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Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain
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The province of Coruña in Spain

Santiago de Compostela, the "European City of Culture" for the year 2000, is located in the northwest region of Spain in the province of A Coruña. It is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia.  The city's cathedral is the destination of the important medieval pilgrimage route, the Way of St James (in Spanish the Camino de Santiago), which is still walked today.  The cathedral fronts on the main Plaza of the old and well-preserved city. Across the square is the Pazo de Raxoi (Raxoi's Palace,) the town hall and seat of the Galician Xunta, and on the right from the cathedral steps is the Hostal de Los Reyes Católicos, founded in 1492 by the Catholic Kings, Isabela and Fernando, as a pilgrim's hospice (now a parador.) 
Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain   by Alina Thomas

Santiago de Compostela Hotels

Santiago de Compostela is situated in the north west of Spain and is the capital of the autonomous region of Galicia. The inland city isn't too far from it's perhaps more famous neighbour La Coruña, a city which is a pleasant hour and half drive to the north.

Santiago de Compostela, and more specifically the Cathedral there, is the final destination of the pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of Saint James. There are eight walking routes to Santiago that are all considered 'Ways to Santiago' but the most common route is called the Camino Frances or the French way. On completion of the walk (or cycle), pilgrims receive a certificate from the official Camino office in Santiago, which is just near the Cathedral. Imbedded in the cobbles in front of the Cathedral is a stone slab which marks the end of the walk. On this is depicted the traditional symbol of the end of the Way of Saint James - the scallop shell. In olden times, scallop shells were typically only found on the west coast of Spain, so producing the shell was enough to prove that the walk had been completed. The shell is now synonymous with Santiago, and even the ornate Cathedral door is adorned with brass copies. What I flippantly used in primary school to mix paints, and in later years to deposit the butts of sneaky cigarettes, the scallop shell has a very different place in my heart and mind now.
 

Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain
Pilgrims, Santiago De Compostela, Galicia, Spain We arrived in the airport in Santiago which would be similar, if not a little smaller, than the "National" airport of Cork, where we were met by a representative of Turismo de Santiago de Compostela, the city's Tourist Board. A short 20 minute coach drive through picturesque countryside brings us to our hotel in the centre of Santiago.

THE CITY Santiago de Compostela (which means Saint James of Compostela) is built around the magnificent St James Cathedral. Small streets and walkways radiate out from the main square in front of the Cathedral, Praza do Obradoiro (or Workplace Square), and almost everywhere ultimately leads to the Cathedral. The intertwined streets create cosy corners where café tables and chairs are dotted on the footpaths, creating a uniquely Spanish ambiance - lively yet laid back. Also, as a major bonus, a large coffee will only set you back €1.50 - and there wasn't a Starbucks in sight! Santiago is surprisingly easy to get around - a very basic map from the Santiago Tourist Office is a perfect accompaniment.

On the Saturday after arriving in Santiago, I went to explore the Cathedral. It's a wonderful building with massive high ceilings, elaborate decorations and exquisitely crafted statues and effigies. But the crowds at 4pm were stifling, and the queues to pray at the tomb of St James had the most of the church taken over. An early Sunday morning trip proved more profitable, as only a handful of mass going locals were present, and the true majesty of the building was clear to see. The tomb of St James is actually a small silver casket, encased behind a granite and glass barrier at the back of the main alter, which created a very respectful area in which to pray or just admire your surroundings.

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Santiago de Compostela Hotels

A sure fire recommendation on any trip to Santiago is to take a guided tour of the roofs of the Cathedral. Immensely interesting, it also gives the traveller some bearing on their whereabouts in the City with an awe inspiring panoramic view. The Cathedral is made up of all different sizes of structures and varying heights of roofs, the highest reaching 30 metres. The pilgrims in the Middle Ages visited the roofs after completing the walk of Saint James, but the structure has been made considerably safer than back then by barriers and hand rails. There are quite a lot of steep narrow steps before reaching the roofs, so bad footing, vertigo and fear of heights should be checked at the door.

Cubiertas de la Catedral (Roofs of the Cathedral Tour) - Approx €10

The Cathedral and its surroundings are considered to be in the 'Old' part of the city, and the 'New' part is instantly recognisable. This is where Zara and Massimiso Dutti have their stores, all the banks and post offices, supermarkets and estate agents. Basically it's the working part of Santiago, it's functional and has little character when compared with Santiago 'Old', but it's very interesting to see how the two parts rely on each other and work well together. A trait that the old and new quarters of the city share is the beautiful parks and gardens dotted all around Santiago, that make for very pleasant strolls. Although not a fantastic shopping city, you will find some lovely pieces of silver jewellery, and some unusual household utensils and ornaments.

A fact that can be easily overlooked about Santiago, especially when viewing it as a holiday option, is that it is a thriving University city. Listed as one of the oldest Universities in the world, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela brings almost 30,000 students to the City every year and is particularly noted for its Faculty of Medicine.

