Galicia deserves way more than two or three days, but one has to make the most of the time he has available.
Let’s face it: most people in the world don’t have endless amounts of time (and money) to travel. To be fair, not even I do – though it is my job to travel the world and inspire others to do the same! Sometimes work constraints force me to literally flashpack through a destination. But at times, just a quick visit is enough to make me fall in love with a place and make me vow to go again. This was the case with Galicia.
A First Taste Of Galicia
I visited Galicia for the first time at the end of June 2016, when I toured the North of Spain.
Back then, my trip started in the Basque Country, where I was impressed by the Guggenheim museum and drank the crisp txakolin wine.
I then continued to the lesser visited (yet gorgeous) Cantabria to marvel at the Altamira cave and get lost in the narrow alleys of Santillana del Mar (and drink more wine).
I crossed into Asturias and was impressed by the gorgeous beaches, the lively Oviedo, and by the beautiful, peaceful coastal villages – and since wine isn’t so much of a thing there, I opted for cider.
I finally visited Galicia, where I could not believe the beauty of Playa de las Catedrales. I concluded my tour in Santiago de Compostela, where I didn’t spend nearly long enough to properly get to know it.
I went to Galicia again last October, and unfortunately I didn’t get to spend long enough there this time around either. I guess though that between the two trips, I managed to get a good feel for this beautiful part of Spain.
Hence, I have decided to put together a post on just a few places that can be visited in Galicia on a two or three days break – just about the amount of time that most tourists would have on a weekend break – and using Santiago de Compostela as a starting point for exploration.
Five Gorgeous Places To Visit In Galicia In Just Three Days
Santiago de Compostela
The most obvious place to start exploring Galicia is Santiago de Compostela, whose airport is connected to the rest of Europe via budget airlines flights. The city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, and it is the ending point of a pilgrimage (Camino de Santiago, or Way of Saint James) that each year sees over one hundred thousand pilgrims walk across Spain through various routes.
The city is beautiful – crowded with tourists and pilgrims, yet completely enjoyable. The Cathedral is stunning, and the view of Obradoiro square from the Cathedral museum is worth seeing: the square is huge, packed with people and busy with life, especially on sunny days (keep in mind that the North of Spain does get a lot of rain!).
The Mercado de Abastos de Santiago is another must see. Open from Mondays to Saturdays, from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, not only it is the perfect place to buy groceries (especially the fish and seafood which are always delicious in this part of the country) but also to just observe life, and take photos. Apparently most of the action happens earlier in the morning, and towards the end of the week.
The rest of Santiago is a series of narrow alleys. Some of them are quite busy, others surprisingly quiet. Either way, it is lovely to take a walk around to enjoy the interesting layout and breathe the great atmosphere.
These are some of the best guided tours of Santiago de Compostela:
- Santiago de Compostela full day tour
- Santiago de Compostela Cathedral and museum guided tour
- Santiago de Compostela private guided tour
- Private Santiago de Compostela downtown tour
Pazo de Oca
At around 30 minutes drive from Santiago de Compostela, there’s a beautiful palace called Pazo de Oca, often referred to as the Galician Versailles. Though the interiors can’t be visited (the owners still live in the palace, how amazing is that?!) it is possible to roam through the incredibly well kept gardens.
There is a labyrinth of hedgerows, beautiful flowers galore, and even a large pond with swans in it.
Pazo de Oca is open every day from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm (November to March); or 9:00 am to 8:30 pm (April to October).
Sobrado dos Monxes
The Cistercian Monastery of Santa Maria de Sobrado dos Monxes is one of the most unique churches I have ever visited in my life. Located at about 1 hour drive from Santiago, it is a very important landmark during the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Nowadays, this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It originally was a Benedectines monastery, which had been built in the 10th century and then abandoned at the very beginning of the 12th century. In 1142 it was re-founded as a Cistercian monastery, and the baroque church was built in 1708.
While the facade of the church is simply stunning, it is the interior that attracted my attention. The church is completely empty inside: no furnishing, no decorations and paintings, no statues or crosses. Just the bare floor and walls. Walking inside is a strange feeling. But the church is still enjoyable and worth visiting.
Playa de las Catedrales
Known as Praia das Catedrais in the Gallego language, Playa de las Catedrales is one of the most unique and beautiful beaches in the world. The fact that it is at a good 2 hours drive from Santiago de Compostela should not be a deterrent to visit. Trust me, it is worth it.
The peculiarity of Playa de las Catedrales is the rock formations which, carved by the sea and the wind, have taken the most incredible shapes – thus looking like cathedrals.
I recommend planning a visit after having previously checked the tide timings, because it is beautiful to walk along the beach at low tide. Otherwise, there is a footpath to follow from where there are gorgeous views.
Pazo de Galegos Winery
Despite being a light weight, I love wine, and I love visiting vineyards and wineries. The good news is that Galicia produces some of the best wines of Spain, Albariño and Mencia, and it is a great region to learn a bit more about the process of making wine, from growing the grapes to filling up the bottles; and from cracking a bottle open to enjoying its scent and taste.
I recommend visiting Pazo de Galegos, a fabulous vineyard and winery with an annexed hotel at only 30 minutes drive from Santiago. The wine is really good, but should not be the only reason to visit this place.
The palace (Pazo) where the hotel is located used to be the residence of the Canon of the Cathedral of Santiago. According to history this man, himself a historian and a writer, is the one who located the hidden remains of Saint James.
Yet, what makes Pazo de Galegos a special place and a real treat is the owners (and their assistant cat), who put all their passion and care in producing excellent wines, running this family business, and in welcoming their guests. There’s also the bonus that they speak perfect English.
Where to eat and sleep in Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is packed with good accommodation and eating options. There’s something for any budget and any kind of travelers. The following are the hotels and restaurants that I have had the pleasure to try.
Hotel Spa Relais & Chateaux A Quinta da Auga: wonderful hotel set in a renovated 18th century building. It is located a bit outside the center of Santiago. Rooms are cozy and incredibly comfortable, decorated in a style that mixes traditional furniture with modern touches. There’s a beautiful garden where guests can enjoy a drink. There’s also a spa. The staff is very kind and helpful.
Filigrana at Hotel Spa Relais & Chateaux a Quinta da Auga: annexed to the lovely hotel, Filigrana is a classy restaurant that serves traditional Galician food cooked in modern, innovative ways. It is simply delicious.
Carrís Hotel Casa da Troya: lovely hotel located in the Old Town of Santiago de Compostela. Rooms are beautifully decorated in a modern, stylish way – some also have a balcony. All bathrooms have a large bathtub.
Restaurante Casa Marcelo: one of the best restaurants of Santiago, Casa Marcelo serves fusion food, gracefully mixing local dishes and international cuisine and only using the best quality ingredients. The environment is classy yet easygoing.
If you haven’t been to Galicia yet, I bet you want to go now! Time to book a flight to Santiago then! Besides, did you know it is one of the best places to travel alone?
This article is written in partnership with Spain Tourism Board and the local tourism board of Galicia, and in cooperation with The Travel Mob as part of the #InGreenSpain campaign. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.
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