• For 2024 Pilgrims: €50,- donation = 1 year with no ads on the forum + 90% off any 2024 Guide. More here.
    (Discount code sent to you by Private Message after your donation)
  • ⚠️ Emergency contact in Spain - Dial 112 and AlertCops app. More on this here.

Search 69,459 Camino Questions

Curious about the bagpiper in Santiago

JustJack

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF: May/June 2023
VDLP: April/May 2024
In countless videos about the arrival in Santiago we see the bagpiper playing near the entrance to the cathedral square. Just wondering if these pipers are essentially random buskers, or is this an official job that a piper has? I'm assuming they have their pipes case open for donations. Are they Spaniards or Scottish?

I also notice that the piper generally seems to be playing the same song, which has quite a fast tempo. Do they always play the same song? Is there some significance to that particular song?

Perhaps no one pays attention to the piper, but because I took bagpipe lessons for a couple years when I was a kid I tend to notice pipers more. And I am very much looking forward to hearing the sound of those pipes when I arrive. Perhaps as much as seeing the cathedral.
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
I can't really answer your questions, but there is not always a bagpipe player in the tunnel leading to the Cathedral plaza. I have seen other musicians and singers in that spot.

I assume that the bagpipe players are Spanish. The bagpipe or gaita is a traditional instrument in the north of Spain.

 
In my three visits to Santiago there has (at varying times of the day) been a bagpipe player. Whether he is a busker or not I do not know - but I always put a few Euros in his tray. His music is a welcome message to the tired pilgrim.
 
Prepare for your next Camino on Santa Catalina Island, March 17-20
I can't really answer your questions, but there is not always a bagpipe player in the tunnel leading to the Cathedral plaza. I have seen other musicians and singers in that spot.

I assume that the bagpipe players are Spanish. The bagpipe or gaita is a traditional instrument in the north of Spain.

Good to know. I had assumed the piper is a permanent fixture. I'll manage my expectations.
 
In countless videos about the arrival in Santiago we see the bagpiper playing near the entrance to the cathedral square. Just wondering if these pipers are essentially random buskers, or is this an official job that a piper has? I'm assuming they have their pipes case open for donations. Are they Spaniards or Scottish?

I also notice that the piper generally seems to be playing the same song, which has quite a fast tempo. Do they always play the same song? Is there some significance to that particular song?

Perhaps no one pays attention to the piper, but because I took bagpipe lessons for a couple years when I was a kid I tend to notice pipers more. And I am very much looking forward to hearing the sound of those pipes when I arrive. Perhaps as much as seeing the cathedral.
The Galician music has close ties to Irish tradional music. The Galician gaita is the traditional instrument of Galicia and northern Portugal.
Irish TV channels ran a programme some time ago with Irish and Galician musicians in session. The music solidifies the close connections between the Celtic nations.
 
Last edited:
Technical backpack for day trips with backpack cover and internal compartment for the hydration bladder. Ideal daypack for excursions where we need a medium capacity backpack. The back with Air Flow System creates large air channels that will keep our back as cool as possible.

€83,-
In countless videos about the arrival in Santiago we see the bagpiper playing near the entrance to the cathedral square. Just wondering if these pipers are essentially random buskers, or is this an official job that a piper has? I'm assuming they have their pipes case open for donations. Are they Spaniards or Scottish?
Here is an older thread (from 2014) that is probably still relevant with info about the busking world in Santiago.

 
The Galician (Spanish??) bagpipes are of a different construction to the Highland bagpipes so have a different sound. If you happen to have an interest in the subject, you should try to see the World Bagpipes Championship held annually and usually in August in Scotland. The highlight is the massed bands on the last day.


On the other hand, if you hate them, then avoid that time of the year.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
There are several pipers and they do not always play the same tune. I have only seen Galician pipers in SdC. One was instantly recognisable because of his dog. My favourite was a woman.

The galician pipes are similar to highland pipes, but not the same. The chanter has the same range, there are usually three drones (I believe traditionally there was only one), the pitch is different.

I play Uilleann (Irish) pipes which are very different.
 
