Santiago de Compostela, the finish line of the Camino

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Santiago is the goal. The end of the Camino. We can guarantee that completing such a fulfilling experience couldn’t end in a better place, in this city declared heritage of the humanity in 1985 because of its extraordinary monumental group, its spiritual significance and for being an ideal city boasting history and timelessness at the same time.

That’s how UNESCO defines the place where rain is art. That’s what is said about the second city with major rainfalls in Europe, the same that will receive you with a huge heritage in excellent condition shaped by rain and stone since the beginning of the eleventh century, the moment when the construction of the current cathedral began; the icon that has articulated the history of Santiago.

As good pilgrims you can’t miss one of the biggest visual shows provided by this shrine: the setting up of the “botafumeiro”, name of the large incense burner that has been used since the Middle Ages to purify the environment of the temple that congregated enormous crowd of people. Eight men are required to move it, they are called the tiraboleiros, they pull it with strength and precision at the lowest point of its round. This allows the botafumeiro to reach a speed of 65 km/h in only one and a half minute and forms an angle of 82 degrees vertically. With a height of 1,60 metres, weights 62 kilos when empty and reaches 100 kilos when filled with incense and charcoal. You’ll be able to see it every Friday at 7.30 p.m.

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If you feel like having a less conventional perspective of the cathedral and the city we recommend you a guided visit to the staggered roof, that will allow you to better understand the different construction stages of the temple and to get amazing views of the monumental squares, roofs and the surrounding mountains.

The second most visited place of Santiago after the Cathedral is the plaza de abastos. Without any doubt the visit is worth it; not only for being one of the oldest markets of Spain, it has been working for more than 300 years, but because it will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the city life through its stone hallways full of people and its excellent fresh products. Meat, fish, shellfish, fruits and vegetables with fill with colour and scent your senses and will bring you closer to the reality and gastronomy of Galicia.

If you wish to complete your immersion in the Galician culture the best thing to do is to visit the museum do Pobo Galego, located in the old Baroque convent of San Domingos de Bonaval where are shown various aspects of the world of the sea, the professions, the countryside, the clothing or the traditional architecture of our land. In the church of this ancient monastery can be found the mausoleum of distinguished Galicians, where lie the remains, among others, of the famous Galician poetess Rosalía de Castro or the artist and politician Alfonso R. Castelao, two historical icons of Galicia.

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Just a few steps away you’ll find the San Domingo de Bonaval park, another example of one of the major attractions of the city: the green areas. Among all these green spaces the best known and most crowded is the Alameda, a reference point for walks and leisure for Santiago residents that surrounds part of the old town and provides beautiful views of the Obradoiro square and the façade of the Cathedral.

A stairway connects this space to the Campus Sur, a university campus following the idea of the nineteenth century of the “garden city” that integrates green spaces, sports equipment and student residences. It’s a great place for a walk at the foot of Monte Pedroso, the most emblematic of the city, the viewpoint par excellence that can be reached in a 40 minutes walk. You’ll have the Cathedral at your feet facing the sunset and incredible views over Compostela (Campus Stellae, the star camp).

This name is closely associated with its history: Christian tradition says that the Apostle disciples (Teodosio and Atanasio) buried his remains in some place of the Hispanic Finis Terrae, the farthest place where he had preached. Many years later, during the first quarter of the ninetieth century, the hermit Paio sees how lights or stars light up the ruins of an ancient necropolis. He reports his discovery to the bishop Teodomiro who identifies the remains of the illuminated tomb as those of the Apostle Santiago. He also communicates the finding to the king of the kingdom of Asturias-Galicia, Alfonso II, who does not hesitate to walk his way to Santiago. He thereby becomes the first pilgrim of the history and establishes the basis for the older route of the Jacobean path, known today as the Primitive Path.

As each of your steps gets you closer to the Obradoiro through the stone pavement of the city you’ll feel not only excitement for reaching your destination, but also the connection with an historical site and the other thousand of pilgrims who, like you, have completed this thousand year old path. Congratulations, you’re part of the history.

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