Santiago de Compostela in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

If you have 3 days to explore Santiago de Compostela and its surroundings, congratulations! Here's how to allocate each of your days to get the most out of them

Katherine Betances

Katherine Betances

9 min read

Santiago de Compostela in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

Santiago de Compostela | ©Jocelyn Erskine-Kellie

Founded in medieval times, approximately in the year 820, the origins of Santiago de Compostela are closely linked to the religious tradition of Christianity despite the different cultures and peoples that may have occupied these lands.

The remains of the apostle St. James the Greater were found there, marking this iconic city as the end point of the Camino de Santiago; one of the most important pilgrimages of Christianity. In a 3-day itinerary through Santiago de Compostela you will enjoy history, architecture, art and nature.

Day 1: History and religion, what you must see in Santiago's Old Town

Santiago de Compostela| ©Joaquim Rocha
Santiago de Compostela| ©Joaquim Rocha

I recommend spending the first day exploring the pilgrim city of Santiago exploring the ancient and magnificent monuments of the Old Town.

Filled with cobblestone streets, quaint cafes and monumental architecture, getting lost in the streets of Santiago is a real treat for the senses.

Explore the pretty Plaza de las Platerías

Start the route early by exploring one of the city's most important historical landmarks: the Plaza de las Platerías. This place owes its name to its close link with the Cathedral of Santiago, as this was the exit door used by pilgrims. It would be the goldsmiths of the Middle Ages who would give the name "silverware" to the place.

From this square you can see the south facade of the Cathedral in its maximum splendor. If you want to take pictures of the Cathedral, this place offers an excellent location.

Book a guided tour of the Cathedral

Take a tour of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Visiting the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the most impressive architectural work of the city, is a must. For this reason, I recommend you to visit it on the first day and on one of the first tours, you will be amazed! Also, if you want to make sure you know all the details, do not hesitate to book a guided tour of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. You will not regret it!

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is one of the most important religious temples of Catholicism, which is why no resources were spared during its construction. A guided tour accompanied by an expert historian who will explain all its secrets is the best way to visit it.

The work began in 1075 under the reign of Alfonso VI. Over time, it would go through modifications and alterations that resulted in a monument that mixes different architectural styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Plateresque and Neoclassical.

  • Hours: The religious temple is open to the public from 7 am to 8:30 pm.
  • Entrance fee: The guided tour is available for 20 € and includes entrance to all areas.
  • Duration of the visit: At least 2 hours are necessary to visit the temple and the Cathedral Museum.

Book a guided tour of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Visit the San Paio de Antealtares Monastery

Built in the 11th century by order of Alfonso II, this place was designed as a home for the Benedictine monks who had the important mission of taking care of the remains of the Apostle Santiago. The Monastery is located just a few steps from the Cathedral, so it is perfect to visit when you leave it.

Besides the historical context, it is worth a visit to San Paio de Antealtares to admire the impressive baroque details of its architecture and its multiple reconstructions over the centuries.

Today, the place also houses the Museum of Sacred Art, where religious-themed works of art are also exhibited.

  • Hours: Open to the public from Monday to Saturday, from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm and from 4 pm to 7 pm.
  • Admission fee: The entrance ticket to the museum costs about 2 €.
  • Duration of the visit: Reserve 1 hour of your itinerary for this tour.

Tour of the Obradoiro Square

Obradoiro Square| ©José Antonio Gil Martínez
Obradoiro Square| ©José Antonio Gil Martínez

All tours of Santiago's old town must at some point lead to the Plaza del Obradoiro. Considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world, you are sure to be impressed by its sheer size.

Surrounded by some of the most emblematic buildings of Santiago, it is the main square of the city. For this reason, throughout the year numerous celebrations are held there, many of a religious nature and others more playful and festive.

My advice is that, during your 3-day stay in the city, try to go to the Plaza del Obradoiro at dusk to enjoy the charm of Santiago de Compostela by night.

Get to know the Royal Hospital of Santiago de Compostela

Next to the Plaza de Obradoiro you will be able to visit another of the most iconic sights of Santiago de Compostela: the Hostal dos Reyes Católicos, a building designed in Plateresque style. This style is an architectural expression unique to some towns in Spain that mixes influences of late Gothic and early Renaissance.

Its construction was ordered in 1501 by the Catholic Monarchs as a hospital for sick pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The building has an intricate façade full of impressive details including numerous carved figures designed by French architects.

Today, the luxurious Hotel Parador operates here and guided tours are organized in the city with prior reservation. Highly recommended!

  • Timetable: The timetable of the tours may vary depending on the service provider.
  • Entrance fee: Around 12 € per participant.
  • Duration of the visit: The tour of the facilities usually takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete.

Visit to the Monastery of San Martín Pinario

Monastery of San Martín Pinario| ©José Antonio Gil Martínez
Monastery of San Martín Pinario| ©José Antonio Gil Martínez

The next recommended stop is practically in front of the Hotel Parador, just a few minutes walk away. The Monastery of San Martín Pinario, one of the most important works of Galician Baroque, second only to the impressive Cathedral.

In addition to the monastery, in the architectural complex you will find a church and a small museum. The baroque interiors of San Martín Pinario are impressive.

The site is available for guided tours, with two tours in the morning and two tours in the afternoon. These start from 11 a.m. in the morning. If you would like to take a guided tour, I recommend contacting us via the website a few days before your trip.

  • Hours: The regular schedule is from 10 am to 8 pm, except on Tuesdays when it closes at 3 pm.
  • Entrance fee: From 5 € per participant.
  • Duration of the visit: I recommend reserving 1 hour and 30 minutes to tour the complex.

