Spain Guide


Santiago de Compostela Spain

Santiago de Compostela is the capital of Galicia in the northwest corner of Spain. It's one of the country's most beautiful cities, famed throughout the world as the destination for millions of pilgrims who have trodden the path of the Camino de Santiago for more than a thousand years. It's beautiful old quarter is a living museum of narrow, winding streets, magnificent Romanesque and Baroque buildings, plazas, cloisters and elegant arcades.

The city’s origins are attributed to Saint James, or Santiago as he was known locally. Santiago came to this part of the world to preach his faith but was murdered by the Romans on his return to Palestine in 44 AD. His body was retrieved by fellow disciples and brought back to northern Spain for a secret burial. Official tourist site for Santiago de Compostela.

Eight centuries later, a chapel was built in the apostle’s name. This was to become one of Spain’s most important cathedrals and around which the entire town of Santiago was built. Every year thousands of visitors flock to the Camino de Santiago (the Santiago Way); some for religious purposes, others simply as part of their sightseeing whilst visiting the area on holiday.

You could spend a fortnight walking the well marked route from Leon, 350 kilometres to the east of Santiago. Many make the 730 kilometre journey all the way from Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees whilst other spend two months hiking from Le Puy in the middle of France. In Belgium, the courts offer young offenders the chance to make the pilgrimage to Santiago as their penance!

But if you're pressed for time, you'll be better off flying into Lavacolla international airport, 11 kilometres to the north east of the city. There are daily flights to Barcelona, Bilbao, London and Madrid, as well as weekly flights to Buenos Aires, Geneva, New York and Zurich. Flying time from London is about two hours.

On arrival, you'll find a lovingly preserved medieval cathedral town awash with ancient monuments, churches, palaces and of course the magnificent cathedral with its Roman mausoleum housing the relics of St James.

More than 30,000 students attend the city's university and give a youthful exuberance to the ancient streets in which traditional tapas bars co exist with all night dance clubs.

An average of 3.5 million visitors flock to Santiago each year and the figure doubles in the "Sacred Years" when the apostle's holy day, July 25th, falls on a Sunday.

The main language here is Galego, which has many similarities to Portuguese, though Castilian Spanish is widely spoken and understood.