The city of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain has been welcoming visitors since at least the 9th century. Pilgrims came to worship at the shrine of the Apostle Saint James the Great. Over the centuries the route developed into what must surely be one of the most important and well known pilgrimages in the world. Santiago de Compostela became an important religious centre, and in 1985 was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today the pilgrims are joined by tourists exploring this fascinating Medieval city, visits made all the more accessible with a Compostela Pass.

The skyline of Santiago de Compostela's old town at sunset.
Santiago de Compostela's skyline at sunset.

The northwest region of Spain, the historic and autonomous region of Galicia, is named after a Celtic tribe of people who lived here in the Iron Age. The earliest inhabitants, however, were the Neanderthals; their stone tools have been found in cave deposits dating to the Middle Palaeolithic. Much more recently the Romans expanded into the area, attracted to the rich mineral resources. But it was not until the Middle Ages and the worshipping of the Apostle Saint James did the region and the town of Compostela become an important religious centre.

Saint James is the Patron Saint of Spain, and he is widely credited with introducing Christianity to the Iberian peninsular. Many believe that following his martyrdom in Jerusalem his remains were brought back to Compostela where he was laid to rest. The cemetery in which he was buried was soon abandoned and was forgotten about because of the persecutions of Christians by Romans. Saint James’s legend continues.

Sometime in 814 AD a hermit by the name of Pelagius reported seeing strange lights over a Roman tomb in what had become a forest. The local bishop declared this to be a miracle, the lights signalling the tomb of the Apostle James. Convinced by the bishop, the king Alfonso II then ordered the construction of a chapel, while news of the discovery of James’s tomb began to spread throughout the Christian world. By 829 AD a church replaced the modest chapel, which was replaced in 899 AD as more and more pilgrims came to worship. Spanish Muslims destroyed the church in 997 AD, and Santiago de Compostela took on an added significance as a symbol of the struggle of Christians against Muslims in Iberia.

In 1075 building of the cathedral we see today commenced, and the town became an Episcopal See. Throughout the Medieval period pilgrims came from all over the Christian world along the Camino de Santiago to worship at the tomb of Saint James. Over the centuries the cathedral was extended and embellished to reflect its importance as a religious centre. And so today we see an eclectic but striking mix of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical architectural styles, in the cathedral and the ensemble of religious buildings built in the Old Town of Santiago de Compostela.

The western western façade of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, included in the Compostela Pass.

The Baroque western façade of the cathedral, that hides the Pórtico da Gloria.

Visiting Santiago de Compostela

You do not have to be a pilgrim at the end of a 100 km hike to visit Santiago de Compostela. Although by all accounts hiking the Camino de Santiago greatly influences one's experience of one of Christianity's holy cities. This is certainly a destination, end point or not, for anyone with an interest in religious history and architecture in Europe.

Besides the Cathedral with its exquisite 12th century Pórtico da Gloria (for only €15 you can get a Guided Tour of the Cathedral and Museum), there is so much more to see and do in Santiago de Compostela. Sites not to miss include the Hostel of the Catholic Kings, the Bishop's Palace (Pazo de Xelmírez) and the university - one of the oldest in the world.

A Santiago de Compostela based tour company has created the Compostela Pass. For only €16 per person you get an introductory tour of the historic Old Town, full entrance to the cathedral museum and the palace, as well as a number of discounts in various specified attractions, shops and restaurants. The pass is valid for seven days, so there is no rushing around to get your money's worth. What's more, if you need to store your luggage after checking out of the hotel - you get a discount for that!

Given entrance to the cathedral museum is €12 and the palace is €6, that is €18 - the Compostela Pass is already worth it. The introductory tour is only an hour and a half, but I think that is more than enough to get an idea of the history of the city and its layout.

The entrance to the 'Colexio de San Xerome' on the main square in Santiago de Compostela.

The ornate, Romanesque entrance to Colexio de San Xerome on Praza do Obradoiro.

Compostela Pass

The Compostela Pass has the usual set of benefits, it includes entry to a number of attractions, a guided tour of the town, as well as a range of discounts for day tours, restaurants, and luggage storage.

► Guided tour of the Old Town of Compostela de Santiago (includes the 16th century Hostel of the Catholic Kings)
► Entry to the Cathedral of Compostela de Santiago Museum
► Entry to the Palace of Gelmírez

Further details of the various discounts included are available in the link below, and a full list of discounts will be sent once you have completed your purchase.

Available Dates

April to November

Cost

€16 per person, valid for 7 days

When making your booking, the date to set is the date you would like to take the walking tour of Compostela de Santiago.

Once you have purchased the pass you will receive a QR code that you will be able to use to access the attractions, tours and discounts included.

Use the button below to buy the Compostela Pass online through GetYourGuide. There is no extra charge for buying it online. One of the benefits is being able to cancel your purchase and get a full refund up to 24 hours before the first date of your pass.

A stone cross on the Spanish coast of Finisterre.

Spain's 'death coast'.

Extend Your Visit to Cape Finisterre

Just over an hours drive from Santiago de Compostela is Cape Finisterre on Costa da Morte - 'death coast.' This dramatic coastline takes its somewhat macabre name from the many ships that met their end along the treacherous, rocky shoreline. Legend has it that the Romans believed this was the end of the world. Hence the name Finisterre, which is from the Latin finis terrae meaning land's end.

For €41 you can purchase a Compostela Pass Plus, which includes all the benefits listed above as well as a day-long trip to Cape Finistere. You get to visit the fishing villages of Muxía and Muros, the lighthouse on Cape Finisterre and the waterfalls at Ézaro. If the Compostela Pass is worth it at €16, then for an extra €25 for a day trip to the coast is also value for money.

Compostela Pass Plus

The Compostela Pass Plus includes all the benefits that come with the Compostela Pass. Also included is a day trip to Cape Finisterre on the Costa da Morte.

Available Dates

April to November

Cost

€41 per person, valid for 7 days

When making your reservation, the date to choose is when you want to do the guided tour of Compostela de Santiago. You will receive instructions for making reservations for the day trip to the coast.

Once you have purchased the pass you will receive a QR code that you will be able to use to access the attractions, tours and discounts included.

Use the button below to buy the Compostela Pass online through GetYourGuide. There is no extra charge for buying it online. One of the benefits is being able to cancel your purchase and get a full refund up to 24 hours before the first date of your pass.

The lighthouse at Cape Finisterre, Spain.

The Lighthouse on Cape Finisterre.