ENTERTAINMENT 

Talk of a University town must mean that there is a flourishing night life, so in the interest of my J. Barter colleagues gaining a rounded insight into this potentially lucrative destination, I conducted an indepth study of the leisure habits of the Galician youth.

There are hundreds of pubs, night clubs and tapas bars in Santiago, and like any other European city, whatever you like you'll find it there - traditional music, dj's, live bands etc. Interestingly, even tough it's permitted to smoke indoors, I never came across a smog fest that could compare to Ireland pre 2004.

For a quiet drink after a big meal, we were brought to an Old Town pub, which by one of our tour guides was vehemently sold to us as an Irish pub, and by another guide as a staunch Galician pub, which would lead you to believe that there's little difference between the two cultures. Testament to this was the live sounds of the fiddle and flute wafting from the walls of Santiago's watering holes. Galician traditional music is uncannily similar to Irish music, and over a few pints there was a connection made with Santiago and St. James Gate, home of Guinness. This, however, I'm quick to point out, was never corroborated in the daytime.

Food is very seafood based, but most restaurants will cater for those who don't eat fish, and vegetarians. It's important to ask though, as many menus won't detail the vegetarian option. Yummy alternatives to fish and meat include stir fried vegetables, vegetarian Spanish omelette and scrambled eggs with vegetables.

Most of the wines served in Santiago are from local Galician wineries - every variety is superb, and reasonably priced.

Pubs: Casa das Crechas - on Vía Sacra, which loosely translated means House of the Curly Haired Girl, features live traditional Galician music and a slightly arty and relaxed ambiance.

Restaurants: Casa Rosalía - on Rua do Franco is a relaxed and informal restaurant and tapas bar with varied menu. Restaurant Exebre - basement restaurant in the 5* Parador Hotel, adjacent to the Cathedral, lengthy menu and lovely staff. Casino - Café and bar on Rua do Villar. Beautiful high ceilings and an opulent feel to this place, but still a cool place to chill out with a coffee, in the centre of the old town Restaurante Carretas - In Carretas, just a short walk from the San Francisco Hotel, beautiful beef here! Restaurante Don Gaiferos - on Rua Nova, near Cathedral - lovely menu, more meat than fish options here, all perfectly cooked to order. Fabulous dessert selection! Pazo de Adrán - a 20 min drive south from Santiago, this cosy restaurant was once a manor house. Pandemonium - a new restaurant in the coastal region of O Grove, an hour or so south west of Santiago. Lovely finish to a day trip to the coast, food is a contemporary take on Galician cuisine.

THE HOTEL 

We stayed in the San Francisco 4* Hotel (www.sanfranciscohm.com), which is a historically recognised building. Originally a monastery, now over half of the building has been tastefully converted into a hotel and the other part is still home to several monks. The walls of the corridors expose local granite and a mix of wooden, glass and slate floors throughout successfully marry ancient and contemporary styling. The rooms are spacious with all expected amenities including spacious en suite, TV, safe and hairdryer. The small swimming pool and Jacuzzi is located just outside the main building in a separate newly built structure.

A tour of the monastery can be requested at reception, but it is possible to just stroll around the main communal areas unassisted. The banquet hall hosts parties and weddings of any size and in my view would be a worthy contender in the weddings abroad market.

Santiago de Compostela Hotels

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About the Author - Hi, I am Alina Thomas.  To summarise, we had a great holiday which we booked with best Travel Agents in Cork - Barter Travel - see www.travelnet.ie

