Situated along both the famed Camino del Cid and the Camino de Santiago, a Pilgrimage stretching all the way from Saint-Pied-du-Port in Western France to the stunning Santiago de Compostela, the town of Santo Domingo de Silos in the Province of Burgos, Castile, and Léon is everything you dreamed a Northern Spanish sleepy town would be.
Shuttered windows, rustic stone walls, and plenty of cobbled lanes: one wander through the town feels akin to stepping back in time. And thanks to its compact nature, the town and surrounding attractions can easily be explored over the course of a day or so.
Today, the town has just a few hundred inhabitants (326 as of the 2010 Census) and is worlds apart from many of the town’s more touristic counterparts elsewhere in the region. Here’s your ultimate guide to the best things to do in Santo Domingo de Silos, as well as travel tips, and what to know before you go!
#ad | This post is sponsored by TRANSROMANICA, the Romanesque Routes of European Heritage as certified by the Council of Europe. All opinions, words, and photos, remains those of the editor.
Best things to do in Santo Domingo de Silos
Monasterio Santo Domingo de Silos (Monastery of Saint Dominic)
Truth be told, the main attraction of the town is the Benedictine monastery around which the rest of the town is built. Complete with cloisters and plenty of stunning Romanesque architecture (which is easily some of the most beautiful in Northern Spain), the Monastery dates all the way back to the 7th-century (i.e. the Visigothic period).
Though the Abbey was named San Sebastián de Silos during the 10th-century, just a few centuries later this was changed for Dominic of Silos, when the King of Castile and Léon at the time (Fernando the Great) entrusted renovation works to Domingo.
By the 18th-century, the Abbey Church had fallen into disrepair and so was largely reconstructed in the Neo-Classical style. Luckily for us, many of the Romanesque features remain in the larger ecclesiastical complex. Unfortunately, funds for renovations ran out, and by 1853, the Abbey was closed.
The Abbey was once more revived by French Benedictine Monks just a few decades later. Today, part of the Monastery has now been transformed into a museum, where you can learn all about the history of living in the Abbey during the Middle Ages, as well as a glimpse into the life of the Brothers who would have resided there in the past.
As well as several historic rooms (including a centuries-old pharmacy boasting an equally old library), there’s a display offering the chance to see some of the greatest treasures housed within the Monastery walls. Guided tours are available for just a few euros, though there are only available in Spanish.
You should also know that the oldest Western manuscript on paper, the Missal of Silos, is also housed within the walls of the Monasterio. Unfortunately, access to the main library is closed to the general public. Other highlights of the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos include a Cypress tree that’s over a hundred years old and painted Medieval Mudéjar ceilings.
Listen to the Gregorian Chants of the Monks from the Monasterio
One of the more unusual things to do in Santo Domingo de Silos is to enjoy the Gregorian Chants of the Abbey Monks. In a somewhat unbelievable claim to fame, the monks actually managed to make it into the British pop charts in the 1990s with recordings of their Chants. Today, services are held six times a day and visitors who attend one of these will be treated to the Chants (which are also known as Vespers).
Iglesia de San Pedro (Church of Saint Peter)
In the very heart of town, right next to the town hall, you’ll soon discover the beautiful church of San Pedro (Saint Peter), which dates back to the 12th-century and contains many Romanesque architectural features. Unfortunately, the ecclesiastical building remained shuttered for the duration of our stay, though it was still pretty beautiful from the outside!
Main town square & town hall
Much of Santo Domingo de Silos is focused around the main town square and town hall, which proudly flies the flag of Spain and stands tall above the rest of the picturesque houses in the square. If you’re feeling a little hungry and are looking for a bite to eat, this is also where you’ll discover a handful of restaurants, as well as a small shop selling essentials such as snacks and toiletries.
Ermita de la Virgen del Camino (Hermitage of the Virgin of the Camino)
Elsewhere on the hill, visitors will soon discover small stations of the Christ, leading their way up the hill and culminating in the Ermita de la Virgen del Camino, a simple chapel dating from the mid-twentieth century that was constructed on the site of a previous place of worship.
Museo Los Sonidos de la Tierra
Address | Calle de Las Condesas 10, Santo Domingo de Silos
During our stay in Santo Domingo de Silos, one of the best-kept secrets was that of the museum. After all, throughout our time exploring the village, we continually spied signs for the ‘Museo’. And though we didn’t get a chance to explore the cultural hub for ourselves, this museum is actually dedicated to musical instruments from around the world.
Other highlights and hidden gems of the town worth checking out include the historic archway and gateway along Calle la Cadena (which can be found steps away from the entrance to the Monastery) and the historic outdoor washing station, which is also located close to the Monastery.
Desfiladero de La Yecla
With eagles soaring overhead and larger than life-sized vultures perched on the rocks above your head, a wander through Desfiladero de La Yecla gorge (which has been carved out by both time and the Mataviejas river) truly is one of the best things to do close to Santo Domingo de Silos. Free to visit (though you’ll need a car so as to explore with the most flexibility), this gorge features a winding pathway set above the rushing water below.
Where to stay in Santo Domingo de Silos
Thanks to the tiny nature of this sleepy village, Santo Domingo de Silos offers just a handful of places to stay in the form of guesthouses and mid-range hotels. We personally stayed at the Hotel Tres Coronas de Silos, which is a traditional Spanish hotel offering laid back rooms in a historic dwelling.
Set against the backdrop of a former mansion house, the history of the building dates all the way back to 1745 and is constructed in the Baroque style, meaning ornate and incredibly sumptuous detailing. Some rooms even offer views onto the main town square.
Things to know before visiting Santo Domingo de Silos
One of the first things I noticed while travelling in more rural parts of Spain is that much of the touristic information available (as well as the guided tour of the Monastery) was actually only available in Spanish. As such, you’ll likely want to take a simple Spanish phrasebook with you to help you on your travels!
Otherwise, you should know that those with dietary requirements may find it a little harder to find dishes to suit their needs; for example, while it is possible to eat vegan and vegetarian in this part of rural Spain, you’ll be consuming a lot of salads and plates of (delicious) vegetables.
While in town, be sure to sample some of the local Tinto de verano. Literally translated as the ‘red wine of the summer,’ this refreshing drink tastes best in situ (or so I’m told!) Created by mixing the local red wine with soda or lemonade, this is one tipple you’ll want to try while on the Romanesque Route.