Santiago de Compostela is tucked in the north-west corner of the Iberian Peninsula. Since it is the capital of the Galicia region, it is one of Spain’s most important cities.
Filled with fascinating museums, lively tapas bars, beautiful architecture, and gorgeous parks, this historic city is well worth a visit. And 48 hours is just enough to explore all the best Santiago de Compostela has to offer.
Each year, this glorious Spanish city welcomes hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. Although it is primarily a Christian pilgrimage to the grave of Saint James, it is popular with adventurers, hikers, and cyclists from all walks of life.
While most of these pilgrims reach Santiago de Compostela on foot, after hundreds of miles of walking, the town also welcomes those who prefer to arrive by more modern transport.
There is much to appreciate in the city even if you take the easy route. Thanks to the rivers of exhausted yet exhilarated pilgrims who enter the city each day, and the locals who wholeheartedly welcome visitors, Santiago de Compostela is always beaming with life.
If you want to enjoy a cup of coffee in an atmospheric square, head down to the Old Town. After you energize yourself, you can explore the magnificent monuments, stone archways, and cobbled streets around Santiago’s most beautiful quarter. It is a great place to simply take in the Santiago life as well as shop for some souvenirs.
If you want to sample some local dishes for lunch, there are many traditional Galician restaurants in the area. O Curro da Parra is a great choice because they offer excellent three-course dishes on weekdays at attractive prices.
Your first traditional Galician lunch might look something like this: Galician cockles as a starter, roasted lamb in semolina sauce as the main course, and a red wine sorbet and chocolate coulant for dessert.
To learn more about the magnificent history of the city and how it became such a popular pilgrimage, you can visit the Museum of the Pilgrims and Santiago (Museo de Peregrinos y de Santiago.) The visit may even inspire you to walk the last few miles of the Way of Saint James and become a pilgrim yourself.
This is a great time to learn more about the ancient pilgrimage that has made this old city such a popular destination.
The Camino de Santiago is an ancient network of pilgrims’ ways that lead to the shrine of Saint James located in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Naturally, this is a very short version of the story of the Camino.
If you want to learn all about the history and significance of the pilgrimage as well as admire an impressive collection of sacred art and ancient relics, visit the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral Museum. Take this opportunity to go on a guided tour of the cathedral’s rooftop, and you need to visit the cathedral itself as well.
Every evening at 7:30 pm, there is a Mass at the cathedral. If you are not religious, the service itself may not be that interesting to you, but the giant swinging censer that disperses incense from the top of the church will certainly grab your attention.
If you want to try the best tortillas (Spanish omelets) in the whole region of Galicia (or in the entire kingdom of Spain, according to the locals), head down to Bar la Tita for dinner. Just half of a tortilla is enough to feed 6 people, so be sure to bring some company.
At this point, you will have learned a thing or two about Galician cuisine, so why not make a Galician breakfast by yourself? The best place to pick up some traditional Galician produce for breakfast is Mercado de Abastos—the most famous food market in the city.
The market is filled with over 70 stalls and has a rich history that dates back to 1873. If you are planning on taking some of Santiago’s delights home with you, this is the best place to buy some Traditional Galician honey and cheeses.
On a hill just outside the old town lies the famous Convent of Santo Domingo de Bonaval. It is home to the Museum of the Galician People (Museo do Pobo Galego). Dating back to 1220, this establishment is the perfect place to learn more about the rich history of the region.
Aside from this museum, you will have plenty of time in the afternoon to visit the Center for Galician Contemporary art —CGAC, which is located right next door. Showcasing over a thousand works from the second half of the 20th century, it is one of the best art galleries in the country.
There are many great restaurants and tapas bars nestled between the cobbled streets of Santiago de Compostela. If you want to try more typical Galician dishes, boiled octopus with paprika (pulpo a la Gallega) is a great choice for dinner. A traditional sweet and moist almond cake, locally known as tarta de Santiago, makes for an excellent dessert.
If you want to mingle with the locals, Restaurant Marte may be your best option. It is a great place to try the famous local white wine—Albariño, as well as grilled meat and fish dishes.
Casa de Manolo on the Praza Cervantes is an excellent place for those who prefer to dine with the pilgrims. This restaurant offers big portions and very attractive prices—just what the pilgrims prefer.
From fall to spring, the weather in Santiago is usually rainy. May, June, and September are the best months to visit Santiago if you want to enjoy soft temperatures and avoid the rain. The temperatures are usually between 44 and 57°F in winter. In summer, the temperatures typically range between 77 and 95°F.
The city’s best restaurants, museums, and landmarks are condensed within a fairly small area, so you can easily get around on foot.
Obviously, since Spain is in the Eurozone, you’ll be using Euros. However, do note that most restaurants, bars, and locals prefer to deal in cash. Most places and ATMs accept MasterCard and Visa, but watch out for exorbitant exchange rates.
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