There are several pipers and they do not always play the same tune. I have only seen Galician pipers in SdC. One was instantly recognisable because of his dog. My favourite was a woman.
There are apparently 12 pipers who are allowed to play under the arch leading to the Obradoiro square. An article from September last year (2021) says: The pipers of the Obradoiro take it in turns. Only the twelve pipers of the Obradoiro square know the crack in the stone in which their "quadrant of the day" is hidden. They play as much as the city council of Santiago allows them to play so as not to deprive the pilgrims of the music of Galicia.

I have no idea what their quadrant of the day can possibly mean. Street music and other street performance is regulated in Santiago. The article is behind a paywall, it is here.
 
Prepare for your next Camino on Santa Catalina Island, March 17-20
I was fortunate enough to hear pipes played in Asturias. I am a musician, but not a piper, and my memory of observations of the Asturian pipes made at the time is that they are different again to the Galician pipes - but I am happy to be corrected on that one. I seem to recall that at the time I thought they had a more mellow sound than the gaita, I guess in a similar way when comparing the Scottish and Irish pipes.
 
Ideal pocket guides for during and after your Camino. Each weighs just 40g (1.4 oz).
In countless videos about the arrival in Santiago we see the bagpiper playing near the entrance to the cathedral square. Just wondering if these pipers are essentially random buskers, or is this an official job that a piper has? I'm assuming they have their pipes case open for donations. Are they Spaniards or Scottish?

I also notice that the piper generally seems to be playing the same song, which has quite a fast tempo. Do they always play the same song? Is there some significance to that particular song?

Perhaps no one pays attention to the piper, but because I took bagpipe lessons for a couple years when I was a kid I tend to notice pipers more. And I am very much looking forward to hearing the sound of those pipes when I arrive. Perhaps as much as seeing the cathedral.
Is this the one?
 
The Galician (Spanish??) bagpipes are of a different construction to the Highland bagpipes so have a different sound. If you happen to have an interest in the subject, you should try to see the World Bagpipes Championship held annually and usually in August in Scotland. The highlight is the massed bands on the last day.


On the other hand, if you hate them, then avoid that time of the year.
Best sound in the world is the sound of the pipes.
 
In countless videos about the arrival in Santiago we see the bagpiper playing near the entrance to the cathedral square. Just wondering if these pipers are essentially random buskers, or is this an official job that a piper has? I'm assuming they have their pipes case open for donations. Are they Spaniards or Scottish?

I also notice that the piper generally seems to be playing the same song, which has quite a fast tempo. Do they always play the same song? Is there some significance to that particular song?

Perhaps no one pays attention to the piper, but because I took bagpipe lessons for a couple years when I was a kid I tend to notice pipers more. And I am very much looking forward to hearing the sound of those pipes when I arrive. Perhaps as much as seeing the cathedral.
I spoke with him as I dropped a few euros in his case. I had assumed he was Scottish but he is Spanish, playing Spanish bagpipes
 
Down bag (90/10 duvet) of 700 fills with 180 g (6.34 ounces) of filling. Mummy-shaped structure, ideal when you are looking for lightness with great heating performance.

€149,-
I don't have the answers - but I had the same questions! I spent 2 nights in Santiago - so I walked through that tunnel a few times. There was always a bagpipe playing when I walked through in the AM and early afternoon. Can't remember for sure - but I don't think he was there in the evening. Anyhow - it was such a special thing to reach Santiago and hear the bagpipes as I approached!
 
I was fortunate enough to hear pipes played in Asturias. I am a musician, but not a piper, and my memory of observations of the Asturian pipes made at the time is that they are different again to the Galician pipes - but I am happy to be corrected on that one. I seem to recall that at the time I thought they had a more mellow sound than the gaita, I guess in a similar way when comparing the Scottish and Irish pipes.
The article that I linked to in post #2 in this thread discusses the different types of bagpipes in the Iberian Peninsula.

I assume that the bagpipe players are Spanish. The bagpipe or gaita is a traditional instrument in the north of Spain.

A Short Overview of the Bagpipes from the Iberian Peninsula
 
A Treasure Trove Of Interesting Pilgrim Hacks! Learn & Share Your Own Too!
I stayed in Santiago for a few days after finishing the CF last October and walked through that passageway multiple times. Each time, there was a different piper, both male and female. Kathar1na’s post about there being 12 pipers bears that out. I arrived around 1400 to the emotional (for me, an Irish-American) tune of the pipes. Then I went to get a bite to eat and my Compostela. When I came back to the cathedral area an hour or two later, there was no piper. I guess they also take a break after lunch! I remember feeling sad for the pilgrims arriving during that lull who didn’t have the same experience I had.
 
