My name is Patricio. I write about travel and culture and specifically about the places I have visited in my blog Special Baggage. Hope you enjoy it.
According to Catholicism, Santiago de Compostela is the place where the remains of the Apostle Saint James are buried. According to legend, the burial place was found by a shepherd in the 9th Century and since then Santiago became, together with Rome and Jerusalem, a popular destination for pilgrims. The building of the Cathedral, where the remains were eventually re-buried, began in 1075 but was not wholly completed until 1211.
Nowadays, people make the pilgrimage to Santiago for different reasons. There are those that do it out of faith, and why not say it, maybe a bit of self-interest, since if they walk a minimum of 100 kilometres they receive full or partial remission of the punishment for their sins. Others make the pilgrimage as a challenge, to get away from it all or as a cultural trip. The different routes are known as The Way of Saint James, which pilgrims, or at least those that wish to obtain indulgence, have to do on foot. Along the way, you can stay at special hostels reserved for pilgrims for which there is a nominal charge of 5 Euros per night.
When you arrive to Santiago it may well be raining, but this is to be expected and many people would be disappointed if it were not. The Plaza del Obradoiro is the heart of the city and in this square you will find the Cathedral and the office that attends the pilgrims arriving to the city. Here you can also find the Parador of Santiago, housed in what used to be a hospital for pilgrims founded in 1499.
Santiago and the whole region of Galicia have a well earned reputation for good food. Amongst the local specialties, there is a wide variety of seafood, including the typical pulpo a la gallega (octopus), empanada (a large filled pastry) or caldo gallego (stew). All of which taste much better if accompanied by the local wines, Albariño or Ribeiro. For dessert, the tarta de Santiago (almond cake) and filloas (pancakes). At the end of the meal you may be offered an orujo, but careful this is liquor with high alcohol content.
When Antoni Gaudí received his degree in architecture, the director of the college said: "Today, we have given a degree in architecture to a madman or a genius, only time will tell". That was in 1878 and the buildings of Gaudí are not only still standing, but have become a worldwide symbol for Barcelona.
There is a wide choice of places to stay in the city but I tend to choose somewhere around Passeig de Gracia, which is within walking distance of a lot of the places you may wish to visit. Look at the Renaissance Barcelona Hotel and Claris Hotel. Further away, the Hotel Princesa Sofia at the end of Diagonal and the design conscious -- and expensive -- Hotel Arts, just by the sea. There is also a new arrival in town which I have yet to try: the Mandarin Oriental. It looks fabulous and has a restaurant run by Carme Ruscalleda.
If you do happen to stay near the Passeig de Gracia, you are close to La Pedrera and Casa Milá, one of the main works of Antoni Gaudí and prime example of the local variant of art nouveau, known as modernismo (modernism). Just across La Pedrera there is another house built by Gaudí, Casa Batlló.
There are many wonderful modernist works around Barcelona but the largest and most famous is the cathedral of La Sagrada Familia, begun by Gaudí in 1882 and not yet finished, that is located at one end of Diagonal.
Coming back down Diagonal, take a left into Las Ramblas, full of cafes, stalls, and shops. Close to Las Ramblas, the market of La Boqueria is worth a visit.
The concert hall of El Palau is impressive and was designed by another modernist arquitect, Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Not far from here you arrive at the Picasso Museum which houses a large collection of the artist's work. And to end the tour you can continue walking until you come to the marina of Port Vell, full of cafes and restaurants. Talking of restaurants, here is a list of some of my favourites: