How to Fall in Love with Santiago
Paulo Coelho said “Santiago is not the end of the way, it’s the beginning”.
Santiago de Compostela is on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean where you’ll find magic, soul and charm. Thousands of pilgrims tackle The Way every year with different motivations behind their pilgrimage, but they all leave with one thing in common. At the end of their journey, each person always finds what they were looking for in some way or another.
The city is internationally famous for its cathedral and old town – both are must-sees due to their artistic and architectural wealth. Some say that the Cathedral is not in Santiago, but Santiago is in the Cathedral because the city grew up around it.
What to See in Santiago
The first and most important thing to visit is the historic city centre and obviously the Cathedral. Don’t miss the Town Hall, the Hostal de los Reyes Católicos and the four squares surrounding the cathedral. The atmosphere is always magical due to the crowds of pilgrims. Climb to the roof of the cathedral – you’ll get some of the best views of the city and you should also check out the Botafumeiro, a giant incense burner which was used as an instrument of purification when large crowds gathered and perfume was necessary to mask the smell. Beware if you’re visiting at night. According to legend, a pilgrim appears at the base of the clock tower, between Puerta Real and Puerta Santa. Don’t worry though – it’s just an illusion that happens because of the night lighting in the square.
After visiting the old town, you should head to the Alameda. You’ll have very special company in the form of the “Dos en punto” statues. These statues commemorate two women who were a common sight in the city in the 50s and 60s. They dedicated much of their time to strolling through the old town in their best clothes to see if they could pick up college students. Today they stand at the entrance to the Alameda still looking for love.
The Alameda itself offers one of the best viewpoints in the city, where you can appreciate the older parts of the city and the cathedral. Without doubt, it’s the perfect place to get a good photo.
My Top Recommendations
To experience Santiago like a local Galician, head to Hotel Costa Vella, which is located on C/ Porta da Pena. Its terrace is a garden like an enchanted forest where you can enjoy a coffee / tea combined with the best cake in Santiago.
Bar A Tita is another excellent spot. Located in the old area near the cathedral, this is a typical Galician tavern where its Tapas comes free with every drink – some of the best Tortilla I’ve tried so far!
While you’re in Santiago, you must also visit Pulpería Os Concheiros: The Galician octopus is one of the most typical dishes of the area and what better place than to try it than in this classic restaurant. Your palate will thank you!
I’d also recommend Bar Avión, located on C/ La Rosa, in the new area of the city. It’s the ideal place to go if you want to taste a bit of the Atlantic FOR FREE – on Fridays they offer shellfish with their drinks.
Barbara is originally from Santiago and is currently a member of cabin crew at Ryanair’s Stockholm base