Monday to Friday 10 am to 2 pm - 4 pm to 8 pm
Saturday 10 am to 1:30 pm
Walking around Santiago de Compostela Old Town offers a uniquely refreshing experience - perhaps brought by the sight of ecstatic pilgrims arriving from their long journey of the Camino, or the expressions of pure wonder and admiration on the faces of tourists as they closely examine the vast and towering architectural masterpieces, works of art, historical artefacts, and the tale behind each Medieval wall and hallway. The vibrant atmosphere, the mild climate, and the pedestrianized layout of the city makes it very conducive for a walking tour.
Let us start by visiting the Turismo de Santiago or the Tourism Office of Santiago, along Rúa do Vilar. This office will give you an overview of what the city can offer, what to see, where to eat, and how to dress and conduct oneselves when inside the churches and other religious buildings. The staff are friendly, multi-lingual, and equipped to provide directions and practical advice. They also give out free maps of the city, transportation networks, and a list of places of interest. In the meantime, keep your maps and brochures for future reference, because we have prepared an interesting 2.6 Km walking route which will take you to several unique and inspiring must-see places around the Old Town.
From the Tourism Office, turn right onto Callejón de Entrerruas, right onto Rúa Nova and Cantón do Toural, onto Rúa do Cardeal Payá, until you reach Praza de Mazarelos. This is a small park surrounded by the Santiago de Compostela University Faculty of Geography and History, the University Church, and the statue of the Spanish Judge, Eugenio Montero Ríos. In one corner of the square, you will find the historically significant Arco de Mazarelos, the last remaining entry of Santiago's Medieval walls.
Pass through the Arc and you will be facing the Convent of Las Mercedarias Descalzas or the Convent and Church of the Mercedarian Mothers, a 16th-century Baroque-neoclassical church and convent founded by Archbishop Antonio Girón. The imposing granite walls, the gargoyles perched on the cantilevered cornice, the Corinthian pilasters, and the relief of the Annunciation are only a few of the striking features of this historical structure.
Let's head north and follow Rúa da Ensinanza, and upon reaching Colexio Compañía de María Santiago, take the elevated path towards Praza San Félix. It is a small square outside the University Library. This is where you will find Igrexa de San Fiz de Solovio or the Church of San Fiz de Solovio. This small and unassuming church is an important subject of ancient pilgrim itineraries, where it was believed that the church was built by Saint James himself, and has been his home while he preached in the Galician region. Another legend tells a story of a hermit named Paio who lived in this church when he saw and followed a strange light in the sky which guided him to the tomb of Saint James. Inside this Romanesque church is the elegant tomb of Cardinal Gonzalez Carballido Lopo. Masses in German, Italian, Polish, and English are celebrated daily.
A few steps away is the famous Mercado de Abastos de Santiago - the Santiago traditional market, where you can find fresh seafood, fruits, vegetables, assorted cheeses, bread, and other local products. The colourful outdoor stalls, cafes, and restaurants make the area a fun stopover for a cold beverage or a quick snack.
Next to the market is the Iglesia de San Agustín- Xesuitas or Church of San Agustín- Jesuits - a Baroque church built in the 17th century with a Neoclassical facade, with an image of the Virgin of the Fence. Its interesting name was based on where the image was taken - from an old wall / fence.
Follow Cantón de San Bieito, and left to Rua de San Bieito until you reach Praza de Cervantes or the Cervantes Square. This is a famous gathering area where, during ancient times, the town crier would announce the Archbishop's ordinances and other important municipal decrees. At one end of the square, is the Igrexa de San Bieito do Campo or the Church of San Bieito do Campo, a Neoclassical church with a distinctly linear structure, a single tower and a single nave.
Head northeast on to Rúa das Casas Reais. To your left, you will pass by the Capela de Ánimas or the Chapel of Souls, an imposing Neoclassical church built in the 15th century. Its foundation was funded by the alms of the devotees for the souls in purgatory. On its façade is a beautiful relief featuring souls in purgatory at the centre of huge columns.
Continue to Rúa das Casas Reais., left onto Rúa de Aller Ulloa, and right onto Costa de San Domingos - on a hill to your right is the Convent of San Domingos de Bonaval a gorgeous 13th-century convent which was awarded National Monument status for its unique Romanesque-Gothic architecture and Baroque facade. In the temple interior, called the Pantheon of Galicia, is the tomb of Rosalia de Castro, a famous Galician novelist. Also, housed within the convent complex is the Museo del Pueblo Gallego or the Museum of the Galician People which was established in 1977. For a fee of €4, you will be able to explore this impressive ethnographic museum, where you will find the much-photographed triple-helix staircase. The museum displays the evolution of Galicia culture with artefacts which date back to the prehistoric times.
