Santiago de Compostela

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Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela

© Fabi

Santiago de Compostela is the capital of Galicia, an autonomous region in the northwest of Spain. The city has about 100,000 inhabitants and is placed on the Unesco World Heritage List. It is of course most famous because the cathedral is the official ending point of the pilgrimage route that many people have been walking since over 1,000 years, the Route of Santiago de Compostela!




Santiago de Compostela was founded by the Suebi in the early 400s, as part of the collapse of the Roman Empire. In 550 the whole settlement together with the rest of Galicia and northern Portugal was incorporated by Leovigild into the Visigothic kingdom of Spain. Raided from 711 to 739 by the Arabs, Santiago de Compostela was conquered by the Visigothic king of Asturias in 754. This was about 60 years before the identification of remains as those of Saint James the Great, and their acceptance as such by the Pope and Charlemagne, during the reign of Alfonso II of Asturias. The remains were found in the small and close town of Iria Flavia, but they were moved to Santiago according to political and religious reasons. From then on, this settlement was not just a city, but a holy city, and one of the main centers of Christian pilgrimage. Still, there are some who claim that the remains found here were not those of the apostle James. One of the most famous theories is that these are the remains of Priscillian. They are also thought by many to be someone else altogether.

Santiago de Compostela was captured by the French during the Napoleonic War. Its capture broke the spirits of the many Spanish guerrillas who were fighting the mighty invading armies of Marshals' Soult, Victor, Massena and Napoleon's brother, the new King of Spain, Joseph Bonaparte (called Pepe Botella by the Spanish resistance). During the war, many attempts were made to recapture it by Spanish partisans, who believed St James would come down on the field and destroy the French if they earned his favour by beating the French out of the holy city, which was St James's city. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Santiago was under the control of the fascists from the beginning. It suffered from very brutal repression during the dictatorship. After the Spanish Transition, when the democracy was restored, Santiago de Compostela was declared capital city of Galicia.



Sights and Activities

  • Although it just ends here, the Route of Santiago de Compostela is what made the city itself famous in the first place.
  • Cathedral and main plaza.
  • The old city, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
  • Pazo de Raxoi (Raxoi's Palace).
  • Hostal dos Reis Católicos - used to be a pilgrim's hospice, now it is a parador (luxury hotel in historical building).




Weather in this part of Spain is cooler and wetter compared to places to the south, east and central parts of the country. Summers last from late May to September when temperatures are around 22 °C to 26 °C on average during the day while nights average around 12 °C to 15 °C. Winters are from late November to early March when it's about 10 °C to 15 °C during the day and nights are quite cold with 4 °C to 6 °C. Precipitation is mainly concentrated in the colder half of year and from October to April you can expect some rain on about half of the number of days. Summers are better with 6-8 days with some rain.



Getting There

By Plane

Santiago de Compostela Airport is located near the city and is the most important hub if you arrive by plane.

Quite a few airlines serve the city. Ryanair flies to and from London, Alicante, Frankfurt, Madrid, Rome and Reus (near Barcelona). Several other airlines have flights to destinations in Spain like Palma de Mallorca, most of the Canary Islands (mostly with Air Europa, Bilbao, Valencia, Barcelona and Málaga. Vueling has flights to Paris as well and there are seasonal flights with Aer Lingus to Dublin and with other airlines to Buenos Aires and Caracas, which gives you an idea of the importance of this city for catholics!

By Train

Trains to Madrid take 8 to 9 hours and you can either choose to travel by day or night. Hourly trains go to A Coruña, Pontevedra and Vigo. At least six or trains go daily to Ourense and one to Irún, on the French border, via León, Burgos and San Sebastian.
Check the Spanish Railway website for details regarding schedules and prices.

By Car

The AP (Autopista) nummer 9 connects Santiago de Compostela with Pontevedra and A Coruna, but it is a toll route. There is a slower tollfree road as well though.

By Bus

Castromil runs buses thoughout Galicia, including to Pontevedra and A Coruna.
ALSA offers many connections to places further away including Madrid, Salamanca, Cáceres, Seville, Barcelona, Lisbon, Porto, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Brussels and Zürich.
Eurolines has buses througout Spain and Europe as well.

By Foot

The most classical way to arrive to Santiago de Compostela is of course by foot, like the millions of pilgrims before you. For more information about the check the guide for the Route of Santiago de Compostela.



Getting Around

Santiago is a relatively small city (about 100,000 inhabitants) and you can get anywhere by walking.

Even so, there are several bus lines that connect every part of the city. These services are offered by the company Tralusa. The ticket costs €1.00 for adults (for people under 18 it costs €0.55). If you are going to take several bus trips, you may buy a bono (Bus Pass) of 10, 20, or 30 tickets with a price of €0.55 for each one. You can buy these bonos from the bus drivers and you must pay a deposit of €3 that will be paid back to you if you return the card in good condition. The most interesting line for visitors is the number 5, that stops at the bus station and goes to the city center.
Taxis are not very expensive and the taxi drivers are usually kind and willing to help tourists.




Galicia is known for "Pulpo" or cooked octopus. In general there are a lot of restaurants selling fish and seafood suitable for all budgets. The local cheeses should also be sampled, as well as delicious cakes like the "Tarta de Santiago". Expect long queues at popular pilgrim eating places. Also try pimientos de padrón. The saying goes, "Os pementos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non" meaning that in a single serving, some are spicy while others are not.




