Top of the must-do list is a visit to the Cathedral.
Admire the outside built between 11th and 13th century then step inside to see the Fachada del Obradoiro (the work of gold) and the 12th century Doorway of Glory which depicts over 200 figures representing the Last Judgement.
Look for the unusual items in the cathedral
- the mollusc shell on the altar which pilgrims arriving in the city still queue to kiss and the gold crucifix from 874 which reputedly contains part of the True Cross.
Wandering the streets of the old town
reveals the narrow, arcaded lanes and interesting squares lined with amazing houses, churches and monasteries. After a visit to the cathedral and the numerous monuments nearby take time to stroll around and find hidden corners such as the 'Calexa de Sal se Podes' - the very narrow alleyway aptly named 'Get out if you can'!
Visit the museum of Galician People
on Rua de Bonaval located in the 13th century convent of San Domingo de Bonaval. (closed Mondays). There's an interesting array of Galician folk culture plus an amazing triple spiral staircase to all the floors which is great fun for the children.
If you are in Santiago on an important feast day,
try to see the 'Botafumeiro' in action in the cathedral. The world's largest incense holder, it is suspended from the roof and swung with great force across the entire length of the cathedral.
At the end of August the old part of Santiago is transformed into a medieval town for the medieval festival which lasts three days and is a feast of stalls, street jugglers musicians, food, fun and games for all.
Noia - traditional seaside charm.
On the Ria de Muros y Noia, Noia is a typical Galician seaside town, full of history yet still a very active fishing port and a great place to try the freshest of sardines! It has a pretty old medieval centre and is famous for its beautiful square facing out to sea. A delightful town to stroll around and not to be missed
Head for the beach
Those on the north and south banks of the Muros y Noia Ria have calm seas and sandy beaches, some long with good coastal walks and others in sheltered coves. The nearest is 'Praia de Testal' at Noia about 40 minutes drive away.
Nearby Padrón is home to the famous 'Pimientas de Padrón'. These tasty little peppers, originally from Mexico, are now grown throughout the region to meet the high demand. Try them roasted in oil but watch out for the occasional really hot one! Dedicated pepper fans can visit the pepper festival held in the town in August.
St. James in Padrón
Padrón has many other claims to fame. According to legend the boat bringing St. James to Spain came ashore here, and the stone to which it was moored can be seen beneath the altar in the parish church of Santiago.
Browse the local markets
There are plenty of markets in Santiago and the surrounding villages but perhaps the biggest and best is in Padrón on Sundays. You'll find it on the 'Espelon Promenade' a large tree-covered park alongside the River Ulla.
Some Spanish culture -
Padrón is the birthplace of two of Spain's most important writers - Rosalia de Castro, a Romantic poet and Camilo Jose Cela, Nobel prize-winner for Literature. Everywhere you go in Galicia you will find statues or streets named after Rosalia and you can visit her home (now a museum) in Padron and learn about her interesting life.
Pontevedra is Galicia's smallest provincial capital.
During the 16th century it was the capital of all Galicia and an important port too (Columbus' ship the 'Santa Maria' was built here). As a result it has a fascinating historical centre, both beautiful and well preserved with a maze of lanes, arcades and delightful stone flagged squares.
If you would like to see a bull ring, take the opportunity whilst visiting Pontevedra - Galica's only bull ring is here and the tradition of bull fighting is still strong.
Pontevedra is not only a feast to the eyes
but also the taste buds! Try some Iberian pork, some delicious Spanish cheeses or the unforgettable home smoked salmon from the Meson area situated behind the Town Hall.
Look for the 'Cruceiros'
as you drive around the countryside. Made of stone, these crosses are generally found at the entrance to churches or on crossroads and are respresentative of Galician culture and art. They are also full of legends and offer amongst many other things, protection for the weary traveller.
Watch out for shops selling Sargadelo pottery in Santiago. With exceptionally attractive figurines, plates and jewellery of a design unique to this part of Galicia, they are modern pieces with a Celtic influence.
Silver and Jet.
Two of the squares around the Cathedral in Santiago are Plaza de Azabacheria and Plaza de Platerias, recalling the silver and jet industries which were important during the Middle Ages. There are still workshops producing silver and jet (azabache) pieces and the old town is full of little jewellery shops where you can buy something special and typical to take home.
Betanzos - one of Galicia's best historic towns,
a Celtic village then Roman port which had its heyday in the 18th century and hasn't changed much since. Lots of houses and mansions with wrought iron balconies to admire and no shortage of fiestas during the summer too!
Travel to the end of the Earth....
..otherwise known as Finisterre. Look out to sea and imagine that you really are on the edge of the world.
- the liveliest city in Galicia with plenty to do and well worth a visit. Sometimes called 'Glass City' for the beautiful glass-fronted balconies on many of its houses, it has an attractive promenade, an interesting historical centre, two sandy beaches, an aquarium and the Torre de Hercules, the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world.
With the fast road which connects Santiago with Portugal you could easily visit the lovely walled city of Valenca in a little over an hour and have tea in the Parador there
Find time to relax
There is so much to do in and around Santiago, but after a busy day of sightseeing come home and relax by the pool or in the pretty garden.
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