Every year, thousands of people journey along the epic Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail, with Santiago de Compostela as their ultimate destination. Thus, this Spanish city is rich in religion, culture and history, and today it remains a symbol of Christians’ struggle against Islam in Spain. Surrounded by picturesque mountains and home to beautiful Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic buildings, Santiago is a treat for the eyes. And, of course, it boasts some pretty delicious Galician cuisine. So when I had the chance to explore the historic, spiritual city of Santiago de Compostela for myself, I jumped at the opportunity.
I was living in Madrid for a year when my friend told me he was going to Santiago de Compostela for the weekend. I realized that I had no big plans that weekend, so I made a split-second decision to join him on his trip to beautiful Galicia. Right before packing up my weekend bag, I pulled up my HotelTonight app and booked a last-minute hotel in Santiago de Compostela. Within just a few minutes, I had a great hotel room waiting for me in the heart of this historic city.
The historic city center of Santiago de Compostela is full of old, well-preserved buildings and narrow, cobbled streets. The Old Town of Santiago seems as if it hasn’t been touched by time over the centuries, so I wasn’t surprised to discover that the entire Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I found the Old Town to be the real heart of Santiago, as its streets were filled with locals and tourists alike, enjoying the charm and energy of Casco Antiguo. During my first few hours in Santiago, I simply meandered through the pedestrian-only streets of the Old Town and embraced its Old World feel.
Without a doubt, the biggest and most famous site in Santiago de Compostela is the Cathedral. The Catedral de Santiago is the most sacred Christian site in all of Spain, which is why this town is the culmination of the famous pilgrimage trail. The Cathedral is located in the beautiful Plaza del Obradoiro, and it’s certainly something you cannot miss during your stay in Santiago. After all, Christians travel from all over the world to stand in this historic Cathedral, so you should definitely include it on your must-see list while in Santiago. This magnificent building was constructed around the 11th century, and its home to the relics of the Apostle Saint James, the patron saint of Spain. In addition to the Cathedral, Plaza del Obradoiro also features a number of other attractions, including a 15th century hospital that is now a luxury hotel and the medieval Archbishop’s old palace.
When I travel, I like to get a feel for the local side of a city, which is why I made sure to visit the Santiago food market during my stay in this Galician town. This sprawling food market is full of color and energy, and you’ll find everything from fresh fruits and veggies to Spanish specialties like chorizo and cheese. As I strolled through the granite halls of Santiago’s market, I had trouble exercising my self-control, as I wanted to purchase all of the beautiful produce and fresh seafood I saw. I ended up leaving the market with a big bag of fresh food, and just like a local, I enjoyed every bite of this delicious Spanish food.
The locals of Santiago are lucky–not only do they live in a beautiful old town, but they also have an abundance of lovely green spaces available to them. This city is full of parks, and there are plenty of places just outside of the city where locals can go for walks, hikes and bike rides. One of my favorite parks in Santiago was Alameda Park, which is quite popular among locals for its lush foliage, pretty gardens, and manicured paths. Alameda Park’s roots trace back to the 16th century, so don’t be surprised when you stumble upon various old monuments during an afternoon stroll through this beautiful park.
I’ve traveled all over Spain, but I can definitely say that there’s an atmosphere and culture in Santiago de Compostela that you won’t find anywhere else in the country. This beloved pilgrimage site is rooted in religion and culture, and you can feel the city’s spirituality and character no matter where you go. Santiago is one of the most fascinating Spanish towns I’ve visited, and I already have a desire to return and explore more of this unique religious site. When I do plan my return trip to Santiago, I will definitely rely on HotelTonight to help me find a great last-minute hotel in Santiago de Compostela. Now that I have HotelTonight on my side, I always know that I can plan last-minute trips with no stress or hassle.