Try the Albariño wine, a white wine from the south of Galicia. Other popular drinks are:

  • Licor café is a popular local liqueur, which tastes strongly of coffee.
  • Orujo, also known as Aguardiente or Caña, is also a popular local drink, made with the grapes after juicing them. It's often served in little glasses (chupitos) or just a trickle with the coffee. There are three kinds: Orujo Blanco, just eau-de-vie, Orujo de hierbas, often green, it has different tastes depending on the kind, it's usually served very cold, and Tostado, that it's the result of soaking the grapes with nuts and other fruits.
  • Queimada, very traditional drink, it's a mix of aguardiente, sugar and some fruits and coffee beans. It's set on fire before drinking it while someone recites the conxuro (a sort of spell)
  • Crema de Orujo, very sweet and tasty, 15-20% of alcohol.

El Mosquito, Rua de San Pedro, is a very old-fashioned bar. Everything there seems like the 1950s, even the customers. The only exception is the LCD 42" TV that displays football (soccer) matches. Very nice and local environment. They sell a little cup of Ribeiro wine for a small price. You can ask also for a bottle of Likor Kafe or Crema de Orujo (less than €10) it's all homemade, they fill an empty bottle of wine in front of you. You can also buy a bottle of Ribeiro wine (Vino Ribeiro) they fill a 2 L plastic bottle with it (they wash the bottles in front of you as well). This is a very local place, and seems like you need to be at least 50 years old to get in, but that's not true. edit

For a quiet beer and a couple of tapas on the Old District there are several places where you can sit in terraces when the weather is nice or inside where it's rainy or cold. Some of these places are for example, Tokio or Alameda at Porta Faxeira or the terraces at the Quintana Square. It's specially well-known the Rúa do Franco, one of the main streets, full of places where you can drink and eat something. One really famous is Bar Orense (Rúa do Franco), where you can have cuncas (cups) of wine and licor café for a very low price. If you like coffees, ice-creams and pastries, try Pastelería Mercedes Mora (Rúa do Vilar). On the New District there are bars full of university students, such as Central Perk (Rúa Nova de Abaixo), Luis (Rúa Santiago del Estero) or the multiple terraces at Praza Roxa.

Later in the evening, there are several places to go because Santiago de Compostela is a city with a very interesting nightlife.

If you want some beers or cocktails to begin the night, try Nido del Cuco or Momo, both at Virxe da Cerca. The last one, Momo, during the summer season has a big and nice garden and during the winter it has performances of singer-songwriters. Other interesting places are Casa das Crechas (Vía Sacra, very close to Praza da Quintana), where you can hear some folk music, A Calderería (Rúa da Calderería), spot where many foreigners get together and sometimes there are music performances or Modus Vivendi (Praza Feixoó).





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Keep Connected


Internet is widely available within Spain. Most airports have wifi-zones and in most towns there are internet cafés or shops where you can use internet for a fixed price. Wi-Fi points in bars and cafeterias are available after ordering, and most hotels offer Wi-Fi connection in common areas for their guests.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The international access code for Spain is +34. The emergency number for police, ambulance and the fire brigade is 112.

In cities you can find plenty of public phones, and 'locutorios'. The latter are small shops where you can use the phone and use internet. Most of them also sell prepaid cards for mobile telephones. These shops are used a lot by foreigners to call to their mother country.

The main mobile network operators in Spain are Yoigo, Vodafone, Movistar and Orange, as in most of Europe voice and data coverage is generally good in urban areas however it can be patchy in rural locations. Cheap mobile phones (less than €50) with some pre-paid minutes are sold at FNAC or any phone operator's shop (Vodafone, Movistar, Orange). Topping-up is then done by buying scratch cards from the small stores, supermarkets, vending points (often found in tobacco shops) or kiosks.


If you want to post a card, you can head to the post office (Correos). The Spanish post is not yet as efficient as colleagues in other countries so receiving a card can take a bit longer than the number of days that it should take. On the website of Correos, you can find the locations of nearby post offices.
Post offices are generally open from 8:30am to 2:00pm, although times will vary according to the size of the city/town and the main post offices might be open until the early evening. Most will also open again on Saturday mornings, but in the smaller towns will close as early as 12 noon. When posting a letter, look for a yellow box and, if possible, post at the post office itself where there will also be divisions for local, national and international mail. Be prepared for long queues at the post office. This is why tobacco shops sell stamps and many will also have the facility to weigh packages. Standard letters/postcards of up to 20 grams sent within Spain are €0.34. However, non-standard letters/postcards of up to 20g are €0.39. Letters/postcards of 20 to 50 grams are €0.45. In the case of international shipping, the price is €0.64 to most countries within Europe for standard envelopes (letters/postcards) up to 20g, for a few European countries and outside Europe it is €0.78. If you want to send a package you are probably better off with a private courier company like TNT, DHL or UPS, as they offer quick and reliable services against competitive prices.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 42.8804471
  • Longitude: -8.5463034

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This is version 25. Last edited at 14:26 on Nov 26, 19 by Utrecht. 24 articles link to this page.

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