You did it. You completed the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Now what?
Well, it turns out that there’s plenty to do in the city. It may only have 95,000 people, but it’s a vibrant city full of activity.
It’s also a place to relax and reflect. After all, you just finished the journey of a lifetime. You need to give yourself that space to be still and appreciate what you accomplished.
If you’re looking for things to do in Santiago de Compostela, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to discover 10 things to do here from a local’s point of view.
1. Visit the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela
When’s the best time to go to the Cathedral? That depends. Do you like crowds?
The Cathedral is the most popular place in town during the summer. I’m writing this from my co-working space in Campus Stellae, overlooking plaza Quintana.
I see a nice long line to get into the cathedral every day between 11:30 and 13:00.
The picture below was taken outside my window on July 26, 2022. It was just before 1 pm. There were lines to get into the cathedral since I got here this morning.
The photo next to it was taken the following morning just before 10:00 am. That should give you a general idea of the scene.
That gives you a taste of what to expect when you get here in the afternoon.
There usually aren’t lines to get into the cathedral early in the morning. If you arrive between 9 and 10, you’re usually fine.
It’s a completely different story during the winter. There are few tourists and pilgrims in town. It’s easy to find a seat at Sunday mass. You might get a rare moment when you have the cathedral practically to yourself.
Unfortunately, you can’t hug the statue of St. James because of COVID, but you can walk down to the Tomb of St. James to say a prayer.
If you want to pray and reflect on your journey inside the cathedral, it’s possible. It’s hard to sit in stillness and say a quiet prayer in the main chapel of the cathedral.
If you’re standing in the middle of the cathedral and go to the left, you’ll come across the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. This is a quiet spot inside the cathedral to pray and reflect.
2. Take a Tour of the Cathedral
There are several tours you can take of the cathedral. One is a guided tour of the recently restored Portico de la Gloria. Another lets you access the museum and library.
You’ll get a unique perspective of the city, the cathedral, and the history of both.
If you plan to visit during the summer or Holy Week, I strongly recommend booking a tour in advance. You can book 15 days ahead of time.
Here’s a tip: become a Friend of the Amigos de Santiago. Not only will your donation support the restoration work of the cathedral, but you’ll also get a card that grants you access to the Cathedral Museum and a discount at the cathedral shop.
3. Get Your Compostela
What’s really the first thing you should do when you reach the Praza Obradoiro? Get your Compostela! Head over to the Pilgrim’s Office and receive your Compostela.
You may have to wait until the next day to get the Compostela depending on how busy it is. It’s common for the office to process more than 2,000 Compostelas a day!
The first 10 people who get the Compostela each day receive a coupon for the Pilgrim’s Lunch at the Resaurante Enxebre at the Parador Hotel. It’s an interesting experience. It’s a communal experience where all 10 pilgrims sit and share a meal together. You might end up making new friends that day.
4. Take in the Views
You probably noticed the amazing view of the city from Monte do Gozo.
There are plenty of other places to get spectacular views of the city and the cathedral. Check out the Parque Alameda, Parque Bonaval, Parque de Belvis, and the Ciudad da Cultura.
Each park offers a unique view of the city. They’re also wonderful spots to read a book, escape from the chaos of Casco Historico, or write in your journal and reflect. The picture below is a picture I took at Parque Bonaval. It’s usually very quiet and relaxed.
This is by far one of my favorite things to do in Santiago de Compostela.
5. Check Out a Football Match
You can’t visit Spain and not talk about football. Santiago de Compostela is home of SD Compostela. It’s a fourth-division team at the moment and getting closer to the glory days of the past.
Compostela was in the first division in the 90s, competing against the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid. The club is known for giving up one of the most stunning goals of all time when Brazilian wizard Ronaldo scored a legendary solo goal.
It’s still worth checking out a match while you’re in town. You can get tickets at the gate for about 15 euros.
There are dozens of lower division teams in the area and you can always head over to A Coruna to see Deportivo A Coruna in the second division. The only team in La Liga in Galicia at the moment is Celta de Vigo.
6. Visit a Museum
How many museums are there in Santiago de Compostela? At least a dozen.
It’s the perfect activity on a rainy day. Close to Casco Historico are the Museo do Polbo Galego. CGAC (Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea), Museo das Peregrinacions e de Santiago, and Museo Casa de la Troya.
A little further out is the Museo Centro Gaiás within the Cidade da Cultura da Galiza. There are wonderful exhibits there and it’s free.
7. Get a Massage
How would you like to start the recovery process in style? You’ll find that massages are incredibly affordable and it’s the perfect way to relax and give your body a much-needed break.
There are places in town that offer a Pilgrim’s Massage. My personal favorite is Quintana Massages, located right next to the Cathedral.
8. Enjoy the Music Scene
Santiago has a vibrant music scene. You can take in anything from a classical performance to an electronica concert in one night.
During the summer, the Banda Municipal de Santiago de Compostela gives free concerts in the Praza de Praterias. The Real Filharmonia de Galicia is a wonderful group of musicians that you have to see for yourself.
You can usually catch a performance between September and May Thursday nights at the Auditorio de Galicia. Tickets are around 15 euros.
If you’re here during the festivals of Ascension (end of May) or Apostol (end of July), you can find a free concert or two. Something is going on every night that is worth checking out.
You can stumble into bars and catch a random performance of a Tuna, a group of University students in traditional clothing playing traditional Galician music.
Café Bar Arume is near the Parque Alameda and it’s a great place to catch local musicians doing their thing.
9. Check out a Local Festival
One of the best things about living here is that there’s a festival of some sort happening every weekend between April and the end of September.
It’s a source of pride for each town to have the most amazing festival, and they don’t disappoint.
The big festivals are for Entroido (Carnaval), Dia de Letras Galegas (May 14), Asencion (end of May), San Xoan (June 25), Festas do Apostol (end of June), and
Semana Santa is one of the biggest weeks of the year, but I wouldn’t consider it a celebration or festival. It’s a somber week that reflects on the Passion of Christ before we celebrate the resurrection at Easter.
10. Take a Day Trip
Did you know that you can get to explore other cities in Galicia thanks to a well-connected train line? It’s very easy to take a day trip to A Coruna, Vigo, Ourense, or Pontevedra.
A Coruna is a quick 30-minute ride away, and there are some fantastic urban beaches like Riazor and Orzan.
The Galician coastline is accessible by bus and train. You can take a bus to Noia, the train to Vigo and Pontevedra.
There are several tour companies in town that have day trips to Rias Baixas, Ribeira Sacra, Fisterra, and other sites in Galicia.
You can explore the other cities that make Galicia such a special place to be.
Marvelous Things to do in Santiago de Compostela
When you finish your pilgrimage, the typical thing to do is to stay in the old town, drink a few beers, and go home.
There’s so much more to Santiago de Compostela than the center of the city. This article gives you a small idea of the things to do in Santiago de Compostela. I hope you get out and explore what the city really has to offer before you head home.
Ready for more pilgrimage tips? Check out the other articles on the blog.