Santiago de Compostela with Kids – Spain Road Trip

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Northern Spain is a pretty magical place, and visiting Santiago de Compostela with kids is a must for anyone traveling through the region.

santiago de compostela with kids door 740 x 587

For thousands hikers and pilgrims every year, Santiago de Compostela is the end point or even a sacred destination. For people like like us, it’s an opportunity to eat, learn and soak in a unique atmosphere.

Road trip in Spain: Santiago de Compostela with kids PIN

THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO

If you’re not familiar with this famous trail and its relation to this city, here’s a quick primer. The Camino de Santiago (“The Way of Saint James,” among other names) is a network of paths that lead to Santiago de Compostela’s main cathedral, where some people believe that Saint James is buried.

Santiago de Compostela with kids camino markerWhen I say “network of paths,” I mean dozens of trails and walking routes that all lead to Santiago de Compostela, and they don’t start and end in Spain. Many people start walking in France, but the paths weave deep into Europe.

Many of the people walking the trail are doing it for personal or spiritual reasons, but they’re not the only ones. Indeed, lots of students, backpackers and other travelers hike different branches of the trail because it’s well-marked, beautiful (most of it anyway) and an easy way to meet people, as everyone is headed in the same direction. In fact, while in Bilbao, we met up with a good friend of ours from Taiwan who was about to hike the Camino from the French border with her 11-year-old son.

The trail and the people who walk it are really a story unto themselves, but consider this as the backdrop when visiting Santiago de Compostela with kids.

WHEN TO VISIT SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA WITH KIDS

Santiago de Compostela with kids streetWinters are harsh in this part of Spain — lots of wind and rain. Spring to summer is the best time to visit Santiago de Compostela with kids. If you want less tourists and pilgrims, go in spring. If you want warmer temperatures, go in summer, and keep in mind that Santiago de Compostela isn’t an oven in August like Seville, Barcelona and much of central and southern Spain. When we were there in July, it was still 13ºC/55ºF at night. It goes as low as 6ºC/43ºF in April.

Recommended Events

Visiting Santiago de Compostela with kids is what you make of it, and could be enjoyable any time of year, but here are two particular times worth considering.

Spring: The Ascensión Festival

Santiago de Compostela with kids ferris wheel carnival fair

Culminating on the fortieth day after Easter, this festival is also coincides with springtime weather and has less pilgrims crowding the streets. Expect parades, concerts and a carnival-type atmosphere.

Summer: The Feast of Saint James

Santiago de Compostela with kids public dance performans festival of saint jamesIn celebration of the city’s patron saint, Festas do Apóstolo is the city’s biggest festival of the year. There’s also lots of free music and cultural events around the city, including concerts and other music and dance performances happening in many of the stone plazas around town.

We were in town during the feast of Saint James, and it added another layer of magic to the place. We heard music around every corner, and saw the joy on the faces of hikers and pilgrims. They had reached their destination, and seeing that giddy excitement and sense of accomplishment on their faces was kind of energizing.

THINGS TO DO IN SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA WITH KIDS

Most of the tourism we saw was aimed at either pilgrims or culinary & culture tourists, but we found plenty to see and do in the city. I found the tourism board’s app useful, and the tourism offices in town were very helpful, too. There were lots of hiking, horseback riding and other opportunities outside the city that we didn’t get a chance to take advantage of, and of course if you have time there is great canyoning less than 90 minutes from here. As for in town, here are a few things we’d recommend.

The Cathedral & Botafumeiro

Santiago de Compostela with kids cathedral interior 1

Santiago de Compostela’s main cathedral is the final stop on the journey for most religious pilgrims, and the interior is a sight to behold. It’s also the location of the Botafumeiro, a massive incense holder that is swung through the cathedral during some ceremonies.

Santiago de Compostela with kids cathedral Botafumeiro

Mirador Parque da Alameda

Santiago de Compostela with kids fountainA beautiful park with excellent views of the city. Kids can feed the swans, run around a playground or attempt a workout on the public exercise equipment. It’s right next to the old part of town, so you can use it to take a break any time of day (shady trees are plentiful).

Museum of the Galician People

Santiago de Compostela with kids museum of the galician people costumesThis was our favorite thing to do in Santiago de Compostela. I knew quite little about the Galician people and their culture, so this was an eye opener. For example, I knew they were a seafaring society, but wait: they wore wooden shoes and played bagpipes? What?

