Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela, capital of Galicia, is one of the most historical and important cities of the Galician territory. Of presumably Roman foundation, in its memory it keeps significant events in the history of our country, such as the passage of the Celts, the Suevi, the discovery of the tomb of the Apostle Santiago in the ninth century, or the attack suffered at the hands of the Muslim troops of Almanzor in the tenth century.
The historic center of the city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. This is not surprising, since in addition to its magnificent state of preservation, the old town is an annual witness to one of the greatest Christian pilgrimage phenomena of humanity: the Camino de Santiago.
The golden years of Santiago de Compostela.
During the Middle Ages, after the discovery of the remains of St. James the Apostle in the ninth century, the beginning of pilgrimages and the construction of the Cathedral in the eleventh century, the city of Santiago de Compostela will live its golden age. This period will be a period of sustained growth, only interrupted in 997 by the incursion of the Muslim troops of Almanzor, which razed the city but respected the tomb of the Apostle.
Coinciding with the reconstruction of the city will begin the project of the current Cathedral and the rise of the medieval city. The walls of the historic city were built and in the 12th century the city experienced the golden age of pilgrimages, thanks to the French Way. This pilgrimage route would be the vehicle for the transmission of ideas and advances from Europe to the Iberian Peninsula, and therefore, the greatest commercial and cultural dynamism of the cities located on the route. A good example of this is the expansion outside the city walls and the subsequent founding of the University.
Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the city will experience its greatest aesthetic revolution in the hand of the Renaissance and Baroque movements. It is the time of creation of the great heritage works of the city and the opening and urban beautification.
Nowadays, the city is one of the most dynamic in Galicia, due to its capital status it is the seat of many public institutions, as well as being a tourist attraction at international level, thanks to the Camino de Santiago, and presenting the most consolidated university campus in Galicia.
Heritage: the key points to know the city
The main heritage elements of Santiago de Compostela are located in the historic center of the city. It is a must for the visitor to visit the Cathedral, as well as the four squares that surround it: Obradoiro, Platerías, Quintana and Azabacherías. In the Obradoiro square, in addition to the imposing baroque facade of the Cathedral, is the Hostal de los Reyes Católicos (Renaissance style), the Pazo de Raxoi (baroque style) and the Colexio de San Xerome, behind which is the beautiful Pazo de Fonseca, of which part of its rooms are currently used as a university library.
In front of the Azabacherías square is the monastery of San Martín Pinario, a beautiful building that combines Renaissance and Baroque styles. Nowadays this building has religious and university functions. In the back of the building is the monastery church. To tell the truth, all the cathedral squares have exceptional buildings around them, in the Plaza de Quintana we find the Casa da Conga and in Platerías the Casa del Cabildo.
Another iconic point of the historic center is the asphyxiated Cervantes square. It is a very dynamic area, frequented daily by hundreds of Compostelanos and hosts cultural events and concerts during the festivities. Other squares with similar characteristics are the Plaza do Toural and the Plaza de Mazarelos, which preserves the beautiful arch of Mazarelos, one of the entrance gates to the medieval city.
Other notable buildings in the city are the faculties of Medicine and Geography and History, and the Convent of San Francisco. In addition to emblazoned houses, modernist buildings and typical architecture of the area, which are dotted throughout the historic center.
Walking through the historic center of Santiago de Compostela is like walking through a fairy tale, so exploring all the nooks and crannies hidden in all its streets is a delight for the senses. Each street has its charm and personality, and despite the dynamism and the amount of establishments and services they present, one of the most surprising things is the very good integration that exists between the “life” and the conservation of the monumental area. Perfect examples are Calle do Vilar, das Orfas, Calderería, Preguntoiro, Azabacherías or Casas Reais.
To top it all off, beautiful Compostela is one of the European cities with the most kilometers of green space per inhabitant. Highlights include the impressive parks of the Alameda, in the heart of the city, the extensive green areas of the university campuses, Bonaval Park, Belvís Park, Eugenio Granell Park and the river path of the Sarela River.
Getting around the city
One of Santiago’s greatest virtues is its accessibility and ease of movement. It is a city well served by urban transport lines, but in practice, walking routes are perfectly feasible, as the map of travel times between the main landmarks of the city, prepared by the university, shows.
In terms of external connections, Santiago de Compostela is connected to the rest of Galicia by the Atlantic axis highway (AP-9) and through train and bus stations. With the rest of Spain, the city shows good connections both by land (train and road) and by air, through the city’s airport located in Lavacolla.
Living the city
Gastronomy of the city
Compostela’s gastronomy is very rich and varied. In fact, one of the main points of interest is undoubtedly the food market, where you can find the best products of the area. From fish and seafood, to red and white meats with Galician quality label and fresh vegetables produced in the surroundings of the city.
In addition to the surroundings of the food market, where there are restaurants specialized in preparing for the customer the purchase made by themselves in the market, we find the iconic and busy streets of San Pedro, O Franco and A Raíña. Together with the food market, these three streets make up the mosaic and hive of the leisure, food, wine and vermouth area of the city.
The University represents one of the fundamental pillars on which the development of the city of Santiago orbits. This is something that brings a lot of freshness and vitality to the city, since during the months of the academic year the population of Santiago multiplies due to the thousands of students coming from all over the world.
Going out at night
Compostela’s nightlife is tremendously varied and dynamic. Santiago is a city with a lot of cultural life, where it is common to find multiple events and concerts daily in its main bars. In the same way, there is a folk and traditional scene very well established in the city, which makes possible the appearance of “spontaneous” foliadas in the locals of reference of the genre.
The nightlife offer is completed by sectors of the city, where there is room for all ages and tastes. From folk bars to rock bars, from discotheques to relaxed cocktail bars, with impressive halls and gardens.
The “taverns with art” that no one should miss are: El Atlántico, Casa das Crechas, A Gramola, El momo, Modus Vivendi, A Reixa, Riquela, La Flor, the terrace of the Hotel Costa Vella, the Embora, the Borriquita de Belén, or Fonte sequelo, among others.
Main cultural events
Undoubtedly, the main event of the city is the feast held in honor of the apostle St. James during the month of July, between the 15th and 31st. In this festival, declared a Festival of International Tourist Interest, highlights include religious events in the Cathedral, fireworks and audiovisual show projected on the facade of the Cathedral on the night of July 24, the folk festival, concerts, theaters, sports competitions, etc..
Film lovers find in the Cineuropa festival their must-see event of the year. This cinephile festival is celebrated every year during the month of November and projects the best independent film premieres of the season, as well as some titles of reference in the world of cinema.
Closely related to the above is the International University Theater Festival, held in March, which brings to the city the most fashionable and innovative trends in the field of drama.
Regarding musical events, Santiago enjoys the presence of different music festivals, such as the “Via Stellae” music festival or the “O son do camiño” festival. It should be noted that the city also has a seasonal offer of classical music, thanks to the Real Filharmonía de Galicia.
As could not be otherwise, the city of Santiago has a large catalog of museums to visit, among which we can highlight: the Cathedral Museum, the Pilgrimage Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art (CGAC), the Museum do Pobo galego, the Casa da Troia, the Museum-Foundation Eugenio Granell, the Museum of Sacred Art or the City of Culture.