When we talk about the Camino de Santiago, we have to consider that the Way is not just one single route, but many different ones, all connected with the millenary tradition of the same pilgrimage. As we have said many times, each route is unique and has its own charm. Thus, it is very difficult to compare the different paths and choose among them. For this reason, at Galiwonders we have created a list of the 10 most charming cities on the Way of St. James, indicating which route they belong to. Buen Camino!
10 Charming cities on the Camino de Santiago
Often, our pilgrims tell us how fascinated they are to cross such beautiful and different cities along the same route. The incredible variety of landscapes and architectural styles offered by the routes of the Camino de Santiago, allows travelers to immerse themselves in the great past of these cities. The great beauty of these places often leaves them speechless. What a great surprise when, after a long day of walk, you arrive at a charming town! Immediately, you recover the energy needed to enjoy this unexpected and pleasant visit.
In addition, the possibility of crossing the Iberian Peninsula while walking the different routes of the Camino, is one of the best ways to get to know the country and visit it at your own pace. Let’s discover the 10 cities that we believe have a particular charm and that will leave you a wonderful souvenir.
Barcelos on the Portuguese Way
We start our list by a city in the north of Portugal, Barcelos, along the Portuguese Way from O Porto. Famous for the legend of the cock, symbol of the Portuguese country, this city has a strong relationship with the Way of Saint James. According to this medieval legend, in fact, a dead rooster would have saved the life of a pilgrim accused of theft and condemned to be hanged. To prove the pilgrim’s innocence, the rooster (already roasted) would have stood up in front of the judge who had condemned the pilgrim, and started to crow. Amazed by this miracle, the judge released the pilgrim.
In Barcelos, you will have a lot to visit, starting with the Medieval Bridge, built in the 14th century, to facilitate the access to the city. In the gardens in front of the Church dedicated to Santa Maria Mayor, we find Portugal’s most famous pillory, the 16th century Pelourinho de Barcelos. At the highest point of this square you can walk through the current Archaeological Museum of Barcelos where you can find the ruins of the Palace of the Counts of Barcelos, an old castle partly destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. Among the other places of interest in this city we recommend the Cruceiro do Senhor do Gallo, the Town Hall, Largo de Porta Nova, the Baroque Garden, the Bom Jesus da Cruz Temple and Campo da República.
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Baiona on the Portuguese Coastal Way
Known for being a strategic enclave by Arabs and Christians, Baiona is one of the most touristic towns in Galicia and is the starting point of the last 100 km of the Portuguese Coastal Route. South of the Rías Baixas, in the Province of Pontevedra, Baiona has a lot to offer to the pilgrims who end here their stage. The Fortaleza de Monterreal, today the Parador of Baiona, can be walked along its 3 km of wall and offers truly spectacular views. In the distance you can even admire the Cies Islands!
Walking through the old town, declared a Historic-Artistic Site, you will be able to see the excellent state of conservation of the buildings in the center. If you like history, you can visit the replica of the Carabella Pinta that docked here on March 1, 1493. This famous boat reported on one of the most important events in history, the Discovery of America. To enjoy the best views, we also advise you to climb the Virxe de la Roca, a 15-meter monument, which is located at an altitude of 100 meters above the sea level. In your visit to Baiona, you can also cross the Ramallosa Bridge, (symbol of fertility according to legend) and live the spirit of the Arribada festivals. Don’t forget to rest on the beautiful beaches of the area!
Carrión de los Condes on the French Way
In the middle of the French Way, you’ll find the town of Carrión de los Condes which, in medieval times, was an important political, religious, cultural and socio-economic site. A legend tells that during the Napoleonic invasion of 1811, to ensure them a respectful treatment by the French soldiers, the nuns of the Monastery of Santa Clara would have received the invaders offering them chocolate with biscuits.
In Carrión de los Condes, we suggest you to visit the XVI century Renaissance Cloister, the Church of Santiago, a Historic-Artistic Monument since 1931 and Museum of Sacred Art, the Church of Santa María de las Victorias y del Camino, also a historic-artistic monument since 1991 and the Monastery of San Zoilo, founded in the XII century. Furthermore, the Tower of the Church of San Andrés de los Condes, the Church of San Julián and the Monastery of Santa Clara are worth a visit. Moreover, it was here that the most important Jewish neighborhood of Palencia (aljama) was found. Without a doubt, you will not have time to get bored with so many monuments and churches. Enjoy this charming town at the end of your stage!