Tour the Alameda Park

After spending the day among art, architecture and emblematic monuments, I recommend that you head southwest of the old town to visit the Alameda Park. From your location in the Monasterio San Martín, the walk takes only about 10 minutes and you will discover new areas in the heart of Santiago.

Once you reach the Alameda, you will find an impressive green lung, both in size and variety of vegetation and spaces. Enjoy some fresh air, recharge your energy and visit the sculpture of As Maria; the most photographed attraction in Santiago after the Cathedral.

  • Hours: Open 24 hours.
  • Price: Free for the public.
  • Duration of the visit: Touring the park will take about 30-40 minutes.

Wait for the sunset at Miradoiro da Catedral

At the end of the Alameda Park tour you will come across the Miradoiro da Catedra, also known as the Mirador de Alameda. It is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Santiago de Compostela, due to its privileged location, which offers amazing unique views of the imposing Cathedral of Santiago and the rooftops of the surrounding buildings.

I recommend bringing your camera ready to capture the sunset over the old town of Santiago.

Book a guided visit to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Day 2: Get to know the local markets and viewpoints outside Santiago

Santiago Food Market| ©charlotteinaustralia
Santiago Food Market| ©charlotteinaustralia

On the second day you will leave the confines of the old town to get to know the surrounding nature of Galicia. You will also explore the market where the locals shop every day.

Arrive at the Mercado de Abastos de Santiago at opening time

Located on the edge of the Casco Antiguo is one of the most lively and colorful places in Santiago. The charming Mercado de Abastos de Santiago de Compostela. It has been in operation since 1873 and its iconic building is an architectural landmark in the city.

The products sold here come directly from the producers, making the space a favorite shopping spot for locals.

Wake up early on the morning of your second day and enjoy fresh bread, artisanal cheese and fresh fruit before continuing your stroll.

  • Hours: Open to the public from 8 am until 3 pm.
  • Price: Free.
  • Duration of visit: As long as you wish.

Take the hiking route to the Monte do Pedroso Viewpoint

The Monte Pedroso viewpoint is located in one of the highest points of the city. Its privileged location offers the traveler views of all of Santiago in a postcard spectacle. Although it is possible to drive up, the approximately 30-minute walk to the top is totally worth the effort.

The views from the lookout are wonderful at any time of day, but I advise you to take advantage of the coolness of the morning of your second day to make the route without sweltering.

Getting to the site is extremely easy. From your location at the Mercado de Abastos, go to the starting point of the route located at Ponte Asén, in Galeras Park. The initial journey will take you about 10 minutes through the old town heading northwest.

  • Duration: The hiking route to the top of Monte Pedroso takes 30-40 minutes to complete, although I recommend you set aside at least 2 hours for this experience.

Visit the Granell Museum in Pazo de Bendaña

Before ending your second day of exploration, I recommend taking a moment to visit one of the most beloved buildings in the city: the Pazo de Bendaña, an urban palace in the baroque style of Compostela built in 1700. This emblematic place currently houses the Granell Foundation-Museum

Eugenio Fernández Granell was an artist from Santiago de Compostela who is considered one of the most significant figures of surrealism. He has one of the most diverse art collections, exploring through his life different art forms including painting, drawing, sculpture, poetry and even various essays.

In the Pazo de Bendaña you can enjoy approximately 200 works of the author. If you like surrealism or the avant-garde in general, you should spend some time in the afternoon here.

  • Hours: The museum is open from Tuesday to Friday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.; on Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Closed on Sundays, Mondays and national holidays.
  • Price: From 2 € per person.
  • Duration of the visit: Spend 1 hour touring the facilities.

Take a Tapas tour in Santiago

Tapas in Santiago de Compostela| ©Haydn Blackey
Tapas in Santiago de Compostela| ©Haydn Blackey

In addition to its fabulous architecture, Santiago de Compostela is a destination worth visiting for its varied and delicious gastronomy. I recommend dedicating the afternoon-evening of your second day to one of the city's most fun adventures, a tapas tour of Santiago.

Numerous local companies organize gastronomic tours of Santiago, taking a small group of travelers through some of the city's best tapas bars. The tour is led by an expert local guide, who in addition to the gastronomic suggestions often tells interesting stories about the places visited.

The tapas culture is in itself a tradition that can be enjoyed in almost every city in Spain, and an experience not to be missed by traveler friends visiting the country.

  • Schedule: The gastronomic tours in Santiago take place at different times.
  • Price: From 30 € per traveler. Note that more expensive tours usually include a greater variety of tastings.
  • Duration of the visit: Depending on the company you hire, you should reserve approximately 3 hours for this adventure.

Book a tapas tour of Santiago

Day 3: Take the Rías Baixas tour from Santiago de Compostela

Rías Baixas Galicia| ©Alquiler de Coches
Rías Baixas Galicia| ©Alquiler de Coches

As you have seen, there are many things to see and do in Santiago. Having seen the best and most outstanding, I recommend travelers dedicate their last day to explore one of the greatest treasures of the Galician lands: the Rías Baixas, ranked by tourists and locals as one of the best tours from Santiago-

The Rías Baixas tour is offered by several local tour operators, which take the group of travelers on a tour full of iconic sites. Although some places may vary depending on the company you hire, most of them include in their itinerary the following points: touring the natural park Ría Barosa, one of the most spectacular landscapes of Pontevedra; visiting several wineries, as this area is famous for its good wine, and also visiting some beaches in northern Galicia, such as Playa de las Catedrales.

If your stay in the city extends for longer, another famous visit in the city that you should consider is to Finisterre and Costa da Morte from Santiago.

  • Schedule: Tours to Rías Baixas depart from Santiago early in the morning to make the most of the day.
  • Price: From 40 € per participant.
  • Duration of the visit: Depending on the company you hire and the itinerary, the tour can take between 8 and 10 hours to complete.

Book a tour to Rías Baixas from Santiago