A different kind of weekend in Santiago de Compostela

Though you may not believe it, Santiago de Compostela is not only a pilgrimage destination. Every year this city attracts thousands of tourists who come to discover the history that the rain seems to want to erase from the stones of its buildings and streets. Today we want to help you to plan your trip by offering you the best possible experience in this small, but still important city.
 
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
 
When we talk about Santiago, it is impossible not to talk about the weather, especially about the rain and the cold. Many people are scared away by the climate of Galicia, but this climate is actually a part of this region’s character, charm, and beauty. Therefore, no matter in which time of the year you are visiting Santiago, do not leave your umbrella at home. With this and a raincoat you won’t have any problem and you might even end up enjoying the bad weather.

Streets of stone, galleries, water and history

Probably the best way for getting to know Santiago is by getting lost in the old part of the city. This is a unique place with many streets and buildings and little, traditional shops that try to fight and survive the competition of the big companies. The umbrellas complete the scenery in this little fairytale town in which we have to stop under the galleries of the buildings from time to time or enjoy the warmth of a bar to hide from the rain. Before our eyes there will appear squares like “La Plaza Cervantes”, traditional jewellery shops, specialised in the art of black amber, buildings of the university which are more than 100 years old, bars and restaurants with a warm atmosphere inside.
 
The old part of Santiago de Compostela
 
It doesn’t matter in which direction we walk, we will always find the impressive cathedral towering over us. We recommend you to spend at least a couple of hours to discover its inside, getting to know its history and to go up to its roof. Do you recognise the instruments of the orchestra of the Portal of Glory? Probably not, since they are medieval instruments forgotten by many of us, like the psaltery, the violin with eight strings or the organistrum.
 
The old part of Santiago de Compostela

The best Galician flavours

One of the biggest tourist attractions of this city are the seafood dishes, octopuses and other fresh fish that are exposed in the doors and windows of the restaurants of the “Zona do Franco” in the old part of Santiago. Even though the price might be a little bit on the higher side, it is definitely worth it to try, even if it’s only to savour the best Galician recipes with meat, fish, and fresh vegetables of high quality. 
 
Tarta de Santiago (The pie of Santiago)
 

We also recommend you to definitely try the traditional dessert of the city. “La Tarta de Santiago” (the pie of Saint James) is a pie with an almond base and the figure of the cross of Saint James drawn on it with powdered sugar. If usually you don’t have room in your stomach for a dessert, ask for a smaller main course, but please, don’t forget to try this pie in one of the pastry shops in the old part of the city.

Did you know that the cathedral shows you your way?

Obviously, every pilgrim who reaches the final goal of the “Camino de Santiago” will be rewarded by the cathedral telling him the way to follow in the future. What do we mean with this? Well, for knowing that, we only have to lie down in front of it, on the floor of “La Plaza del Obradoiro” and observe the cathedral thoughtfully. Do you recognise the shape of its towers? Yes, they form an “M” and the tradition tells that this “M” represents the first letter of the word “Mundo” (world), and this is where everybody that visits the city should go afterwards. 
 
Bagpipe player
 
Since the cathedral knows that not all its visitors speak Spanish, it also dares to advise the foreigners. The foreigners only have the lie down on the floor in the opposite way and then they will recognise a “W” of “World” in the shape of the towers. So, we continue to explore.

Visit the historical heritage of the university 

Besides the thousands of pilgrims that find their final destination in Santiago, the city also attracts thousands of university students each year, and therefore the city always has a nice, lively atmosphere. It’s thanks to its university that the city never gets older, even though there have been many generations of students walking around in its buildings. 
 City centre of Santiago de compostela
 
For getting to know all its stories, the best option is definitely reserving a guided tour offered by the Patrimonio Artístico de la Universidad de Santiago de Compostela. This is a tour that will be guided by a person graduated in history and he or she will take you to the most representative places of both the city and the university, while explaining us the historic evolution of Santiago.

A tradition for every visitor

In the back part of the cathedral we will find one of the most beautiful and historical squares of the city: la plaza de Platerías. It’s not only beautiful for its spectacular view of la Torre del Reloj (the clock tower), but also because in the centre of the square we find a fountain of the 18th century called la Fuente de los Caballos (the fountain of the horses). In the fountain you can see four horses carrying the coffin of Saint James, while an angel figure holds up a star towards heaven. 
 
