GET YOUR COMPOSTELA AND ENJOY SANTIAGO
The Camino de Santiago, Way of Saint James or Route to Santiago de Compostela has always had the same goal: reaching Santiago de Compostela. Although some pilgrims choose routes that do not lead to Santiago, most of them, sooner or later, decide to have their final stage reaching the Plaza del Obradoiro, facing Santiago’s Cathedral.
The Obradoiro welcomes pilgrims from the different Caminos, nationalities and backgrounds every day to share the emotion of having reached their destination. After that enthralling moment, the question is: What to do and see in Santiago? Here you have a list of ideas to inspire you:
1. GET YOUR COMPOSTELA
One of the first things pilgrims do when they reach Santiago is getting their Compostela (mistakenly named Compostelana by some). The Compostela is an official certificate that you will get at the Pilgrim's Office to certify that you have completed the Camino de Santiago. In order to do that, you have to prove with your Credencial or Pilgrim's Passport that you have covered 100 km on foot or horse to Santiago, and 200 km by bicycle.
The Pilgrim's Office is located at Rúa Carretas 33, some 200 metres away from the Cathedral, and it has different opening hours depending on the season:
- April 1st to October 31st and Easter: from 08:00 to 21:00.
- November 1st to March 30th: from 10:00 to 19:00.
On December 25th and January 1st, the office is closed and the Compostela is issued at the Cathedral Vestry (Sacristía).
You can also request a “Certificate of Distance” at the Pilgrim's Office. This document is issued by the church and shows how many kilometres you have covered. It includes the arrival date, as well as starting date and starting point, the amount of kilometres completed and the pilgrim’s chosen route.
2. VISIT THE CATHEDRAL
Santiago Cathedral is the symbol of the city and of pilgrimage. It is open all days of the year, from 07:00 to 20:30. Admission is free except for the Museum, the Archive or the Roofs, which you can visit on a guided tour.
Pilgrims usually enter the cathedral through the door at Praza de Praterías or Acibechería, except during Holy Years (when the day of Saint James, July 25th, falls on a Sunday), when the Porta Santa or Holy Door is open. This door is on the Praza da Quintana.
For safety reasons, you cannot access the cathedral with bags or rucksacks. Therefore, if you are carrying one, you can come to our lockers at Rúa do Franco 4 , only 150 metres away from the Obradoiro, and we will store it for you.
If you want to go to mass, you have several options. At noon and at 19:30 there is the “Pilgrim's Mass”, but you also have masses:
- On working days at 09:00.
- Sundays at 09:40 (with laudes in Latin), at 10:00 and at 18:00 (in Galician).
- Sundays and holidays at 09:40 (with laudes in Latin), at 10:00, at 13:15 and at 18:00.
The Cathedral was begun in 1075 by King Alfonso IV and since then it was shaped by different building masters: Bernard the Old, Roberto, Esteban or Maestro Mateo, the famous architect responsible for the Portico of Glory. It was consecrated in 1211 and different architectural styles throughout the centuries have given it its current shape. Thus, the Renaissance Cloister, the Baroque façade on the Obradoiro and the Neoclassical one on the Azabachería.
Although the whole Cathedral is a jewel, you should not miss some of the elements inside it:
The Crypt of the Apostle Saint James, under the main altar. A silver urn is said to contain the remains of the Apostle and his disciples Athanasius and Theodore. The crypt was rebuilt to allow access so that visitors could see the urn with the relics just by going down the stairs.
The altar is presided over by Saint James dressed as a pilgrim, you can reach the statue from the back and give it a hug, one of the pilgrimage rites.
You should not leave the cathedral without taking a look at the wonderful Portico of Glory, designed by Mestre Mateo around the mid-12th century and executed in polychrome granite. This is considered to be the finest example of Hispanic art at that time, and it depicts the Apocalypse in a transition style between Romanesque and Gothic, on three arches.
Just behind it, you will find Maestro Mateo, or the so-called “Santo dos Croques”, looking towards the central nave. The Portico was deemed so perfect that there used to be this tradition of bumping heads with Mateos likeness to receive part of his genius (therefore the name “santo dos croques”, croques meaning in Galician precisely that, bumping heads). It is fenced off today in order to preserve the sculpture.
Apart from the main altar, the Cathedral has 19 Chapels, one of the most famous ones is that of A Corticela, an 8th-century annex to the Cathedral and the “parish of pilgrims and foreigners” where there is daily mass at 11:15. There is an old tradition of leaving “written wishes” on a piece of paper in a basket under the image of Jesus at the Garden of Olives.
If you want to have more information during your visit, you can go to the Crypt of the Portico at the Praza do Obradoiro and get an audioguide.
One of the most famous symbols of the Cathedral is the Botafumeiro: a 1.5-metre tall censer weighing 50 kg and moved by a pulley system swung by eight men (so-called “Tiraboleiros”) at high speed.
The botafumeiro can be seen at the end of some masses on significant dates such as January 6th, Easter Sunday, the Feast of the Ascension (a local feast day in Santiago), on May 23rd, the day of the apparition of the Apostle in the Battle of Clavijo during the Spanish Reconquista, on Whitsun, on July 25th (Saint James’ Day), on November 1st, December 8th, Christmas day and on the day the remains of the Apostle were brought here, December 30th.
Besides, every Friday of the year (except for Good Friday), it is used as an “Offering from pilgrims” during the 19:30 mass.