Santiago de Compostela with kids museum of the galician people wooden shoes
Santiago de Compostela with kids museum of the galician people boat
Santiago de Compostela with kids museum of the galician people bagpipes 1

Of course, the baroque spiral stairway was also part of my incentive for going to the Museum of the Galician People. I had seen pictures taken from there, and wanted to take my own.

Santiago de Compostela with kids museum of the galician people spiral stairs family portrait

Tourist train

Santiago de Compostela with kids tourist train

This can be a nice way to spend and hour or so with little ones. Keep in mind that Santiago de Compostela is quite a hilly town — lots of stairs and inclines. Give the kids’ feet (and yours) a break one afternoon.

Las Tunas

Santiago de Compostela with kids las tunas musiciansWe first saw these bands of roving musicians in Salamanca, and they do something similar here as well. Often loud and rowdy, these guys ham it up for onlookers and can often really get a crowd going. One of the best places to catch these guys on the street is in the vestibule of the Pazo de Raxoi on the west side of the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela.

WHERE TO EAT IN SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

Santiago de Compostela with where to eat tapasIn addition to tapas, I wanted to try the area’s specialty: pulpo a feira (Galician-style octopus). We wanted to try it in Ourense, but didn’t have a chance. Being summer and the peak dinner time when we walked into town, we set ourselves up for a wait.

Initially we went to A Taberna do Bispo but it was packed and the line to get a table was long. When Keiko asked how long the wait might be, they said more than 20 minutes, and simply handed her a business card for Petiscos do Cardeal down the road, where we were able to get a seat immediately.

Santiago de Compostela with where to eat tapas

We tried a number of things, including squid cooked in its own ink and an omelette full of shrimp. The octopus was tender and delicious, but the gold medal went to an off-menu item recommended by the wait staff: a bacon-wrapped shrimp drizzled with basil & olive oil on crusty bread, finished with a small grilled padrón pepper on a skewer.

Road trip in Spain: Santiago de Compostela with kids santiago squid

Road trip in Spain: Santiago de Compostela with kids santiago best tapa

Near the cathedral

The narrow streets near the cathedral — Rúa do Franco, Rúa da Raiña and Rúa do Vilar — are packed with gift shops, cafes, tapas bars and restaurants. Just walking up and down, checking out menus, and sometimes even peeking into various places is fun (some free sweets samples occasionally, as well). Both A Taberna do Bispo and Petiscos do Cardeal are located on Rúa do Franco. Yes, they cater to visitors more than locals, but the prices were in our range for touristy area.

WHERE TO STAY IN SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

Santiago de Compostela with kids where to stay in santiago airbnb 1This was another AirBnB find, and it worked out nicely for us. The host, Gustav, was waiting for us when we arrived and made sure we were settled and had parking. There was no space provided for this place (not unusual), but we found enough public parking on the main road. The apartment is not in the old town but on the road to it, and it’s an easy 15-minute walk to the cathedral and the rest of the main sights.

Santiago de Compostela with kids where to stay in santiago airbnb 2

The bedrooms were simple, and the mattresses old-school, but everything was clean and the kitchen and living room were just what we needed. Wifi, as we would discover in nearly every place we stayed, was limited, with a data cap that was easily reached by a online family like ours. Once breached, the wifi speed slowed to a crawl. Thankfully, Gustav quickly topped up for us when we asked, and we had decent speed again.

Here are a few other places worth considering:

In the historic area

  • Parador de Santiago – Hostal Reis Catolicos: Right across from the cathedral. This would be an epic experience. Once a hospital for pilgrims, now a luxury hotel. If you want to treat yourself, it’s hard to go wrong here.
  • Pensión Residencia Fonseca: An excellent location, right in the middle of everything. Especially good when a festival is in full swing. The downside is that you’ll hear the festival in progress whether you want to or not. Check with the hotel to see what’s happening on your dates before you book.
  • PR 25 de Julio: Walking distance to the cathedral. They have a large family room (50 sqm). There’s no A/C — but this is an issue only in July/August. Public parking available nearby. Airport shuttle is provided for an additional fee.
  • Catedral Suites Santiago: Less than a 10-minute walk from the cathedral. Plenty of space for a family (80 sqm) with a terrace, which is a rare find for the area.
  • Check here for other options

HAVE YOU BEEN TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA WITH KIDS?

What did you do? Where did you stay? What did you eat? We plan to go back, so we’d love to hear your tips and recommendations. Tell us what you think in the comments below, or contact me directly. We hope you enjoyed Santiago de Compostela with kids as much as we did!

Road trip in Spain: Santiago de Compostela with kids PIN

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you,  we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help your travel.

Image credits: #1, #3, #4, #5, #8, #9, #15, #16

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