Here’s a suggestion for experiencing Santiago in a different fashion after finishing the Way: surrounded by stones, we’ll taste the essence of Galician cuisine, discover the most characteristic corners in the city and relax body and spirit in an urban spa.

We propose an experience that will connect you to the city in a deep, joyful and fun fashion and then allow you to rest the body and mind, leaving behind the hardships of the pilgrimage.

The last day on the Way of St James, when we reached the city of the Apostle filled with emotions, deserves a special place in memory. We propose an experience that will connect you to the city in a deep, joyful and fun fashion and then allow you to rest the body and mind, leaving behind the hardships of the pilgrimage.

More information...
-Pilgrim’s Office (Santiago). www.peregrinossantiago.es
-Cathedral of Santiago. www.catedraldesantiago.es

Day 1

Stone, gastronomy and the soothing power of water

Praza do Obradoiro square, the arrival point of all the Ways
As we enter Compostela via the urban stretch of the Way of St James, we’ll inevitably feel how our excitement grows until we reach Praza do Obradoiro square. Once here, any efforts made during the pilgrimage will be rewarded.

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The centre of the square is marked as kilometre zero, the arrival point for all the Ways. There is a plaque carved into the ground where you can read the Declaration of the First European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in 1987. This is the point where all of the radiating paths that form a star shape covering the square come together.

The majesty of the cathedral
From here, we are in awe of the beauty of the cathedral’s façade lifted up into the sky by its baroque towers, next to the grandeur of the buildings surrounding it. To our left is the Hostal dos Reis Católicos, an ancient pilgrims hospital and today a state-owned hotel; behind us stands the Pazo de Raxoi,the seat of the municipal government and the Presidency of the Xunta de Galicia, and on the right is the Pazo de San Xerome, the headquarters of the rectorship of the University of Santiago de Compostela.

One baroque, another transitional Gothic, another neoclassical and another Renaissance... all existing in the harmony provided by the granite. They all are also united by the omnipresent figure of the Apostle St James in different representations: as Santiago Matamoros – the warrior on his horse – as a pilgrim – a walker with a scallop shell and staff – and as Apostle.

We receive the “Compostela” in the Pilgrim’s Office
We suggest that you visit the inside of the cathedral at noon, when the Pilgrim’s Mass begins. Before that, you can go to the Pilgrim’s Office to leave your backpack in the baggage check and make it more comfortable to get around the city.
In the Office, you can also seal the “pilgrim credentials”, which you will also be able to get discounts in some of the places you visit and request the traditional pilgrimage certificate, the famous mediaeval “Compostela”. It’s awarded to those who have travelled the last 100 kilometres of the Way on foot or by horseback, or the last 200 miles on a bicycle and who state, at least, that it was done for religious reasons. The Office is located near the Obradoiro, in the Rúa do Vilar, adjacent to the cathedral’s Praterías square.

The Municipal Tourism Office. s on the same street. It might be a good idea to go there and get an audio tour of the city,an option that allows you to enjoy the afternoon discovering it at your own pace.

The magic of the cathedral’s botafumeiro.
If your arrival coincides with certain liturgical dates, you’ll have the chance to enjoy a unique and exciting experience: see the swinging flight of the botafumeiro. On other days, it can be requested in advance, with the costs charged to the person requesting it. With strength and precision,eight men – the tiraboleiros – pull the rope from which hangs the huge incense burner in order to raise it up andmake it touch the dome of the transept, while the fog of incense permeates the air with a magical atmosphere and a distinctive odour.

Please note that taking pictures and making videos in freely accessed areas is allowed, but without a flash or tripod. Apart from the church’s most universal work the Pórtico da Gloria, from the church’s most universal work – the Pórtico da Gloria – inside is great artistic wealth that we will discover. It’s a tradition to visit to the Saint by climbing up to the high altar and giving his statue the usual embrace. Next, go down to the crypt where the relics which traditionsays belong to the Apostle and are preserved in a carved silver urn are kept.

