Four cinematic reasons to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

The City of the Apostle is, without a doubt, an international reference point for any tourist visiting Spain. Its religious and spiritual aura, its imposing architecture, its renowned gastronomy and even that rain – which is art there – make the Galician capital a highly desirable destination.

For these reasons, all kinds of productions, genres and countries have chosen it to shoot films, shorts, commercials, documentaries and series. Many of them have captured its most monumental side, but many others have also chosen to show its more urban and typically Compostelan side. 

To highlight two of the countries that most love Santiago, the Japanese broadcaster NHK is a regular in the filming of documentaries on the Camino. As did the New York Times in 2014. 

But if that’s still not enough, here are our four reasons for you to visit Santiago de Compostela as a screen tourist. 

1. Because it is the end of the Camino de … Santiago

A high percentage of the productions filmed in Compostela have their origin in the interest of the filmmakers in the Camino. 

One of the films that has best shown this millenary spiritual pilgrimage was “The Way” (2010), directed by and starring two Americans of Spanish origin: Emilio Estévez and Martin Sheen. The impact of this production in the United States further encouraged thousands of their compatriots to follow the Jacobean route that ends, obviously, in the City of the Apostle. 

Recent series such as “El final del Camino” by RTVE (2017) or “3 Caminos” by Amazon (2021) have also shown the cathedral, the Plaza del Obradoiro and the streets of the old town as a destination for pilgrims of all styles. 

Of course, not all the productions filmed in this setting were about the Camino. In 1957, Cary Grant went there to film some scenes of “Pride and Passion”, a film directed by Stanley Kramer and set in the War of Independence. In addition to passing through the Obradoiro in a carriage, Grant filmed inside the Hostal de los Reyes Católicos (now the Parador, considered the oldest hotel in Spain) and in the park of La Alameda, which was also reflected in Michael Powell’s “Honeymoon” (1959).

Among the must-see streets that make up the historic quarter (casco vello in Galician) are the Rúa del Franco, the Rúa Nova and the Rúa del Vilar. The latter is where an exterior of “La piel que habito” (Pedro Almodóvar, 2011) was filmed. A little curiosity that the Santiago de Compostela Film Commission tells us that not many people know about. 

Pedro Almodóvar and Elena Anaya during the filming of “La piel que habito” / Santiago de Compostela Film Commission

2. Because its atmosphere is thrilling at any time of the year

But there is another Santiago that is not that of the cathedral, nor that of the pilgrims, nor that of the Old City. It is the modern Compostela, full of atmosphere (Red Square), romantic corners (the Alameda and Bonaval parks), art and exhibitions (City of Culture) and bars, pubs, restaurants, charming shops and all kinds of surprises for the visitor.

Inside the City of Culture / Santiago Film Commission

Among the films that have managed to capture this less “postcard” version of Santiago is, for example, “Trece campanadas” (Xavier Villaverde, 2002), in which we can see a Santiago at the pace of a thriller starring Luis Tosar, Marta Etura and Juan Diego Botto. Among the most emblematic places featured in this production are the Mercado de Abastos and the Museo del Pueblo Gallego. By the way, the last person to film in this market was the chef Gordon Ramsey, in 2023. There he filmed a chapter dedicated to Galician gastronomy for his series “Gordon, Gino & Fred”. 

The Netflix series “El sabor de las margaritas” (2019), also showed the more urban and modern side that many streets in Santiago have, in a similar vein to “La chica de nieve” in Málaga. 

No matter the date. The streets of Santiago are always full of tourists, pilgrims and university students and there is a suitable atmosphere for everyone. You just have to look for yours.

3. For its ability to become a period city

“El lápiz del carpintero” (Antón Reixa, 2003) is one of the great period productions that used Santiago as a unique setting. Set during the civil war, it is a cult film for Galicians, as it is based on the novel of the same name by Manuel Rivas. 

Curious is the case of another thriller shot in Santiago but set, in this case, in Barcelona in the 1920s and starring Luis Tosar and Michele Jenner. In “La sombra de la ley” (Dani de la Torre, 2018), we see less frequent places on screen such as the Plaza de Cervantes, the Rúa del Preguntoiro and even an old hardware store.

The versatility of its streets makes it ideal for period filming / Santiago de Compostela Film Commission

Netflix also chose the old town and the Alameda for a period filming. “A man of action” (Javier Ruiz, 2022) tells the story of Lucio Urtubia, a bricklayer considered a modern-day “Robin Hood” for swindling the largest bank in the United States to finance the anarchist movement. A film based on real events that was shot in several Galician locations.

4. Because we will see her soon in new productions

Among the latest actors to visit Santiago are Miguel Ángel Silvestre and Pepón Nieto, stars of the Paramount+ series “Los enviados” (Juan José Campanella, 2022). The second season of this fiction series about two priests investigating paranormal phenomena for the Vatican was filmed entirely in Galicia.

The Plaza de Platerías is one of the corners most used by filmmakers / Santiago de Compostela Film Commission

And in the middle of filming the series about “the Asunta case” that Netflix is preparing for next year are Candela Peña (as Rosario Porto) and Tristán Ulloa (as Alfonso Basterra). The famous case of the murder of little Asunta Basterra in 2013 was set in the Galician capital, so the series is being filmed there. 

The latest to disembark in Santiago are Clara Lago and Tamar Novas from Compostela. The popular actors head the cast of “Clans”, the new Netflix series that will tackle the world of drug trafficking in Galicia and revolves around the stormy relationship between a lawyer from Madrid and the son of a drug trafficker. The story, which is being filmed in various locations in Galicia, Malaga, Gibraltar, Algeciras and Madrid, promises to be one of next year’s big premieres. 

If you liked our reasons for “pilgrimage” to Santiago, don’t forget to stamp your “Compostela” as a screen tourist, which you will get by visiting all the locations we suggest. Have a good trip!

By María Parcero

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