Whether you’ve walked the Camino de Santiago for the first (or the n-th) time, the feeling as you walk through the old streets of Santiago de Compostela, and you catch a glimpse of the towers of the Cathedral, is indescribable. No matter how tired or hurting you are, no one can wipe that big smile off your face as you enter Praza do Obradoiro. YOU MADE IT.
After weeks of walking through the countryside, just putting one foot in front of the other, no one really wants to go home and recommence their old lives. At least not immediately. There is so much to reflect upon. New friends to say goodbye to. A hurting body to take care of.
If you have the time… don’t fly back immediately. Rest in Santiago for a few days and just be gentle with yourself. For a bit of guidance to those who seek it, here are a few tips on what to do (in Santiago) after your Camino to help you ease back into normal life.
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Map of Recommended Accommodations, Points of Interest, Eateries, and Transport
Below is the map of the accommodation, points of interest, eateries. and transport terminals/stops mentioned in this article.
Where to stay in Santiago de Compostela?
For accommodation, as with any other travel expenses, it’s worth shopping around. When we booked our accommodation in Santiago de Compostela, we looked across several booking platforms to find the best value for money option but found in this case that Booking.com offered us the best choice and price point. Wherever you book, do make sure you read the fine print to make sure you compare apples with apples. For example, your stay may incur extra charges (like local tourist taxes or cleaning fees). Some booking platforms include them, while with others, you have to pay them to your host upon arrival. Below are my accommodation recommendations for Santiago de Compostela.
|Apartamento Gallaecia Lux
|Apartamentos Aurelia Antica
|Hotel Atalaia B and B
|Hotel San Miguel
Alternative accommodation options are below.
Where to eat in Santiago?
Right in the middle of it all, on Rúa das Carretas (the same street as the Pilgrim’s Office), we had great pilgrim’s lunches at Restaurante Tarará [Google Maps location] for EUR10. Another good spot, whether to stop and eat lunch or buy fresh produce, is the Mercado de Abastos [Google Maps locaton]. We stocked up there with fresh fish, locally made cheese, veggies and pastries (cooked at our short-term rental accommodation). And if food is your thing, consider booking a private Gastronomical Tour that starts at the Mercado de Abastos or a meal with a local.
Reflect on your Camino
Taking time to reflect upon and digest your Camino experience is so important. Everyone who has walked it says the Camino changes you. And it does, in all sorts of different ways.
I found it hugely helpful to write my thoughts down as we walked… on a daily basis: How easy or difficult was this stage? What pain or discomfort did I encounter? What did I see? Whom did I meet? What did I enjoy and dislike? What did this stage teach me?
Once in Santiago, go through your notes. Reminisce. And think about what you want to take with you into your normal life from here on: Are there any changes you want to make? If so, what steps do you need to take to make those changes?
If you find it difficult to reflect upon/digest your Camino experience on your own, you can get assistance, especially once in Santiago.
For one, there is the Pilgrim Lounge at the Pilgrim’s Office (take the stairs one floor up after you receive your Compostela) [Google Maps location]. Staffed by volunteers who’ve walked the Camino themselves, the lounges provide a safe haven. A place where you can have a cup of tea and chat as much or as little about your Camino experience as you like. There are lounges for different nationalities/languages: German, English, Dutch… But you can go to any one of them, and they will welcome you with open arms.
Secondly, there is the Pilgrim House [Google Maps location], a Christian not-for-profit. The Pilgrim House provides debrief notes in various languages. You can also join the group and/or private debrief sessions as well as reflective meditation sessions. The Pilgrim House offers quiet spaces for personal reflection (which is great if your Albergue is too busy), a communal lounge and kitchen to meet with fellow pilgrims, as well as a laundry and luggage storage service.
Pay your respects to St James
We arrived in Santiago de Compostela just before Easter with what felt like thousands of other pilgrims, especially from other parts of Spain. The queue to enter the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela [Google Maps location] was just ridiculously long. So we waited… Thankfully, we were in Santiago for a few days.
