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Special plan for the protection and restoration of the historic city of Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

In order to face challenges such as urban gentrification, the abandonment of the city centre and the impact of tourism, the City of Santiago de Compostela developed a comprehensive framework for heritage conservation, rehabilitation and urban development policies. The programme aimed to improve housing availability, enhance the quality of life of residents and regenerate open spaces, amongst others.

Santiago de Compostela, a pilgrimage site

Santiago de Compostela (Old Town) was inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1985 under criteria (i), (ii) and (vi). This famous pilgrimage site in north-west Spain became a symbol in the Spanish Christians' struggle against Islam. Destroyed by the Muslims at the end of the 10th century, it was completely rebuilt in the following century. With its Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque buildings, the Old Town of Santiago is one of the world's most beautiful urban areas. The oldest monuments are grouped around the tomb of St James and the cathedral, which contains the remarkable Pórtico de la Gloria.

Special Plan for the Protection and Restoration of the Historic City of Santiago de Compostela 

Widely renowned as a major European pilgrimage site, Santiago de Compostela, like several other World Heritage properties, has become a magnet for mass tourism. The myriad of annual visitors that converge in the city’s historic centre, particularly in the area surrounding the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, is eroding the residential character and threatening the authenticity of the city. Urban gentrification, the abandonment of the city centre by local inhabitants in favour of suburban areas and the consequential increase in social exclusion have highlighted the need for housing rehabilitation and the improvement of open spaces.

In order to address these challenges, the city developed conservation, rehabilitation and urban development policies focused on the city centre within the comprehensive framework of the Special Plan for the Protection and Restoration of the Historic City of Santiago de Compostela. The objectives are to rehabilitate the city’s residential function, improve the population’s living conditions, preserve commercial activities and boost the environmental regeneration of open spaces.

Source: Culture Urban Future, UNESCO, 2016, p. 142. IUAV, report for Study Area 3.

Contribution towards the implementation of the 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape

The initiatives described could contribute to the implementation of the Historic Urban Landscape approach by promoting urban heritage conservation, enhancing local residents’ quality of life and integrating spatial planning and conservation plans.

Historic Urban Landscape Tools

Knowledge and Planning tools Regulatory systems

Contribution towards Sustainable Development

If fully implemented in accordance with the described plans, the initiative could have the potential to contribute towards Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

    • Target 11.3: The initiative aims to enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization by integrating urban development and conservation in a joint vision.
  • Target 11.4: The initiatives aim to strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural heritage
  • Target 11.7: the initiative aims to improve access to safe and accessible public spaces.

Note: the described potential impacts of the projects are only indicative and based on submitted and available information. UNESCO does not endorse the specific initiatives nor ratifies their positive impact.

To learn more

Concello de Santiago (Santiago City Council)

www.santiagodecompostela.orgPazo de Raxoi. Praza do Obradoiro 15705 Santiago de Compostela (A Coruña) Spain

Note: The cases shared in this platform address heritage protection practices in World Heritage sites and beyond. Items being showcased in this website do not entail any type of recognition or inclusion in the World Heritage list or any of its thematic programmes. The practices shared are not assessed in any way by the World Heritage Centre or presented here as model practices nor do they represent complete solutions to heritage management problems. The views expressed by experts and site managers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Heritage Centre. The practices and views shared here are included as a way to provide insights and expand the dialogue on heritage conservation with a view to further urban heritage management practice in general.