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Capital of the Autonomous Community of Galicia, UNESCO World Heritage Site and final destination of the medieval Camino de Santiago religious pilgrimage, Santiago de Compostela is by far one of the most alluring cities in Spain.

While several cultures lived in the area, the real history of Santiago actually begins with a rather far-fetched myth. The story goes that two disciples brought the body of Santiago Apóstol in a stone boat from the Holy Land, where he was executed, to northwestern Spain, where they buried him. Some time later, the grave was rediscovered by a religious hermit who followed a guiding star to the spot, hence the name Compostela, which comes from the Latin Campus stellae, or Field of the star). Spain's Christian powers were at the time looking for a rallying symbol and, when the myth made its way to their ears, they quickly erected a church on the purported site and helped spread the myth.

Soon enough, religious folks began trekking for days, weeks and even months from all over western Europe to Santiago. By 1075 the city's famous Romanesque basilica was begun and the pilgrimage became a full-fledged religious phenomenon that, believe it or not, is still very much alive today!

Santiago is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The centerpiece of the city if the stunning cathedral, a jaw-dropping edifice mainly Romanesque in style but with façades dripping in Baroque decoration that has long been a welcome sight for weary pilgrims. Surrounding it is an almost entirely pedestrianized historic quarter of twisting medieval streets, old convents, intimate squares, long stone arcades and centuries-old buildings boasting intricate stonework and constructed of the same golden granite. You'll find almost all of Santiago's top sights within a few minutes' walk from the cathedral and perusing the city is truly a joy.

Want more information about Santiago de Compostela? Have a look at our Santiago de Compostela Guide

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