Santiago de Compostela is situated in the south of the La Coruna province in Galicia. The town is actually the capital of the Galicia region and is recognised through legend as the final resting-place of the Apostle James – the first of the Twelve Apostles to suffer martyrdom at the hands of Herod. For centuries, the town has been the centre of European pilgrimage and is an awe-inspiring place in which to go on holidays.
Not surprisingly, given its history, Santiago de Compostela is the most popular tourist destination in Northwest Spain. People travel from all over the world to pay homage to the Apostle James, and to view the historic sites in honour of the Saint. But Santiago de Compostela is not just about history – the city is home to one of the most famous universities in Europe, so ensuring that the streets of Santiago de Compostela are humming with the culture of youth.
Santiago de Compostella is – of course – the city of pilgrims. Since the ninth century they have been coming from all over Europe to touch the relics of St James. He was the first christian martyr and the patron saint of Spain. Legend has it that his disciples brought his remains to Santiago to be buried. After Jerusalem and Rome, Santiago de Compostella is the third most holy city in Christendom.
Santiago’s population is around 90,000 and most locals live in the outer reaches of town, suburbs and apartments which could be in any European town. The regional assembly is also in this area – Santiago’s the capital of Galicia, the semi-autonomous province on the Atlantic seaboard of North Western Spain. The city is the home of the more than 500 years old University of Santiago de Compostella.
The bit of town worth seeing, the old quarter, is at the top of the hill. A medieval maze of narrow cobbled streets, gaping suddenly into large prazas (galego – the Galician tongue – for the Spanish plaza), it is beautiful and atmospheric. The Medieval city is a national monument and most of it can only be entered by foot. The main attraction of Santiago de Compostella is the cathedral. This has been the terminating point of the pilgrims route for about eight hundred years now and it is still a sight to see today. The impressive Baroque facade at the Plaza de Obradoiro will take your breath away, as will the contrastingly sober and serene interior. With the cathedral you will find other interesting historic buildings like the treasury, the palace of Archbishop Gelmirez, cloisters, and an archaeological museum.
And if you have seen the cathedral, there are still dozens of monastries and churches left to visit. There is the large Benedictine San Martín, San Francisco (reputedly founded by Saint Francis himself while visitinf Santiago), Santa Clara, with it’s curving facade, and Santo Domingo, with it’s three seventeenth century spiring stairways leading to three different floost of the same tower.