If you stay in albergues, you will usually eat in bars or restaurants, although a few albergues offer a communal breakfast or dinner. Use a guidebook to plan ahead for places to eat or shop for food. Don’t forget bars often don’t open until 8 or 9 am and shops will be closed from lunchtime until late afternoon. It is best to carry a small quantity of food that doesn’t need refrigeration - choose from fresh or dried fruit, nuts, cereal bars, bread, cheese, tinned sardines - to eat as snacks or as a makeshift breakfast or picnic lunch in case bars or shops are closed when you walk past.

Some albergues have kitchens open to pilgrims but can be poorly equipped with utensils; it is best to check the facilities before planning what to cook and shopping for ingredients. Also you may discover items left by other pilgrims which you can use, like open packets of rice or pasta. There are supermarkets in the larger towns, but the shops in small villages will have a more limited choice of foodstuffs.

You are likely to find variants on the following in the bars and restaurants along the Camino Francés:

Breakfast  - Bread/toast with jam, pastries, churros (long fried doughnuts), coffee, tea, hot chocolate, fruit juice.

Lunch/snacks - Tortilla (egg and potato flan), salad, bocadillos (baguette-style rolls with various fillings, usually cheese or ham), soup, empanada (a square piece of a large pie, usually filled with tuna or cod in tomato sauce). Or if you are very hungry, have the 3 course menú del día available from 2 pm onwards.

Dinner - Menú del Peregrino - 3 course set meal, very similar to menú del día. Here is an idea of what choices you may be offered, sometimes there is a choice of dishes, sometimes not.

  • Starters: Soup (lentil, garlic, bean), mixed salad, pasta with tomato sauce, vegetables which can include menestra de verduras (a sort of stew or thick soup), green beans or peas with garlic and ham or chorizo, vegetables in season, such as asparagus..
  • Mains: Meat (Chicken, beef - usually stew, pork, meatballs, sausage, chorizo, lamb, rabbit), eggs, fish (trout, hake, salmon, tuna), usually served with chips or sometimes boiled potatoes.
  • Desserts: Yoghurt, various custard-style desserts (cuajada, natillas, flan), ice cream, fresh or tinned fruit, rice pudding, cakes, cheesecake,

The menú del peregrino usually includes bread and either wine or water, and is served from around 7pm to ensure tired pilgrims can be back in their bunks for 10pm lights out.

If you are having a rest day and are staying somewhere other than a refugio, you can treat yourself to dinner or tapas at the more conventional 9pm onwards and enjoy a wider selection of food.

There are a lot of traditional local dishes to try if you get the opportunity:

Pamplona & Navarra - pimientos de piquillo (long red peppers), white beans, chistorra sausage, trout, cuajada (sweetened creamy cheese traditionally made from ewe’s milk), pacharán (fruit/anise liqueur).

Basque Country - pintxos small tapa-like plates of local meat, seafood and vegetable delicacies; txakoli the Basque wine.

Logroňo - famous for tapas bars, Rioja wine.

Burgos - morcilla blood sausage

Astorga and La Maragatería region - cocido maragato (a stew of many different pork cuts, traditionally separated after cooking and served meat first, followed by vegetable and chickpeas and finally noodle soup made from the broth). Astorga is famous for its chocolate.

Galicia - caldo gallego (a filling stew/soup of greens, potato and meat), tarta santiago almond cake, pulpo a la gallega (octopus served on potatoes with paprika), creamy white cheeses, pimientos de padrón (small green peppers served fried),some sweet and some fiery, bacalao (salt cod), steaks, cider.