Gastronomy tourism never goes out of fashion, and much less in a place like Santiago de Compostela (Galicia) which likes to boast - and rightly so - about the rich variety and quality of its shellfish, fish and meat dishes. The gastronomy festivals, traditional markets and food markets are ample justification for a pilgrimage to the capital of Galicia.
It's a good idea to arrive in Santiago de Compostela hungry so that you can really appreciate the excellent and abundant cuisine. Perhaps that's why some people decide to travel to the Galician capital on foot, following the famous pilgrim route, the Way of Saint James. But if you're looking for a weekend break I recommend travelling by plane. That's what I do every year, because I confess to having a soft spot for this city, and not just because the recently restored cathedral is magnificent, although that's certainly another attraction.
Here are my recommendations for spending a perfect day in Santiago de Compostela:
To whet the appetite, a gastronomy route
To work up a hunger and discover the secrets of the Galician culinary culture, I recommend a gastronomy route on foot visiting grocery stores, traditional corner shops and, of couse, the food market. You're sure to give into temptation and try some of the products you'll find, but I advise you to save some room for all the other things yet to come...
As an appetiser, a few tapas on Rúa de San Pedro
This traditional neighbourhood of craft workshops and eating houses offers delicious conventional tapas as well as avantgarde cuisine. With a bit of luck, your "á feira" octopus, variegated scallops and Spanish omelette will be accompanied by the sound of Galician bagpipes or a brassband parade.
Tip: If you visit Santiago in November, don't miss the annual tapas competition.
For lunch, some meat on Rúa do Franco or one of the nearby streets
Everyone always talks about Galican fish and shellfish, but this region is also famous for its excellent meat. In my opinion, grilled is best, because when the ingredients are so good, you really don't need anything fancy. Be guided by your nose. Follow the aroma of firewood to a "churrasquería" or grill, and while you're there take the weight off your feet and have a little rest.
Tip: Save a little corner to finish up with some “filloas” (the Galician version of French crepes), sweet rivals of the almond cake known as "Tarta de Santiago" and, like “orellas” (a type of sweet fritter), typically eaten at carnival time.
As the sun goes down, how about a few signature tapas in the new markets?
The gastronomy markets La Galiciana and Boanerges are absolute "musts" on any route in Santiago. You'll find signature tapas and dishes that you'll want to eat even if you aren't hungry, but if you really can't manage another bite, no worries: it's still worth visiting these markets to buy a selection of Galician gastronomy products to take home with you for another time.
And to end, a fine "queimada"
This is the perfect drink to warm the body as night falls, and to digest a long day. Based on grape pomace, it leaves no one indifferent, not even the "meigas", Galician witches. They say this concoction scares them away and wards off curses. It's a story I choose to believe, if only because I love the ritual of reciting the "conxuro" ("spell" in Galician) while drinking down this fiery magic potion.
I hope you enjoy this route but I invite you to improvise as well and make up your own. In Galicia it's hard to choose the wrong place to eat, so just go for it! From traditional Galician "empanada" or pie, to the most exquisite shellfish, there's a whole range of delicacies you'll want to try. I certainly make sure I pay a visit at least once a year.