In Santiago itself the great cathedral, the goal of the pilgrimage.  Every pilgrim arrives in the square in front of it, called the Plaza Obradoiro, and can gaze up at the beautiful façade with many statues of Santiago himself. 

Pilgrims are normally free to enter the cathedral (though not with their rucksacks).  On St James Day, 25th July, and other holy days, a giant censer,  the Botafumeiro, is swung on ropes from floor to vaults, emitting clouds of incense over the people inside. 

However, please note that for the rest of 2019 (at least), there will be no pilgrim masses held in the Cathedral and sadly no botafumeiro swung. Certain areas of the building will be closed for restoration. A pilgrim mass will still be held every day at noon in the Iglesia de San Francisco very closeby. That said, pilgrims will still be able to access the tomb of St James.

Swinging the Botafumeiro

Things to do in Santiago

There are a plethora of things to do once you reach Compostela. Apart from being a beautiful city in its own right, there are churches, museums, exhibitions which all usually offer a pilgrim discount. And if you're not too exhausted (!), there is some lovely walking around its parks, through its ancient cobbled streets and of course even on to the coast!  The seaside town of Finisterre was once believed to be the end of the world, hence its name, and nowadays offers spectacular views, sweeping beaches and a special mysticism that all camino pilgrims can identify with. 

The CSJ sell a booklet on Santiago city itself, which gives all the details about what there is to do when you get there. Available for just £5 here in our online shop. 

Holy Year Xacobeo 2021

When the feast of St James the Apostle (Santiago) falls on a Sunday, it is said to be a "Holy Year".  Taking place on 25th July, the last Holy Year was in 2010. And after 2021, the next won't be until 2027.  Typically, Holy Years mean a huge surge in the number of camino pilgrims on the road to Santiago. And the city becomes extremely busy, particularly around Easter and the feast of St James itself. 

It is a very exciting time to do your camino and to be in Santiago - but we recommend very strongly that you book your accommodation as far in advance as possible because of the likely increased numbers. 

Top tips:

The Hotel de los Reyes Católicos give away 10 free pilgrim meals three times a day. If you take a photocopy of your Compostela (they will keep it) you can take advantage of this for up to 3 days.  Make sure you queue at the garage door, down the ramp to the left, and collect the meal on a tray from the kitchen.  There is a small dining room set aside.

It also gives you reduced-price access to the Cathedral museum, and is supposed to give access to the refugios for those making the return journey the way they came.

For anyone on pilgrimage to the Cathedral but travelling by air/road/rail etc, it is now possible to buy a Certificate of Visit from the Archicofradia Offices in the Plaza de la Quintana (€3) to commemorate your visit there – please see the Cathedral website.