17 interesting things to do in Santiago de Compostela

17 interesting things to do in Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela is a destination full of surprises beyond the Camino de Santiago. Read all about the best things to do in Santiago de Compostela now.

About Santiago de Compostela

The enchanting city of Santiago de Compostela (also called Santiago de Compostella) is an ancient pilgrimage site that attracts thousands of travelers from all over the world every year. Located in northwestern Spain, in the beautiful region of Galicia, Santiago de Compostela is a great destination for a city break.

The city is most famous for its pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago, but there is much more to explore. The city offers a wealth of attractions that will delight many travelers; the old center is even on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Besides visiting beautiful historic buildings, Santiago is also an amazing city for food lovers and fun parties.

The best things to do in Santiago de Compostela

What to do in Santiago de Compostela? These are the most beautiful sights and fun things to do in Santiago de Compostela.

Catedral de Santiago de Compostela

The cathedral is the icon of the city and is a must-see for sure! For more than 1,000 years pilgrims have flocked to this famous cathedral with the tomb of St. James the Great (Santiago in Spanish), one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. A church was built around the tomb as early as 814, and it grew bigger and bigger over time. In the 12th century, it was consecrated as a cathedral.

Fun detail: you can still see parts of the original 12th-century gate at the front of the church. If you look closely, it is behind the present 18th-century facade.

The Catedral de Santiago de Compostela is really worth a visit, as there is so much to see and discover. There are different entrances for different sections. Thus, there is a separate entrance for the crypt, the museum, and the cathedral. Also in the cathedral, check out the Botafumeiro, the largest censer in the world.

It can get really crowded at the cathedral, so plan your visit early in the morning or in the late afternoon. There is a daily Mass for pilgrims arriving in Santiago. Are you interested in attending the mass? Get there at least an hour in advance to score a spot.

Book a guided tour of Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.

Catedral de Santiago de Compostela

Plaza del Obradoiro

Plaza del Obradoiro is the city’s most famous square and a vibrant place to walk around. It is surrounded by beautiful historic buildings, such as the cathedral, the imposing Hostal de los Reyes Católicos, the Colexio de San Xerome, and the stately Pazo de Raxoi. In addition, this is the terminus of the famous Camino de Santiago. Standing in the square you can just feel the excitement and satisfaction of the pilgrims who have just completed their spiritual journey. You hear conversations in many different languages and even though everyone looks tired, they’re standing there with blissful smiles.

The lines in the square symbolize the different Camino de Santiago routes that converge from different directions at this spot.

Plaza del Obradoiro

Pazo de Raxoi

The Pazo de Raxoi is an impressive palace and is located at Plaza del Obradoiro. This grand historic building exudes an air of grandeur and history. Today it is in use as the City Hall of Santiago de Compostela.

Unfortunately, you cannot visit Pazo de Raxoi, but it’s well worth checking out if you’re standing among the pilgrims in Plaza del Obradoiro.

Hospital de los Reyes Católicos

We stay on Plaza del Obradoiro, as Hospital de los Reyes Católicos is also an amazing sight. Originally erected as a hospital and residence for pilgrims, this beautiful building is now a luxurious 5* hotel. A wonderful place to stay in a fantastic location. Did you know that this is one of the oldest accommodations in Europe?

By the way, the hotel has another special tradition. Hostal de los Reyes Católicos offers a free meal every day to the first ten pilgrims who arrive in Compostela on that day. To do this, you must first stop by the Pilgrims’ Reception Office. Are you among the first ten? Then the Pilgrim’s Office will give you tickets that will get you a meal at one of the restaurants of the Hostal de los Reyes Católicos. This tradition has to do with the building’s origins as a hospital for pilgrims, and it’s great that the hotel maintains it.

Book a guided tour of Hospital de los Reyes Católicos.

Pazo de Raxoi and Hospital de los Reyes Católicos

Colexio de San Xerome

The last building on Plaza del Obradoiro that I would like to mention in this list of Santiago de Compostela sights is the Colexio de San Xerome. This is a beautiful building with a sophisticated Renaissance facade. The original purpose of the building was to house and educate “poor students,” but today it is home to the administrative offices of the University of Santiago de Compostela.

Praza de Quintana

On the other side of the cathedral is another beautiful square: Praza de Quintana. Formerly the city hall and public cemetery, it is now one of the most beautiful squares in Santiago de Compostela. The square has a large wide staircase and consists of two parts. The square is always crowded and the steps are a nice place to sit down and look at the beautiful cathedral.