Lugo in the Primitive Way
Lugo is a city of Roman origin, which has a lot to offer its pilgrims along the Primitive Way. The symbol of the city of Lugo is undoubtedly its Roman Wall, which is still in a perfect state of conservation and can be walked for its entire distance (more than 2 kilometres). Declared a World Heritage Site in 2000, it is twinned with the Great Wall of China. Among the most interesting places in Lugo, we find the 12th century Cathedral, in Romanesque style, the Casa Museo de la Mitra, the Plaza de Santa María, the Plaza Mayor and the City Hall of Lugo.
This city is famous for its tapas, its lively nightlife in the old town and its exquisite gastronomy. Take advantage of this opportunity to enjoy the typical traditional dishes of Galician cuisine while strolling through the beautiful streets of downtown Lugo. This city represents the starting point of the last 100 km of the Primitive Way, but if you have more time, remember that you can start your route in Oviedo. This was the original staring point of the very first camino to Santiago de Compostela.
Betanzos on the English Way
If you are looking for a quieter route (without being too isolated), and with great sceneries, the English Way is the perfect option to reach Santiago. On this Way you will get to know the beautiful town of Betanzos, where you will arrive on your second stage from Ferrol. Its historical center, declared a Historic-Artistic Site, will surprise you with its great heritage value. In fact, many consider Betanzos one of the most beautiful cities in the province of A Coruña. In this city, which was one of the capitals of the Old Kingdom of Galicia, the Knights had a great importance in the Middle Ages.
In your visit to the city do not miss: the Plaza Hermanos García Naveira, where we find the Fountain of Diana Cazadora (a copy of the sculpture “Diana of Versailles” exhibited in the Louvre Museum), the Convent of the Augustinian Recollects, the Bridge of the Vella, the Gates of the City (remains of the old medieval wall), the Plaza de Fernán Pérez de Andrade. Here, you will find the church of San Francisco, the Plaza de la Constitución and the church of Santa María de Azogue. In Betanzos you can also visit the first theme park, the Parque del Pasatiempo, which was born as an encyclopedic park in the 20th century. To make the most of your stay in Betanzos, don’t forget to try its famous tortilla and accompany it with a glass of one of the excellent Galician wines.
Castro Urdiales on the Northern Way
One of the most touristic places in Cantabria, on the Northern Way, is the town of Roman origins called Castro Urdiales. This town has a great historical past that can still be relived by walking through the streets of the old town. Its importance as a fishing and commercial port was central from the twelfth century. Today you can still admire the picturesque port of Castro Urdiales and the charm it maintained over time. On a rocky promontory overlooking the port are the main monuments of the city: the Church of Santa Maria de la Asuncion (13th century), the ruins of the Romanesque Chapel of San Pedro, the Castle which also serves as a lighthouse since 1853 and the Medieval Bridge, also called the Roman Bridge.
Another place that will allow you to observe the bay and the port is the Ermita de Santa Ana. We invite you to discover the historical center and its streets, the Town Hall, visit the gardens of the Ocharán Castle and enjoy the beach of Brazomar, perfect place to rest before your next stage.
Monforte de Lemos on the Winter Way
In the heart of the Ribeira Sacra, you will find Monforte de Lemos, in the middle of the Winter Way. We remind you that the last 100 km of this route start from Monforte but you can walk the complete Winter Way starting in Ponferrada if you have more time. Nowadays, the city of Monforte is known for its relevance in the wine sector, since the Centro del Vino Ribeira Sacra is located here (in a building that was a hospital). However, in addition to its wine tradition, this city has a great medieval past that can still be admired in its historical setting.