On Easter Monday, we went to the Cathedral when it opened at 0900h, and there was hardly anyone there. We were able to take our time at St James’ tomb and write a thank you note. Light a candle. Stand and kneel in quiet contemplation without feeling rushed. A beautiful experience even for those who are not religious.
It seemed all the weight I had been carrying on my shoulders since Paul’s accident (figuratively and literally) finally came off. I couldn’t help it: Tears just started rolling… Out of gratitude (that we made it). Out of exhaustion (having tried my best to keep it all together for the last 8 months). And out of sadness (that our first Camino experience had come to an end).
When we left the tomb, a small queue had started to form at the staircase leading up to the statue of St James at the main altar. We joined the queue to fulfil the pilgrim’s ritual of embracing the Apostle, but touching the cold metal of the statue didn’t induce the same feelings as being at St James’ tomb.
Alternatively, take the tour of the Cathedral with the option to go up into the portico which includes entrance into the Cathedral and the Museum, the headsets, and the guided tour.
Learn about the pilgrimage and Santiago in the Pilgrimage Museum
Right next to the Cathedral at Praza das Praterías (with the Fountain of the Horses) is the Museo das Peregrinacións [Google Maps location]. Over several floors, you can learn more about the famous pilgrimages around the world, especially the Camino de Santiago, what it was like for the early pilgrims, and the history of Santiago de Compostela itself.
Through the rooftop windows, you get a close-up view of the Cathedral towers. There was even an exhibition about the Kumano Kodo which we completed in 2023.
Visit Finisterre and/or Muxía
Did you know that Kilometre Zero is not in Santiago but in Finisterre [Google Maps location]? If you don’t want to stop walking (just yet) you can continue your Camino for a few more days, to Finisterre or Muxía, or both.
If you don’t want to walk it (or don’t have the time) you can still visit both: on a day trip by bus. While not quite the same as walking it, standing at KM-0, overlooking the sea from the Cape behind the Lighthouse (Faro de Fisterra) or watching the waves crash into the rocks in front of the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Barca in Muxía are very special moments.
More Camino de Santiago articles
- Are you planning your first Camino de Santiago and have gazillion questions as to what to expect? Have a look at the lessons learnt from our first Camino.
- You’d love to do the Camino but can’t or don’t want to average 30 kilometres / 20 miles per day? Read how to tailor the Camino Portugués to your needs.
- Would you like to walk the Camino de Santiago and wonder how much to budget? Check out how much it cost us to walk the Camino Portugués.
- You completed your Camino, now what? Here are five tips that help you digest your experience and gently re-enter life after your Camino.
Recommended movies to provide inspiration for your next trip
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Reward yourself with a massage
Also by the Cathedral in Santiago, in the old Quintana building at Praza da Quintana de Mortos, there is a massage practice in the basement. Quintana Massages [Google Maps location] are open daily from 0900h to 2100h. The one-hour whole-body massage (EUR55) was just the perfect ending to our Camino, loosening up our tight back, leg and foot muscles before we embarked on our next adventure.
Book your spot online and access the building through the Campus Stellae entrance (to the left of the souvenir shop as you face the building). The concierge will let them know you’re there.
Santiago de Compostela is more than just the Cathedral and your accommodation. If you have the energy, go on a private tour of the city choosing the option that best suits your tastes: Old Town, Cathedral and Cathedral Museum or just the Cathedral. You’ll get to know the history of the city and its millenary streets, its secrets in the city centre and know every corner of the beautiful Cathedral and its Museum.
What did you do after completing the Camino de Santiago?
I wrote this list of Camino de Santiago tips based on my own experience. If you have completed the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela as well and you have something to add to this list, please feel free to contact me. If you liked my tips and found them helpful, I would appreciate it if you could share them with your friends and family via the Share buttons below. Even better, link to the page from your personal blog or social media platforms.