In countless videos about the arrival in Santiago we see the bagpiper playing near the entrance to the cathedral square. Just wondering if these pipers are essentially random buskers, or is this an official job that a piper has? I'm assuming they have their pipes case open for donations. Are they Spaniards or Scottish?

I also notice that the piper generally seems to be playing the same song, which has quite a fast tempo. Do they always play the same song? Is there some significance to that particular song?

Perhaps no one pays attention to the piper, but because I took bagpipe lessons for a couple years when I was a kid I tend to notice pipers more. And I am very much looking forward to hearing the sound of those pipes when I arrive. Perhaps as much as seeing the cathedral.
I remember walking down the street towards the tunnel near the church, Pilgrims walking about, the street markets open, and hearing the echo of the bagpipes...a chill ran down my spine. What a way to finish the El Camino. Knowing that you have just arrived, you have completed your goal and are accepted and welcomed by Pilgrims all over the world. How do you top that?
Buen Camino!
 
I love hearing the bagpipes when we walk into the cathedral square. However, in 2013 we stayed at a hotel near the cathedral and the pipes went late into the night. Just about drove us crazy.
 
Ideal sleeping bag liner whether we want to add a thermal plus to our bag, or if we want to use it alone to sleep in shelters or hostels. Thanks to its mummy shape, it adapts perfectly to our body.

€46,-
The Galician (Spanish??) bagpipes are of a different construction to the Highland bagpipes so have a different sound. If you happen to have an interest in the subject, you should try to see the World Bagpipes Championship held annually and usually in August in Scotland. The highlight is the massed bands on the last day.


On the other hand, if you hate them, then avoid that time of the year.
What a fun post to read this morning as I was born and raised in Scotland but live in the US now (still kept my accent 😉) and I really look forward to hearing those bagpipes when my daughter and I walk through that tunnel next year! Cheers 👍🏼😊
 
I don't have the answers - but I had the same questions! I spent 2 nights in Santiago - so I walked through that tunnel a few times. There was always a bagpipe playing when I walked through in the AM and early afternoon. Can't remember for sure - but I don't think he was there in the evening. Anyhow - it was such a special thing to reach Santiago and hear the bagpipes as I approached!
It is special - so special it seems a bit sad there's a thread about it. It's nice to arrive in Santiago (or even walk a camino?) without knowing what's around every corner before you get there : )
 
Very light, comfortable and compressible poncho. Specially designed for protection against water for any activity.

Our Atmospheric H30 poncho offers lightness and waterproofness. Easily compressible and made with our Waterproof fabric, its heat-sealed interior seams guarantee its waterproofness. Includes carrying bag.

€60,-
It is special - so special it seems a bit sad there's a thread about it. It's nice to arrive in Santiago (or even walk a camino?) without knowing what's around every corner before you get there : )
I get that! I kind of felt that way walking last summer. When planning I had watched a LOT of Camino videos. To know what I was getting into, to keep the excitement going... I don't know all of the reasons why, but I did. When I finally got to walk - I wished I hadn't! I knew too much already of what to expect.
 
Much as I respect the cultural significance of the bagpipers, I am always relieved when they take a break.
I too have great respect for Galatian culture. But bagpipes have always sounded like fingernails on a blackboard to me.
 
I always liken it to a cat being strangled, but the familiarity of it does herald the arrival into Santiago, and the first time really adds to the sense of anticipation and wonder as you arrive blinking, onto the square. I guess its quite appropriate, as SdC is the capital of Galicia..
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
It is special - so special it seems a bit sad there's a thread about it. It's nice to arrive in Santiago (or even walk a camino?) without knowing what's around every corner before you get there : )

I get that! I kind of felt that way walking last summer. When planning I had watched a LOT of Camino videos. To know what I was getting into, to keep the excitement going... I don't know all of the reasons why, but I did. When I finally got to walk - I wished I hadn't! I knew too much already of what to expect.

