Santiago de Compostela (Old Town) is located in Galicia, situated in the far north-west of Spain. It's known as the culmination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, and the alleged burial site of the Biblical apostle St. James. His remains reputedly lie within the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, consecrated in 1211, whose elaborately carved stone facades open onto grand plazas within the medieval walls of the old town.  The city has its origin in the shrine of Saint James the Great, now the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, as the destination of the Way of St. James, a leading Catholic pilgrimage route since the 9th century. 


In the beginning of the 9th century, a hermit called Pelagius saw a mysterious light shining over a Roman tomb forgotten in the middle of a forest. Very soon, the incredible news spread all over the Christian world: the tomb of St. James the Greater, the beloved apostle of Jesus Christ, had been discovered in a far site near the finis terrae, the end of the known Earth, in the northwest of Iberian Peninsula. A few years later, this site became a famous pilgrimage town, one of the most important of Christianity. Pilgrims came from all over Europe following the Camino de Santiago to reach the city born around the Holy Tomb, exercising a great influence on the surrounding area. This is evidenced in the small towns, churches, hospitals, and monasteries that were built near the Camino to attend to the thousands of pilgrims who came to visit the tomb. This influence in the local architecture and art was especially strong and long-lasting in the north-west of Spain, but the fame and the reputation of the sanctuary of Santiago de Compostela went well beyond; Galicia was even known in the Nordic sagas as Jakobsland.  This famous pilgrimage site also became a symbol in the Spanish Christians' struggle against Islam. Destroyed by the Muslims at the end of the 10th century, it was completely rebuilt in the following century.

The Old Town of Santiago de Compostela, together with the outlying Santa Maria de Conxo Monastery, constitutes an extraordinary ensemble of distinguished monuments. The squares and narrow streets of the Old Town contain Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassicist buildings. This town is not only a harmonious and very well preserved historical city, but also a place deeply imbued with faith. The cathedral, considered as a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, keeps the remarkable Pórtico de la Gloria, a jewel of the medieval sculpture. However, the authentic symbol of the city is the Baroque western facade of the cathedral, which forms one of the sides of the square of Obradoiro, one of the world's most beautiful urban areas.

The property encompasses 267 acres, with a 536 acre buffer zone. Santiago de Compostela shows a remarkable state of conservation, largely due to conservation policies that have preserved the integrity of monuments and buildings that form the civil and religious architectural ensemble. Elements from the Middle Ages are integrated with those from the Renaissance, as well as the constructions from the 17th and 18th centuries into a high-quality urban fabric. The Old Town is a livable and lively place where inhabitants and business coexist with tourism. The urban development has respected natural spaces where the green Galician fields join the historical city. In this respect, the property integrates the urban ensemble, historical oakwoods and open green spaces.

Throughout its history, Santiago de Compostela has received different influences, and the Old Town has integrated these different styles and currents with local traditions. The result of this mixture is a city where the original Galician architecture, with its typical wooden galleries and traditional materials, like stone, wood, or iron, combines with great monuments that constitute a splendid tour across the history of European and universal art.

The cathedral borders the main plaza of the old and well-preserved city. According to medieval legend, the remains of the apostle James were brought to Galicia for burial; in 813, the light of a bright star guided a shepherd who was watching his flock at night to the burial site in Santiago de Compostela. This site was originally called Mount Libredon and its physical topography leads prevalent sea borne winds to clear the cloud deck immediately overhead.  The shepherd quickly reported his discovery to the bishop of Iria, Bishop Teodomiro. The bishop declared that the remains were those of the apostle James and immediately notified King Alfonso II in Oviedo. To honour St. James, the cathedral was built on the spot where his remains were said to have been found. The legend, which included numerous miraculous events, enabled the Catholic faithful to bolster support for their stronghold in northern Spain during the Christian crusades against the Moors, but also led to the growth and development of the city.

Along the western side of the Praza do Obradoiro is the elegant 18th century Pazo de Raxoi, now the city hall. Across the square is the Raxoi's Palace, the town hall, and on the right from the cathedral steps is the Hostal dos Reis Cat&ocaute;licos, founded in 1492 by the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand II of Aragon, as a pilgrims' hospice (now a parador). The Obradoiro facade of the cathedral, the best known, is depicted on the Spanish euro coins of 1 cent, 2 cents, and 5 cents.

With its Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque buildings, the Old Town of Santiago is one of the world's most beautiful urban areas. The oldest monuments are grouped around the tomb of St James and the cathedral, which contains the remarkable Pórtico de la Gloria.  Within the old town there are many narrow winding streets full of historic buildings. The new town all around it has less character though some of the older parts of the new town have some big flats in them.

Santiago de Compostela has a substantial nightlife. Both in the new town and the old town, a mix of middle-aged residents and younger students maintain a lively presence until the early hours of the morning. Radiating from the center of the city, the historic cathedral is surrounded by paved granite streets, tucked away in the old town, and separated from the newer part of the city by the largest of many parks throughout the city, Parque da Alameda.

Santiago gives its name to one of the four military orders of Spain: Santiago, Calatrava, Alcántara and Montesa.  One of the most important economic centers in Galicia, Santiago is the seat for organizations like Association for Equal and Fair Trade Pangaea.

Under the Koppen climate classification, Santiago de Compostela has a temperate oceanic climate, with mild to warm and somewhat dry summers and mild, wet winters. The prevailing winds from the Atlantic and the surrounding mountains combine to give Santiago some of Spain's highest rainfall: about 61.0 in annually. The climate is mild: frosts are common only in December, January and February, with an average of just 8 days per year, while snow is rare; temperatures over 86 degrees F are exceptional.