Today, I’m sharing with you fun things to do in Santiago de Compostela, Spain with small kids based on my family’s experience on our recent vacation to the capital of Galicia last July 15-18,2021 in the hope that it will help you once you decide to visit Santiago de Compostela with kids in the future.
But first, let me tell you a bit about Santiago de Compostela.
Santiago de Compostela is the capital of Galicia (one of the 17 regions of Spain) and the final destination of the famous Camino de Santiago (Way Of St. James), a leading Catholic pilgrimage route since the 9th century. The city’s old town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
It is 1,088 km from Barcelona with an estimated drive of 10 hours and 56 minutes according to google maps.
But thankfully, our drive to Santiago de Compostela was shorter because it’s close to Asturias, where we stayed for 3 days.
The original plan is to do the Camino de Santiago (French route) by car starting from Roncesvalles and passing by and staying few days in Asturias for my husband’s work.
We were really excited in the beginning and when we started plotting our stops, we realized that doing the Camino would also means changing accommodation every 2 days, if not everyday.
Thankfully, we came to our senses and realized that changing accommodation every 2 days or everyday is not doable with small kids! Or if it is, it would mean STRESS for both kids and adults!
It was really a good decision to skip the Camino de Santiago by car. Despite not doing it, we were still able to do and see a lot of things on our visit to the capital of Galicia with our small kids.
Things To Do In Santiago de Compostela, Spain With Small Kids
1. Visit The Abastos Market (Mercado de Abastos de Santiago de Compostela).
The Mercado de Abastos is the famous food market of Santiago de Compostela and the second most visited place of the city after the Cathedral. This market has been offering fresh, local produce to the people since 1873.
You can find varieties of fresh fish, shellfish, fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, local wines, liquors, honey, artisan bread, and many more.
I’ve read that we can actually buy raw foods from the market, then bring it to a restaurant nearby where they’ll cook the food for you with a charge. But we decided to just eat at one of the restaurants outside the market.
We had fun touring the market, though. My dearest husband had so much fun buying small bottles of local wines and liquors and trying the free samples. I was scared he’ll get drunk early in the morning!
2. Let The Kids Play, Walk, Bike, And Run At Alameda Park.
There are a lot of parks in Santiago de Compostela, but Alameda park is known as the oldest and the most emblematic park of the city. And it’s huge, too, with an area of 85,000 square meters!
Alameda park is on a higher elevation. It has a spectacular view of the Cathedral and parts of the city.
It is definitely the place to go after a long walk, especially for parents who are tired and want to get some rest. You can just let your kids play without worrying about their safety (from cars, etc) while you rest, but of course, without letting them out of your sight.
And it’s a cool place to get some shade and escape from the scourging heat of the summer sun.
Joan Pau had so much fun biking, while Josep was so engrossed with the fountains! He just wouldn’t move, but just keep on staring at the moving water.
Don’t miss taking photos with the famous Las Marias of Alameda park, also known as Las Dos Marias (The Two Marys) located at the entrance of the park.
According to the story, Las Marias were 2 sisters who used to take their daily walk in the park at the same time everyday (2 pm) wearing colorful dresses.
It is believed that the 2 sisters suffered from mental health issues due to their tragic past of the dictatorship during the Franco regime. Click here if you want to read the detailed story of Las Dos Marias.
I just realized that they keep on changing the colors of the sculpture because the colors I saw from the photos on the net were different from the colors I saw on our visit.
- There is a bar close to the entrance of the park where you can take refreshments before proceeding with your tour.
- If you to go to the city with car, you can drive and park close to the park. Parking fee is sooo cheap! My husband took a 2 hours and 15 minutes parking and he paid ……(drum roll please)…….20 cents! Ohhh my, how I wish Barcelona has the same parking fee!
3. Let Them Eat Sweets More Than The Usual Schedule.
Santiago de Compostela is famous for its tarta de Santiago (santiago’s cake), so let the kids eat it for breakfast or any other sweets like churros con chocolate, which we gave our toddlers for breakfast on our second day (only #1 liked it).
Let them eat ice cream, too! We only allow #1 to eat ice cream on Sundays and on special occasions, but when we were in Alameda park, it was scourging hot, so we ordered some ice cream.
