Santiago de Compostela, the capital city of the region of Galicia, is a historical destination for the pilgrimage of the Way of Saint James, which continues in the same role of the tradition today. Thousands of visitors are drawn to this town, not only for its historical and religious significance, but for its unique disposition and lovely surroundings. Whether you are in town as a pilgrim or simply as a tourist, visiting the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is an essential ingredient for sightseeing in this beautiful town, along with a variety of other things to do and see, from tours to monasteries.
The name, Santiago de Compostela, translates in a couple of different ways; Santiago is the Spanish name for Saint James, and Compostela has been speculated to be a variant of one of two different sources, both honoring the Camino de Santiago; the Latin expression for burial ground, or that meaning field of stars. Further explanation reveals the accepted legend that the apostle, Saint James the Great, traveled to the Iberian Peninsula, preaching the gospel and performing missionary works and that this very city was his final resting place. Guided by a star, Theodomir, a bishop in western Galicia, discovered the said remains of Saint John, and on that very spot, the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral was built, in which lies a shrine honoring the apostle, the journey’s end of the Camino de Santiago.
The exact truth behind this tale is unknown; however, whether the remains belong to Saint James or to some other personage, the faith of believers is unperturbed, and the spiritual benefits and remarkable experiences of the pilgrimage are undeniably positive for those who take the journey of the Camino de Santiago.
Aside from being a religious destination, Santiago de Compostela offers a great deal of things to do and see regarding attractions and sightseeing, showcasing architectural marvels, with the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral as one of the main attractions. At the heart of town, visitors will find the Plaza del Obradoiro, which is the main square, named for the workshop that was established during the construction of the cathedral.
In the Plaza, a number of architectural attractions face the square, spanning a variety of ages in the history of Spain, from the baroque cathedral to the fifteenth-century Catholic Kings Hostel featuring lavish architecture. Each façade of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral was constructed in a different era, featuring a different style. At the front of the structure, a golden clamshell awaits the kisses of many pilgrims; inside, tourists have the opportunity to visit the tomb of James the Great and to even hug the statue of the apostle.
Also facing the square, the Palacio de Raxoi (Rajoy Palace), originally constructed to house a number of institutes, including the city council, the children of the choir, a jail, and a seminary, welcomes visitors who wonder at sculptures and the eighteenth-century architecture. Among the many attractions in Santiago de Compostela, a food market is the second-most visited. Typical of many markets in Galicia, selling fresh seafood, meat, groceries, and a variety of other items and services, such as jewelry and a cafeteria, this particular market is one of the largest of its kind in Spain.
From beautiful palaces to grand cathedrals to a bustling marketplace, Santiago de Compostela offers an entire experience to visitors, who leave the city with a wealth of fond memories and meaningful experiences.