Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia in Northern Spain. A pivotal center of Christian spirituality–along with Rome and Jerusalem–the old city was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
From the Middle Ages to the present, millions of pilgrims have come here to express their devotion in front of the resting place of the apostle St. James. According to history, St. James spent seven years evangelizing Spain before returning to Palestine, where he was beheaded by order of Herod Agrippa. His disciples fled the Holy Land and brought the body of the Apostle to Spain. After many vicissitudes, his remains rest in the Galician cathedral since the ninth century.
Although Santiago de Compostela is a monumental city, its layout makes it easy to get to know by foot. One of the most beautiful cities in Spain, Santiago is the culmination of the famous “Camino” or Pilgrimage of St. James where faithful Christians come every year from all corners of the world to show their spirituality.
The luxurious Hostal dos Reis Católicos is considered the oldest in the world. Located in the Plaza do Obradoiro, next to the cathedral, it was originally a hospital to care for sick travelers arriving in pilgrimage to Santiago. Built in 1496, it has four cloisters, elegant spaces, and lavish suites. The restaurant has a splendid dining room serving the famous Galician food, which includes delicious meats and incomparable seafood. Review our selection of travel destinations and luxury hotels around the world.
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela—one of the greatest monuments in all Spain—began construction in the ninth century and was finished by the 13th. Its baroque facade is one of the most beautiful and sophisticated in Christiandom. The imposing building is also admired for its Portico of Glory–created in Romanesque style by the 13th-century master Mateo–and its colossal interior, typical of pilgrimage temples. During the most solemn celebrations, a large censer (the botafumiero) is swung back and forth—inside the temple—by eight expert men. The crypt containing St. James’ remains is proudly displayed on the altar.
On the left side of the majestic cathedral, you’ll find Gelmírez Palace, the Episcopal Palace built under Archbishop Diego Xelmírez in the early 12th century. The building is considered one of the most brilliant examples of civil Romanesque architecture in Spain. Directly opposite, the Town Hall—dating from the 18th century—displays a lovely classical facade.
When visiting the Old Quarter, one should not miss Rua do Franco, lined with shops and taverns where travelers can enjoy a piece of cockle pie accompanied by excellent Galician Albariño white wines. The nearby Plaza de la Quintana is always animated by a significant number of students—Santiago has been a university city for more than 500 years. Plaza de la Quintana is home to the House of Canon with sober and harmonious porticos, and the famous Door of Forgiveness, which is only open during Jubilees or holy years.
Hostal dos Reis Católicos.
We also recommend a stop at the San Martin Pinario Monastery, featuring one of the most beautiful altarpieces of the Spanish Baroque period, designed by architect Fernando de Casas Novoa and dated 1730. San Martín Pinario is Spain’s second largest monastery after San Lorenzo in El Escorial, Madrid.
For more than 1,000 years, Santiago de Compostela has remained a unique city, a welcoming land, and a point of arrival for Christian pilgrims. But this inspiring destination is also ideal for discerning travelers who love history and the joy of life. ■