1. In a few sentences, how would you describe the city you live in?
It’s a small, charming, walkable city, where the time you would normally spend in taxis, or on subways or buses is spent walking and enjoying the sights. The mixture of buildings and green areas are in perfect harmony in this city. I would use adjectives like touristic, clean, relaxing, gastronomic, walkable, and historic to describe my city; we also have a metaphor which I think is appropriate: where rain gives charm to 1000 year old stone streets. The main attractions of Santiago are well serviced for tourists. You get surrounded by history without any noise disruption nor traffic disturbance in this city.
2. When there are a lot of cities which deserve to be visited all around the world, why should travellers add your city to their list?
As Santiago de Compostela is one of the three main Christian pilgrimage centres (together with Jerusalem and Rome), this is definitely a must-do for any tourism agenda.
3. What are the most popular attractions in the city?
- Romanic cathedral: the “must do” in the city, the cathedral is unique in its class across Europe. The pilgrim mass is the only moment when the “botafumeiro” (metallic incense device that is waved inside the cathedral) is available for public viewing. Visitors to the cathedral should also take the opportunity to visit the apostle Santiago’s grave and give his statue a hug as it is believed that he gives wisdom.
- Old town: more than 1000 years of history is placed in these walkable streets. With no car interruptions and sprinkled with churches, statues, etc., it’s the perfect place for a family to spend a nice afternoon.
- Old market (“Plaza de Abastos”): perfect for seeing the typical way of living and trading in Galicia, along with the fresh products and merchants inviting you to taste their honey, wine or cheese. The market is the second most visited tourist attraction after the cathedral.
- Beach of “Las Catedrales”: considered as a heritage of humanity by UNESCO, its name is taken by the resemblance of the rock formations to the pillars of a cathedral. Together with the blue sea and white sand, they offer the best combination for unique photographs.
- Cies Islands (“Islas Cies”): considered by National Geographic as one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world, this paradise of white sand and crystal clear blue water can be reached after just a short journey from Santiago. Because no construction is allowed in the whole island, this resort remains a natural paradise.
- The city of A Coruña (30-40min train aprox) with the Tower of Hercules (UNESCO heritage of humanity), Riazor beach (located in the middle of the town), many malls for leisure and shopping, San Pedro mount (wonderful views of the city and sea), and San Anton Castle, it’s definitely worth taking the time to visit.
- Dunes of Corrubedo: these sand dunes have a sand formation unique in the whole of Europe, the only other place where you may find something similar is in the north of Africa.
- Lugo city (near to Santiago as well): there is a Roman wall surrounding the whole city, which is also considered by UNESCO as a heritage of humanity. It is also the only one in the world which is completely preserved.
4. Other than well-known popular places, what lesser known places do you think travellers should see?
- Mills route: whenever you walk in Santiago, green areas are a constant presence but if you need to get more in contact with the fresh air, Santiago’s Mills route is a nice one hour walk surrounded by trees, water and several mills (some still working); it’ not so well-known, but extremely attractive.
5. What one activity would you say a traveller should absolutely make sure they do before leaving the city?
The fact I am about to mention may sound touristic, but it is a little treasure that is hidden in our city and tourists don’t usually notice it, unless they are real photography fans. When rain falls in the Old Town, the mixture of wet stone and city lampposts reflecting on that stone during nights can give you an awesome photograph, one you can show proudly to your friends.
6. What are the local specialties of the city?
Seafood is of great great quality and is well known worldwide. “Pulpo á Feira”, Octopus Galician style with paprika and premium olive oil, served in a wooden plate and eaten with small toothpicks, is the “must eat”.
7. Do you have any shopping advice? What and where do you suggest buying in the city?
Almost every street inside the Historical Centre, Old Town, is suitable for touristic shopping (typical items from Galicia such as food and drinks, and souvenirs), and once you step away from this part of the city to the newest part (10 minutes’ walk) you will find all types of stores, including the renowned Inditex stores.
8. Which seasons or months are the best to visit this city?
Pretty much every month has its charms, but spring is probably the most charming season of the year as it has the best climate of the year (not too warm, not too chilly).
9. When you first began to live as a foreigner in this city, what stuck out the most to you?
Coming from a small town (less than 2000 people) to a larger one, I was worried about the security issues of living in a big city. Once I had arrived, I realized that walking at any time of the day, in any part of the city is possible without problems. This is a great positive which tourists should take into consideration when choosing a city to visit.
10. If there’s anything missing from the previous questions that you feel needs to be said about your city, then please share.
The 25 of July is the Galician festival, named by the apostle Santiago as the “Apostle Day”. The festival begins with a firework spectacle on the evening of the 24th, fireworks re set off from the roof of the Cathedral, and there are spectacular lights and sounds reflected on Cathedral’s façade.