My innocent little boy then asked: is it Sunday now? I answered no, but that we can have ice cream because we are on vacation.
Vacations are always the time where we break the healthy eating rules, even if we don’t like to, but we can’t help it! Is our family the only one struggling with this? Or this is your family’s struggle, too?
4. Walk The Last Few Kilometers Of The Camino de Santiago.
To compensate for our unrealized “Camino de Santiago by car” plan, we decided to walk the last few kilometers of the Camino de Santiago from our hotel.
Luckily, the main road close to Gran Hotel Los Abetos (located in San Lazaro) was part of the Camino.
Our hotel was about 5 km from the Cathedral with an estimated 1hr – 1hr 10 minutes walk. But with small kids, we did it for 2 hours and 15 minutes with several stops and just walking slowly. We left our hotel at 10:30 am and arrived in Obradoiro plaza at 12:45 noon.
Following the right direction of “Camino de Santiago” is easy to follow because there are plenty of “scallops signs” as an indication of the path. There are also a lot of pilgrims walking with scallops in their backpacks.
With God’s grace, we will be able to do the Camino de Santiago when kids are bigger. It’s definitely on our bucket list!
- Make sure to bring a huge bottle of water during the Camino and keep hydrating the kids and adults, too.
- Apply sunscreen before leaving the hotel.
- Leave as early as possible to avoid the scourging heat of the sun!
- Make stops in the parks that you’ll pass by along the way and let the kids play for a while.
- Bring toys that will entertain your kids. The 2-wheeled bicycle was truly a game changer for #1 because he had so much fun biking towards the Cathedral.
5. Visit And Pray At The Famous Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.
Visiting the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela with kids is a must! It’s the most visited place in the city, so it goes without saying that you haven’t been to the capital of Galicia if you haven’t been to the Cathedral.
We are supposed to visit the Cathedral on our first day, but because we decided to walk the last few kilometers of the Camino, so we decided to just visit it right after the walk, just like what real pilgrims do.
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is known to be the burial place of St. James The Great, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, and it is the final destination of the famous Camino de Santiago.
The Cathedral has no entrance fee and there are constant masses and confession schedules. Speaking of schedules, my Filipino heart was so happy when I saw that there’s a confession schedule in Filipino. Filipinos are indeed everywhere! We were not able to go to confession, though, because there was no schedule during our visit.
Our visit to Santiago de Compostela is very memorable to me because we saw a woman begging at the entrance of the Cathedral. The note in her placard said that she is a Galician woman with cancer. 🙁
We gave her some coins and she offered that we can leave the bicycle on the side of the entrance and she’s going to take care of it. After the Cathedral visit, we came to get the bike.
We asked #1 to give her more coins and to say “thank you for taking care of my bike”. The woman started to cry and up to this day, I still remember and pray for her. How I wish, we have given her more. I feel guilty and sad everytime I remember her. God bless her.
There is a 12 noon Mass on Sundays in the Cathedral, but if you want to attend, you have to come at least 1 hour before the time to make sure that you’ll make it on time. We came at around 11:50 am and the line was sooo long, it reached the other end of the Cathedral’s plaza!
6. Try The Local Food And Order A Mariscada.
Santiago de Compostela is famous for its fresh fish and seafood. So it’s time to treat your family to a seafood feast!
Make sure to try its famous pulpo a la gallega, also known as pulpo a feira, a dish made of octopus, very common in restaurants and bars.
Try percebes, too. It’s the first time that I have tasted and heard of it. It’s delicious!
My husband had been telling me on our first day that we should try it and explained to me that it’s difficult to collect because it’s located in rocks where the waves hit. So, the catchers of percebes have to be very quick in collecting them and make sure that they’re out before the wave hits. How risky!
Don’t forget to try zamburiñas (scallops), too. So much seafood to try in Santiago de Compostela!
And of course, make sure to order a mariscada (seafood platter), preferably for lunch because it’s on the heavy side. Pilgrims usually treat themselves to a feast after finally arriving at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela after the long journey. So, we decided to have mariscada for lunch after doing our “mini Camino de Santiago” to get the “pilgrims” vibe!