Praza de Quintana

Museo das Peregrinacións e de Santiago

Museo das Peregrinacións e de Santiago is a place that every pilgrim in Santiago should visit. The museum is dedicated to the famous pilgrimage and the city’s history. Here you will discover the profound meaning of the Camino de Santiago and learn about the traditions, works of art, and historical artifacts associated with the pilgrimage.

The museum takes you on a journey through the ancient history of Santiago de Compostela and offers insight into the spiritual and cultural impact of the pilgrimage.

Convento de San Paio de Antealtares

The Convento de San Paio de Antealtares is a historic monastery. This beautiful complex dates back to the Middle Ages and was originally built to preserve the relics of St. James the Great. Now it is home to a number of Benedictine nuns.

As visitors, you can explore the accompanying museum (Museo Arte Sacro San Paio Antealtares), where you can learn more about the history and life of the monastery. The richly decorated Baroque church is also a must-see.

Rúa do Vilar

Rúa do Vilar is one of the most beautiful streets in Santiago de Compostela and it is always busy. On this street, you will find not only cute boutique shops and cozy cafes but also some beautiful historic houses and old arches.

Rúa do Vilar is home to several tourism offices, where you can get information or brochures. Thus, at the Oficina de Información Turística de Santiago de Compostela, you can learn more about the most beautiful Santiago de Compostela attractions. A convenient place to start your city break!

Rúa do Vilar

Convento de San Francisco de Santiago

The Convento de San Francisco de Santiago is an ancient monastery originally founded in the 13th century. Unfortunately, the building collapsed in the eighteenth century, but it was subsequently rebuilt. The Gothic church has an imposing facade, with richly decorated details, and in front of it stands a large monument.

The monastery is now used as a hotel (San Francisco Hotel Monumento). The church and its museum are open to the public.

Convento de San Francisco de Santiago

Parque da Alameda

Parque da Alameda is located southwest of the old town and this beautiful city park is an oasis of tranquility. With its lush gardens, graceful fountains, and shady paths, Parque da Alameda is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike. The park is perfect for walking or just relaxing on one of the many benches.

One of the notable features of Parque da Alameda is the Paseo da Ferradura, a semi-circular promenade with stunning views of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. From here you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city.

View from Parque da Alameda

Mosteiro de San Martiño Pinario

The Mosteiro de San Martiño Pinario is an impressive monastic complex next to the cathedral. It is one of the largest monasteries in Spain, and it was founded in the 10th century. The facade of the monastery is a very impressive sight with its imposing size, large pillars, stately staircase, and detailed ornaments.

You can visit the monastery to explore the magnificent cloisters and enjoy the tranquility of the beautiful courtyard. It is also fun to visit the accompanying museum and, of course, you cannot skip the church (Igrexa de San Martiño Pinario). This one has a very impressive altarpiece.

Mosteiro de San Martiño Pinario

Mercado de Abastos de Santiago de Compostela

If you enjoy getting to know a destination through its food, visiting a market is a must. In Santiago de Compostela, make sure to visit Mercado de Abastos. This is the place where the colors, smells, and tastes of Galicia come together. It consists of several buildings and you will discover an abundance of fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, cheese, herbs, and more. Sample delicious local dishes such as pulpo a la gallega (Galician-style octopus), empanadas (stuffed dough appetizers), and the famous Galician cheeses.

Fun to thing do: pick out a nice fish or piece of meat on the market and have it prepared for you in the restaurant on site for a small fee. Enjoy your meal!

Mercado de Abastos de Santiago de Compostela

Parque de San Domingos de Bonaval

Located on a hill, the fine Parque de San Domingos de Bonaval offers a serene place to escape the busy city. In this park, you will find not only beautifully landscaped gardens and walking paths but also the ruins of the former monastery of San Domingos de Bonava. As a result, there is this mystique atmosphere.

Parque de San Domingos de Bonaval is not only a great place for a break or a relaxing walk, but you’ll also get your fill of culture. In the park, you will find two interesting museums: Museo do Pobo Galego and Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea.

Museo do Pobo Galego

The Museo do Pobo Galego is a fascinating museum dedicated to Galician culture and traditions. Housed in a former monastery, the museum offers in-depth insight into the history, heritage, and daily life of the Galician people. Not only are the exhibits fun to see, but the building itself is also very interesting. A fun place to explore!

Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea

Are you more into contemporary art? Then you’re in the right place at Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea (CGAC). This is an important cultural institution dedicated to promoting and exhibiting modern and contemporary works of art.

The CGAC provides a platform for both national and international artists and presents various exhibitions, performances, lectures, and workshops. It has an extensive collection of modern artworks, In addition, the building itself is an architectural masterpiece.

