Famed for its fabulous cathedral and as the Way of St James pilgrimage terminus, Santiago de Compostela is a cultured hot spot. The capital of Galicia was nominated a European City of Culture in 2000 and is easy on the eye. What’s more, this region of northwest Spain is rich and diverse, with ancient villages and a beautiful stretch of coastline to take in. So once you’ve visited the 11th century cathedral and palaces, hit the road and explore.
Who to Book With
Atesa, Avis and Hertz provide car rental at Santiago de Compostela Airport as well as at outlets right in the town should you prefer not to drive on arrival. Europcar has a booth at the airport or you can choose where you want to pick up when you book online via our comparator site.
Best Time to Go
Santiago de Compostela is wet, wet, wet! It rains for most of the year, but especially during the mild winter months, though less so in the spring and the autumn. Good rates can be had at this time, however. July is hot and busy during the Feast of Santiago, so consider visiting in May or September for quieter roads and fair weather.
Need to Know Essentials
When picking up car hire, have the following documents to hand:
- A United Kingdom driver’s licence and your passport
- The credit card you used to book the vehicle
- The confirmed reservation printed out
For more info, read our FAQs page.
Santiago de Compostela is well served by motorway and has main routes to nearby towns at all compass points. La Coruna, Lugo and Vigo are all well connected and you can take in the Galician coast on a number of looping drives from town. A car is useful if staying out of town.
Our Guide to Spain contains more detailed driving information.
Santiago de Compostela is fairly large but has a decent public transport network which is chiefly comprised of bus networks. It’s best to stay close to the city centre, however, as parking right in town can be a headache, although everything is within walking distance. Having car rental is a must for exploring the rugged Galician coastline and nearby vineyards and villages.
Regular RENFE rail services bring in visitors from the surrounding towns and from Madrid and are the best form of transport for those who prefer not to fly or are already in a nearby town. There is no metro system in Santiago de Compostela, but the core is easy enough to discover on foot or by bicycle.
Bus travel is the mainstay of public transport, with routings all over the city. Buses are clean, air-conditioned and low to the ground, and you can buy tickets per ride (£0.85) or on a pass with the bono system (£0.50 each plus £2.55 returnable deposit). Tourists should look for Tralusa bus number 5, which takes in the town centre from the bus station. Long distance Arriva and Monbus services come in from other Galicia towns, while Alsa services Spanish locations farther afield.
Santiago taxis are numerous and can be hailed or taken from a taxi stand. Even so, services are stretched during big religious events, such as the Feast of Santiago, when it’s best to pre-book. Taxis are metered and fairly priced, with the journey between the airport and the two around £17, and drivers are usually accommodating. Try Taxi Galicia (+34 611 000 000) or Servitaxis (+34 619 185 575).
Although hardly out there on a limb, the Galicia region of Spain is remoter than most Spanish holiday spots and as such is an attraction for drivers. There are plenty of ancient villages to check out in this area along with a lonely, lush coastline and the intriguing towns of La Coruna and Lugo.
La Coruna – This fine city to the north of Santiago de Compostela is best known for the world’s oldest working lighthouse, the Tower of Hercules. The town is wonderfully strewn across a picturesque peninsula and has a couple of nice beaches and a fine promenade. Keep an eye out for the galerías window balconies.
Albariño Vineyards – The drive around this area—southwest of Santiago—is very pleasant. Simply head south along the A-9 motorway and then west along the PO-300 and Rua Cruz where the region is peppered with vineyards, woods and quaint villages. If you have time, head southeast to Ribadavia for its castle and plaza or perhaps to the village of Samos, a bit farther east.
Finisterre – An hour or so west of town on the coast is ‘end of the world’, Finisterre. It is one of Europe’s most western points and an alternative pilgrimage terminus and launch point for a drive along the coast. The rugged Costa da Morte (Death Coast) stretches from here to La Coruna and has some incredible scenery that is bolstered by steep cliffs and myriad lighthouses. Alternatively, head south to the Corrubedo dune complex and the Vixán lagoon.
Lugo – Hit the loop to Lugo by car hire and waltz along its preserved Roman walls, a UNESCO World Heritage site. They go right around the town and stand around 15m high. On the way back to Santiago de Compostela, be sure to take the direct route through the countryside.