Santiago de Compostela is a city with a simple structure. Its centre is the so-called “casco histórico” (old town), which corresponds roughly to the area that used to be surrounded by 11 th -century walls. This term is also applicable to some areas surrounding this large monumental quarter, since they are included in the City Council's protection, conservation and rehabilitation plan.
The old town is home to an important number of monuments that can be visited, intensive shopping numerous accommodation and gastronomic establishments, as well as institutions, museums, foundations and the oldest buildings belonging to the University of Santiago. There are also houses, markets, cafés and bars, which make it a lively, dynamic area.
Its main streets or “rúas” (Franco, Vilar and Nova), of medieval origin, run parallel to each other from the surroundings of O Toural square towards the squares surrounding the Cathedral: Obradoiro, Praterías and Quintana, respectively. Crossing Obradoiro square northwards takes us to Rúa de San Francisco , which leads to the Xoán XXIII Coach Terminus and the University's North Campus.
Another “rúa” parallel to Vilar and Nova streets, called Caldeirería (which begins in O Toural square with the name of Orfas and leads to Cervantes square as Rúa do Preguntorio), is one of the main shopping streets, the same as Algalia de Arriba and Algalia de Abaixo, which run northwards from the latter square. From Cervantes it is very easy to find the Food Market. And since it is part of the city route followed by pilgrims towards the Cathedral, the writer's square is also a good starting point (walking in the opposite direction to the pilgrims along Rúa das Ánimas and Casas Reais) to reach Porta do Camiño and, from there, the cultural complex of Bonaval. In the surroundings, centred on important convents and churches , there are traditional city neighbourhoods such as Sar, to the southeast, Belvís or San Pedro.
The former location of one of the city gates, Porta Faxeira, is the natural access from the old town to the Alameda. This city park, which is surrounded by the monumental quarter, the “Ensanche” (urban expansion area) and the University's South Campus is also the starting point of an interesting route around Compostela’s green spaces which goes around the outskirts of the old town, providing magnificent views of its monuments and touring some of the city's most outstanding works of contemporary architecture.
This same Porta Faxeira (as well as another former gate called Porta da Mámoa, near Rúa das Orfas) also leads to the “Ensanche”. This is the name given to the city's first urban expansion area, which was built in the early 20 th century to the south of the old town. It is limited by Castrón Douro street to the east, Romero Donallo avenue to the south and Rosalía de Castro avenue to the west.
The Ensanche's main streets are Hórreo (which runs between Galicia square, passing by the Galician Parliament and the Renfe Train Station); and the ones running parallel to it, Doutor Teixeiro, Xeneral Pardiñas and Alfredo Brañas. These streets and the neighbouring ones, most of which are one-way streets, form an area combining residential flats with a variety of busy shops, hotels, restaurants and lively nightlife from Thursday to Saturday.
Some of the city's main avenues and streets –clockwise: Galeras, Xoán XXIII, Santa Clara-Basquiños, Rodríguez de Viguri, Concheiros, Fontiñas, Avenida de Torrente Ballester, Avenida de Lugo, Avenida de Antón Fraguas, Romero Donallo and Mestre Mateo- lead from these inner areas to outer neighbourhoods such as Vite, Vista Alegre, San Caetano (the location of the administrative buildings of the Xunta, and the neighbouring bus station, San Lázaro (where the Galician Congress and Exhibition Hall, is situated and the point where the French Way enters Santiago), Fontiñas (which has a large, indoor shopping centre called Área Central ), O Paxonal, Conxo, Santa Marta and A Choupana (beside the University Hospital), in addition to other, mainly residential ones and the rest of the municipality's parishes.