Around old-town Santiago de Compostela
Once you arrive in Santiago de Compostela, we recommend spending time strolling around the small winding streets of the old town. There are many restaurants you can stumble upon in tiny alleyways to enjoy the local wine and tapas. Or you can pop in and out of the many stores selling Azabache – the protective black stone of the Camino de Santiago. It is also a great souvenir to take home for you or your loved ones.
Below, we recommend some of our favourite cultural stops in Santiago de Compostela. You don’t want to miss these once you finish your Camino de Santiago.
The Mercado de Abastos began in 1874 with people setting up shops in pavilions made of iron and glass to trade their local Galician products in the town centre. The market has been remodelled many times during its existence, but the last remodel in 1945 transformed the market into how it appears in the present day. The market sells a variety of products as vegetables, fruits, meats, fishes and many other local products. It is the second most visited place in Santiago de Compostela, following the Cathedral. Don’t miss exploring the small stalls. You can even buy fresh seafood from the fishmongers in the morning and have it prepared for you to return later for a lunch right in a market stall!
The small park in Santiago de Compostela is called Alameda Park and is located just outside the old town. Upon entering, you are greeted by a statue of two ladies. The statues are replicas of the Spanish sisters Maruxa and Coralia Fanino Ricart. Both ladies are brightly dressed and offer an open hand in a warm gesture. However, their faces have a solemn undertone representing their troubling story and how they became the Two Marias of Alameda Park. Read here for their full and tragic story, as well as how they became a symbol of the fight against oppression. If your feet can handle the little extra walk following your Camino, a trip to the park is worth it. There is a beautiful (and short) trail surrounded by remarkable trees, as well as a magnificent view of the Cathedral.
Visit the Cathedral Museum to take a historic journey back in time. Learn how the current and very impressive Cathedral came about and how exactly it was built. Discover how the pilgrimage grew throughout Europe, and why it all became a World Heritage Site in 1985. Not only do you learn the great history of the Way and Santiago de Compostela, but you can experience it through the many artifacts on display. You also gain access to the medieval tower with a bird’s eye view overlooking Plaza Obradoiro and the pilgrims arriving at Santiago de Compostela.
Take a virtual voyage through time following the Way of Saint James. This experience lets you discover what it might have been like to undertake the Camino de Santiago hundreds of years ago as a medieval pilgrim. It also unravels how the pilgrimage and the millions of pilgrims have developed the town of Santiago de Compostela. The museum also cycles various art exhibitions that include photography, illustrations, and drawings related to the Camino de Santiago.
This museum was created in 1976 to conserve and promote Galician culture. The permanent collection showcases Gallego’s rich culture from tiny Galician fishing towns, local trades, farming, and the countryside as well as, the famous horreos you will see scattered along the Camino. Here too, you will find rotating art exhibitions from local Galician artists.
Day Trips from Santiago de Compostela
If your schedule allows for more time in Spain, there are many day trips you can explore, not far from Santiago de Compostela. We are more than happy to provide advice on how to best plan these excursions following your Camino de Santiago.
Finisterre and Muxia
Finisterre and Muxia are important pilgrimage sites. Many people continue to walk the Camino west to the coast of Finisterre and Muxia. Finisterre, until the Middle Ages, was considered the “End of the World.” Pilgrims would arrive to the coast and grab their scallop shell to prove they had in fact completed the pilgrimage. Today, the old lighthouse is a boutique hotel with stunning views over the cliffs of the Atlantic Ocean.
Muxía is an important pilgrimage site due to the legend that the Virgin Mary appeared here in a boat made of stone to help St. James in his ministry. The parts of the boat are claimed to be the petrified stones found on the shoreline and are believed to have special powers. At Muxia sits the Virxe de Barca Sanctuary, which was originally a pre-Christian Celtic shrine and sacred spot. The Christians later built a hermitage upon the rocks near the sea in the 12th century. The structure you visit today dates to the 17th century.
We recommend sitting on the rocks and watching the waves break; or participating in the Galician myth of walking under the healing stone 8 times to earn good luck and fortune. If you would like, we can arrange a self-guided “Walk to the end of the World” Camino that guides you to Finisterre and Muxia.
A Coruña is a large city located about a half-hour train ride or an hour drive from Santiago de Compostela. It is a historic city that gained recognition as a commercial port and a main fishing center for seafood produced in Galicia.
The peninsula on which the Old City stands includes the Tower of Hercules – the oldest working Roman lighthouse in the world. You can walk up the 234 steps and get fantastic views of the Atlantic. We also love to wander around the main square of Plaza Maria Pita through the old streets to eat, shop, and drink wine.
If you have the time, you can spend another half hour to travel to the small fishing villages and seaside towns of Santa Cruz and Mera. The Castle of Santa Cruz sits on a small island, accessible by bridge. It was built in the 16th Century to protect and defend the port of A Coruna. We also love to visit the small village of Mera, where Andaspain has their family routes. Here, we love to sit on the promenade and watch the beach-goers enjoy the Atlantic Ocean, or enjoy the sea ourselves.
O Porto, Portugal is about a 3.5-hour drive or a 4-hour bus drive. (You can rent a car in Santiago for about 40 Euros a day.) If you have a few days after your Camino de Santiago, we would suggest an overnight trip to the vibrant port city of Porto.
Porto is the second-largest city following Lisbon. Although, it feels more intimate with small, cobbled streets winding around and lining the River Douro. Porto dates to the Celts who established the port city which was then occupied by the Romans in the 4th Century. With this history, the city has endless sights to wander around including historic bridges, palaces, towers, Cathedrals, and markets. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you can visit the historic bookshop which is said to have inspired Hogwarts.
A trip to Porto is not complete without tasting the local delights of the sweet pasteis de natas and their famous fish dish, bachalhau a bras; of course, paired with a sweet Porto wine. If you are a Port fan we suggest a Port tasting tour in Porto; or an excursion to the heart of the Douro Valley where the Port grapes are grown and harvested.
Vineyards in Rais Baixas
Spain has been producing wine for as long as it has been inhabited. It is the 3rd largest wine-producing country in the world, following France and Italy. Due to its geographical make-up, Spain produces a wide variety of wines.
Along the Camino Francés, you walk past many wine areas of the North. Before you reach the city of Logroño you are in the autonomous region of Navarra. When you arrive at Logroño you are in La Rioja, one of the most famous wine regions in Spain. Both regions produce red wines as Garnacha and Tempranillo. In Leon, you are closer to the region where sparkling wine is heavily produced. As you get closer to Santiago de Compostela, you are in the white wine region. Galicia, the last autonomous region of the Camino, is well known for the wine regions of Ribeira Sacra and Rias Baixas. Both regions produce a red wine called Mencia; as well as two white wines called Albariño and Godello.
There are many options for a day tour to Ribeira Sacra from Santiago de Compostela. Or you could rent a car and wander leisurely down the coast, taking in the tiny villages and stunning beaches as you go. Visit the beautiful wineries and learn about the wine process in the region. We always suggest enjoying an amazing seafood meal with the crisp white wine.
We also advise discovering the beautiful town of Cambados, which is famous for the white wine, Albarino. Cambados is a town situated on the water and hosts a wine festival each year in August. On arrival, you receive a wine glass necklace and you can roam the various stalls, sampling the local white wine and trying the Galician tapas.