20 Must-Visit Attractions in Santiago De Compostela

Plaza de las Platerías, Santiago de Compostela | © Diego Delso /WikiCommons
Plaza de las Platerías, Santiago de Compostela | © Diego Delso /WikiCommons
Photo of Esme Fox
15 November 2017

Santiago de Compostela may be small, but it’s brimming with historic buildings, stunning architecture, museums, monasteries and luxury hotels. Here’s our pick for the top 20 must-visit attractions in this Galician city.

Catedral de Santiago de Compostela

The Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is without a doubt the city’s most famous sight – the culmination of various pilgrimage routes across Spain and Portugal. Construction of the Cathedral began in 1075; however, it wasn’t consecrated until 1211. It comprises multiple architectural styles including Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Plateresque and Neoclassical. When inside, look out for the Botafumeiro – one of the largest censers in the world, weighing 53 kilograms (117 pounds) and measuring 1.5 metres (4.9 feet).

Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, Praza do Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, +34 981 58 35 48

Museo de la Catedral de Santiago de Compostela

To learn more about the Cathedral, head next door to the Cathedral Museum. Here you’ll find out how a small tomb and church became one of the world’s most famous and most impressive cathedrals. Marvel at objects, which date from the 13th to the 18th centuries, from the cathedral, and view its collection of textiles and tapestries.

Museo de la Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, Praza do Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, +34 881 55 79 45

Centro Galego de Arte Contemporáneo

The Galician Centre for Contemporary Art is the place for Galician art, and it also offers one of the best views of the city. It sits in a modern building, designed by the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza. Its permanent collection houses 1,200 pieces, and there are also changing temporary exhibitions to see.

Centro Galego de Arte Contemporáneo, Rúa Valle Inclán, 2, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, +34 981 54 66 19

Hostal dos Reis Católicos

The Catholic Monarchs commissioned the Hostal dos Reis Católicos – which sits on Praza do Obradoiro square, next to the Cathedral – in 1501 as a hospital for sick pilgrims who walked the Camino de Santiago. Today, the building serves as one of the most luxurious Parador hotels in Spain – the five-star Hotel Parador.

Hostal dos Reis Católicos, Hotel Parador, Praza do Obradoiro, 1, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, +34 981 58 22 00

Museo de las Peregrinaciones y de Santiago

Santiago de Compostela is most famous for being the last stop on the Camino de Santiago, so why not find out all about it at the Museum of Pilgrims and Santiago? Housed in the old Banco de España building, it was redesigned by award-winning architect Manuel Gallego Jorreto and reopened as a museum dedicated to the city and its famous pilgrimage route in 2012.

Museo de las Peregrinaciones y de Santiago, Rúa da Fonte de San Miguel, 4, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, +34 981 58 15 58

Restaurante Pulpería Fuentes

You can’t visit Galicia without trying its most famous regional dish – pulpo a la Gallego or Galician-style octopus. The octopus is boiled and then chopped up into small chunks, served on a layer of potatoes and sprinkled with paprika. One of the best places to try this dish in Santiago is the traditional Restaurante Pulpería Fuentes.

Restaurante Pulpería Fuentes, Rúa do Campo de Conxo, 5, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, +34 981 52 10 07

Museo do Pobo Galego

Housed inside the old Convento de Santo Domingo de Bonaval, built in the 14th century, the Museum of Galician People is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Galician culture. It houses 11,500 items, including art, archaeological and agricultural objects, costumes, jewellery and musical instruments.

Museo de Pobo Galego, San Domingos de Bonaval, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, +34 981 58 36 20

Cidade da Cultura de Galicia

The City of Galician Culture sits on the outer edge of Santiago de Compostela and measures about the same size as the city’s Casco Historico. The building, designed by American architect Peter Eisenman, winner of a design competition, features lots of undulating roofs and leaning towers. Although the project ran out of funding and was never properly finished, it does house a library, an opera house, a museum and spaces for various cultural events.

Cidade da Cultura de Galicia, Monte Gaiás, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, +34 881 99 75 65

Plaza de las Platerías

Platerías Square sits south of the Cathedral. It was named after the silversmith (plata is silver in Spanish) workshops, which used to be located here under the arches. The Cathedral’s single Romanesque façade, the Casa del Cabildo and the Casa del Deán – an 18th-century palace-house – borders the square. In its centre sits the Fuente de los Caballos (Fountain of the Horses).

Plaza de las Platerías, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Mosteiro de San Paio de Antealtares

The Monastery of San Paio de Antealtares was originally built in the 11th century to house Benedictine monks; however, it was virtually destroyed years later and rebuilt during the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, it houses the Museo de Arte Sacra – the Museum of Sacred Art, where you can see objects such as the original altar that was above St. James’ tomb and the silver reliquary where St. Palayo’s arm is kept.

Mosteiro de San Paio de Antealtares, Rúa de San Paio de Antealtares, 23, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, +34 981 56 06 23

Fundación Eugenio Granell

The Foundation of Eugenio Granell is dedicated to the surrealist artist Eugenio Granell, who was born in A Coruña and lived in Santiago de Compostela during his childhood. The museum features the artist’s oil paintings, sculptures, drawings and collages, as well as pieces from some of his contemporaries, such as Miró, Caballero, Copley, Rodríguez Luna and Duchamp.

Fundación Eugenio Granell, Praza do Toural, 8, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, +34 981 57 21 24

Museo de Tierra Santa

The Museum of the Holy Land sits inside the Hotel Monumento San Francisco, which, in turn, is housed inside the old San Francisco monastery. It houses around 700 pieces from the Paleolithic era to the present – artefacts all brought from Jerusalem in the Holy Land. There’s everything here from ornaments and carvings to military objects, models and ceramics.

Museo de Tierra Santa, Hotel Monumento San Francisco Campillo de San Francisco, 3, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, +34 981 58 16 34

Hotel Monumento San Francisco, Santiago de Compostela | ©Hotel Monumento San Francisco

Hotel Monumento San Francisco, Santiago de Compostela | © Hotel Monumento San Francisco

USC: Museo de Historia Natural

Santiago’s Museum of Natural History is part of the University area and lies within an innovative building designed by César Portela. The structure, built as a series of cubes, has various rooms dedicated to natural sciences, including a soil room, an African savannah room and a South American jungle room.

USC: Museo de Historia Natural, Parque Vista Alegre, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, +34 881 81 63 50

Casco Historico

Lastly, you simply can’t miss a meander around Santiago’s Old Town, filled with its charming winding alleyways, cobbled streets, delicious tapas bars and souvenir shops. Take a look at our article on the ‘Best Shops in Old Town Santiago de Compostela’ for some ideas of places to go.

Casco Historico, Santiago de Compostela | © Nair / Flickr