How to Spend 1 or 2 Days in Santiago de Compostela

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by Neota Langley

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Tucked away in the northwestern corner of Spain lies the historic city of Santiago de Compostela. A symbol of faith and spirituality, this city has been the final destination in the world-famous pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago for thousands of years.

With a day or two in Santiago de Compostela, you can wander through the mediaeval streets where history comes alive with every cobblestone and ancient building then tuck into incredible Spanish cuisine, regional wine and the local Tarta de Santiago.

Whether you are a pilgrim arriving into Santiago de Compostela on foot or a traveller arriving by car, train or plane, this city is packed full of history and charm just waiting to be discovered.

How Many Days in Santiago de Compostela?

Santiago de Compostela may be the capital city of Galicia but it is fairly compact and the Old Town and surrounding attractions can be visited on foot in just one day. Having said that, exploring this spiritual city in just one day may mean you are rushing, not giving yourself enough time to fully appreciate this dynamic city. 

If you have 2 days to spend in Santiago de Compostela, you will be able to fully appreciate everything this city has to offer, take leisurely lunches in true Spanish style and explore some of the hidden gems that aren’t part of the usual tourist route. 

Spending 3 days or even longer means you can head out and explore more of the region of Galicia. The rugged coastline, sandy beaches, fresh seafood and endless Albariño wine.

It’s important to note that this area of Spain receives a lot of rainfall so you may want to designate 2-3 days to explore which gives you some leeway if you have a couple of rainy days. Make sure to pack your waterproof jacket as Galicia is more similar to Ireland in terms of weather than the Costa del Sol. 

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Getting To & Around Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela has its own airport (SCQ), which is well connected offering both domestic and international flights. If you are travelling from the UK, you can pick up a direct return flight from Stansted Airport.

From the airport, you can take a taxi, bus, or rent a car to reach the city centre, located about 11 kilometres away. 

If you are travelling from within Spain or neighbouring Portugal or France, opting to travel by train is a more environmentally friendly choice.

Renfe, the Spanish national railway company, operates train services to Santiago de Compostela from major cities across Spain, including Madrid, Barcelona, and Bilbao. The train station in Santiago de Compostela is centrally located making it easy to explore the city on foot when arriving by train. 

There are also several bus services arriving into the city centre from various cities which may be more direct depending on which city you are travelling from. You can view train & bus schedules here.

Santiago de Compostela is the final destination on the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage route across Spain. There are several routes ranging from the shortest, Camino Ingles at 75km to the full length of 5,650km from Trondheim in Norway which tends to be travelled by bike.

During the peak season hundreds of pilgrims arrive into Santiago de Compostela every day on foot. You can sit and watch them come to the end of their journey in the Plaza del Obradoiro square below the cathedral. 

Once you have arrived in Santiago de Compostela, the majority of the exploring you’ll want to do can be done on foot. If you have 3 days or even more, you may want to hire a car so you can head out to discover more of the region of Galicia.

There are plenty of public transport options in and around the city so if your accommodation is on the outskirts you can easily hop onto a local bus to reach the main attractions. 

Street of Santiago de Compostela
Exploring Santiago de Compostela

1 to 2-Day Santiago de Compostela Itinerary

Day 1 – City Centre Highlights


With so much to see in one day in Santiago de Compostela, fuelling up with a fresh coffee and delicious breakfast in Café Tertulia is the perfect way to start your day.

Here you will find cooked breakfasts, freshly squeezed orange juice, pastries and hot drinks, all served in a relaxed atmosphere.

This is a popular spot amongst locals and seeing as it is tucked away from the centre of the old town, you wont get stung with inflated tourist prices. 

Historic Squares

Santiago de Compostela is a city with a deep history, from Celts to Romans, Moors to Christians. This fascinating past can be explored throughout the city but the squares dotted around the cathedral and the Old Town are the best place to start. 

Plaza del Obradoiro is the most famous square in the city, and not just because of its size and grandeur. This large square, adjacent to the cathedral marks the end of the world famous pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago.

Watch as pilgrims walk, limp, cycle or run into the square, marking the end of a gruelling hike across Spain and beyond to reach the cathedral. Tears are shed, friends are reunited, photos taken.

There is nowhere else in the world quite like it and spending time here makes for an unforgettable experience. Pilgrims walk the trail all year round but the most popular months are May, June and September.

As you wander around the perimeter of the cathedral, make sure to visit the other nearby squares such as Praza das Praterías and Quintana Square which was once an old cemetery where you will also find the ‘Door of Forgiveness’ or Puerta del Perdón, that only opens when Saint James Day falls on a Sunday (which is known as a Holy Year).

