“Optimists are intrinsically happier and happiness breeds further happiness. Light a candle rather than curse the darkness and do not wait for someone else to light it; do it yourself.” – Natalie Murtagh
I thought it was about time I spoke about the beautiful city in which I live. If it wasn’t for Santiago de Compostela, this little blog probably never would have come to fruition. There are many things to do in Santiago and a lot of them include eating, drinking or visiting churches. Moreover, Santiago is famous because of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela – a walking pilgrimage done by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year. In fact, I’m doing it in June. So, I thought in the run up to my big trip, I’d write a series on Galicia and about the things that you can do after you’ve walked as far as the infamous cathedral or what to do if you’ve simply flown into Santiago for a weekend away.
Ironically, my favourite thing to do in this historic city is to walk. I remember when I first arrived, my Air B’n’B host told me Santiago is really a ‘walking city’, and my oh my, was he right! I never fail to hit 10,000 steps a day here. That’s not because everything is far away, but more because everything is so easily accessible by foot and the parks here are to die for. The city is spotted with parks in every corner – it’s so refreshing to see a busy city that hasn’t covered every piece of land with concrete. So today, I want to walk you through (get it?!… I’m sorry) my favourite parks in this Galician city.
Belvís is just a few steps outside the old town and it is my favourite place to go in the evening at sunset. Not only is it a gorgeous park with sculptures, labyrinths and grassy hills (which I think will be a good spot for sunbathing in the summer months) but it also has the most amazing view of the city. Belvís is situated on one big hill and at the top there is a convent which makes an impressive backdrop. But when you climb the hill and turn around you’ll be awestruck by the fabulous view of Santiago.I love to go just before sunset.
- Vista Alegre
This park is situated behind my house and it has to be the most dynamic park in the world. Inside the park you’ll find the Natural History Museum, the Casa de Europa, a Music academy and the most wonderfully bizarre sculpture/public space I’ve ever seen. I love it. There are no words to describe the crazy sculpture so I’ll just let you have a look at the pictures.
- The Secret Garden of the Old Town
All of the other parks I mention in this post are outside the old town – but my friend Maeve and I found a Secret Garden inside the Old Town where you can go to chill out and read a book. You won’t be doing much walking there because as I said it’s more of a garden than a park. But it’s extremely peaceful and not too many people know about it so more often than not, you’re on your own in there – sitting on the lovely stone benches in front of a gorgeous stone fountain under the ancient trees – it’s a great place to go with a book.
- Parque Granxa do Xesto
This is another small park where you’ll be able to chill rather than run or walk very far. But it’s magnificent because there is a fantastic lake where dozens of ducks, geese and swans live so you can go and feed them, sit on the benches and soak in the nature around you. There’s nothing better than chilling out with mates (aka. the ducks!).
- Parque Alameda
Alameda is a great place to go in the evening times to people-watch. You know I love nothing more than a good people-watching session. Spaniards are famous for their paseo. They spend the evening walking around, drinking coffee or vino/cerveza and talking with friends. They’re an extremely social nation and spend a lot of time out and about. And Alameda is where you’ll see them in their prime with a vibrant view of the cathedral in the background. This is another good park to visit around sunset.
Unfortunately, the Cathedral is being restored at the moment, but I’m sure it will all be worth it in the end!
- Rio Sarela
This is my favourite by far. I’ve posted so many photos of this walk on my instagram and my snapchat (imperfectlyfree). It’s the most peaceful place in Santiago. It’s a hidden gem and definitely my happy place. However, it’s quite difficult to find. It took me about five tries before I discovered the entire walk. If you go to the park on Rúa das Galeras just after Parque Alameda and go into that park, the key is to follow the river. The Galeras park will end and you have to keep following the river. There aren’t any signposts to guide you – so even if you think it must not be the way (I swear sometimes it feels like you’re in someone’s back garden), it probably is the right way! The park passes old country houses, ancient rock paths, and a wild woods following the rushing river and ending up on the other side of the city. The walk to the end and back takes about 1 hour (walking briskly). It’s incredible.
Let me know if you visit any of these gorgeous green areas during your visit to Santiago de Compostela. If you get lost trying to find them snap me (imperfectlyfree) and I’ll try to help!