Just as important as planning your Camino de Santiago is knowing how to make the most of your visit to the Galician capital. Culture, history and food! will fill you (and your stomach) during your stay.
That is why we are going to propose several things that you can only enjoy in Santiago de Compostela (and its surroundings).
Forget about stiffness and sore feet for a while after your pilgrimage. You have earned it, so live the experience to the fullest!
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What to see in Santiago de Compostela
The Food Market (Mercado de Abastos)
You may be surprised that this is the first mandatory stop we recommend, but the food market (Mercado de Abastos) of Santiago seems to us the most authentic experience of this wonderful town.
Seafood, vegetables, meat, fish, wines… Find here fresh and quality products, surrounded by the most authentic local atmosphere: a buzz of visitors, buyers and sellers fill it with life every morning, from Monday to Saturday, for more than three centuries! And if that was not enough, the building is beautiful, with two floors and eight warehouses along which different stalls extend showing a broad collection of products.
Keep in mind that they ship their products to other parts of the country, so you can still taste the best of Galicia after returning home.
Of course, it cannot be missing from our list. The Cathedral is the goal of every pilgrim and what will thrill you the most on your arrival in Compostela at the end of the Camino.
The Cathedral’s majestic facade and its other faces are surrounded by unique architectural examples: the Quintana square, the Fountain of Platerías, the Clock Tower… Inside you can admire the Pórtico of Glory, recently restored, as well as its spectacular altar presided by the Apostle Santiago.
And if you attend mass and are lucky to see the botafumeiro fly, you will not have a better icing on the cake. At the Pilgrim’s Recepction Office they can inform you on how to reserve it, or you can also have an answer to your questions by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Santiago’s Old Town
The old town or historic center of Santiago de Compostela is a work of art itself. Declared a World Heritage Site, you can walk through its streets and stone galleries while enjoying the museums, fountains, monuments, arches and walls.
Although from the Obradoiro square you can admire the Hostal de los Reyes Católicos or the facade of the Palacio de Rajoy, where the town hall is located, a few meters from the Cathedral you will find the Monastery of San Martín Pinario, the largest in Spain after the Escorial . You should also see the inside of the Pazo de Fonseca, with its landscaped cloister and its library. And the fountain of Platerias with its horses, that of Cervantes, the Porta Faxeira…
If you want to admire once more the green vegetation of Galicia, in the Santo Domingo de Bonaval park or the Alameda you can do so. Don’t forget to take a picture with the famous Dos Marías or with the Valle Inclán statue.
Where to eat in Santiago de Compostela?
Due to its proximity to the Cathedral and the numerous restaurants that you will find there, Rúa do Franco is presented as the favorite place to taste the best of Galician food, at least for the hundreds of pilgrims who come to the city of Compostela every year.
This street is undoubtedly the most lively one in the entire historic center, since not only pilgrims, but also many Compostelans (especially on weekends) will be there enjoying the best wines of this land. Here you can have a free tapa included with your drink. In addition, you will see that there are many fish tanks with lobsters, spider crabs and other marine fauna, which will make the seafood enter your eyes straight from the street!
A few steps away, in the parallel street, you will have Rúa da Raíña, smaller but with a similar atmosphere, with places where you can eat well at a very good price. With a bit of luck, especially if you are going to have dinner or enjoy some drinks in the evening, you will be able to take a good memory of the Tuna Compostelana that usually enlivens this area.
But if you are looking for an alternative more frequented by the locals, in Rúa de San Pedro, a neighborhood a little more secluded but where you can go perfectly on foot, you will find less crowded bars and restaurants with high-quality cuisine. However, you may need to book your place in advance for some of them, since they are usually quite requested by the people of Compostela.
Remember to not leave without trying the coffee liqueur or licor café, typical in Galicia, or ordering a queimada while you recite the traditional conxuro (spell) to scare off the meigas (Galician witches).
Places to see near Santiago de Compostela
If you have a couple of days free to enjoy a little more of the Galician landscapes, you have many options a few kilometers from the capital.
These are our suggestions for you to enjoy the best of Galicia.
Finisterre and Muxía
Although many pilgrims are already decided to continue their way until the end of the world, if this has not been your case, Finisterre is more than recommended.
Here you can see the Fisterra lighthouse, whose construction dates back to 1853. We recommend you go in the late afternoon to enjoy a unique and unforgettable sunset.
About 30 kms away from here is Muxía, another meeting point for pilgrims, especially for those who make the Camino for religious reasons. Here is the sanctuary dedicated to the Virgen de la Barca, renovated in 2015 after a fire inside caused by lightning.
Not only the church of Muxía, but also its location is well worth a visit: the temple is located near the rocks, so you can enjoy all the spectacular beauty of the Costa da Morte (Death Coast), witnessing the bravery of the waves against the surface.
The Rías Baixas
If the Rías Altas in Galicia and the Costa da Morte offer spectacular views, the Rías Baixas are unique as well.
In this case, we recommend you visit the village of Combarro, considered one of the most beautiful in Spain, with its hórreos (granaries) and stone crosses placed near the sea. A few kilometers away along the coast, Sanxenxo and O Grove await you: these are summer places where you can enjoy the best seafood and the best beaches such as Lanzada, with more than 3 km of white sand.
Of course, if you have the chance, the Cíes islands are a unique natural landscape that we encourage you to visit, though you can also go to Ons island by boat, go to La Toja island or see Arousa island and its beaches.
The Ribeira Sacra
Finally, the Ribeira Sacra is well worth a visit. From Santiago you will have the option of seeing this area with a guide and navigating the Sil canyons, or even tasting the wines that are produced there.
Another option is to choose the Winter Way for your pilgrimage to Santiago. This way you can explore this area as you walk by, as it crosses a great part of the Ribeira Sacra.
Anyway, enjoy the views of this unique landscape!