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- 07 Dec 2019, 3 nights
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Best known as the final destination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, the city of Santiago de Compostela is also the vibrant capital of Spain’s Galicia region. Travellers and Catholic pilgrims come every day to pay their respects at the final resting place of the apostle St James, some having walked from as far away as France or Portugal. The arcaded streets and stone buildings of the old town have been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and with a university attracting more than 30,000 students a year, this historic city has a youthful flavour too.
Many hostels in Santiago de Compostela are in renovated manor houses dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Take some time to relax in spacious gardens dotted with flowering trees. You can also dine at an on-site café serving breakfast, lunch and drinks, or cook up your own feast on the outdoor barbecue. Look out for a Santiago de Compostela hostel with terraces overlooking the cathedral and winding old town streets.
The historic centre, Casco Histórico, weaves around the cathedral and is filled with hidden squares, churches and monuments. You'll also find plenty of traditional restaurants where you can try the famous polbo á feira (sliced octopus with potatoes and paprika). Praza do Obradoiro is the bustling square in the heart of the city and a great place to watch pilgrims arrive. If you’re craving green space, head to Parque de Belvís for meadows, small streams and panoramic city views from its highest point.
Visitors wishing to receive the Compostela pilgrim certificate must walk at least 100km. If you don’t have a week to spare, you can join the pilgrims in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral for the daily mass that takes place at midday. Take time to admire the Pórtico de la Gloria arches at the main entrance, with 200 granite figures representing the Apocalypse. The nightlife is centred around bars hosting live music from jazz to flamenco, pubs with pretty outdoor terraces and places where you can sample tapas by day and dance until the early hours.
You can explore the city centre on foot or use the local bus system. If you’re arriving by plane, the nearest airport is Santiago de Compostela Airport, 11km east of the city. You can get a connecting bus from the airport to Praza de Galicia every 30 minutes. The bus station is a 20-minute walk northeast of the centre, while the train station is a 15-minute walk from the old town.