Christmas is coming, time of happiness, peace and love … Time to share, laugh, eat … and time for self-reflection! And so, in this magical period of the year, I propose to know the magic of pilgrimage the Portuguese Way at Christmas.
Deciding when, which, how and with whom to travel the Camino de Santiago are not trivial matters and more if you decide to embark on an adventure along the Camino at Christmas.
Therefore, I have decided to feed the Christmas spirit and tell what you will find along a dream Camino.
Let’s start at the beginning of a Camino tale. Porto, a Portuguese city full of charm, is the beginning of our Christmas story. While it is true that Porto gives off magic 365 days a year, at Christmas the essence it conveys exceeds our expectations.
On the great avenue called Avenida dos Aliados and just in front of the town hall, the giant Christmas tree announces “o Natal” to visitors and inhabitants of the city. In the historic center, a World Heritage Site, the facades of magical presence are dressed up in lights and ornaments.
From its Ribeira (the riverbank), the aroma of Christmas is perceived with all the senses. Food, crafts and Christmas markets design the path through the cobbled streets of the city. And let’s not forget the Douro River, which also shines; the lights announce Christmas from both sides.
Valença do Miño and Tui
The story continues to be in Portuguese prose in Valença do Minho. Its fortress, initiated at the beginning of the s. XIII shelters the city and offers a sweet chocolate aroma in all its shops to celebrate Christmas.
In addition, the small fortified city welcomes Santa Claus with Duendelandia, a truly magical scene for all ages.
In front of Valença do Miño, is Tui. To cross the Miño river, you can walk over the International Bridge; Crossing it, we continue this Christmas story in new country.
The former capital of the Kingdom of Galicia, Tui, is located in the autonomous community of Galicia, Spain. In it you will feel like part of an aristocratic novel. Its monuments, such as the Cathedral, are in holiday season: lights, ornaments and Christmas show welcome anyone who is encouraged to visit the stone city.
Christmas lights of Vigo
The next stop is Vigo, the city of ten million Christmas lights. The Christmas spirit shines brighter than ever!
A giant 60-meter-tall big wheel offers an incredible panorama of the gleaming city. Moreover, the Christmas tree highlights located in the Porta do Sol; it illuminates the most central streets every year with different lights. The giant snowman on Rosalía de Castro street gives the winter vision. The Christmas ball in Colón street and the giant gift boxes announce the first purchases in the Christmas markets of the Alameda or Príncipe Street. Without a doubt, a path full of varied views with a lot of Christmas charm!
Pontevedra is a historic city, monuments choose its best “clothes” at Christmas to contrast its elegant stone color with the most Christmas tones. Getting lost in its streets is like following a path of lights and Christmas markets that always lead to small and beauty squares. An example is the praza do Teucro, which according to legend receives its name from the founder of the city, Teucro. Yes, Pontevedra is also a place of legends and myths. In the Plaza do Teucro, Nadaladas is established every Christmas, a Christsmas market.
In addition, Pontevedra does not forget the adventurous spirit as it creates a space dedicated to leisure, Nadalocio, with attractions such as the ice rink.
Caldas de Reis
Pilgrimage during Christmas
Although a good chocolate at Christmas is more than welcome, we are in winter and I think that in our story we need a good bath in hot springs in Caldas de Reis. This village is known as the town of the Cilenos, inhabitants that have been taking advantage of the benefits of their natural sources of thermal water since the Bronze Age.
Enjoying the atmosphere of this small and familiar town, visitors are also as a part and participate in Christmas cultural programming.
Music, typical Christmas sweets, theater … and a good bath in its hot springs! Moreover, to taste the typical bread of this area is a must; you can taste it in this town or in the village of Carracedo, belonging to the town hall of Caldas de Reis. In this way we can finish this chapter.
Valga and Padron
moving nativity scene
These two municipalities will be our next story destinations. Valga is a small village of just 6000 inhabitants in which each year they reflect Christmas celebrations in the elaboration of a moving nativity scene.
Year after year, they incorporate new scenes. In fact, it stands out both for its dimensions and for its scenes of religious character and of current issues. Thus, with more than 3000 pieces you will be expectant and enjoying every detail.
After Valga and walking through Pontecesures, you will find the next village, Padrón. Padrón is a historical and very important place to understand the story of the Apostle St. James. As in the previous places, the Christmas festive atmosphere is in every corner of Padrón.
You can enjoy the views of the village from the monastery “Convento do Carme”, you can observe the town from the Convent of Carmen, on the top of the town, and visit the Church of Santiago where the Roman ara is located. According to legend, the disciples Atanasio and Teodoro had tied the stone boat where they transported the remains of Santiago the Apostle to the Roman ara.
Santiago de Compostela always leaves a mark, but at Christmas even more. In each stone and corner, the apostolic city gives off peace, love, solidarity … and a good example are the Christmas dinner of the Paluso family. An act of solidarity and humanity that makes us reflect and appreciate the goodness of people.
The Paluso family ran a bar in Conxo that was forced to close its doors in 2008. Until then, they had been inviting to dinner people without resources since 1994, or to people who didn’t have anyone to spend the Christmas holidays with. Although the bar had to close its doors, these dinners were never stopped serving since, today, all those who want to join the Paluso family continue to join.
On the other hand, the festive atmosphere in Santiago is easily spread. Cultural programming offers endless activities scattered throughout the city; art shows, musical shows, theater, panxoliñas (Christmas song), dances …
The lighting of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and its entire city combine perfectly with the stone color of each building, square, sculpture, park, street …
And without forgetting the Christmas markets! The Mercado da Estrela stands out for being a creative space where you can also taste different gastronomic delights of the local cuisine in a modern format with gourmet foodtrucks and canteens.
On the other hand, the Mercado do Nadal promotes the local market with a social program since even in its space there is a play centre. It is almost impossible to describe what your Christmas story on the Camino will be like.
Even so, I think that a good way to end with one “will continue” is to go to the Plaza de Abastos. There, you will be surrounded by the best fish, seafood, meat, garden products etc. The warm environment will be fantastic! Moreover, you will meet the Apalpador. He is like Galician Santa Claus. The Apalpador is an old coalman from the mountain of O Courel. He goes down the mountain every year to visit children and adults. Thus, during his visit the Apalpador will give the best chestnuts of O Courel and the best wishes for a happy life.