What to do in Santiago de Compostela: a city guide

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CITY GUIDE: What to do in Santiago de Compostela, where to stay, eat and drink in Santiago de Compostela.

Whether you’re walking the Camino to Santiago, or considering visiting for a mini-break, you may be wondering what to do and where to stay in Santiago de Compostela. Here’s our guide to what to do when visiting Santiago de Compostela.


Is Santiago de Compostela worth visiting?

In short, yes, Santiago de Compostela is worth visiting. As a small and accessible Spanish city, one of the best things about Santiago is that you can freely walk around and don’t need to take any public transport. It’s a city jam packed with history and has enough sites to see to entertain anyone for a couple of days. And if that’s not enough, Santiago is a delight for coffee lovers, wine fans and foodies.

Why do people come to Santiago de Compostela?

Santiago de Compostela is extremely significant within the Catholic and Christian faith. The remains of Saint James, an important religious figure, are housed at Santiago de Compostela cathedral. Hence, this cathedral has cultural significance.

Linked to this, Santiago is the end of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. This sees thousands of pilgrims each year walking across France, Spain and Portugal to reach the cathedral of Santiago following in the footsteps of Saint James.

Would you like to read more about the Camino?

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What to do in Santiago de Compostela

What to do in Santiago de Compostela: Visit the Cathedral

The Cathedral in Santiago is absolutely the centrepiece of the city. No visit to Santiago is complete without seeing the cathedral. You can attend a mass, which happens multiple times per day. Be aware that there are often long queues to get into mass. Alternatively, just enjoy the surroundings of the cathedral or visit when a service is not taking place.

Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Santiago is to sit in the square outside the cathedral and watch pilgrims complete their Camino. This is such an emotional experience and you can feel the joy from everyone arriving to the Cathedral in Santiago.

What to do in Santiago de Compostela: Go to the modern art museum

The contemporary art centre of Galicia is a small modern art exhibition centre closer to the middle of Santiago. This gallery is free to enter and will take you an hour or so to walk around. It’s worth visiting for the beautiful building, as well as to see the art. There’s also a coffee shop on site which is a nice place for a cup and a break.

What to do in Santiago de Compostela: Learn about the Pilgrimage

The Museum of Pilgrimage is a great educational experience if you want to learn more about the Camino de Santiago. Anyone who has walked the Camino is given free entry to this museum. Otherwise, there is a small fee. Spend a few hours here exploring the exhibits that are set across three floors.

What to do in Santiago de Compostela: See the Galicia cultural centre

The Galician cultural centre is a nice surprise in Santiago. Although there is not much to see at the centre, the attraction of it is the fascinating design of the buildings. It is a little walk out of town and up a hill, but you are rewarded with excellent views back to the city.

What to do in Santiago de Compostela: Visit the Santiago University Library

The Santiago University Library is an exquisite building in the heart of the city. Visit to pop in and see the quad for a few minutes. Inside, the library is not hugely exciting as it’s used by students daily, but it is worth a visit.

Best wine bars in Santiago de Compostela

Wine is to Santiago as beer is to Munich, this city is full of fantastic bars to enjoy a glass of wine. Here are our top four:

  1. Bar Vino is a wine bar with one of the most extensive choices of wine by the glass in Santiago. We loved this place for the variety and the cheese boards too.
  2. Botafumerio is one of our favourites because it’s super buzzy and the staff are very friendly. Prices are reasonable and the tapas free flowing. Expect to go here for one and stay for a few more.
  3. For live music, we like A Gramola. The wine list is not extensive, but this is a small, dark wine bar where you can get stuck in for the whole evening. Just note, it is cash only.
  4. Benboa Compostela is a restaurant serving wine. Come here for a nice glass of Rioja seared alongside excellent smoky chorizo tapas. We loved the low lighting and romantic vibe here.

Best coffee shops in Santiago de Compostela

There is no shortage of coffee shops in Santiago, here are our favourite four:

  1. Le Flor is a cafe serving food and excellent coffee. Best for low key vibes and some interesting decor.
  2. Ratinos Coffee Shop is possibly the best spot in Santiago for any coffee snobs. Here you can choose from a variety of specialist coffees in a hipster cafe.
  3. Pepa A Loba is a bar restaurant serving excellent cafe con leche in a fun setting near to the Cathedral. This place serves huge plates of brunch and is popular with locals and tourists alike.
  4. Cafe Venecia is an old school Spanish coffee house, serving locals a brisk cup of coffee. Come here to see well heeled Santiago residents enjoying a drink.

Best restaurants in Santiago de Compostela

For fancy tapas

Abastos 2.0 is a fancy tapas place selling interesting twists on Galician tapas in a market stall setting.

For Michelin Star

Casa Marcelo is one of the Michelin star restaurants in Santiago. It comes highly recommended for the fusion Japanese and Spanish food and bright decor.

For low key lunch

Mama Peixe Taberna near to the Cathedral offers an inexpensive and very popular lunch time set menu. This place specializes in seafood and is a local favourite. Be sure to book a table!

How long to spend in Santiago de Compostela?

Santiago de Compostela is a beautiful city. The small size of it comparative to other Spanish cities means that it is perfect for a weekend break. That said, every time we have been, we have found more things to do and always wanted to stay longer.

48 hours is the minimum time you should spend in Santiago de Compostela to enjoy the main attractions.

What time of year should I visit Santiago de Compostela?

The summer in Santiago lasts from May until September. Temperatures during this time can be hot, but not nearly as hot as Southern Spain.

Even during the summer, but especially during Spring and Autumn, Santiago can be prone to rain. Be sure to pack a poncho or rain coat!

Where to stay in Santiago de Compostela

For a budget traveller

The last stamp Albergue is our favourite hostel to stay in within Santiago. It would be difficult to get closer to the Cathedral than this hostel is. Besides, the beds are spacious and shower facilities are good. Prices are around $25 per person for a bed.

For a budget hotel, we like Pension Santa Cristina. This small, clean and friendly hotel is extremely close to the cathedral and offers rooms for around $50 per night for two people.

A mid range hotel

Denike Grupo Atalaia is a central hotel with a design feel. The rates start at around $100 per night. Guests here love the location, the staff and the comfortable and quiet rooms.

A luxury option

The Parador in Santiago is an excellent luxury option. This hotel will set you back around $250 per night, but is right next to the Cathedral in a 15th century stunning building. Part of the well known Parador chain, this particular hotel offers one of the most central locations compared to others.

How to get to Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela has it’s own international airport. The airport is approximately 20 minutes drive from the city centre, making the city very accessible even for a short break.

There is a very regular bus service going from the centre near the Cathedral direct to the airport. This costs only 1 Euro and information, including times, can easily be found on Google Maps.

From the UK, Easyjet has direct flights from London Gatwick to Santiago. The airport is also well connected with other Spanish airports for anyone needing a flight transfer.

Where to visit near Santiago de Compostela?

If you’re looking for a day trip or somewhere to visit near to Santiago, there are some good options.

Firstly, Finisterre, is the westerly most coastal town in Spain. You can visit Finisterre from Santiago for a day trip (taking a private bus trip) or for a couple of days. If the weather is fine, we would highly recommend a few days in Finisterre. If you’ve just finished walking to Santiago and have a few more days, why not walk to Finisterre? More information can be found here.

La Coruña is a small city located on the coast in the same province as Santiago de Compostela. You can take a 30 minute train ride out of Santiago to visit this city, trains run regularly throughout the day.


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