Looking for all the best things to do in Santiago de Compostela as well as some excellent day trips? Keep reading!
For centuries, Santiago de Compostela has been much more than simply a city.
Enshrined within the walls of the magnificent cathedrals are the remains for the apostle, St James, and for more than a thousand years, this final resting place has marked the end of the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile trek across the Spanish countryside.
Thankfully however, you don't have to be a hiker, or indeed a pilgrim, to visit Galicia's capital. This beautiful medieval city has plenty to keep even the most sedentary tourist occupied for a few days.
With wonderful day trips to impressive stately homes, fantastic wineries and delightful little towns, there's more to Santiago de Compostela than Spain's most famous walk!
The Mercado de Abastos de Santiago is so photogenic
Which is probably why, after the cathedral, it's the city's second most visited attraction - with more than 4000 people wandering the stalls every Saturday alone!
Although the current building has only been there since the 1940s, a market has been on this site for more than 150 years. Many of the traditions, and the produce sold, have changed very little.
Primarily a food market, the Mercado de Abastos de Santiago is a fantastic spot to pick up some of the region's famous fresh seafood, marvel at the array of fresh produce or simply explore and photograph, like us.
For those keen to indulge in the seafood on offer, but without a kitchen in their accommodation, do not fear - there’s a small restaurant (Marisco-Mania) on site that will cook whatever creatures you buy for a flat rate of 4€. And you don't run the risk of leaving the market with a bag full of shellfish that you have no idea how to cook!
Where | Santiago’s Mercado de Abastos is located along the Rúa de Ameás on the eastern side of the casco viejo or historic old town.
When | The market is open Monday through Saturday from around 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., although to make the best out of your visit, aim to get there early. Additionally, if you have the choice of days to visit, aim for a Thursday or Saturday.
You can visit the “The Galician Versailles”
The term 'palace' can mean many things - even in a country like Spain, not all are created equal. The palaces in Galicia however, are stunning - and none more so than Pazo de Oca.
It's for good reason that Pazo de Oca is referred to as 'The Galician Versailles'.
Roam the perfectly manicured hedgerows, take in the scent of seasonal flowers or watch swans glide across large pond - just try to remember that it is a garden in Spain in which you stand, and not that of a grand palace in 17th century France.
Where | Pazo de Oca 36685 Estrada, A, Pontevedra (Galicia). Around 15 kilometres from Santiago.
When | Visits to the gardens are available every day between 9 a.m. and 6.30 p.m November to March and 9 a.m. and 8.30 p.m. April - October. Guided visits inside the palace are held at 11 a.m. Friday - Sunday (advance booking required for groups)
It may be busy - but it sure is pretty
Whether it is the weary pilgrims who have recently completed their trekking odyssey or large tour groups keen to understand a little more of the city's epic history, there is no denying that Santiago is a busy place. Visit on a summer's day and the small cobbled streets will be teeming with tourists, each keen to discover the city on their terms.
What surprised us however, was how little we seemed to care. Small cobbled streets edged by sun-seeking diners, hand-written chalk boards announcing the catch of the day and traditional stores manned by men in white coats.
There is no way to escape the crowds entirely, but seek out tiny alleyways and go against the heavy flow, and the intrepid can still discover quiet corners in this popular city.
It has one of the most impressive cathedrals we've seen in a while
Long-time readers of Along Dusty Roads will know that we're not really 'church people'. After a while you see, they all tend to blur into one.
And whilst it was the mention of spectacular views over Santiago de Compostela that tempted us through the doors of its cathedral, it was the cloisters that made us stay where bright late-summer sun lit up the vast space, casting long, deep shadows across the cool stone floor.
Where | Praza do Obradoiro. Although the surrounding streets can be a little difficult to navigate, if you find yourself lost whilst looking for the cathedral - simply look up. The spires rise high up into the sky!
When | Entry to the cathedral is available all year round, between 7 a.m. - 8.30 p.m. Museum entry can be bought in combination with a number of other activities - see this site for further details.
And you can visit the palace where the Cathedral's famous canon used to live
Do not feel stupid if you have no idea what we're talking about. If we're honest, we'd never heard of him either. Yet, delve a little deeper into the history of the Camino de Santiago, and more specifically the cathedral, and his fame is indeed warranted.
This man, a historian, a writer and canon of Santiago de Compstela is, if legend is to be believed, responsible for locating the hidden remains of St James, the apostle for which untold numbers have walked hundreds of miles to visit. And beautifully refurbished, not far from the region's capital, is his old home Pazo de Galegos.
Part hotel, part winery, this spectacular 'pazo', hidden in the heart of the Galician countryside (yet only 15 km from Santiago), is a fine example of how passion and time can revive what others would consign to history. Specifically, the small family-owned vineyard, producing exceptional wine from revived natural vines, as well as sensitively grown new plantations.
Further information | The vineyard/hotel is located at Lugar de Galegos, 6. San Pedro 15885. For further information, or to make a booking, see this link.
The seafood is exceptional!
Whether you limit yourself to the regional speciality 'pulpo a feira', or go seafood crazy, you'll discover that Galicia really does have some of the best seafood in all of Spain.
And, unless you feel like splurging, you don't need to go fancy, with even the smallest hole-in-the-wall having access to the freshest seafood in the region.
You're a stones throw from cute little towns like this!
Whilst modern cities have their attractions, give us a beautiful old town, a medieval centre and a few hours to explore, and and we're hooked. Throw in cute little harbours and a backdrop of rolling green hills and soaring mountains and we'll wave goodbye to contemporary design forever! Thankfully towns like this aren't a rarity in Galicia, they're the rule.
Towns just like Cambados are perfect for exploring on a sunny afternoon, or if you plan discover everything the albariño region has to offer, make a fantastic base.
The Wine. All the Wine.
We have a confession to make. We love wine (almost as much as gin) and yet, we really don't know much about it. In fact, before visiting Galicia, we'd never actually heard of two of its finest wines - Albariño and Mencia.
Naturally, if you so choose, you could try these in a fancy wine bar at home, but there really is no better way than in the very place it is produced. In addition to Pazo de Galegos (above), be sure to check out:
Pazo de Rubianes
Home to one of the few remaining noble families in Galicia, Pazo de Rubianes is a must for those craving a wonderful isight into how the other half live, and the green-fingered will simply adore the beautiful gardens - especially when the camellias are in bloom!
Us on the other hand, well, it was the wine that impressed (well, that and the three adorable dogs that call this place home). Producing an excellent albariño, be sure to squeeze a tasting into your visit.
Pazo de Fefiñanes
Occupying the small central square in Cambados, stands a beautifully stately home, and the oldest producer of albariño wine in the region. They created their first bottle way back in 1928 - more than 50 years sooner than many in the country.
Still family owned, it was wonderful to sample the crisp white wine under a canopy of leaves and hear the Pazo de Fefiñanes story from two generations of the palace.