Although "sun and sand" still fit the bill for many holiday makers, an ever increasing number of vacationers are choosing to take a holiday with a bit of culture thrown in.This type of break is becoming especially popular with those wishing to take a long weekend in a location with a café culture, good restaurants and a few buildings and museums to visit.If this is the kind of holiday you are considering, then Spain's northern city of Santiago de Compostela may well fit the bill.
Santiago is the capital of the region known as Galicia and it is the most visited city in the north of Spain. Over recent years its cosmopolitan nature has attracted an ever increasing number of foreigners and it is now promoted as the cultural capitol of the northern Iberian Peninsula, and with good reason.What Santiago has to offer is history, monuments, a religious legend and an old town steeped in baroque and neo-classical architectural beauty.
The city's most famous building is its massive cathedral which, according to the Catholic Church, has within it a tomb containing the remains of the apostle Saint James. It all sounds a bit macabre, but the story behind these claims have led to Santiago becoming the finishing point of arguably the worlds biggest Christian pilgrimage called the "Way of St. James" (or "el camino de Santiago").
Religion aside, the cathedral is a truly spectacular building and it sits on the city's large Obradoiro plaza facing the equally impressive "Rajoy" palace. The world's oldest hotel, now a state run Parador, also occupies this square.Plazas or squares are an integral part of the old district of Santiago's charm and there are four famous courtyards dotted around the cathedral that contain, or are overlooked by, many of the city's outstanding buildings.
Several of these older building are now, in part a least, museums and the cathedral itself can adequately fill two of three hours of most tourist's time if they choose to view the various exhibits.A café culture is also one of the city's appeals and although an international menu is available at most restaurants, all favour dishes based on the Galician speciality of fish and seafood. Prices can be high, but that depends on where you choose to eat and many excellent restaurants are highly affordable, particularly if you venture slightly off the beaten track. As an example, we have enjoyed a three course lunch in the city center for as little as 8 Euros per head and that was based around local fish dishes.Getting to Santiago is becoming ever easier (and cheaper) with direct flights from most European countries to either Santiago airport or neighbouring A Coruna airport.
Hotels are plentiful and if you simply want a short break of 3 or 4 days a car will not be necessary ? Santiago should fill your time amply..To find out more, take a look at http://www.galiciaguide.com/Santiago-index.
html where you will find 18 pages of information and photographs about this historic location along with another 250 pages about Galicia's other treasures.Webmaster of Galician tourist guide, http://www.galiciaguide.com and author of various articles about northern Spain.
By: Martin Lambert