Thursday, June 30, 2016

5 City Parks to Picnic At in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

I fell in love with the northwest Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela for several reasons when I lived there for two years, not least the glorious granite old town and delicious tradition of free tapas. One big reason I renewed to teach English in the area for a second year—despite two consecutive winter months of endless rain—was the city’s attractive system of public parks. There’s just so many different places you can go to hang out with friends, people-watch, and enjoy a slice of empanada or some fresh local strawberries.

1) The Alameda

Parque da Alameda, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
An abuelo goes on paseo
Santiago’s grandest and oldest city park might seem like an odd place to lay out a picnic blanket; after all, who wants to sit down in the way of all those joggers and fur-coat-wearing old ladies? Yes, most of the park is one big promenade that offers impressive views of the old town and a lovely curated garden. But there’s a small parcel on the far eastern side of the Alameda near a busy intersection with a flat, grassy lawn that’s the perfect spot for people-watching, guitar-playing, and doing handstands. It’s right in front of a high school so it definitely attracts a younger crowd, but every time the sun is out you’ll find folks here basking in the sunshine.

2) Belvís

Parque de Belvís, Santiago de Compostela
Belvís to the south
When I lived in Santiago, Belvís was always my backyard, not only because it was just a one-minute walk from my apartment but also because it had a vast, west-facing hillside that wasn’t too steep. The surrounding area is mostly residential so you’ll avoid all the crowds and tourists, but there are still corner grocery stores close by if you need to pick up drinks and snacks. Bring hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen, as that full Galician sun can be surprisingly strong!

3) Bonaval

Bonaval Park, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
View of the cathedral
I only really started going to Bonaval to lay out in the sun near the end of my two years in Santiago, which is a real shame because this park is both the most “monumental”—surrounded by Gothic and Baroque architecture—and the most beautiful, with lush hydrangea gardens and shaded woods. Shake out a blanket on the lawn above the old monastic cemetery and you’ll have perfect views of the cathedral towers to the west.

4) Galeras

Galeras Park, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Springtime lushness
One of the lesser-known city parks, Galeras offers a tranquil creekside setting nestled in between a forested hill and the old town. Willows and flowering fruit trees make this a pretty refuge to chill out in, but there’s also a plethora of nice cafés and churrerías nearby if you get hungry.

5) Monte Pedroso

Monte Pedroso, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
View of Santiago de Compostela
It might seem odd that I’ve included a mountain on this list, but bear with me here. Right beneath the summit of this imposing mountain you’ll find a park called the Granxa do Xesto that’s replete with grills, fire pits, and picnic tables—all with similar panoramic views of Santiago that you’d get on the mountaintop. And if you don’t feel like dragging blankets and munchies with you uphill, there’s even a freestanding café-bar in the middle of the park!

What park on this list would you most like to have a picnic at? Tell me below in the comments section!
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