Santiago is known worldwide as the end of the Camino but it is also famous for being one of the oldest University cities in Spain. Founded in 1495, the University of Santiago was, for centuries, the most important educational centre in Northwestern Spain and, together with Salamanca and Granada, one of the most renowned universities in the country.
Nowadays it is not as important as it was in the past five centuries but, since it keeps a certain status, it still attracts thousands of students and professors every year, keeping the characteristic atmosphere of the town – a unique mix of pilgrims, students, artists and civil servants alive.
If you have been walking around the old town, you’ve probably visited the Colegio de Fonseca, the palace where the University was founded in the 16th Century and nowadays the headquarters of its library, and maybe you walked by the Medicine or the History Schools. But what you probably don’t know is that on the Southern side of town, behind the Alameda, that park you saw from the Obradoiro Square, there is a whole Campus full of charming early 20th Century architecture and gardens, a place that is definitely worth the walk.
Coming from the old town we strongly recommend to walk across the Alameda park to the viewpoint behind the Rosalia de Castro Monument. From that place there is an impressive view of the Campus, its gardens and its main buildings. And precisely those three buildings just behind the pond are the origin of this area.
For decades the Campus, now officially renamed as Campus Vida while everybody keeps calling it simply The Campus, was known as La Residencia (The Dorms) because that is what those three big buildings from the 1930’s are. So when the Univerity outgrew the old town and a series of schools were built around them the Campus as we know it today was born. That area with the original dorms (there is a fourth one, built in the 80’s behind the stadium), the pond surrounded by huge gingko trees and the stadium were the original core.
From there the Campus kept growing in the following decades: the Observatory and the Auditorium were built in the early 40’s according to the original plan, the Chemistry School was built late in the 40’s in the characteristc (and not appealing at all) pseudo-classical style of the dictatorship years and the Research Council Headquarters was added in the 60’s.
The Law and Political Science Schools are significative examples of the architecture trends of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s while in the last decades a series of research institutes were designed by renowned Galician architects such as the National Architecture Award winner Manuel Gallego (Research Buildings, 1997).
All these schools, research buildings and dormitories are located in a wide green area, bigger than the old town, open to the public and filled with almost hundred-years-old chestnut and oak trees, the perfect place for an urban picnic or for a quiet walk. The Campus has a lively atmosphere, clearly defined by its academic life, but as the gardens, the sports areas and some of the buildings are open to the public it is alway full of compostelanos and tourists too.
So whether you like to have a walk in the park, to attend an outdoors concert (in the summer), to enjoy contemporary architecture or to book a tennis court the Campus is the perfect place. And it is less than ten minutes walking from the old town!