Santiago de Compostela Tourist Attractions & Things to Do

Besides its worldwide reputation as being the final resting place of Saint James, Santiago has much to offer the international tourist - a wealth of magnificent historic buildings, many fascinating museums, modern art galleries, traditional fiestas and fine Galician cuisine.

The biggest tourist attraction is the cathedral in the Plaza del Obradoiro, the main square which is flanked by enough architectural gems to keep history buffs delighted for days.

Work started on the cathedral in 1075 and continued for centuries. The Capilla del Salvador and La Corticela chapels are part of the original structure.

The impressive Obradoiro façade was created in the 18th century and named after the stone-cutters who laboured over it (Obradoiro means "work of gold" in Galego).

The 200 sculptures of the Portico de la Gloria entrance door were carved from Galician granite in the 12th century and are regarded as being among the world's most important examples of medieval art.

Look closely at the Tree of Jesse, below the sculpture of St James, and you'll see the holes in the stone made by devout pilgrims who pressed their fingers against the stone as they prayed at the end of their journey.


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The relics of St James lie in a Roman mausoleum beneath the vast Baroque-style high altar. For a full history of the city and its famous apostle, visit the Cathedral Museum housed in the beautiful 16th century cloisters.

On the northern edge of the square you'll find the world's oldest hotel - the Hostal dos Reis Catolicos built by King Ferdinand and his Queen Isabella to accommodate the early pilgrims. These days the "hostal" is one of Spain's most attractive state-run Parador hotels.

There are many other lovely old buildings in the square which has narrow lanes and streets leading off to other parts of the Old Quarter.

Visit Plaza de las Platerias (Silversmiths' Square) which has an ornate 19th century fountain at its centre and numerous silver shops in the surrounding arcades.

The Museo das Pereginacións (Pilgrimage Museum) in Rua de San Miguel is a small but fascinating museum charting the 1,000-year history of the Santiago Way.

For an insight into the history of the Galician People from their Celtic origins, visit the Museo do Pobo Galego housed in the 14th century San Domingos de Bonaval Convent in Rua de Valle Inclan.

Art lovers will want to spend some time at the nearby Centro Galego de Arte Contemparánea (Galician Centre of Contemporary Art) - an impressive modern building which has a permanent collection of contemporary Galician art and temporary exhibitions of paintings and sculpture.

Wander around the streets near the university to soak up a truly awe-inspiring array of ancient palaces and religious buildings ranging from the Medieval and Gothic to Renaissance and Baroque.

Shop in the local craft markets of the Old Quarter for traditional Galician goods such as jewellery made from silver and jet stone, lacework, clogs and ceramics. On market days in Virxe da Cerca you'll be able to buy local produce including regional wines and liqueurs and even fresh octopus from the "pulpeiras" (octopus sellers!).

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