It may also be deployed upon request. In order to do so, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
3. SIGHTSEEING IN SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
Santiago de Compostela deserves some time as there are many attractions: architecture, history, culture or leisure; the city has much to offer. It is the capital of Galicia with close to one hundred thousand inhabitants and comprises two distinct areas: the old and the new town. The old town surrounds the Praza do Obradoiro and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The new town, known as the Ensanche, includes the suburbs and the University campus. Depending on how much time you have, here you have some tips:
SANTIAGO IN 1, 2 OR 3 DAYS
DO YOU ONLY HAVE 1 DAY?
Go around the Cathedral and get lost in the old town: Wonder at the Praza do Obradoiro: the Cathedral’s Baroque façade, the Hostal dos Reis Católicos (formerly the pilgrims' hospital and now a luxury state-run hotel or Parador); the Pazo de Raxoi, currently the town hall; and the University. Take a peek round the corner of the square and you will see the street called “das Hortas” and the Church of “las 4 sotas”, with the four sculptures that give it its name. Look for the horses’ hoofs in the fountain of Praterías and follow the nightly shadows of pilgrims in the Praza da Quintana, where you can also find the Puerta Santa. Go into the Cathedral, embrace Saint James and enjoy the wonderful Pórtico da Gloria. Take a look at the timings to see the Botafumeiro in action and, if possible, stay to see it. You will never forget it. Have some coffee in the sunshine at Cervantes square or join the locals for the “vermú” (a light drink before lunch, which is not necessarily vermouth!) at the Plaza de la Pescadería Vella. Discover the work of the silversmiths and jet carvers in the workshops and shops around the old town.
Discover the charm of the Mercado de Abastos: This is the second most visited spot in the city, after the Cathedral. Eight beautiful granite buildings showcase the best of Galician food: its high-quality raw materials. Fruits, vegetables, cheese, fish, meat... all sold by vendors and farmers; this is a traditional “supermarket” where the essence and love for good food is displayed. If you wish, you may buy some of these products and there is a stand where they will cook them for you so you can taste whatever you choose to.
Go to the Alameda and take some pictures: Even if you do not do the full walk, you can take a picture with the Dos Marías. The sisters Maruxa and Coralia Fandiño are one of the city’s symbols. Both of them were active in left-wing political movements before the Spanish Civil War, and the dictatorship severely punished them in the most gruesome of ways: by impoverishing them (seizing their goods, hindering work). They were “represaliadas”. But they rebelled against all this by dressing in a colourful fashion and parading their colours every day around this park. At the end of the Paseo de los Leones is the so-called “Eucalipto del Amor” (Eucalyptus of love) surrounded by a wooden bench with spectacular views over the Cathedral and the old town.
Have a glass of wine... or two: From the famous rúa do Franco, going up to A Raíña until the Praza do Toural and the Porta Faxeira, you can enjoy the best of food and wine in the city. Wine, tapas, octopus, empanada, Galician caldo (broth)... There are so many places and all sorts of prices to enjoy good food and toast with the many pilgrims and locals who meet there every day.
IF YOU HAVE TWO DAYS:
Go to some of our museums: The Cathedral Museum,
the Pilgrimage Museum, with exhibitions related to the history of the city and the Camino. You can also visit the modern architecture of the Centro Gallego de Arte Contemporánea (CGAC), the Modern Art Museum, while there are other interesting museums all over the city. You can get to know the basics of Galician culture and history at the Museo do Pobo Galego
and also visit the Panteón dos Galegos Ilustres
, at the monastery of San Domingos de Bonaval
, or visit the Museo Granell at the Pazo de Bendaña, at the Praza do Toural.
Bask in the sun in Bonaval: This is one of the most beloved green areas for the citizens of Santiago: the former Cemetery of Bonaval, belonging to the convent in the past, offers some delightful views over the city skyline.
Visit San Martín Pinario: To see its staircase and the Plateresque façade of the Monastery, and San Francisco to check its church and the old monastery, currently a hotel. On your way there, you will see the Faculty of Medicine, the gargoyles of the Seminario Mayor and of the side of the Hostal dos Reis Católicos.
Visit the University’s main building: With its cloister and garden. If you love libraries, do not miss the one at the Faculty of History in the area of Mazarelos. This square still preserves the only extant gate in the old city wall: the arch of Mazarelos.
Take a rest on the stairs or on the wall bench of the Praza da Quintana, a site enjoyed by locals and pilgrims alike. From there you can have a good look at the beauty of the square, see the Casa da Parra, the Casa da Conga and the great monastery of San Paio de Antealtares, today a monastery of cloistered nuns, while the great bell in the Torre da Berenguela tolls the quarters and the hours.
AND THE THIRD DAY...
Be amazed at the Cidade da Cultura: From the street of Senra there is a bus line taking you to the Cidade da Cultura, an architectural ensemble on Mount Gaiás. It was designed by Peter Eisenman and it includes different buildings for cultural activities and leisure.
Walk around the Alameda: Take a peaceful walk around one of the most important parks in the city. It is not only a botanical garden, it also takes you around the Paseo de la Herradura and the churches of Santa Susana and El Pilar. If you complete a walk around it, you can take a look at the University Campus with its faculties and student residences.
Get to know the neighbourhoods of San Pedro and San Lorenzo: Their charm increases with time – just walking around these neighbourhoods gives you a taste of the local shops and houses in Santiago de Compostela, with their stone walls, their small vegetable gardens and the shutters on their windows.
Climb Mount Pedroso: This is the natural viewpoint overlooking Santiago de Compostela and a place to enjoy nature and rest, very close to the old town. From the Obradoiro, it is a 20-minute walk through the rúa das Hortas, the neighbourhood of Galeras and then up Monte Pío.