Arrival in Santiago at festival times
Arriving in Santiago de Compostela is always a magical and emotional moment for pilgrims who travel on the Camino de Santiago, however, arriving in the city in one of its festivals makes the moment even more unforgettable. In this article, we want to tell you what are the most interesting dates to arrive in Santiago and enjoy its popular holidays
Festivities in honour of Santiago the Apostle: July 25th
Undoubtedly one of the festivals that pilgrims will enjoy the most is that which is celebrated in Compostela during the second half of July, on the occasion of the day in honour of Santiago the Apostle. If you want to know more about the history of Santiago the Apostle and why the feast day takes place that date, be sure to consult our article on the life and death of the saint.
The festivities in honour of Santiago the Apostle are one of the largest celebrations in all Galicia, as the apostle is considered patron of Galicia and of Spain. For approximately 15 days in the city, there are all kinds of cultural activities: theatre, dances, regional costumes and many acts in which music has the main role. On these days, the city also concentrates numerous activities related to the Galicia National Day.
24th and 25th July in Santiago
However, the biggest days are July 24th and 25th, as July 25th is a holiday throughout the Galician community. On the night of July 24th, an impressive fireworks show takes place in Santiago Castle, where the façade of the Cathedral is depicted. On July 25th, a solemn mass is celebrated in honour of the Apostle, during which you can see the “Botafumeiro” in operation.
Unmissable! If you want to enjoy this great celebration, we recommend planning the Camino de Santiago from Sarria on these dates. Tell us a little more about your plans and we will contact you to help you organize the best of trips.
The closure of the festivities
Also noteworthy is the closure of the festivities, on July 31st. On that night, there is an impressive show in which audiovisual elements are combined with pyrotechnics, and is visible both from the Plaza del Obradoiro itself and from different points of the city.
If it falls on a Sunday
Finally, we’d like to point out that if you arrive in Compostela during the festivities of Santiago the Apostle Santiago and that year is a Jubilee year (July 25th falls on Sunday) everything will be even more impressive. In the Jubilee years, the festivities are especially grand and the influx of pilgrims is also much greater.
Ascension feast days in Santiago
The celebration of the Ascension is the second most important festival in Santiago de Compostela. These feast days commemorate the Lord’s ascension to heaven in the presence of his disciples.
The festivities are held on the sixth Thursday after Easter. Given Easter is not performed every year on the same date, the Ascension feast days are also variable.
Generally, this celebration coincides with the end of the academic year, between May and June, and lasts about a week. However, we advise you to check each year on the dates, if you plan to arrive in Santiago to enjoy the Ascension feast days.
In these festivals, in the carballeira (Oak woods) of Santa Susana, numerous stalls are installed where portions of “Pulpo a Feira” are served. During the holidays, it’s traditional to eat this dish, so you’ll find crowded Octopus stalls.
In addition to Galician gastronomy and wine, you can enjoy a wide programme of recreational and cultural activities. One of the most emblematic moments of these festivities is its opening, which is held with a popular parade of papier-mache bigheads.
On the same dates, a major cattle fair is held in the city, where horseback shows are held. To enjoy this livestock fair, you will have to go to the Amio fairgrounds, located on the outskirts of the city.
Other interesting dates to arrive in Santiago
The above are just two of the most famous festivals held in Santiago de Compostela. However, the city has many interesting dates in which getting to Santiago will allow you to enjoy many activities, both cultural and religious. They are always celebrating something!
Therefore, no matter what time of year you are planning to do the Camino de Santiago, it is very easy for your arrival in Compostela to coincide with some festival. Here are other interesting dates to get to Santiago on festive days.
Finishing the Camino de Santiago in November
November is a good month to reach the apostle’s tomb. At that time Santiago celebrates its famous Magostos and, as in other communities, there are also events on the occasion of the Day of the Dead, both of which are interesting festivities.
Feast days of All Saints Day and All souls Day
On the feast day of the Deceased, on November 1st and 2nd, and if you are in Santiago de Compostela, do not miss the Boisaca Cemetery. Like other cemeteries in Spain, you’ll find it dressed in flowers on these days.
On this date, you can also enjoy two traditional sweets: “Los Huesos del Santo” (Saint’s bones) and “Buñuelos” (Fritters). The Saint’s bones are made with marzipan and filled with angel hair or sweet egg yolk. Fritters are balls of fried flour, stuffed with pastry cream.
