For centuries, travellers have been visiting historic Santiago de Compostela. The city is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Catholics and attracts visitors from around the world thanks to its well-preserved medieval architecture. Along with sightseeing, Santiago is an excellent base for exploring Galicia in Spain’s northwest and enjoying some of the region’s culinary specialities, including cooked octopos (pulpo) and Albariño wine.
Santiago de Compostela city is the terminus of the Way of St. James, a scenic route extending across northern Spain and into France that has been a solemn route for pilgrims since the Middle Ages. According legend, St. James the Apostle brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula by converting the local Celts. After his execution in Jerusalem in 44 AD, St. James’s remains were brought back to the region. In the 9th century, his tomb was rediscovered after being forgotten after the Roman persecution of Christians in the 3rd century. A church was built on the site believed to be St. James’s burial site to honour the Apostle and serve as a place of pilgrimage, which Santiago de Compostela continues to be to this day. Santiago’s name itself reflects this close link to St. James, whose name in Spanish is San Tiago.
Built between 1075 and 1211, the imposing Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is the city’s most visited building. The cathedral mixes Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic styles, and it is at the heart of Old Town. The Old Town has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and can be easily explored on foot. The cathedral is located at the Praza do Obradorio, an expansive square that includes 15th century Hostal dos Reis Catolicos and the Pazo de Raxoi, an 18th century palace that is now the town hall. Other sites worth visiting include the market at the Praza de Abastos and the 16th century San Martiño Pinario Monastery. The city is also home to several relaxing parks, including Alameda Park at the edge of the Old Town. The idyllic park features gardens, ponds, and oak trees.
From London’s Stansted Airport, Ryanair operates regular flights to Santiago de Compostela Airport. Providing connections to cities across Europe, the airport is just 10 kilometres from the ctiy centre. In addition to taxis, there is an affordable bus service linking the airport with the city every half-hour. You can also hire a vehicle at the airport from a number of rental agencies, including Hertz, National, Avis, and Europcar. If you do rent a car, be sure to drive to Finisterra, which is 70 kilometres from Santiago on the Atlantic coast. Meaning the “end of the earth”, the Romans believed Finisterra was literally the end of the world.