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA FEATURED HOTELS - GALICIA, SPAIN
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AC Palacio Del Carmen, Santiago de Compostela
This beautiful 5 star hotel housed in what used to be the old Convent Las Oblatas has recently been refurbished maintaining the original architectural and artistic style. Located a few meters away from the Obradoiro Square, this building is part of the historic part and artistic heritage of Santiago de Compostela. It has maintained the style and the charm of another era, without leaving aside the comfort and services of a hotel. The restaurant offers innovative cuisine, enhanced by its unique location. In a stylish atmosphere, customers enjoy an exquisite balance between traditional Galician cooking and a delicate variety of «haute cuisine» with the individual flair of top chefs.  The wine list includes excellent D.O. Spanish wines.  The hotel provides a free Fitness Centre, where you will find bodybuilding equipment, exercise benches, Turkish bath, sauna and mini Hi-Fi system, as well as a selection of mineral waters, all offered free of charge.
Hesperia Gelmirez, Santiago de Compostela
The Hesperia Gelmirez is a modern hotel set in the centre of Santiago de Compostela, two kilometres from the area's popular historical attractions. Those wishing to explore the area are a 15-minute stroll from: the Obradoiro Square, San Martin Pinario, Hostal de los Reyes Católicos, and the Plaza of the Quintana, which are all within two kilometres of the hotel. The hotel's formal restaurant, Gelmirez Restaurant, serves a selection of international dishes alongside regional specialties such as Octopus a Feira and Squid a la Romana; regional wines including Rioja and Albariño are available.  Guests on business can make use of the two medium-sized conference rooms, business services and a range of audio-visual equipment.  Practical amenities include laundry facilities, breakfast services and a parking garage. In the evening, guests can unwind with a drink or light snack in the hotel bar. 
Hesperia Peregrino, Santiago de Compostela
The Hesperia Peregrino is a modern hotel with white and glass façade set within the city's new area, 200 metres from the city centre. The lobby area features paved pillars and walls and a sleek wooden reception area.  The hotel is within two kilometres of the city's historical attractions: Obradoiro Square, San Martin Pinario (monastery), San Domingo de Bonaval (church), and Plaza de la Quintana. Guests can enjoy a buffet breakfast (fee) in the hotel's breakfast room, which offers views across the pool area. The pool is flanked on one side by lush greenery and is surrounded by sun loungers and parasols; steps lead up from the pool area into the garden where guests can enjoy a quiet stroll or enjoy a refreshing drink on the tables provided.  In the evening, guests can dine in the hotel restaurant, Al Punto, which serves a selection of traditional Galician dishes within a sleek, contemporary setting; the hotel's Cafeteria offers hot and cold drinks, and light snacks. 
Hotel Congreso, Santiago de Compostela
The Hotel Congreso is located in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, five kilometres from the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Santiago train station is four kilometres away.  There is an outdoor seasonal swimming pool, with a separate pool for children. There is also a gym. Wireless Internet access is available throughout, and onsite complimentary parking is offered. A complimentary buffet breakfast is served daily to guests of the Congreso. Local and regional Galician dishes are served at the Orballo restaurant, and the Citania cafeteria offers local and regional tapas.  The hotel Congreso offers 15 meeting rooms, the largest of which can accommodate up to 800 persons.  The 120 air-conditioned guestrooms are decorated in caramel-and-chocolate tones, with dark wood contemporary furnishings. 
Hotel CV Monte do Gozo, 3 kms from Santiago de Compostela
The Monte Do Gozo hotel and holiday complex is located three kilometers from Santiago de Compostela, on the final stretch of the pilgrimage route at the point where pilgrims catch their first glimpse of Santiago's magnificent Cathedral. Those wishing to explore the area can enjoy a range of sporting and cultural activities organized by the hotel, from horseriding, rafting and quadbiking, to tours of nearby towns and beautiful Galician countryside. A twenty minute walk takes guests to Santiago and the awe-inspiring cathedral.Guests can dine in the onsite self-service restaurant or cafeteria.  A wide range of amenities are available including a supermarket, shopping area, library, medical services, meeting rooms and free parking. Entertainment is frequently offered, and guests can relax by one of the swimming pools or by the artificial lake, or take a stroll through the ample 650,000 m2 grounds.
Hotel San Carlos, Santiago de Compostela
The Hotel San Carlos is located in Sanitago de Compostela, Spain. The cathedral is 400 metres away, and Pontevedra is at a 60-kilometre distance. Santiago Airport is 10 kilometres from the hotel, and the train station is 50 metres away. Set opposite the Parliament of Galicia, the Hotel San Carlos occupies a modern property spread over three storeys, which are accessible by elevator, and opens to a lobby area finished with cool marble. The hotel houses a coffee shop and a lounge area, and further amenities include complimentary wireless Internet access, onsite parking (surcharge), and room service.  The hotel houses a business corner and meeting space is available. The 21 guestrooms have smart, modern decor with crisp, white linen, and dark wood furnishing. Amenities include air conditioning, complimentary wireless Internet access, satellite television, direct-dial phones, hair dryers, minibars, and safes.
Melia Araguaney Hotel, Santiago de Compostela
The boutique Melia Araguaney is located in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The Old Town is 400 metres away, and the gothic cathedral is 800 metres away. Set in the city centre, the Melia Araguaney occupies a modern property spread over six storeys accessible by elevator, and opens to public areas characterised by fresco-painted walls, plush leather seating, and richly patterned rugs. The hotel extends to a seasonal outdoor pool, and houses a health club with fitness room, sauna, and steam room.  The multilingual concierge is on hand to provide tourist tips, and those arriving by car will find garage parking available (surcharge). Further amenities include complimentary wireless Internet, 24-hour room service, and laundry facilities. The Melia Araguaney houses the Restaurant Araguaney serving international dishes and the Restaurant Caney offering traditional tapas and Galician specialities. There is an onsite cafeteria.
Parador de Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela
Royal Hospital, late 15th century pilgrims' hostel - Combining history, art and tradition, the goal of pilgrims and the emblem of St. James, the Hostal dos Reis Católicos, in the Plaza do Obradoiro, forms together with the cathedral one of the world’s most remarkable, and most visited, urban settings. The Hostal, which first saw life as a Royal Hospital in 1499 to house the many pilgrims arriving in Santiago, today still invites the traveller to enjoy this universal and fascinating city. Considered the oldest hotel in the world, it is also one of the most luxurious and beautiful. It has four extremely beautiful cloisters, elegant public rooms, spectacular bedrooms and a luxurious dining room offering Galician style fish and meats and the classic apple filloa pies and crème brulee. 
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Latest update: May 11, 2012