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Few cities in Europe have the fabled aura of Santiago de Compostela, the lifetime goal of pilgrims since the Middle Ages. It has been called Europe’s oldest tourist destination, beginning with the 9th-century discovery of the remains of St. James the Apostle (Santiago) in a field. By the 12th century it had been elevated by the Catholic church to a holy shrine equal to Rome and Jerusalem, and pilgrims flowed – on foot – in constant streams along several long hard routes over the Pyrenees from the north and across the whole of Spain and southern Europe. The city that travelers find today looks much the same as the one they found, its stone ...

Few cities in Europe have the fabled aura of Santiago de Compostela, the lifetime goal of pilgrims since the Middle Ages. It has been called Europe’s oldest tourist destination, beginning with the 9th-century discovery of the remains of St. James the Apostle (Santiago) in a field. By the 12th century it had been elevated by the Catholic church to a holy shrine equal to Rome and Jerusalem, and pilgrims flowed – on foot – in constant streams along several long hard routes over the Pyrenees from the north and across the whole of Spain and southern Europe. The city that travelers find today looks much the same as the one they found, its stone buildings mellowed by time and the ever-present Galician rain. The cathedral’s original main portal, the Portico de la Gloria, possibly the finest existing work of Romanesque stonework, lies just inside the newer one. Santiago’s central streets are arcaded as they wind through the old town, and even the souvenir shops selling the omnipresent scallop shells and pilgrim staffs are part of its historic charm. University students playing traditional Galician bagpipes remind visitors that the early people here were Celtic tribes.

Barbara Rogers
About the Expert

Barbara Radcliffe Rogers has written or coauthored more than 30 guidebooks, including The Portugal Traveler, Drive Around Portugal, City Spots Munich, City Spots Helsinki, City Spots Stockholm, Eating New England, and the Maine section of Thomas Cook's Independent Traveller USA.

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Barbara Rogers for Triporati

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Now Happening in Santiago de Compostela

Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Capital of the autonomous community of Galicia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the northwest region of Spain
  • Language: Spanish, Galician
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    It really doesn’t matter, since it will rain whenever you go, but to avoid massive crowds, skip July 25, especially on years when it lands on Sunday.