The crowning glory—and capital—of Spain’s Galicia province, Santiago de Compostela will easily fill three days of your time. From discovering the city’s medieval treasures and sampling its famous cuisine, to exploring rural Galicia, here are our top tips for a 72-hour stay.
Day 1: City sightseeing
Stroll pilgrim-trodden lanes on a walking tour, and you’ll see why Santiago’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Admire the twin-towered cathedral (most tours view the outside only), the reputed burial site of St. James. Then, experience the Plaza del Obradoiro, the Plaza de la Inmaculada, and other sights as you untangle their history and Santiago’s pilgrimage heritage with a guide.
Later, return to the cathedral, this time stepping inside to marvel at the ornate interior. Highlights include priceless art, the Romanesque Pórtico da Gloria, and the botafumeiro —a giant incense burner that swings from the ceiling during special masses.
Come dusk, experience another side of old Santiago on a tapas walking tour. With a guide to showcase local eateries and the rituals of ordering the bite-size dishes, savor delights such as grilled octopus, empanadas, and Santiago’s beloved almond cake alongside local wines.
Day 2: A day trip
With its verdant valleys and craggy coastline, Galicia beckons from all around, so dive into its charms. Day tours make exploring convenient with door-to-door transport that eliminates the need for rental cars and research. The Ribeira Sacra region is a popular destination, with its monasteries, vineyards, and deep gorges. Alternatively, consider the postcard-pretty Rías Baixas river inlets—tours typically include boat trips and tastings of the mussels from the estuary waters. Other options combine Cape Finisterre with the Coast of Death—a dramatic chunk of coastline that’s seen many a shipwreck.
Day 3: Focus on food
Spend your final day on another of Santiago’s claims to fame—its cuisine. Some tours combine sightseeing with gastronomy stops to give you a rounded picture of the Old Town and its culinary offerings. You’ll visit markets, pastry shops, seafood bars, and off-the-beaten-path food haunts, sampling everything from classic tapas to full-blown lunch.
After the sun goes down, join the locals for a walk through Old Town or a nearby park before celebrating your last night in Santiago over dinner and drinks.