Sat far away on the distant horizon, the great spires finally appear. For those who have been walking for days, weeks or even months in the direction of Santiago de Compostela, it is a moment of glorious satisfaction when the famed city finally comes into view.
Walking through the old streets of Santiago as you wind your way towards the Praza do Obradoiro can be emotional for many as the long journey finally nears its completion. As you slip your backpack from your shoulders and stand in front of the towing presence of the cathedral, you take a deep breath and congratulate yourself safe in the knowledge that you have achieved something truly great.
But what happens next? For many people, it can be difficult to readjust to normal life after time spent in the Camino world. It can be a jarring experience and most choose to spend a few days in Santiago resting, unwinding and preparing for whatever the future might hold.
Luckily, Santiago de Compostela is a fabulous city to spend some time in, with more than enough excellent bars and restaurants, museums, churches and historical monuments to keep you occupied as you slowly readjust to normal life.
No list concerning places to visit in Santiago de Compostela would be complete without the Holy Grail. While people undertake the Camino de Santiago for a variety of reasons these days, it still very much retains its pilgrimage vibe, which, for over a thousand years, has seen people walk the Way of St James and end at the gates of the Cathedral in Santiago.
And what a cathedral it is. With its imperious spires recently renovated, the cathedral certainly lives up to its hype. As the story goes, this was where the remains of St James were discovered and the first chapel appeared on this very spot in the early 9th Century.
Things have definitely grown over time and today the cathedral is a spectacular sight to behold and a wonderful place to spend some time once you have finished walking. If you’re lucky to visit on a special day, you might even witness the famous Botafumeiro, a giant incense thurible dating back to the mid 19th century which is swung across the cathedral.
Hostal de Los Reyes Católicos
It’s well worth planning ahead and booking a room at the Hostal de Los Reyes Católicos with Uwalk.ie to close out your Camino, but a visit for some lunch is the next best thing.
Much of the fabulous building that shows off the very best of Gothic Plateresque architecture is over 500 years old and has been hosting weary pilgrims in its rooms ever since.
Things are a little different these days and the spartan rooms of old have been given a 5* upgrade, but this Parador hotel still retains its glorious charm of old.
Museum of Pilgrimage and Santiago
It only makes sense after dedicating many an hour to slogging over hills and across Spain to reach Santiago that you take a little time learning more about the Camino de Santiago and its rich history.
The Museum of Pilgrimage and Santiago has two locations, one situated at Calle de San Miguel and another at Plaza de las Platerías, the square facing the cathedral. The museum offers visitors a wonderful insight into the Way of St James and how it has evolved over the years.
The San Francisco Convent
Founded by St. Francis himself in 1214, the towering San Francisco Convent has long drawn visitors to it. Little remains of the original structure and what you see today was primarily started in 1742.
The monks have long up and left for other accommodations and today visitors can either rent a room or dine in the quaint restaurant serving good old fashioned Galician food in surroundings where you can help but let your mind wander as you imagine the thousands who have done exactly the same before you.
The Museum of Galician People
While you’re in Santiago, why not take a little time to learn more about the fascinating land of Galicia. We all know about the Catalans and the Basques, but Spain’s Galician region has a ferocious identity and a unique cultural history quite unlike anywhere else in the country.
The small Museum of Galician people gives an excellent insight into the way of life, both now and of yesteryear of those who call this windswept, rugged land home. Learn about the food, architecture, costumes and of course the sea which has played a fundamental role in Galician life for as long as anybody can remember.
After the tranquillity of walking the Camino de Santiago, you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the crowds in Santiago. The city isn’t huge, but its narrow streets, usually filled with pilgrims, can become a little oppressive if you’ve grown used to the sedate life of placing one foot in front of the other.
If this is the case, head over to Alameda Park, a peaceful rest bite that sits just on the edge of the Old Town. Even better, purchase some delicious food for a picnic and find a quiet corner of the park to watch the world go by.
Casco Historico (Old Town)
Perhaps the most underrated sight in all of Santiago de Compostela isn’t actually a single sight at all. The Casco Historico (Old Town) is an intoxicating labyrinth of old streets and alleyways that criss-cross the city chaotically but provide hours (maybe even days) worth of fascinating meanderings.
You could spend weeks in Santiago de Compostela and still not visit every restaurant or dimly lit bar in the Casco Historico – but you can certainly give it a hell of a try. The Casco Historico can become busy and at times crowded, but there are more than enough picturesque squares to sit back in if you need to take a breather.