Santiago de Compostela, or just Santiago, is synonymous with the Camino, an ancient pilgrimage route, born in the 9th century, that brings to the city many thousands of pilgrims who arrive on foot or by bike to the Cathedral in Santiago, the end of the Camino.
Last week, during the East break, I flew into Santiago from Valencia with Ryanair, that it’s defenitely not the best airline (bad service, awful customer attention), but is the cheapest way to travel around Europe. That was my first time in the region of Galicia and I was excited to discover a part of my country I haven’t seen before.
Galicia, a part of the “green Spain”
Santiago de Compostela is located in Galicia, the northwest region of the country and a part of the “green Spain“. While most people think Spain in basically dry and sunny, the truth is that I can’t imagine a country so different from north to south and from west to east than Spain. Galicia is mountainous and it’s known as the “country of the thousand rivers”. Its landscapes are composed of green hills, cliffs and what we call rias. That is a very different image from what is commonly understood as the Spanish landscape.
Santiago, the end of the road
The Camino de Santiago is probably the most popular pilgrimage in Europe. It exists several ways to arrive to the Cathedral in Santiago departing from different points of Spain, France and Portugal. The most typical one departs from Roncesvalles (France) and cross the north of Spain till Santiago. The goal is to arrive to the Plaza del Obradoiro, where the Cathedral of Santiago is. Lots of pilgrims arrive everyday to the city from all over the world and it’s easy to see them in the streets carriying theirs bags and theirs sticks with the typical shell of Santiago (the one you can see in the photo below).
Apart from the Plaza del Obradoiro, the heritage center of Santiago is a charming place to stroll. Narrow streets, ancient buildings and a bunch of Catholic church deboted to several saints, specially to St. James.
But if you go to Santiago, don’t miss the public market, Mercado de Abastos. It is open everyday except Sundays, but Saturdays and Thusdays are the best days to visit it. This is a traditional market where you can buy all kinds of fresh food: meat, cheese, wine, sea food, vegetables… and even flowers.
If you want to taste the authentic Galician food, you can buy everything you want in the market and there is a small restaurant just right there where they will cook it for you. That’s what I call extremely fresh food! The price for the cooking will be a 10% of the total price you paid for your food at the market, plus 3€ per person, plus drinks. Actually, it’s not the cheapest option, but it’s a good way to taste the real local food.
Touristic information about Santiago de Compostela in English:
If you are planning a trip to Santiago de Compostela, this is the Galicia Tourism official website and the Santiago de Compostela official website. To learn more about the city and its surroundings, here you have some brouchures where you will find useful information in English: