Santiago de Compostela, Galicia

Santiago de Compostela is the jewel in Galicia's historic, cultural and medieval crown. Santiago is this Spanish region's most famous and illustrious city and it holds a vast medieval district with many monuments and buildings of not just Spanish, but international importance. It is quite rightly regarded as one of the world's great cities.

The entrance to Santiago Cathedral

The city of Santiago de Compostela has World Heritage status and receives hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Many of these travellers have an interest in exploring and experiencing this historic town's culture, its unique buildings and architecture, along with its many districts and quarters, all of which have an historic reference. The greater city of Santiago de Compostela has a population of over 100,000 people and it remains a prosperous commercial centre.

Santiago's original settlement dates back to the ninth century, as does the beginnings of one of the most spectacular cathedrals in the world. The city is also the resting place of the apostle Saint James whose connection with both the cathedral and town has led to Santiago's significance as the third most important place in Christendom.

The cathedral itself is the final destination for thousands of Christian pilgrims who walk the "Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago)" pilgrimage across Galicia in order to reach this impressive city and visit the tomb of the saint himself.

The cathedral though is far from Santiago de Compostela's only outstanding architectural icon. The old town is full of dazzling examples of Gothic, Neo-classical, Romanesque and Baroque design and nearly all are on a grand or monumental scale. Above, the spectacular frontal facade of Santiago de Compostela's Cathedral (photo Laurie Lambert, 1999).

Holy year - e.g. Jacobeo 2010

In any year when Saint James' day falls on a Sunday the year is declared as a holy one known as a Jacobeo year. The last holy year was 2010 and during this year a special door is opened into the famous Santiago de Compostela cathedral. During this year the city, the cathedral and the Camino pilgrimage all take on extra significance. You can find out more by using our "Santiago index" to the right and reading the pages covering the cathedral and the Camino pilgrimage. (Or by using the search box at the top of the page.)

Getting to Santiago de Compostela

Located some 30 km from the coast, Santiago de Compostela is Galicia's only genuine international holiday destination and is the region's capital with the parliament (or "Xunta") of Galicia using the city as its home. Regional television and media organisations are also based in Santiago, even though the city is not in fact the capital of the A Coruna province in which it is situated.

Getting to Santiago de Compostela is made easy by the presence of Galicia's two main international airports, one just outside the city and the other in neighbouring la Coruna, some 40 minutes away. Hotels are plentiful in and around Santiago and cover all price and quality ranges. Most of To the back of the Cathedral the major car rental companies have pick up and collection points at one or both of the airports mentioned above and there are also taxi ranks and bus stops at the airports. The city is well catered for when it comes to transportation.

To the visitor though it is the buildings and history of the original medieval quarter of city that will have the greatest appeal and Santiago does not fail to deliver. A walk around the old district leaves most sightseers in awe as they cast their eyes over the intricate masonry and detailing of the city's many large and outstanding historic structures. What you see on the outside is also frequently surpassed by what awaits you within. Above, a plaza to the rear of the cathedral.

If you want to see and read about these buildings,then explore our Santiago de Compostela guide using the buttons in the menu to the right, Through these links you can look around the old town and see its major sights including the frontal facade of the "San Martin Pinario" monastery, the "Hostal de las Reyes Catolicos" (the worlds oldest hotel), the "Rajoy palace" and of course Santiago de Compostela cathedral. We also have several pages about the history and development of the city along with the Saint James "connection" and the evolution of Santiago de Compostela's now famous Camino pilgrimage. In amongst all of this you will also see over 60 photos of what we feel are the highlights of Santiago. All told we hope to offer you a complete guide to this stunning destination which Galicia promotes as its premier city and primary tourist attraction.

What else is there to see and do!

There is no limit to what you can see and do in Santiago. The city has a massive festival A example of the city's architecture celebration on its main square on the 25th July (St. James' day) and further fiestas run on and off throughout the months of July and August.

The many bars of the old town's streets and plazas not only offer a variety of tapas snacks, but are great places to take a break and watch the world, and all the other tourists, go by. Santiago de Compostela is also geographically an ideal base from which to explore the other cities and provinces of Galicia, and motorway toll roads depart Santiago to Pontevedra, Ourense, Lugo and A Coruna.

All told if you are considering a first visit to Galicia, the region's capital city of Santiago de Compostela should be your first port of choice. Not only does Santiago have a wealth of tourist treasures in its old town, but it is also close to numerous other towns and cities, each with unique attractions of their own. These include not just la Coruna, but also Betanzos, Finisterre and Noia. The airport is a mere 10 minutes away and for a short break at least, Santiago is hard to better.

To find out more about Santiago de Compostela, including its stunning cathedral and numerous other historic sights, use the menu to the right.

There are 18 pages in this index and some have links to more information and off-site resources, e.g. someone's camino journey and a book (fictional) set loosely around the St. James' story.

Use this link to navigate back to the Galicia Guide home page, or select from the main menu items in the left hand menu to visit another town, province or city.

If you would like to take an organised tour of this city and its cathedral in the 2010 Jacobeo year, or if you would like a guided walk covering part of the Camino route, contact Galicia Mystic Tours via their website.

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