day of culture in Santiago de Compostela
of people make their way to Santiago de Compostela
with one single goal in mind: to see its Cathedral,
the ultimate destination on the Way of Saint James.
On our day of culture in the city, we will of course
visit this monumental work of art, but we’ll also
have time for much, much more. We’ll sample the
lively atmosphere in its historic quarter (declared
a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO), try some delicious
typical dishes, stroll around peaceful gardens,
and take a look at the modern art in its museums.
of Santiago Apóstol (approx. 1 hour – suggested
is only one way to start off a day out in Santiago:
in the Cathedral. We go in through the door leading
from the Obradoiro square, where pilgrims will already
have been arriving from far and wide since the early
hours of the morning. The first thing to meet our
eyes is the Gloria doorway. Behind the mullion people
can be seen performing a curious ritual: knocking
their heads three times (gently) on the statue of
Master Mateo. The custom comes from the university
students who used to do this to increase their intelligence
and for good luck in their exams. Another version
says that if you make three wishes, one of them
will come true. Who knows?, but just in case...
follow the traditional route in our tour of the
Cathedral and go down into to the crypt, which contains
the remains of the apostle. We then go up to the
Main Altar to embrace the statue of Santiago and
to get a different and less common view of the Cathedral.
As we go through the ambulatory, we will see the
Holy Door, which is only opened in Holy Years (when
the 25 July falls on a Sunday). Going through this
doorway is a very special experience, although the
large crowds of people who do so in Jacobean years
make it necessary to wait.
In the summer months and in a Holy Year (when 25
July falls on a Sunday), it is a good idea to be
patient, as the number of people who visit Santiago
de Compostela is considerably higher.
roofs (45 min. approx. – suggested timetable: 10-10:45am.)
decide to take the guided tour of the Cathedral
roofs, which allows us to climb to the very top
of the building and look out over the historic centre
from the heights. To do so we make for the Gelmírez
Palace, located to the side of the Cathedral in
the Plaza del Obradoiro square. This itinerary takes
us through the interior of the Gelmírez Palace,
past the Cathedral gallery (above the Gloria doorway)
and up to the roofs of the cathedral. The sensation
of the wind on your face, this elevated vantage
point, the view… it will all leave you speechless.
Visits to the roofs are in groups, every hour on
the hour. If you wish to take the tour in English,
you need to say so in advance. To make sure you
can visit the cathedral at your preferred time,
the best idea is to reserve the tickets beforehand
by phone (+34 981552985), fax (+34 981554403) or
by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), then
pick up the tickets at the entrance a little before
the tour begins.
and Monastery of San Martín Pinario (45 min. approx.
– suggested timetable: 11-11:45am.)
the Cathedral, as we go out through the Azabachería
door, we reach the Plaza de la Inmaculada square
with the Church of San Martín Pinario. The features
worth noting in the interior include the old restored
walnut choir from the Cathedral.
return to the Cathedral to attend the Pilgrims’
Mass. This is celebrated daily at midday, and during
the ceremony a welcome is extended to all the pilgrims
who have completed the Way of Saint James, with
a mention of their place of origin. What’s more,
if it is a Holy Year, you will have the chance to
see the famous botafumeiro, or ceremonial incense
burner in action. This event is very moving and
spectacular: it requires several people to swing
the great thurible, and the aroma it gives off is
particularly evocative. To be sure of a good view
and so as not to miss anything, the best place to
stand is in the transept.
When the botafumeiro is in operation the celebration
becomes very crowded, so it’s a good idea to arrive
early if you want a good view.
botafumeiro is swung every day in the Pilgrims’
Mass in the Jacobean years. The rest of the time
it is on display in the Cathedral Museum, and the
ritual is celebrated only on in certain solemn acts
(25 July and religious festivities), or when expressly
requested by a group.
when visiting the Cathedral, you ever find it placed
on the Main Altar, that is a sign that either that
day or the next (depending on the time) in the Pilgrims’
Mass, the great thurible will fly through the air
above the transept of the Cathedral.