Puerta del Perdón
Puerta del Perdón

Monastery of San Martiño Pinario

Next head to another historic square, Plaza de la Inmaculada to visit the Monastery of San Martiño Pinario. The baroque exterior, complete with intricately carved gargoyles is magnificent and although gargoyles may not be the most welcoming sight, the craftsmanship is evident.

The Monastery spans over 20,000 square metres making it one of the largest buildings of its kind in Spain. Inside you are invited to explore the on-site museum, chapel and old pilgrim pharmacy.

Monastery of San Martiño Pinario
Monastery of San Martiño Pinario

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

After exploring the bustling squares dotted around the cathedral, it’s time to head inside. 

This spiritually significant cathedral is supposedly the burial site for the apostle James. To verify the relics discovered with the body, the legend says that King Alfonso II The Chaste walked from Oviedo, creating the first ever Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. 

Entry to the cathedral is free (it is possible to book a tour if you want to explore with a guide) and if you time it right, you may even get to witness a mass. Noon is the most popular mass service but there are several throughout the day.

Join pilgrims from across the world, locals and travellers in witnessing the gigantic silver botafumeiro swinging from the ceiling, a ritual that has been going on for centuries. Incense burns within the chamber, originally used to mask the smell of the sometimes sick and injured pilgrims many years ago. 

Beyond the daily masses, there are options to upgrade your entry ticket to visit one of the grandest mediaeval works of art in the world by Master Mateo – the carved ‘Door of Glory’ (Portico de la Gloria) or walk on the roof of the building. You can buy a ticket or join a guided tour to visit these.

Villar Street

One of the main highstreets in Santiago de Compostela, Villar Street is home to a variety of souvenir shops selling Camino de Santiago merchandise, jewellery, postcards etc.

There are also a handful of boutique stores and bakeries where you can sample the local specialty, Tarta de Santiago, a light almond sponge cake with the cross of Saint James stencilled into the top. 

Tarta de Santiago
Tarta de Santiago

Mercado de Abastos

After making your way down through the souvenir shops of Villar Street, head over to Abastos Market to stock up on local produce.

Fish, cheese, wine and vegetables – the produce originating from Galicia is some of the finest of its kind. 

Alameda Park 

As the day draws to a close, take a short walk out of the city centre to Alameda Park. Wander through the 85,000 square metres of green space, from the oak forest to the gardens.

Discover the fountains, benches, sculptures and even the compact Santa Susana Church. Perched on a small hill, this park makes an excellent viewpoint across the city, with the cathedral in full view. Perfect for a sunset stroll. 

Alameda Park
Alameda Park

Franco Street

You don’t have to be a foodie to visit Spain but with so much amazing produce and local specialties to discover, it’s impossible not to fall in love with food here. 

There are plenty of options when it comes to eating out in Santiago de Compostela, from Michelin-starred dining experiences to budget-friendly local hideaways.

Franco Street is lined with tapas bars and restaurants so taking a stroll along these cobblestones is a surefire way to stumble upon your evening meal. If you prefer to explore with a guide, then consider joining a tapas tour!

There are usually tables and chairs set up along the street but being Galicia, this region does tend to get a lot of rain in the autumn/winter so if you are visiting out of season, make sure to book a table inside. 

Day 2 – Discover the Galician Culture, Cuisine & Coastline

Museo do Pobo Galego

Housed in a beautiful old convent on the lovely Parque de San Domingos de Bonaval, day 2 begins with a visit to the Museum of Galician People. This anthropologic museum offers a fascinating window into the lives and culture of Galicia.

From traditional dress, tools and musical instruments to paintings, sculpture and archaeology. The old convent also houses the iconic granite ‘triple spiral staircase’ constructed by the architect Domingo de Andrade in the 17th century.

Signs are in Galego (Galician language) and Spanish but you can easily use the Google Translate camera app to translate them into English. 


Before heading out of the city to enjoy the afternoon exploring the Galician coastline, it’s worth making the most of Santiago de Compostela’s incredible food scene for lunch.

A hidden gem, tucked away at the end of Franco street, Restaurante Vilar 64 is the perfect spot to try a modern twist on traditional Spanish tapas. It may look small but they have won multiple awards for their innovation – make sure you try their take on patatas bravas.

Costa Del Morte – Finisterre, Muxia, Ezaro Waterfall

Visiting the Costa Del Morte is one of the most popular day trips from Santiago de Compostela. Over the years, this rugged coastline has claimed many ships, leading to its name which translates to ‘The Coast of Death’.

Despite its sombre name, the Costa Del Morte is a must see whilst visiting Galicia, home to towering cliffs, deserted beaches, lighthouses and authentic fishing villages. You can visit independently or join an organised group tour such as this guided tour or this day tour though these will typically last a full day.

