Camino de Santiago. One day Plan in “Santiago de Compostela”
So… you’ve walked the Camino. Congratulations!! It is all an experience!! You have arrived in town and you know you have to visit the cathedral and attend the mass but… what do I do next? This is a one day plan for your stay in Santiago.
In Santiago de Compostela, northern Spain, you have a date with history. As soon as you enter its old town, which has the UNESCO World Heritage designation, you will see that this is no exaggeration. The capital of Galicia has some of Europe’s best conserved monuments, in surroundings that call to mind historic times. This is the city, the final stop on the Camino de Santiago, the first route to be designated European Cultural Itinerary.
Santiago de Compostela is synonymous with art and culture. However, if there is one outstanding thing in this city in Galicia, it is its impressive heritage of historic monuments, most of which are concentrated in the old town. This can be seen in the palaces, churches, narrow streets and squares to be found in this part of the city. The beauty of its historic centre is hard to match. At each step along the way there are real artistic gems of different architectural styles. Buildings with centuries of history that give the capital of Galicia a unique appearance.
The best way to see all this is to take a stroll through the cobbled, granite streets and squares of the old town. Many of these monuments date from the Middle Ages. Strolling through Santiago you will have the feeling that time has stood still. Nova, Vilar, San Pedro and Preguntoiro Street; Plaza Toural, Cervantes and Praterías Squares… they are all witnesses to a splendid past and a living present reflected in the animated student atmosphere that fills the city streets, thanks to its University.
“Camino de Santiago” Route Planner
THING TO DO IN SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA (SPAIN) IN THE MORNING
Cathedral of Santiago Apóstol (approx. 1 hour – suggested timetable: 9-10am.)
There is only one way to start off a day out in Santiago: in the Cathedral. Go in through the door leading from the Obradoiro square, where pilgrims will already have been arriving from far and wide since the early hours of the morning. The first thing to meet our eyes is the Gloria doorway. Behind the mullion people can be seen performing a curious ritual: knocking their heads three times (gently) on the statue of Master Mateo. The custom comes from the university students who used to do this to increase their intelligence and for good luck in their exams. Another version says that if you make three wishes, one of them will come true. Who knows?, but just in case…
Follow the traditional route in our tour of the Cathedral and go down into to the crypt, which contains the remains of the apostle. We then go up to the Main Altar to embrace the statue of Santiago and to get a different and less common view of the Cathedral. As we go through the ambulatory, we will see the Holy Door, which is only opened in Holy Years (when the 25 July falls on a Sunday). Going through this doorway is a very special experience, although the large crowds of people who do so in Jacobean years make it necessary to wait.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
In the summer months and in a Holy Year (when 25 July falls on a Sunday), it is a good idea to be patient, as the number of people who visit Santiago de Compostela is considerably higher.
Cathedral roofs (45 min. approx. – suggested timetable: 10-10:45am.)
Take the guided tour of the Cathedral roofs, which allows us to climb to the very top of the building and look out over the historic centre from the heights. To do so we make for the Gelmírez Palace, located to the side of the Cathedral in the Plaza del Obradoiro square. This itinerary takes us through the interior of the Gelmírez Palace, past the Cathedral gallery (above the Gloria doorway) and up to the roofs of the cathedral. The sensation of the wind on your face, this elevated vantage point, the view… it will all leave you speechless.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
Visits to the roofs are in groups, every hour on the hour. If you wish to take the tour in English, you need to say so in advance.
To make sure you can visit the cathedral at your preferred time, the best idea is to reserve the tickets beforehand by phone (+34 981552985), fax (+34 981554403) or by e-mail (email@example.com), then pick up the tickets at the entrance a little before the tour begins.
Church and Monastery of San Martín Pinario (45 min. approx. – suggested timetable: 11-11:45am.)
Behind the Cathedral, as you go out through the Azabachería door, you reach the Plaza de la Inmaculada square with the Church of San Martín Pinario. The features worth noting in the interior include the old restored walnut choir from the Cathedral.
Pilgrims’ Mass (12pm)
Return to the Cathedral to attend the Pilgrims’ Mass. This is celebrated daily at midday, and during the ceremony a welcome is extended to all the pilgrims who have completed the Way of Saint James, with a mention of their place of origin. What’s more, if it is a Holy Year, you will have the chance to see the famous botafumeiro, or ceremonial incense burner in action. This event is very moving and spectacular: it requires several people to swing the great thurible, and the aroma it gives off is particularly evocative. To be sure of a good view and so as not to miss anything, the best place to stand is in the transept.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
When the botafumeiro is in operation the celebration becomes very crowded, so it’s a good idea to arrive early if you want a good view.
The botafumeiro is swung every day in the Pilgrims’ Mass in the Jacobean years. The rest of the time it is on display in the Cathedral Museum, and the ritual is celebrated only on in certain solemn acts (25 July and religious festivities), or when expressly requested by a group.
If, when visiting the Cathedral, you ever find it placed on the Main Altar, that is a sign that either that day or the next (depending on the time) in the Pilgrims’ Mass, the great thurible will fly through the air above the transept of the Cathedral.
(suggested timetable: 12:45-3:30pm.)
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