The first thing to do is tour the old town’s streets and squares before entering the Cathedral. To help you out in this regard, in Santiago Tourism’s offices you can obtain the official city guide-map (which suggests a route to follow and indicates the location of monuments along the way), request a more detailed brochure (which provides more extensive information about the aforementioned route), or rent an audio-guide, or put your name down for one of the guided tours.
We recommend waiting to enter the Cathedral until 12 noon to attend the pilgrim mass, during which, following a schedule of liturgical celebrations, you can normally see the botafumeiro in action; this giant censer flies above the transept naves and apart from being a rite only found in this city, is also an exciting experience.
Once inside the basilica, you should not miss the opportunity to visit the Cathedral rooftops, where you can see all the city’s roofs and appreciate the full splendour of Santiago de Compostela’s monumentality.
You must try typical Galician portions, which are both light enough and quick, enabling us to make the most of the afternoon.
Not to be missed are Galician-style octopus, Galician pie (filled with cod, variegated scallops, pork loin, tuna…), razor clams, mussels, cockles, or sardines and pilchards, if in season, or “zorza” (marinaded pork), ham foreleg, “carne ao caldeiro” (boiled meat) and, of course, Padrón peppers, also in season, always accompanied by Galician wine with “tarta de Santiago” (almond cake) for dessert.
If you prefer more elaborate dishes, remember you cannot leave Galicia without trying its fresh seafood in traditional recipes: fish cooked “en caldeirada” (casserole) or Galician style, i.e. with paprika and garlic sauce, or boiled or grilled seafood. Where to eat
First thing after lunch, we head towards the City of Culture of Galicia, Cidade da Cultura de Galicia (CdC). This magnificent and unusual building, by New Yorker architect Peter Eisenman, is a must. Besides, the City of Culture of Galicia organizes interesting temporary exhibitions and cultural activities which will only add to the visit.
Back in the old town, after some compulsory shopping, we suggest a walk towards the two main parks and gardens that offer panoramic views of the monumental district: San Domingos de Bonaval and Alameda. Bonaval also features two interesting museums.
We recommend visiting Bonaval first of all, due to the museum’s opening times. That is the location of Galicia’s main ethnographic museum, Museo do Pobo Galego, housed in the rooms of the former convent of San Domingos de Bonaval, where we can also see a beautiful Gothic church and a fantastic baroque triple spiral staircase, an architectural wonder worthy of a genius: Domingo de Andrade.
Also in Bonaval is the CGAC (Galician Contemporary Art Centre), which stands out due to its artworks as well as the building itself, designed by the internationally renowned Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza.
Both museums share San Domingos de Bonaval Park, which occupies the former convent grounds. Exquisitely rehabilitated by the same architect, it provides unique photographic perspectives of historic Santiago.
The centrally located Alameda Park, the city’s most distinguished and popular park, features several monuments, including two churches. It is also a privileged viewpoint overlooking the entire old town, where we have the best snapshot of the Cathedral façade rising up in the background, especially at dusk, before dinner.
Cuisine d’auteur in city restaurants featuring new Galician gastronomy, including several designer establishments with great spatial quality, based on a combination of the latest interior design tendencies and the timeless atmosphere produced by granite walls. Where to eat
It is unthinkable not to experience Santiago’s nightlife. Recommendation for the first evening: undoubtedly a quiet drink in any of Compostela’s classic clubs. Going out at night