There’s a lot of restaurants close to the Cathedral, just keep on exploring until you find one with a vacant table (they get full easily). We luckily found one with an available table outside (others were just standing on the side while having their drinks).
The waiter came with a huge platter of seafood that even the woman on the neighboring table was impressed that she asked permission from us to take a photo of the mariscada. 🙂 Even if it was a huge portion, my husband and I ate them all and it doesn’t feel as heavy as eating a platter of meat.
7. Explore And Enjoy The Amenities Of Your Accommodation.
Exploring and enjoying our accommodation is always a part of our to-do list in every vacation. We always try to spend at least half a day (better if it can be one day) just staying and resting in the hotel while exploring and enjoying its amenities.
My husband is not into the idea of us traveling while kids are small, let alone long international flights (we had a bad experience on our first international travel with a kid), but I always insist that we have to at least explore Spain even when kids are still small.
So, this to-do list was originally for my husband, so he can relax after a long drive and before driving back again. But it has already become a must in every vacation and I actually love it because it makes the trip less stressful for both kids and adults. Gone are the days of fast-paced travel!
The husband was so impressed that I booked at Gran Hotel Los Abetos. It’s a family-friendly hotel that is situated on a hill with a beautiful, well-kept garden with a pond full of small frogs. It was pure joy watching #1 having so much fun chasing frogs.
My husband had a good time ordering different local drinks every night in the hotel’s bar before going to sleep.
The hotel has a pool, too, and we were very excited to enjoy the water. But when we went, the woman in charge told us that the pool was already full for the entire time slot and that we need to make a reservation to be able to use it. 🙁
Make sure to make an inquiry in the reception about the different amenities that you want to avail of. Most need reservations due to COVID19.
8. Visit And Attend Mass At San Francisco Church (Iglesia de San Francisco)
We were looking for another Mass since we were not able to enter the Cathedral for the 12-noon mass due to its long queue. Google maps pointed us to San Francisco Church and because we were with a stroller, so we took the longer route.
Attending Mass on Sundays even when traveling with toddlers is a must for us, and it’s also a good way of visiting and discovering new churches during vacations.
Then after the Mass, we realized that the church was just on the end of the left side street of the Cathedral (Rua do Campiño de San Francisco). We were actually happy to be brought to this church unplanned because we were able to have the sacrament of confession, too.
According to history, the whole Convent of San Francisco was founded by St. Francis of Assisi after completing the Camino de Santiago in 1214, while the present-day church was built between 1742 and 1749.
9. Take The Tourism Train.
This is the last activity that we did before leaving Santiago de Compostela.
After attending the Mass in San Francisco Church, we had lunch in one of the small restaurants along Rua do Campiño de San Francisco, then I suggested that we take the tourism train.
My husband was hesitant at first, but I insisted. Thank God it was a cloud day, so it was not very hot outside.
We loved the train ride! #1 was so focused on the ride and made sure that his headphone was on his ears all the time! #2 fall asleep in the first 5 minutes of the ride.:)
Approach the driver of the train and inform her/him that you have a stroller, so she/he can direct you on what to do.
We thought that we can’t take the train since we have a stroller, but we approach the driver and asked if it’s possible for us to take the train. She said yes and asked the male crew to help us find a space for our stroller.
Santiago de Compostela is definitely a beautiful destination for a family vacation in Spain. Even if you can’t make the famous Camino de Santiago, but there are still a lot of things that you can do with your kids.
We had 2 days and a half to explore the city with our toddlers. It is just the right span of time to roam around and enjoy the city at a slow pace. Fast-paced travel with small kids is a no-no for us (and for all parents, I guess).
We realized on this vacation that our family is not for long vacations. The combined Asturias and Santiago de Compostela vacation is a total of 8 days, but on our 2nd day in Santiago de Compostela, #1 was already saying “anem a casa” (let’s go home).
The same thing happened when we went camping in Vall d’ Aran when we still had 1 kid and on the 3rd day, my husband and I were already looking forward to going home.
Are you planning to visit Santiago de Compostela with toddlers soon? When? What is your priority of things to do and see?
Or have you been there? What’s your most favorite thing to see and do?