10 Travel tips in Santiago de Compostela

Searching for travel tips on things to do in Santiago de Compostela? Santiago is a compact city and a fantastic destination for a city trip. Whether you’re a guest or a pilgrim, there are certain ‘must-sees’ in every city, along with many additional options.

My advice for visiting Santiago de Compostela:

  1. Essential on every visit: points 1, 2, 3, and 4 below.
  2. Essential if your schedule allows (and if not, make time for it): savoring Galician gastronomy, see points 5 and 6.
  3. If you have more time: delve into the culture, see points 7, 8, 9, and 10.

Must-sees in Santiago de Compostela

Santiago Cathedral

A visit to Santiago is incomplete without seeing the famous cathedral. A true pilgrim, of course, attends a mass and hopefully witnesses the ‘botafumeiro’ swing. However, like many other major attractions such as the Eiffel Tower or Sagrada Familia, you can also appreciate its exterior, especially since the interior is currently undergoing extensive renovation.

My advice: stay outside and admire the stunning architecture. Santiago Cathedral is truly impressive, and the longer you look, the more details you’ll discover.

Tip for viewing the cathedral: lie on your back with your head towards the cathedral and look up. The cathedral is even more imposing this way!

Praza de Obradoiro

The front of the cathedral faces Praza de Obradoiro, the largest and most important square in Santiago. It is surrounded by four significant buildings, including the cathedral, the historic Hostal dos Reis Catolicos (accommodation tip!), Pazo de Raxoi, where the government is located, and the Colexio de San Xerome. These are important and impressive buildings, presenting a beautiful sight. During a Holy Year of St. James (Xacobeo), this square is always grandly celebrated. Other festivities are also held here, such as Galicia Day (July 25) and New Year’s.

Tip for Praza de Obradoiro: find a quiet spot and sit down. Watch and admire the people passing by. Students heading to the university, locals on their way to work, and especially pilgrims who, after a long journey, complete their pilgrimage and kneel in front of the Cathedral.

The old historic center

Of course, you’ll stroll through the historic center. You’ve already seen Plaza de Obradoiro and the cathedral, but there’s more to see. Pórtico da Gloria, Praza de Quintana with its famous stairs, Plaza de Cervantes, Plaza de la Inmaculada. Too many to mention.

My advice: take a guided tour and choose whether to simply walk the route or seek deeper insight and learn about the history.

Alameda Park

Alameda is Santiago’s city park, and you can easily walk into it from the old town. Alameda Park is perfect for a short, green walk or to rest peacefully in the shade of overhanging trees. The park also offers a beautiful view of the Cathedral.

Enjoy Tapas at Taberna O Gato Negro

Galicia is renowned for its cuisine, and Santiago is no exception. Unfortunately, many places from my student days have disappeared, but thankfully, some spots still remain. One of them is Taberna O Gato Negro. A typical Galician establishment where you can enjoy authentic tapas. This venture is a little off the main street Rua Franco, and you’ll find yourself in the real Galicia. Sit on wooden stools and drink wine from bowls. Be sure to order Galician classics like octopus (pulpo) and Padron peppers (pimientos de Padron). A personal recommendation for the adventurous: try the pig ears. Enjoy your meal!

Grab a Terrace Seat

Walking is part of Santiago de Compostela, but those who walk also need to rest well. Take a seat on a terrace. Have an Estrella Galicia beer and enjoy Galician tapas (see above). I can recommend the following terraces: Café-Jardin Costa Vella, the courtyard of this hotel is an oasis of calm. Prefer to see and be seen? Go to Mesón Cestaños at the end of Rua Franco, opposite the entrance to Alameda Park.

Mercado de Abastos

Perfect for shopping or simply browsing. Not a typical market as known in North America or the rest of Europe. Mercado de Abastos is an old building with different ‘streets’ inside, categorized by theme; vegetables, meat, fish.

Monte Pedroso, for the Best View

Santiago de Compostela is not a flat city. The old town is manageable, but as you move away from the center, there are more elevation changes. The highest point near the city is Monte Pedroso. From here, you have a magnificent view over Santiago. It’s a 3-kilometer walk from the old town to the top. Of course, you can also take a bus that drops you off right there.

Museo do Pobo Gallego

If the weather turns rainy and you want to learn more about Galicia, be sure to visit the Galician ‘national’ Museum.


When I lived in Santiago de Compostela, I was a student, so I got to know the city in a very different way than as a pilgrim or tourist. What many people don’t know is that Santiago has a lively nightlife. It’s a real student city, and where there are students, there’s a bustling nightlife.

Small downside: real nightlife in Spain, and thus Santiago, starts after midnight. Dance clubs and discos usually start getting busier around four in the morning. However, you can also go out earlier. From around ten in the evening, people start going for drinks. ‘Ir de copas,’ as they say.

Especially in the old town, there are nice bars; you’ll find them easily. A bar that was already there during my time in the early 2000s is ‘Casa das Crechas.’ The pub opens between 10 and 11, and it’s busy and lively, truly a Galician atmosphere. Here, you can enjoy, often local, live music. If you continue for dancing, you’ll probably end up in the ‘zona nueva,’ for example, at Sala Capitol. Have a great time!

Enjoy your visit to Santiago de Compostela with these 10 tips! Do you have any additions? Let me know!