The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is one of the most important shrines in Christendom, believed to be the final resting place of St. James the Greater, one of the Twelve Apostles. The Romanesque, Gothic, and baroque structure is the terminus of the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) pilgrimage routes through Northern Spain.
Whether you’re a pilgrim wishing to bask in the presence of an important holy site or merely interested in one of the most fantastic spots in Europe, the cathedral is a must-see for the sweep and scope of its art and architecture.
Many visitors explore the cathedral and surrounding town on a day trip from Porto just across the Portuguese border. To get a sense of the pilgrimage experience, it’s also possible to take a self-guided walk along the last 62 miles (100 kilometers) of the Way of St. James over the course of a week or opt for a weeklong guided cycling tour of the pilgrimage route.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is a must-see for spiritual travelers and architecture buffs.
Remember to dress respectfully, as the cathedral is an active place of worship.
The cathedral offers an audio guide in English covering the basilica and museum collection.
Entrance to the cathedral is free, but the museum requires a ticket.
How to Get There
Most visitors arrive at the cathedral on foot as part of a pilgrimage, and it’s easy to walk to and from just about anywhere in the relatively small Santiago. The easiest way to get there from other cities in Spain is to take the train; the station is within walking distance of the city center. You can also visit as part of a day trip from Porto, Portugal.
When to Get There
The basilica and its museum are both open daily throughout the year, though the museum closes on some holidays. Winter is an ideal time to visit the cathedral, as pilgrimages are rare, so you won’t have to queue up. Arrive early if you plan to attend mass in July or August, the busiest months at the cathedral.
On some holidays, a huge incense burner known as a Botafumeiro is hung from the main dome of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Eight men use a pulley system to swing the giant censer from side to side some 65 feet (20 meters) above the congregation.