Route around Santiago Cathedral and its squares
Plaza del Obradoiro-Hostal dos Reis Católicos-Santiago Cathedral-Plaza de Fonseca-Plaza de Praterías-Plaza de A Quintana-Plaza de Azabachería-Cathedral rooftops
Plaza del Obradoiro
So called due to the masonry workshop (“obradoiro”) there during the Cathedral’s construction. All of its buildings reflect the city’s powers to be: the public administration, represented by the Palace of Raxoi, which houses the City Hall and Galician President’s Office, the University and knowledge represented by “Pazo de San Xerome,” which currently houses the University of Santiago de Compostela’s rector’s office, ecclesiastical power with the Archbishop’s Palace and the Cathedral, and finally, Tourism, represented by the “Parador” hotel called “Hostal dos Reis Católicos.” A very beautiful square, featuring emblematic buildings and each with its own architectural style, which, to a certain extent, makes it unique.
How to get there
Not to be missed
There are many ways to see the Cathedral. Visiting the high altar, the chapels surrounding the ambulatory. Not to be missed is the “Pórtico de la Gloria,” Maestro Mateo’s masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture, reflecting the transition to the Gothic style, and the Chapel of La Corticela. There are different guided tours of the Cathedral to visit the crypt, cloister and Cathedral museum, where you can admire tapestries by Rubens and Goya.
Ordered to be built in 1501 by the Catholic Monarchs as a Hospital for the sick and pilgrims. Its plateresque façade, its beautiful interior courtyards, the royal chapel. The interior courtyards and chapel can be visited. Open: Monday to Friday, Sunday: 12 noon-2 pm / 4-6 pm. Price: € 6 < 12-year-olds: free.
Plaza de Fonseca is a space for feeling the heartbeat of this cosmopolitan city, where tourists and pilgrims of all nationalities come together in a small welcoming square. It is worth visiting “Colegio de Fonseca” to see its cloister featuring a statue of Fonseca (the founder of Santiago University) in the centre. The Gothic chapel and the hall with a coffered ceiling, featuring beautiful wooden ornamentation, where temporary exhibitions are held.
Praza de Praterías
A small emblematic square that pays tribute to the important guild of silversmiths, who practiced their profession in the small workshops surrounding the Cathedral. The beautiful Horses Fountain in the middle of the square is well known; some Santiago residents play a joke on outsiders by asking them to draw close to see the horses’ attributes and then splashing them. There is an impressive panoramic view of the Clock Tower from the bottom of the stairway and of the just as curious façade of Las Platerías, the Cathedral’s only Romanesque façade featuring old sculptures from the “Puerta del Paraíso” entrance that no longer exists. Closing the square is the present-day City and Pilgrimage Museum and the famous “Casa del Cabildo” backdrop, whose pure baroque style is no more than 3 metres wide.
How to get there
Plaza de A Quintana
Another square that stands out from one end to another and the city’s living heartbeat. It is divided into two spaces separated by a stairway that is impossible to go up two steps at a time, one of them called “Quintana de Vivos” and the other “Quintana de Muertos,” which is the lower part and the former cemetery for the Cathedral’s canons. The impressive Clock Tower, whose Berenguela bell marks the hour and quarter hour, the “Casa de la Conga” and that enormous stonewall belonging to the Monastery of San Paio with its beautiful church that, at the top, faces the famous “Casa de la Parra” (House of the Vine), so called because of the fruit ornamentation on its walls; it is also well known for its chimney, a symbol of ostentation throughout the entire historic city centre. At night, a pilgrim-shaped shadow looks after the square.
Plaza de la Azabachería (Plaza de la Inmaculada)
The pilgrims’ smile culminating their suffering as they cover the final stage of the Way of St. James, reaching Plaza del Obradoiro, but not without first passing the entrance that used to be called “Puerta del Paraíso,” according to the Codex Calixtinus; the admiration of worshippers and pilgrims for the extraordinary beauty of the former Romanesque, now neoclassical, façade, called Azabachería after the guild of “azabacheros” (jet-stone workers) that was located here. The square is crowned by the Monastery of San Martín Pinario, an enormous building and historical competitor of Santiago Cathedral.
How to get there
Impressive panoramic views of the city. You will almost be able to touch the Cathedral towers with your hands, while taking photos that will be hard to beat.