Santiago De Compostela attracts visitors year-round because of its pilgrimage status. Those looking for the best deals should probably avoid the city’s major festival of St. James on 25 July when flights and hotel rooms are at their priciest, although that is also when the city is at its most vibrant. Galicia’s climate is relatively temperate compared to southern Spain, but Santiago is notorious for its rainfall. Locals claim it makes the flagstones look prettier. The romantic atmosphere make Santiago an ideal choice for city breaks in December, when the Christmas lights and lavish patisserie displays in the local bakeries create a festive mood.
Santiago De Compostela in the north-west region of Galicia, has been a popular tourist destination for around nine centuries. Medieval pilgrims were promised time off purgatory if they made the long trudge from the Pyrenees to pay their respects to the bones of St James in the city’s magnificent cathedral. These days visitors still follow the pilgrim path, although they are just as likely to take advantage of the direct international flights to Santiago’s airport. They encounter a city with a charm-filled, well-preserved medieval old town, where winding, cobbled streets lead to imposing squares, all beneath the soaring towers of the cathedral. It’s an obvious destination for anyone interested in the Middle Ages (and will complete the set for a modern pilgrim who has already ticked off Jerusalem and Rome). It’s not all about ancient stones and gargoyles though. Santiago De Compostela (Spain) is a university city and the student population ensures that the streets of the old town are buzzing with bars and clubs. Santiago enjoys something of a gastronomic allure too. The countless small but elegant restaurants offer the perfect introduction to one of Spain’s most respected cuisines, the Galician fare that accentuates fresh shellfish, traditional boiled octopus and the distinctive green peppers known as pimientos de Padron. The fine seafood is best accompanied by another of the region’s treasures, the crisp white wine called Albarino, made in the nearby Rias Baixas coastal region.
The compact old centre of Santiago De Compostela is best negotiated on foot. The winding medieval streets can be confusing at first, but the Cathedral serves as a useful reference point for exploration. The city bus service covers the newer part of the city and can be handy for visiting the concert hall, large shopping malls and the new City of Culture arts complex.
The airport for Santiago De Compostela is Lavacolla (SCQ), situated about 20 minutes by road from the city. Bus services connect the terminals with the centre and station, with departures every half hour between early morning and midnight. For visitors who prefer direct drop-offs at hotels there is a taxi stand outside the departures terminal. City regulations impose a fixed fare from the airport, prominently displayed in the arrivals hall. There are small additional charges for baggage and for journeys after 10pm or at weekends.