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Santiago de Compostela in 10 Takes

Do you dream of taking home the best photos of Santiago? Buying postcards and books might be the quickest solution, but, if you enjoy taking your own pictures, you shouldn’t hesitate to embark on this eminently photogenic route through Compostela. Here are 10 of its most emblematic subjects.

1. Praza do Obradoiro

We admit you’d be hard put to capture its entirety, as it covers 7,700 square metres. Surrounded by monumental buildings, snapping a whole picture of the Praza do Obradoiro is no mean feat. A wide-angle shot of the portico of the Colexio de San Xerome will yield an image of the Cathedral – cloister and towers included – as well as the Pazo de Xelmírez, the front of the Hostal dos Reis Católicos and the Paxo de Raxoi to the left.

2. Cathedral Facade

The centre of the square is a reasonable viewpoint, as are the arcades of the Pazo de Raxoi, to stand square in front of the Cathedral, if you have a fish-eye lens. But, if you’re looking to take full-length photos with a normal lens, the trick is to go down the stairs of the Rúa de Raxoi, where you get a complete view of the facade with the towers. Ideal for group photos.

3. Goal and Excitement

While its monumental beauty tends to hog everyone’s gaze, the Praza do Obradoiro and its surroundings are indeed the most intensely exciting spots in all Santiago de Compostela. The arrival of pilgrims and the display of satisfaction at having achieved their goal are commonplace scenes in this privileged setting.

4. Bird’s-Eye View

The ascent to the Cathedral Rooftops, 30 metres above the Praza do Obradoiro, affords some of the best views of the squares surrounding the Cathedral, as well as revealing its architectural features and the rooftops and chimney stacks in the old town. The tapestry gallery in the cloister, which can be visited using your museum ticket, provides another fine perspective of the Obradoiro, and of the cityscape south of the Cathedral.

5. The Photogenic Quintana

The stark bareness of the Plaza de la Quintana takes on special significance with the interplay of light on the stone. Noon yields snapshots of the granite in all its hardness. Late afternoon throws the shadows of the spires and lantern of the Cathedral on the wall of the Convento de Antealtares. Night lighting turns the surface into a quasi aquatic medium, like some silent fish tank. You can also get good shots from the Casa da Conga arcades.

6. A Tiny Playhouse

Secluded and motley, the Plaza de las Platerías and its stairs provide splendid group snapshots all day long, thanks to the south-facing portal. In a low-angle shot, the horses on the fountain will seem to graze the Torre del Reloj. To capture the whole square, you have to backpedal to the entrance to the Rúa do Vilar. If you have a wide-angle lens, use the towers to frame the shot. Night light endows the Casa del Cabildo and the stepped cloister tower with a special relief when seen from the church door.

7. Streets and Towers

The rúas (streets) in the monumental site are rich showcases of typical Galician architecture. The Torre de las Campanas or Belltower can be photographed from the middle and upper stretches of the Rúa do Franco. The Rúa do Vilar, flush with the Airas Nunes Café, provides a classic view of the arcades and main facades, with the Torre del Reloj or Clocktower in the background. The parallel street, Rúa Nova, affords a picture postcard view of the porticoed houses around the tower of the Church of Santa María Salomé.

8. The Bountiful Market

Getting back to the historic core, the Mercado de Abastos or market is abuzz with activity, particularly first thing in the morning, suggesting detailed portraits of myriad people and gastronomic delights. Between the green of peppers and turnip greens, the orange of the velvet crabs and the blue of the lobsters, your pictures will look almost aromatic.

9. A Park With a View

You get to Bonaval Park through the Porta do Camiño, between the CGAC and the Convento de Bonaval. There, Álvaro Siza and Isabel Aguirre designed a succession of platforms and terraces which are a delight for any photographer. They are highlighted by the shadows cast by trees, the ruins of old monastic dwellings, the spring, the old cemetery with its lone cypress tree… Late afternoon light is magical, revealing splendid views of the monumental precinct with back lighting. The best time is in autumn, when the landscape is carpeted with yellow, red and brown foliage and branches become denuded, revealing towers and sturdy chimneys in the distance. Extraordinary views of the city from its carballeira and the neighbouring Rúa de Bonaval, which in the afternoon reflects the sun’s rays like no other street.

10. Walkway To A Historic City

By proceeding down the Avenida de Xoán XXIII as far as the transport terminal you get a contrasting image between the contemporary layout of the long steel marquee and the back facade of the Convento de San Francisco. The pergola grows smaller as you approach the monumental area, creating the optical effect of having “entered” the historic city.

How long can you afford to put off enjoying such a beautiful setting, Come on – free up some space on your smartphone and start packing. Check out our flights here.

Text and images: Santiago de Compostela Turismo

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