Among the best things to do in Santiago de Compostela is visiting its majestic landmarks to take in the rich history of the Galician capital. It is most renowned for housing the remains of Saint James within its grand cathedral, which attracts thousands of pilgrims travelling from France’s Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port every year. Even if you’re not religious, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela still impresses with its ornate façade, Baroque chapels, and beautiful sculptures of biblical figures. Monasteries-turned-museums are plentiful in the city’s historical quarter, each housing valuable artefacts dating back as far as the 10th century.

    Galician culture thrives in Santiago de Compostela, with fantastic seafood dishes readily available in most restaurants. If you’re a first-time visitor to this elegant city, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Santiago de Compostela.

    What are the best things to do in Santiago de Compostela?


    Praza do Obradoiro

    Santiago de Compostela’s monumental square

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Praza do Obradoiro is flanked by 4 of Santiago de Compostela’s most iconic buildings, which are Hostal dos Reis Católicos, Pazo de Raxoi (City Hall), Colexio de San Xerome, and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Located west of the cathedral’s main façade, the cobbled streets leading off this main square are lined with cafés, bars, and restaurants with views of Renaissance and Gothic structures. The square is only accessible to pedestrians, making it a safe place to explore on foot.

    Location: Praza do Obradoiro, 15705 Santiago de Compostela, Spain


    Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

    See the gigantic censer hanging from the altar ceiling

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, with its Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassical, and Romanesque architecture, is widely known as the city’s most beautiful building. Its western façade features a 13th-century Romanesque portico decorated with 200 sculptures of biblical icons, apostles, and prophets. Its high altar has a Baroque baldacchino (ceremonial canopy) completely covered in gold leaf. 

    On special occasions, a gigantic incense burner called the Botafumeiro can be seen hanging from the ceiling. You can climb up to the stone rooftops of the cathedral to enjoy panoramic views of Santiago de Compostela.

    Location: Praza do Obradoiro, 15704 Santiago de Compostela, Spain

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 8.30 pm

    Phone: +34 981 583 548


    Parque de la Alameda

    Home of the Baroque Chapel of Santa Susana

    • Couples
    • Families
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Parque de la Alameda, to the west of Santiago Old Town, is a 16th-century city park with beautiful sculptures, flowerbeds, and winding pathways. It consists of 3 distinctive spaces, namely Alameda Walk, the Oak Wood of Santa Susana, and the Ferradura Walk. 

    There are more than 15 sculptures throughout the park, including one dedicated to Corelia and Maruja Fandiño. The sisters paraded around the Old Town in flamboyant costumes every day at 2 pm, which locals believe was done to protest Spain’s oppressive society back in the 1960s.

    Location: Paseo Central de Alameda, s/n, 15702 Santiago de Compostela, La Coruña, Spain

    Open: 24/7


    Museo do Pobo Galego

    Climb the 18th-century triple spiral staircase by Domingo de Andrade

    • History

    Museo do Pobo Galego (Museum of Galician People) features permanent and temporary displays of Galician art, tradition, and culture. There are over 11,000 items on display, from traditional costumes and jewellery to fishing boats and printing presses. 

    The museum occupies a 13th-century convent house, with a chapel housing the remains of prominent figures such as Rosalia de Castro and Afonso Daniel Rodríguez Castelao. You can visit the museum for free on Sundays.

    Location: San Domingos de Bonaval, 15703 Santiago de Compostela, Spain

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 10.30 am to 2 pm and from 4 pm to 7.30 pm, Sunday from 11 am to 2 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +34 981 583 620


    photo by santiago lopez-pastor (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Mercado de Abastos

    A source for cured meats, tetilla cheese and empanada

    • Shoppers
    • Food
    • Budget

    Mercado de Abastos dates back to the late 19th century, making it one of Santiago de Compostela’s most important tourist spots. The indoor market is divided into 8 halls with over 300 stalls selling local specialities, fresh seafood, pastries, cheese, and cured meats. 

    As with most markets in Spain, you can also find plenty of bars serving tapas and wines inside and along the streets surrounding Mercado de Abastos. Stock up on fresh seafood (a must-buy is goose barnacle) and have the market bar prepare it on the spot for a few euros. Located in the city centre, Mercado de Abastos is a 5-minute walk from the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

    Location: Mercado de Abastos de Santiago, Rúa das Ameas, Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Spain

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 8 am to 3 pm (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +34 981 583 438


    photo by juantiagues (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Monasterio de San Martín Pinario

    Religious artefacts and a 15th-century apothecary at the museum

    • History

    Monasterio de San Martín Pinario is a medieval monastery in Santiago de Compostela. It features a 16th-century Plateresque façade with Doric columns and intricate carvings of Christ, Benedictine abbots, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Martin of Tours. Today, it houses a seminary, a hotel, and a university residence. 

    The monastery is also a museum of religious art, where you can see various paintings, sculptures, and biographies of religious figures displayed in 12 exhibition halls. One of these rooms features an apothecary, which was built in the 15th century.

    Location: Praza da Inmaculada, 3, 15705 Santiago de Compostela, Spain

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 11 am to 1.30 pm and from 4 pm to 6.30 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +34 981 583 008


    Centro Comercial As Cancelas

    Catch the latest films at its onsite cineplex

    • Shoppers

    Centro Comercial As Cancelas is a modern shopping mall in Santiago de Compostela’s commercial district. Located 3 km northeast of Museo do Pobo Galego, it houses a Carrefour supermarket, Primark department store, and popular high street brands such as Adidas, Bershka, and Zara. There are also plenty of dining options, where you can enjoy a variety of cuisine, from plates of pasta, burgers, and steaks to Japanese udon and Chinese stir-fries.

    Location: Avenida Do Camiño Francés, 3, 15703 Santiago de Compostela, Spain

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +34 981 568 282


    photo by Nemigo (CC0 1.0) modified


    Fundación Eugenio Granell

    Over 200 oil paintings, etchings, and drawings by the Spanish painter

    • History

    Fundación Eugenio Granell (Eugenio Granell Foundation) commemorates the Spanish-born surrealist painter with displays of some of his most notable masterpieces. The building itself is an impressive example of Baroque architecture, with a grand façade displaying the shield of Bendaña and the statue of Atlas holding the sky. 

    The museum also exhibits paintings by artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Roberto Matta, and Joan Miró. Workshops, conferences and plays are regularly held for those interested in surrealism and 20th-century art.

    Location: Praza do Toural, 8, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

    Open: Tuesday–Thursday from 11 am to 2 pm and from 4 pm to 8 pm, Friday from 11 am to 2 pm and from 5 pm to 8 pm (closed on Sundays and Mondays)

    Phone: +34 981 572 124


    photo by juantiagues (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveller

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