The fountain of the horses
 
The curious thing is the habit that has been developed around this fountain. If you visit the square with a local, he or she will definitely ask you to get closer to the horses and will ask you if you can see the hind legs of the horses. At the moment that you focus on finding the non existing hind legs, the local will definitely splash water of the fountain on you. Like this you are officially baptised by the city of Santiago.

The city of culture

Santiago is a city with thousands of years of history and still keeps mysteries to be discovered, but at the same time it’s also open to new trends. One proof of this is the construction of the modern Ciudad de la Cultura (the city of culture). This is an enormous complex of buildings that together form a shape that is representative for the city: the shell that leads the pilgrims with their canes.
 
The city of culture
 
It was designed by Peter Einsenman, however there has been quite some controversy about the topic. It hasn’t been completely finished yet, but we can already visit some of the parts, like the museum of the History of Galicia, and the general library. In the future, it is expected to serve to welcome the worldwide trends in art and science.

An eternal love

In the “plaza de la Quintana” we also find another story which is one of the most beautiful stories of the city: about the eternal love of a monk for a nun. The story tells that a monk fell in love with a cloistered nun who lived in the monastery of San Paio de Antealtares that is located on one of the sides of the square. His love never vanished and therefore, if we take a closer look at the shadow that is made by one of the pins on this square on the wall of the cathedral, we can see the figure and the shadow of the monk, who is still waiting patiently until his love will appear.
 
The old part of Santiago de Compostela

Hogwarts in Santiago

One of the favourite places, both for the tourists and for the locals of Santiago is the library of the geography and history faculty of the university. This building of the 18th century used to be the main building of the university until it was converted into the faculty of geography and history in 1975. 
 
On the inside we can walk through one of the best cloisters of the city, but without a doubt, the best thing you can find inside is a spectacular library that was inaugurated in the year 1924. It still preserves its original, beautiful decoration with its old tables, floor, wooden bookshelves and old-fashioned lamps. Because of this decoration it reminds you so much of the school of Harry Potter that the students of Santiago even refer to it as “Hogwarts”.
 
The route of the Sarela

The route of the Sarela

One of the best kept secrets of Santiago is the hiking routes that you can find around the city. For its beauty and proximity to the historical centre, we recommend you la ruta del Sarela (the route of the Sarela). It is a route that follows the Sarela River which passes by old water mills and stone houses. 
 
It has great signposts, so you won’t get lost, and it is the perfect way for digesting your food after a lunch in one of the restaurants in the city centre. We can also take another route and climb towards the top of the Pedroso hill, from where you will have the best panoramic view over Santiago.
 
The park de la Alameda

Among the greenest cities

Another, equally good option for digesting your lunch is walking through the many parks of the city. One of the most visited parks, because of its location and incredible views over the old centre and the university campus, is the Alameda. Here you will be welcomed by two Marias, a figure that represents two typical ladies of Santiago who spread warmth and light, even during the hardest years of the dictatorship in the city. Besides this, you should also pay a visit to the parks “de Galeras”, “de Bonval”, and the park “de Carlogmano”.
 
The park de Galeras

Foliadas

Because of the hundreds of students and tourists that visit the city, you can find a very diverse nightlife that offers you a different, fun night every day. Among all these choices, you shouldn’t miss the foliadas. 
 
The foliadas are sessions of traditional Galician music with a strong Celtic character. In Santiago you can enjoy from, without a doubt, some of the best musicians who get together in the most typical pubs and bars and who only want the audience to enjoy. The foliadas start with a slower rhythm, and step by step more voices, gaitas (a kind of bagpipe), violins and flutes join in which will provoke the public to start dancing, jumping and singing along, while litres of red wine and beer are drunk.
 Foliada in Casa das Crechas
 
One of the most famous pubs is the “A casa das Crechas”, in the heart of the old part and a five minute walk from the cathedral. For only 1 euro you can enjoy the best music in its basement with a great sound quality because of its robust stone walls.
 
You can find all kinds of accommodations in Galicia: from rural houses, to private homes and rooms in the most beautiful area of Santiago de Compostela. Did you know about all these things you can do in Santiago? As you might have realised, this city is not only a destination to reach, but it is also a place where you can enjoy a great experience, marked by the Celtic culture.

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Penthouse in Laxe

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