After immersing yourself deep in the history of the Galician culture, our next destination just across from the convent is the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea or the Galician Centre of Contemporary Art, on Rúa de Ramón del Valle Inclán. This modern art museum allows you to browse through exhibits of contemporary artists in various media. This is also a frequent display venue for famous artworks from all over the world. The museum was designed by Álvaro Siza, a Portuguese architect, and won the Mies Van der Rohen and Pritzker prizes. It's an auditorium for performing arts, lectures, and workshops, and an extensive contemporary art library.
Following Rúa de Ramón del Valle Inclán, turn left onto Rúa de San Roque - to your left, you will find the Capilla de San Roque or Chapel of San Roque. The entrance of this small church is one of the most exquisite examples of Galician art with Gothic elements. It is worth stopping for a few moments, to take a photo of the stunning entryway.
Moving along Rúa do Hospitaliño, turn left onto Rúa da Porta da Pena, and right onto Rúa Costa Vella. Leaving the San Roque neighbourhood, you arrive at the top of a staircase, where you find a viewpoint called Costa Vella. This elevated point of the city which was originally part of the old city's Medieval walls. Take a quick detour and visit the Costa Vella Hotel, where you can catch your breath and rest your feet in the charming cafe, surrounded by lush gardens and fragrant blooms while looking at the vast expanse of the Old Town.
Descend the stairs and you will arrive at the Rúa do Campiño de San Francisco. Here you can admire the majestic Convento e Iglesia de San Francisco and the Convent and Church of San Francisco - a Baroque and neoclassical Catholic church founded in 1214 by San Francisco de Asís or Saint Francis of Assisi. A wall inscription tells of a legend when Saint Francis commissioned a coalman, Cotolay, to build the church with no funding, but by some miracle, they found a treasure which paid for the entire construction. Next to the convent is the Terra Santa Museum which displays religious artefacts from Holy Places all over the world. The church also holds a daily pilgrim's mass at 12 noon.
Let's continue and head southwest on Rúa do Campiño de San Francisco, and toward Rúa do Val de Deus. To your left is Igrexa de San Martín Pinario or the Monastery and Church of San Martiño Pinario. The church and monastery was founded by the Benedictines, and is highly-acclaimed for its impressive facade, grand ribbed dome, Latin cross plan, magnificent Baroque altarpieces, and walnut choir stalls. The monastery was designed with simplicity and purity but with imposing greatness.
Continue straight onto Travesía das Dúas Portas and you are now approaching the majestic complex of the famous Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. The Romanesque Santiago de Compostela Cathedral was built in 1075, on the location where James the Apostle's tomb was discovered. Further modifications added the Baroque finishes and Gothic-Renaissance elements.
The Cathedral is surrounded by four squares - the Obradoiro, Quintana, Inmaculada and Praterias. You are encouraged to explore the different squares, as each is unique from the other. Do not forget to wander the cloisters of the Cathedral where the Cathedral Museum is found. Examine the exquisite tapestries, relics and archaeological items on display. Also, make a note to see the Pórtico da Gloria, the nave, the crypt, the Botafumeiro, and the Torre da Berenguela or The Clock Tower.
The Praza do Obradoiro or the Square of the Workshop is considered the main square of the Cathedral, surrounded by the well-preserved Medieval buildings of Raxoi Palace (which houses the Santiago City Council), the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, the Parador de Santiago de Compostela, a 5-star hotel, and the Colexio de San Xerome. The centre of the square bears the plaque of World Heritage Site Recognition, and from the centre, are eight rays extend to the edges.
Praza da Quintana is the venue for religious celebrations such as the Puerta Santa, the Cathedral door which opens on Holy Years and where pilgrims pass through to complete their journey. Enjoy a rest now, sit by the cafes, and be entertained by the street performers. Praza da Inmaculada has a gorgeous garden with a backdrop of the magnificent entrance of the Monastery of San Martiño Pinario.
Praza da Praterias is a smaller square with a huge central fountain. On one side of the square is the entrance to the Museum of Pilgrimage and Santiago, a museum dedicated to the origin and development of pilgrimages all over the world.
Exiting the Museum, you will find yourself on the same street where we started - the Rúa do Vilar, where the Tourism Office is located. Browse the souvenir boutiques, and local crafts found in Rúa do Vilar and select a restaurant for a sumptuous and relaxing Galician meal.
Click here for the Map of the Santiago Walking Tour
Monday to Friday 10 am to 2 pm - 4 pm to 8 pm
Saturday 10 am to 1:30 pm