Our first stop on this coastal road trip is the Ezaro Waterfall. Flowing directly into the untamed Atlantic Ocean, the river Xallas is the only river to flow directly into the ocean in the form of a waterfall in Europe.

Ezaro Waterfall
Ezaro Waterfall

If you have more time to spend in this area, you can take a kayak tour from the village of Ezaro to the falls which provides a unique perspective.

Starting in Cape Finisterre which was considered by Romans to be the edge of the world for centuries. Pilgrims who have walked the Camino de Santiago often continue on from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre as many consider this to be the true end of the pilgrimage. 

The last stop on this whistlestop tour of the Galican coastline is Muxia. This small fishing village is another optional ending point for the pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. Here you can visit the sacred site of Santuario da Virxe da Barca.

According to legend, this seaside church is where the Apostle Saint James saw the Virgin Mary appear in a boat made of stone. She offered encouragement and strength for his continued efforts to spread Christianity across Spain. The stones in front of the church are said to be the remnants of this boat and are said to possess healing powers. 

As the sun goes down, one of the best things to do in the village of Muxia is climb the small hill up to the viewpoint Miradoiro do Corpiño. From here you are treated to far stretching views across the coastline. 

Lighthouse in Muxia
Lighthouse in Muxia

Have More Time?

Rías Baixas 

If you have 3 days to spend in Santiago de Compostela, there are a few options for excursions in the surrounding area such as this day tour or this day tour. Rías Baixas is often referred to as ‘Green Spain’.

This region in Galicia is characterised by its deep, fjord-like inlets, pristine beaches, lush landscapes, and picturesque fishing villages.

The region is famed for its Albariño wine, a crisp and aromatic white wine that pairs perfectly with the abundant local seafood.

There are plenty of local vineyards, open to the public to explore if you are interested in wine. Explore the vibrant markets, historic towns like Pontevedra and Vigo, and the natural wonders of the Atlantic Islands National Park. 

Town of Pontevedra
Town of Pontevedra


Step back in time as you stroll through the fishing village of Combarro. This location may not feature on many Galician itineraries but it is a real hidden gem, renowned for its well-preserved traditional architecture and charming coastal scenery.

Nestled along the Ría de Pontevedra, Combarro is home to stone houses, narrow cobblestone streets, and iconic hórreos (stone granaries) perched along the waterfront. The village’s rustic beauty and unique blend of Galician culture make it a delight to explore.

Discover quaint taverns serving local seafood and wines. Admire the beautiful coastal views and the mix of land and sea, which give Combarro its distinctive charm. 


Ourense is another city, located just 1 hour away from Santiago de Compostela that can be reached independently or on a day tour.

Renowned for its rich history and thermal springs, if you want to visit another Galican city during your stay, Ourense is definitely worth adding to your itinerary.

The Roman Bridge, an iconic symbol, spans the Miño River and connects the city’s history with its vibrant present. Ourense’s Old Town is complete with narrow cobblestone streets, ancient churches, and the impressive Ourense Cathedral, home to the famed Santo Cristo statue.

The city is famous for its hot springs, particularly the As Burgas thermal pools, where you can enjoy the therapeutic waters. 

Roman Bridge in Ourense
Roman Bridge in Ourense

Where to Stay in Santiago de Compostela

Hotel Rua Villar – This rustic hotel is centrally located just 15 metres from the cathedral and close to the historic University of Santiago de Compostela. There are lots of spacious rooms, parking available and a great breakfast offered each morning.

Parador de Santiago – A beautiful luxe option, this 5-star property is great for those looking to splurge in this Galician city. There are countless lovely rooms to choose from and plenty of top amenities for guests to enjoy.

Meiga Backpackers – This hostel is a good option for budget visitors. There are dorms and private rooms to choose from, great common areas, a good atmosphere and an excellent location for exploring the city.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Santiago de Compostela hotels!

Santiago de Compostela is a spiritual city, full of charm and culture. Its proximity to the wild Atlantic coast of Galicia makes it the perfect destination for those who want to enjoy both the hustle and bustle of city life with rugged natural wonders during their trip.

Pilgrims walk for months to reach this city which tells you everything you need to know, it’s a must see for the more off-the-beaten-path traveller. 

Are you planning to visit Santiago de Compostela? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!

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Neota Langley

Neota is a writer for The World Was Here First. Born and bred in Cornwall, she can usually be found with hiking boots on, ready to embark on an adventure. For the last 6 years, she has travelled throughout Europe in her self-built campervan with her trusty canine companion, Ivy. She loves exploring France, the Nordics and spending time in Alpine destinations.

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