Magosto: The Chestnut festival
In addition to the festivities of All Saints and All Souls, in November you will find all the city celebrating the Magosto. At this time the locals celebrate their harvest.
During the Magosto the locals gather, next to a fire, to eat roasted chestnuts, which accompany other typical dishes such as empanadas, wine and queimada. Traditional Galician music accompanies these popular encounters.
The Camino de Santiago at Christmas
Christmas in Santiago de Compostela is also special. On these dates, you will find many Nativity scenes that are displayed in churches and associations. Particularly noteworthy is the Nativity scene found in the Church of St. Augustine.
In addition to the traditional Christmas-related festivities, the Offering to the Apostle is celebrated on 30th December in Santiago de Compostela. On that day the transfer of the remains of Santiago the Apostle to the Cathedral is commemorated with a mass.
Carnival in Santiago de Compostela, as in the rest of Spain, is associated with Holy Week. Therefore, its date is variable. They are usually held between February and March. If you plan to visit the city in these dates, find out about the festivities.
In addition to the classic events associated with Carnival, what distinguishes these festivals in Santiago is its strong ancestral character, since to a large extent, the carnival is linked to the festivities at the end of winter.
An emblematic act, framed within the Carnival is the Entroidos dos Xenerais, festivals that are almost two centuries old. In this celebration the Xenerais, the most emblematic characters of the festival, are adorned with bright colours and elaborate costumes.
The parade of the Xenerais and their horses is accompanied by a huge display of groups, musical events and choirs. This festival that takes place on the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela, is so emblematic that in 2013 it was declared a Festival of Tourist Interest.
Holy week in Santiago
If you like church music we recommend that you plan your arrival in Santiago during Easter. For more than a week there are numerous concerts of church music in the churches of Santiago.
The processions, as in other cities in Spain, flood the obscured streets of Compostela. In total, the city has 13 brotherhoods. The most outstanding are those of the Caldiños Descalzos, which is celebrated on Holy Thursday, or that of the Students, which is held on Holy Wednesday.
May 17th: A festival for lovers of literature
On May 17th, the Día das Letras Galegas (Galician Literature Day) is celebrated in Galicia. This festival, every year, is dedicated to a writer whose literary creation was in Galician.
Since 1963, with the publication of the first copy of the book “Galician Cantares” by Rosalía de Castro, you can always smell a book in Santiago de Compostela.
This is certainly one of those interesting dates to get to Santiago, especially for lovers of literature. During 17th May, in Santiago, there are readings of texts, plays, book markets and endless activities designed to publicize the figure of the author to which the day is honoured.
The magical night of Saint John in Compostela
Saint John’s night is magical in almost every corner of Spain. However, on the Camino de Santiago it is even more so. The legends of witches (meigas) that envelop Galicia give, if it can be, an even more magical character to this special celebration.
If you are lucky enough to arrive in Santiago on these dates, you can enjoy a multitude of bonfires (cacharelas) that take place throughout the city. And you can also taste its exquisite grilled sardines, typical of that night.
Another place very close to Santiago de Compostela where the night of San Juan is especially attractive to pilgrims is in Arzúa. If you don’t have time to get to Santiago on June 23rd but you’re doing the Camino Frances, Arzúa is a good place to spend that magical night.
Neighbourhood festivities in Santiago
In addition to all the festivals we have talked about so far, Santiago has something even more magical: the emblematic neighbourhood parties. They are much smaller celebrations but equally full of tradition and fun.
The festivities of San Pedro, Rúa Nova de Abaixo or Sar are just a few examples. Between April and May, the festivities in the neighbourhood of San Lázaro, located at the foot of the Camino de Santiago, are celebrated at the entrance of the city.
This pilgrimage has a religious character, but also gastronomic. In addition to the processions associated with the saint, at these dates, it is typical to eat pork hooves accompanied by turnip tops.
These are the festivities of Santiago de Compostela. Doing the Camino de Santiago is a magnificent experience and concluding it with your arrival in Santiago on festive dates is even more so.
However, if you can’t get to Santiago on any of these interesting dates, don’t worry, because the city has endless things to offer you, in addition to its parties. In this article about what to see in Santiago, you will find many other plans for your days in Santiago.
If you are thinking of doing the Camino de Santiago and want information about dates, interesting festivities, or that we help you organize your trips, do not hesitate to contact us. You can write to us on our Facebook, on our contact page, or you can on the comments part of this post.