The Roman origin of the city is found in the Monte de San Vicente, where you can visit what was a real fortress city, with a castle and a wall with towers: the Monumental Site of San Vicente del Pino. This defensive complex is made up of the Homenaje Tower (30 meters high), the Condal Palace and the Benedictine Monastery. Here you will find the actual Parador de Monforte, a magical place where you can stay on your Luxury Way. If you have time to visit something else during your stay, we recommend: the Convento de las Franciscanas Descalzas o de las Clarisas one of the most important Museums of Sacred Art in Spain, the Medieval Bridge and the Colegio de Nuestra Señora de la Antigua, better known as Los Escolapios.
Muxía on the Camino to Finisterre- Muxía
On the extraordinary Costa de la Morte, you will arrive at the charming village of Muxía at the end of the only route that does not end in Santiago de Compostela, but starts from there, the Finisterre-Muxía Way. Very close to this place is the most western point of Galicia (and also of peninsular Spain), Cape Touriñan. This is an incredible place to enjoy the sunset, especially between March and September.
According to the tradition, it was right in Muxía that the Virgin Mary arrived in a stone boat, to cheer up the Apostle, as his journey finished here. In her honor, the Sanctuary of Virxe da Barca was built. This Sanctuary suffered several reconstructions over the years, as a result of the strong maritime storms to which it was exposed and also because of a devastating fire. If you walk around the Sanctuary you will see that there are different stones surrounding it. These stones have a special meaning linked to the arrival of the Virgin to this place. In fact, they represent the remains of the stone boat in which the Virgin Mary would have arrived to Muxía. Among the monuments worth visiting, we recommend the Romanesque churches in the area, such as Santa Leocadia de Frixe, San Martiño de Ozón, Santa María or Santo Cristovo de Nemiña. You will also like something more modern: the mural of the “Ninja Lady” which represents the great strength and courage of the Galician women.
Cáceres on the Via de la Plata
Cáceres, also of Roman origin, is a city declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is located on the Via de la Plata and will surprise you with its rich medieval heritage. On the highest promontory of the city, you will find the old town, defined by brown and ochre stones, in contrast with the more modern area in the lower part. Much of the charm of this town is due to the palaces and large houses built by the nobles. In this way they wanted to demonstrate the wealth acquired from their travels of conquest in America.
The ideal place to start your visit is the Plaza Mayor, the real center of the historic town of Caceres. Here are located the Town Hall, the Towers de la Hierba and de los Púlpitos, the imposing Tower of Bujaco, and the Ermita de la Paz. In the medieval wall of the city, the Arch of the Star (18th century) stands out. From here you can enter the Plaza de Santa María, one of the most important squares in Cáceres, where the Concathedral of Cáceres is located (XV- XVI century). If you want to enjoy the best views over the city we recommend you to go up to the Belfry. Next to this square, you will find the Plaza de los Golfines where one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, the Palacio de los Golfines de Abajo, is located. The other places worth visiting are: Plaza de San Jorge with the Church of San Francisco Javier, Plaza de las Veletas where you can visit the Museum of Cáceres and the Palacio de las Cigüeñas with its famous Stork Tower.
Comillas on the Lebaniego Way
We finish our list of the 10 charming cities on the Camino de Santiago with the beautiful village of Comillas, on the Lebaniego Way. This is one of the least known Jacobean routes. However, this Camino has a special charm as all the other pilgrimage routes. In Comillas there are some buildings of incredible beauty like the Sobrellano Palace, next to which the Sobrellano Pantheon Chapel was built (conceived as a small cathedral) and the Capricho de Gaudí (Villa Quijano), one of the few works that the artist built outside of Catalonia.
During your visit to the beautiful town of Comillas, you will also be able to discover other interesting places by walking around the old town. For example, the Fountain of the Three Spouts from 1889, which is located in the square with the same name, the Town Hall or the Casa Ocejo. In Comillas there is also a gothic cemetery, considered by many to be the most beautiful in Spain. No doubt its impressive views on the ocean contributed to its fame! At the top of the hill you can also visit the Pontifical University in neo-Gothic-Mudejar style with modernist elements. Enjoy this charming village before your next stage.
So far our recommendations on the charming cities on the Camino de Santiago. And you, what do you think? Write us a comment below with the places you liked the most on the Way of Saint James and which route they belong to. For any information about tailor-made itineraries on the Way, do not hesitate to contact us.
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