Special celebrations in Santiago

They love a party in Santiago de Compostela! The streets regularly flood with people to celebrate something. It is always great fun when your visit to Santiago coincides with one of these special events.

Día de Santiago

Día de Santiago, also known as the Feast of St. James, is the most important celebration in Santiago de Compostela and is celebrated annually on July 25. The festival marks the commemoration of the Apostle James the Great, the city’s patron saint.

On this day, thousands of pilgrims from all over the world flock to Santiago de Compostela, and the city buzzes with excitement and energy. The program includes a pilgrimage Mass at the cathedral and is followed by festive activities in the city, including parades, concerts, street performances, and fireworks.

By the way, they are so fond of this holiday in Galicia that there are also various activities to do in the weeks before July 25.

Noche de San Juan

I myself visited Santiago during the night of San Juan (Noche de San Juan) on June 23. This fiesta is celebrated throughout Spain on the shortest and most enchanting night of the year. There are various incantations (with a magician), you can get flower water that will give you younger skin the next day, there are musical performances (mostly Celtic music), and people are dancing in the streets. The streets are full of barbecues with sardines and chorizos, and fires are burning everywhere. Jumping over the fire keeps evil spirits at bay. An amazing night to experience!

Noche de San Juan in Santiago de Compostela

Where to eat in Santiago de Compostela

The Spanish region of Galicia is known for its excellent gastronomy, so you can eat delicious food in Santiago de Compostela. These are some great restaurants and cafes in Santiago:

  • A Horta d’Obradoiro – a fine place with a beautiful courtyard garden near the cathedral. The (mostly) Galician dishes are presented on your plate like a true work of art.
  • Restaurante La Clemente – Galicia is the perfect destination for fish lovers, and this restaurant is all about fish and seafood. If you dare (as it looks rather strange) you should definitely try the goose barnacles.
  • Costa Vella Garden Cafe – This cafe belongs to a hotel and has a beautiful courtyard garden. A cozy place for a cup of coffee in the morning or a fun drink in the late afternoon.
Goose barnacles tasting in Santiago

Where to stay in Santiago de Compostela

Staying a night is a must when you’re visiting Santiago de Compostela. After all, when the sun goes down, the city comes to life! These are great hotels in Santiago de Compostela:

  • Hotel Altaïr (3⭐) is where I myself slept during my city break Santiago de Compostela. It is a small boutique hotel on the edge of downtown. Quiet and close to all attractions.
  • San Francisco Hotel Monumento (4⭐) is a former monastery converted into a fine hotel. There is a pool and hot tub, so you can have a nice soak after a long day in the city.
  • Hospital de los Reyes Católicos (5⭐) is a former hospital on Plaza del Obradoiro. This unique historic hotel is not only luxurious and comfortable, but also one of the city’s finest attractions.

Check out Booking.com for more options, availability, and prices.

Visiting Santiago de Compostela? Book your trip now!

Do you fancy a city trip to Santiago de Compostela? The websites below are useful for booking your trip.

✈️ Plane tickets – Santiago de Compostela has a small international airport. Check WayAway to find the best deals and get cashback on plane tickets.

🚆 Train tickets – Are you interested in a more sustainable way of traveling? It’s easy to reach Santiago de Compostela by train. Check Rail Europe for train tickets.

🚘 Rental Car – Although you can get around Santiago de Compostela by public transport, it is very useful to have a rental car if you want to visit some areas outside of the city. Check Rental Cars to find the best deals.

Check out: Galicia itinerary: epic 2 week road trip in Northwest Spain

🎡 Tours & activities – There are a lot of fun tours and activities to do in northeast Spain. Check Civitatis and Get Your Guide to find the best guided tours and activities in Galicia.

Read more about Spain

Would you like to like to learn more about Santiago de Compostela and are you preparing a trip to Spain? Here are some useful guidebooks.

Eyewitness Northern Spain

Fodor’s Essential Spain

I myself travel to Spain several times a year for a city trip or a fun hike. Spain is one of my favorite destinations in Europe! That is why you can read a lot about beautiful places in Spain on this website. Check out these articles as well:

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I visited Galicia at the invitation of Turismo de Galicia. I always give my honest opinion about a destination. Read more about working with Travel with Co on this page. This article also contains some affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links it costs you nothing extra, but I get a small commission. This allows me to improve this website. Support Travel with Co.

The best things to do in Santiago de Compostela Spain

As a girl from a small town in the Netherlands, I always dreamed of traveling. I thought it would always be a dream, but nowadays, I travel 6 to 8 months a year and I hike thousands of miles on the most beautiful hiking trails. On this website you can read all about my favorite destinations.

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