mass, we take a quiet walk around the squares around
the Cathedral (Quintana, Platerías, Obradoiro) to
observe the details of each façade, and capture
them for posterity with our camera.
and lunch in the historic quarter
walk towards the streets of Rúa do Franco and Rúa
do Villar in the old part of town, the site of the
tourist office and the pilgrims’ centre, as well
as a host of businesses and shops selling crafts,
souvenirs, clothing, food... even small book and
antique markets. Silver and jet are typical local
purchases, as well as everything to do with the
Way of Saint James and the Apostle (botafumeiros,
scallop shells, staffs…). Also ceramics, leather,
classical Galician bagpipes, and witches or “meigas”
(the name by which witches are known in Galicia).
to these streets run another two commercial thoroughfares:
the Rúa Nova and the Rúa Calderería, which are frequented
by the inhabitants of Santiago for their everyday
purchases. We make a brief stop in the Rúa do Franco
to see the Renaissance cloister in the Fonseca College,
which houses the library of the University of Santiago.
There are also numerous bars and restaurants in
can stop and have lunch whenever we like, and order
some portions to share and the typical local dishes.
Good suggestions include the pulpo a feira (octopus),
gammon with turnip greens or potatoes, empanada
(savoury filled pastry), marinated pork, squid,
Padrón peppers (only in season, and look out! some
are searingly hot), steamed mussels, fish stew,
pote (traditional Galician bean stew), fish or shellfish.
All accompanied by Galician wine (for example, Ribeiro
or Albariño). For dessert, a classic combination:
Santiago almond tart and orujo liqueur (traditional
orujo is colourless, but other flavours include
herbs, cream, coffee…).
Park(suggested timetable: 3:30-5pm.)
lunch, we continue along the streets of Franco and
Villar towards the Alameda Park for about ten minutes.
We can take a leisurely stroll around its stately
tree-lined paths, and look at the fountains, sculptures
and buildings (Santa Susana chapel, music pavilion,
dovecote…). As we are fairly high up, we also have
an outstanding view over the city. The park is connected
to the gardens of the university campus by a flight
of steps, so let’s go and take a look.
route around the city (suggested timetable: 5-6pm.)
return to the centre, but along an alternative route
so as to pass in front of the Geography and History
Faculty, the San Fiz de Solivi churchand the building
which houses the Mercado de Abastos, or general
produce market. We continue on along towards the
Bonaval park in order to visit two of the city’s
museums. On our way we pass the San Agustín Convent,
the Santa María del Camino church and the El Camino
The Market opens in the mornings, and the busiest
days are Thursday and Saturday. If you are planning
to stay any longer in Santiago, it is well worth
a visit. You will find all kinds of fresh foods,
typical products, cured sausages and meats, flowers,
fabrics… And notice the vendors who set up outside
the market: they are usually women from nearby towns
who come to sell what they have grown in their vegetable
of the Galician People and the Galician Contemporary
Art Centre (suggested timetable: 6-7:45pm.)
enter the site formed by the Church and Convent
of Santo Domingo de Bonaval, which also houses the
Museum of the Galician People. The most curious
feature is the triple spiral staircase which leads
to the different floors of the building, and definitely
makes a good subject for a photo. Then we change
styles and go to the Galician Contemporary Art Centre
next door. This building is modern both inside and
out, and was designed by the eminent architect Álvaro
leave the museums behind and return to the Cathedral.
The idea is to see it illuminated by night, and
will take no more than 20 minutes. We go through
the Puerta del Camino gateway, the Plaza de Cervantes
square and the Calle de la Azabachería until we
come to San Martín Pinario. We spend some time in
the Plaza del Obradoiro taking in the impressive
sight of the illuminated buildings arranged all
around the square: the Cathedral, the Reyes Católicos
Parador, the Rajoy Palace and the College of San
deserve a hearty dinner after our day out, so let’s
find a restaurant where we can enjoy a delicious
dish of shellfish, fish, or rice. After dinner,
what about a little music while we have a drink?
In the area around the historic centre there are
several bars and pubs which offer an inviting atmosphere
at wanadoo.fr - 11/07/2013