Albergues on the Camino: A Constellation of Hospitality

Learn about the Public Network of Albergues on the Camino de Santiago in Galicia.

By Regional Government of Galicia

Albergue de Triacastela (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Since the first pilgrims made their way to Santiago de Compostela in the Middle Ages, they have had one pressing need: to find somewhere to spend the night after a hard day's walk.  

Hostal do Reis Católicos, en Santiago de Compostela (1501)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Throughout the whole of Europe, hospitals mushroomed, spurred by the enthusiasm of former pilgrims and the Christian spirit of pilgrimage. They were maintained by confraternities, institutions belonging to the church, military orders, or by the Crown itself. This is true Hospital Real de Santiago, whose erection was ordered by Catholic Kings and which is a five-star hotel today.

Peregrino delante del albergue de Ribadiso (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

These buildings which tended to pilgrims' every need began losing importance, so much so that they almost disappeared at the beginning of the 19th century. It wasn't until the beginning of the 1960s and 1970s that they started to re-emerge and firmly took root in the Holy Year of 1993.  

Peregrinos en el albergue de Ligonde (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

During that year, in a bid to promote the Camino de Santiago, the Regional Government of Galicia opened its first public albergues. Year after year, new albergues were added to form a public network comprised of over 70 albergues accommodating more than 3,000 people. 

Yellow arrow in a street in Sarria (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

Other public administrations and Jacobean associations built on this effort by opening albergues in other regions in Spain and other European countries. Many private establishments now provide accommodation for pilgrims.

Albergue de Casa Forte de Lusío, en Samos (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Albergues in the Public Albergue Network of the Camino de Santiago in Galicia carry out important work to promote local life, while contributing to reviving historical heritage.  

Peregrina en el albergue de Palas de Rei (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

But above all, they are places where people can meet and travelers from different backgrounds, with different reasons for making the pilgrimage, can share accommodation.  

Peregrina y hospitalera en el albergue de Sarria (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Albergues embody the spirit of the medieval pilgrim hospitals. Their core purpose is hospitality; they are places that welcome travelers and tend to pilgrims' every need.  

As Seixas pilgrims hostel (2011)Original Source: S.A. de Xestión do Plan Xacobeo

Albergues contain dormitories, bathrooms, a kitchen, lounge, and laundry facilities. They also have adapted facilities. Usually reservation is not required, except in the current climate due to Covid-19.

Pilgrims on bicycles in the Triacastela hostel (2007)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Pilgrims wishing to stay in albergues should be aware of the clear pecking order, beginning with people with physical impairments, pilgrims traveling on foot, on horseback, by bike, and lastly those traveling in supported vehicles.   

Sobrado pilgrims hostel (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

In Galicia, there are albergues on all pilgrimage routes. Let's take a look at some of the best:  

Peregrinos en el albergue de Santa Irene (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Historic albergues from 1993 until today

Albergue de O Cebreiro (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

In the Holy Year of 1993, the Regional Government of Galicia created the Public Network of Albergues on the Camino de Santiago by opening several albergues, which are still around today. Many of them serve as focal points for pilgrims, such as the  O Cebreiro, which is located at the beginning of the Camino Francés in Galicia and is  one of the busiest. 

Albergue de Ribadiso (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Ribadiso albergue is located next to the bridge where the Camino Francés crosses the river Iso before reaching Arzúa. It is a peaceful place, and unique in that it is a functioning hospital dating back to  Medieval times. 

Albergue público de peregrinos de Monte do Gozo (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Santiago de Compostela has the largest capacity albergue with 500 beds. It is located in  Monte do Gozo  and welcomes pilgrims from all routes. 

Albergue de Casa Forte de Lusío, en Samos (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Breathing new life into historic buildings

Pilgrim's hostel of Poulo (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

In the last three decades, the Galician albergue network has gone from strength to strength. For Historical buildings from different eras are being repurposed to cater for the ever-increasing need. This is the case with  O Poulo, on the Camino Inglés, the English Camino, for which an old 19th-century rectory house was restored. 

Albergue de Casa de Pasarín, en A Fonsagrada (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Casa de Pasarín, on the Camino Primitivo, dates back to the same century. Careful restoration has brought this emblazoned palatial house back to life in A Fonsagrada. Modernist paintings adorn the base boards in dormitories that have beds and bunk beds for 42 people.  

Albergue de Casa da Torre, en Redondela (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

In Redondela, on the Camino Portugués, the pilgrims' albergue occupies yet another iconic building: the  Casa da Torre. It is a Renaissance palace from the 16th century, one of the finest historical constructions in the town.

Albergue de Triacastela (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Contribution to contemporary architecture

Albergue de O Conco, en Dumbría (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Contributions to the new architectural heritage include the construction of new albergues, where practicality and aesthetics are seamlessly intertwined. Pilgrims following the Camino de Fisterra y Muxía can enjoy a good example of this in the form of   O Conco , in Dumbría, designed by Rosana Pichel.  

Public hostel for pilgrims in Bendoiro, in Lalín (2007)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Many of these hostels have won awards for their contribution to contemporary architecture. Bendoiro, in Lalín, is one such hostel, which was designed by architect  Celestino García Braña over two old houses in the middle of the Vía de la Plata trail.

Sobrado pilgrims hostel (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

A future rooted in history

Palacio episcopal de Diomondi (1170)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

The public network of albergues on the Camino de Santiago in Galicia continues to grow. One example is the future albergue Diomondi , in O Saviñao, the first to provide refuge to pilgrims on the Camino de Invierno. It is being built in what used to be an episcopal palace, adjacent to one of the most renowned romanesque churches of Ribeira Sacra. The future of the Camino de Santiago in Galicia is firmly tied to its history. 

Another example is the Vigo albergue on the Camino Portugués de la Costa, which became part of the network in 2021. It is arranged over two joined buildings with facilities spread over six floors. It is located in O Berbés, the old fishing quarter of the city. A new star in the constellation making up the Network of Public Albergues of the Camino de Santiago in Galicia. 

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