Once you arrive in Santiago after your pilgrimage you can have the chance of doing a great deal of different things. Therefore, here you have a few places that you may enjoy during your visit.
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This is the goal of every pilgrim. It was built piecemeal over several centuries and it’s a mix of Romanesque with baroque and gothic flourishes.
- The Cathedral Rooftop tour. If you want to enjoy unforgettable bird-eye views of the cathedral interior and of the city, this tour is well worth. It starts in Pazo Xelmirez (Archbishop´s Palace) to the left of the cathedral´s Obradoiro façade.
- The Cathedral Museum. It spreads over four floors and includes the 16th –century, gothic and plateresque cloister.
- Pórtico da Gloria facade. There is also a guided tour of the “Door of Glory”, which is the triple-columned entrance to the cathedral through which pilgrims traditionally arrived.
- Pilgrims´s mass and the Botafumeiro. There is a special mass to welcome pilgrims to Santiago at midday every day. Botafumeiro means “incense spreader” and it is the name of a cathedral´s device that hangs from chains and in which incense is burned. It´s the largest one in the world and it weighs 80 kilograms.
Churches, convents and monasteries. In the Middle Ages, numerous churches, chapels began to appear around the Apostle´s basilica, as well as monasteries and convents belonging to the main religious orders such as Franciscans, Benedictines, Jesuits, Dominicans, nuns of St Claire or Carmelites. We can visit some of most important:
- Mosteiro de San Paio de Antealtares.Climbing up the steps at the top of the Plaza from Puerta Santa you will find the entrance to this interesting monastery.
- San Martiño Pinario.It was the most influential and largest Benedictine monastery in Galicia. Different rooms display its collection of paintings, sculptures, archaeological remains and everyday life objects that belonged to the monks.
- Colexiata de Santa María do Sar (Collegiate Church of Sar). It´s the oldest parish church in Santiago and its construction began in 12th century. This beautiful church boasts a cloister and museum.
- Church of Santo Domingo de Bonaval. It´s a secularized Gothic church with a nice cloister.
- Museo de peregrinaciones (Pilgrimage museum). It´s a fascinating display of just how historic this route is.
- Museo do Pobo Galego (Museum of Galician People). it´s situated at the Porta del Camino. This museum is integrated in the Church of Santo Domingo de Bonaval and it has got a remarkable spiral staircase and features exhibitions on Galician folk culture.
- Centro Galego de Arte Contemporáneo. It´s a good modern art gallery in Santiago which concentrates on the Galician art scene but also has exhibitions of more international artists.
Squares and “Rúas”. There are four squares surrounding the cathedral: Obradoiro, Quintana, Praterías and Inmaculada. However, Santiago is full of small squares interconnected by old stoned “rúas” or streets. It´s a pleasure to walk around and get lost in a maze of stone paved narrow streets to find out your favourite nook. Santiago´s old town owns a special atmosphere with a mix of students, pilgrims and local people. You can have “tapas” or have dinner in plenty of restaurants and tapas bars , my favourite ones are: O Dezaseis, pulperia Os Concheiros, Abastos 2.0, la Bodeguilla de San Roque or Casa Marcelo. If you want to enjoy the night, I can also recommend you Casa das Crechas, Modus Vivendi, Retablo, A Reixa or O Galo d´Ouro.
Food Market (Mercado de Abastos). The Mercado de Abastos is Santiago´s second-most visited attraction after the cathedral. It´s a “rural” market but with modern services, featuring the gastronomy and culinary customs of Galicia. There are also guided tours in there.
Alameda Park and Bonaval Park.
- Alameda Park is a romantic 19th –century park which features the best view point overlooking the city: the one in Paseo da Ferradura, which offers a spectacular and panoramic front view of the cathedral. Besides, you can take the typical picture with the “Marias”. The Marias were two well-known women in Santiago´s society.
- Bonaval park. If you are looking forward to getting away and finding some peace and quietness, you should visit Bonaval park. It´s located about 10 minute walk from the cathedral. It has preserved all the essence of its past: the monks´ small garden of aromatic herbs still exits, the old fountains and channels, even the former graveyard, which has been completely integrated into the park.
There are many options, but if you are pushed for time, it’s best to know what are the best places to see so you can make the most of it. The local Tourist Office (Oficina de Turismo de Santiago) at number 30-32 Rúa do Vilar (which is close to the Cathedral) is worth checking out, as you can find maps, brochures, and information on local events as there is an extensive cultural programme in the city. Remember to take your Pilgrim Passport, student card or other relevant identification as many attractions with an entrance fee offer reductions for pilgrims, students and elderly people.
BUEN CAMINO AMIGOS.