Plates of the best cuisine with Galician wine.
If it’s time to have lunch when we leave the cathedral, we can head over to the Rúa do Franco or A Raíña. Both are full of restaurants where we’ll always find the typical Galician dishes of octopus á feira-style, savoury pie, raxo, ears, ao caldeiro-style meat, sardines, xoubas and Padrón peppers – in season – plus mussels, cockles and all kinds of seafood. We can accompany these delicious morsels with any of the Galician wines of the five designations of origin and for dessert try the famous Santiago cake and the filloas.

The place with the most “spirit of Compostela””
After lunch, we’ll take our time and visit the streets around the cathedral and the main points in Santiago’s Old Town With the audio guide chosen, we’ll discover the meaning that these places have for the residents of Compostela which – in addition to their great artistic appeal and attractiveness to tourists – are very much their own.
Near the cathedral – on the side of the Pazo de San Xerome facing Rúa Fonseca – we can perform the same ritual usually carried out before the “tree of knowledge” by every university student who reaches Santiago for the first time: point with your arm ¬– with your back to the tree – at one of its branches of knowledge. As we turn around, we’ll see which discipline of the arts, letters and sciences we are best suited to, based on the tree’s system.

A century-old hat shop
Then we can walk the central and bustling Rúa de Vilar, where the beloved Cine Yago used to be located. Early films from the Lumière company were shown here and vaudeville shows were put on as well. One of the oldest stores in Santiago – a charming, century-old hat shop – can be found here, still retaining its authentic vintage touch.

On the Alameda, there
is a semi-circular bench
with special acoustics,
used by lovers
since the nineteenth century

Next, our steps will take us to the Alameda. From here, we’ll have one of most beautiful views of the city. We’ll also have the opportunity to try out the special acoustics of a semicircular bench next to the bandstand – as lovers did in the nineteenth century to send words of love over a distance, but sounding almost if they were spoken directly into the ear.

We’ll relax body and mind in an urban spa
After touring this World Heritage Site city, we propose that you devote the remainder of the afternoon to relaxing. There are several urban spas in Santiago that take into account Compostela’s nature as a place of pilgrimage. Some have programmes specifically designed to relieve the fatigue gathered on the Way. They focus on relaxing the body and mind and improving any potential muscle and joint discomfort using thermal treatments and massages.

Meat, fish and seafood
Now restored to perfect condition, we can find a place to eat before going to bed at the hostel. Right next to each other in the Old Town, we’ll find a variety of establishments, from select restaurants and signature cuisine to traditional eateries of various types, taverns and tempting seafood restaurants. All options are open: do a wine and tapas route or opt for more elaborate dishes, like fish caldeirada-style or steamed and seafood, not to mention the excellence of Galician beef.

Day 2

A one-of-a-kind walk over the roofs of the cathedral

After breakfast, we recommend that you bid Santiago farewell with an amazing bird’s-eye view of the city by scheduling a visit to the cathedral’s roofs. This unique experience in which you will be accompanied by a guide will take you to rooms of the Xelmírez Palace,jewel of civil Romanesque.

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Afterwards, we’ll go up and walk across the roofs of granite covering its naves and see the towers overlookingthe Obradoiro up close. The Berenguela,– which marks the hours in the city – stands out, as does the so-called Cruz dos Farrapos, moved here from its original location and where pilgrims in time past left their old clothes and the City Council provided them with new ones.

In other times
the height of the chimneys indicated whether the houses were rich or modest

We can also take a look inside the cathedral through the rose windows that open to the south and north and – if we’re lucky – see the botafumeiro “fly”.

This tour will give us a whole new perspective of the squares surrounding the cathedral complex and the roofs of the buildings that make up the city’s Old Town, from the most imposing roofs of San Martiño and San Paio de Antealtares to those of the more modest – but no less rich – homes. Chimneys – which we’ll see everywhere – once indicated the wealth of the house: the bigger the chimney, they better the food and, therefore, less hunger was suffered inside.

In addition to this urban landscape, the roofs offer the green horizons of the mountains surrounding Compostela, such as O Pedroso, a gorgeous natural viewpoint for the region, easily accessible on foot from the cathedral.

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