year to visit the shrine of St. James the Great, which lies within the city’s cathedral.
No matter how long it took you to get to Santiago de Compostela, the UNESCO World Heritage Site won’t fail to impress. With Romanesque, Gothic and baroque influences, the old town is a collection of architectural gems, the star of which is the magnificent cathedral with its two striking towers reaching up towards the sky.
With so many rituals and traditions that are carried out by pilgrims, inside the cathedral can get quite busy. Don’t let this put you off, though, as witnessing the scores of people having reached the end of their journey is an experience in itself. Make sure you look out for the scallop shell symbol associated with the Camino de Santiago. It is believed that the groves represents the different routes, all leading to one final destination, and is used as a marker on posts and signs along the way.
Most of the city’s major monuments are clustered together on the squares that surround the cathedral. The Hostal de los Reyes Católicos, now a hotel, was the former lodgings of the pilgrims who had completed their long and arduous trek, and the Raxoi Palace with its magnificent neoclassical façade is now the City Hall.
Every city needs its green space and the beautiful Alameda Park is well worth a visit for relaxed stroll. You’re also ideally located to explore the Galician countryside and there is an abundance of great hiking routes nearby as well as a great selection of beaches within driving distance.
When to go
The best time to visit is spring, summer and fall.