I am so happy that I was ignorant of the YouTube videos, Facebook groups, etc. about the Camino before my first time. They create too many expectations of the "perfect Camino." And the best way to be disappointed in one's experience is to load it up with expectations.
 
It was great to hear the bagpiper as we approached. And it was the same tune as in the video posted above . However, when I returned to Santiago after a trip to Fisterra, I was lucky enough to hear the piper playing "Amazing Grace" instead. A personal favorite!
 
We passed through one town after Ponferada, but before Villafranca that had a Gaita School shingle hanging outside. I remembered thinking that I would not want to stay next door as the noise coming from the learners inside was not all that pleasing...

Also on one occasion while we were in Santiago near where the gaita players are located, there was some kind of scuffle involving one of the musicians. Not sure what was going on, but the police did come and break things up.
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
It is special - so special it seems a bit sad there's a thread about it. It's nice to arrive in Santiago (or even walk a camino?) without knowing what's around every corner before you get there : )
I backpacked around Europe and Asia for years in the 80's and 90's, pre-internet days. And I've traveled equally as much post-internet days. Personally, I prefer the post-internet days, not that I've found there's a big difference. If it weren't for all the camino videos on YouTube I likely would never have heard about this wonderful thing, and it's even less likely I'd actually be doing it. It's up to each individual to keep their expectations in check, and those expectations can be the result of too much pre-trip information, or too little pre-trip information. It works both ways.
 
I backpacked around Europe and Asia for years in the 80's and 90's, pre-internet days. And I've traveled equally as much post-internet days. Personally, I prefer the post-internet days, not that I've found there's a big difference. If it weren't for all the camino videos on YouTube I likely would never have heard about this wonderful thing, and it's even less likely I'd actually be doing it. It's up to each individual to keep their expectations in check, and those expectations can be the result of too much pre-trip information, or too little pre-trip information. It works both ways.
This is very true! I think for me, it was great for giving information and building confidence that I could do it. But I also wish there were more surprises. So - finding the right balance for you is essential! For me, it didn't set up unrealistic expectations in any way - but I just expected all those cool little spots that everyone shows in their videos and would have been nice to stumble upon them and be surprised instead of already knowing they were there.
 
In countless videos about the arrival in Santiago we see the bagpiper playing near the entrance to the cathedral square. Just wondering if these pipers are essentially random buskers, or is this an official job that a piper has? I'm assuming they have their pipes case open for donations. Are they Spaniards or Scottish?

I also notice that the piper generally seems to be playing the same song, which has quite a fast tempo. Do they always play the same song? Is there some significance to that particular song?

Perhaps no one pays attention to the piper, but because I took bagpipe lessons for a couple years when I was a kid I tend to notice pipers more. And I am very much looking forward to hearing the sound of those pipes when I arrive. Perhaps as much as seeing the cathedral.
The best Galician piper is Carlos Nunez who used to play with The Chieftains. He often has concerts in the square in front of Santiago cathedral.
 
Down bag (90/10 duvet) of 700 fills with 180 g (6.34 ounces) of filling. Mummy-shaped structure, ideal when you are looking for lightness with great heating performance.

€149,-
This is very true! I think for me, it was great for giving information and building confidence that I could do it. But I also wish there were more surprises. So - finding the right balance for you is essential! For me, it didn't set up unrealistic expectations in any way - but I just expected all those cool little spots that everyone shows in their videos and would have been nice to stumble upon them and be surprised instead of already knowing they were there.
Totally understandable. However I would also point out that much like watching YouTube videos, reading and posting on this very site can equally ruin those little surprises, as many/most are discussed here. And I think many/most people enjoy reflecting on, and sharing, those special surprises. So unless we remove everyone's internet access we have to simply accept that hidden gems and unexpected surprises will always be shared widely. It's the reality of a connected world, for better or for worse.

But I get your point. Years ago I used to rail against the new generation of backpackers, insisting on keeping in touch with everyone at home and posting every moment of their travels on social media. I would drone on and on, to a disinterested audience, about how much better it was in the good ol' days, when we had to make our way with nothing but an old Lonely Planet guide book to show us the way. The irony didn't escape me that I was complaining about the over-reliance on the internet...on the internet. So it is what it is. The world is hyper-connected and there are few surprise left. I guess that might be part of what makes disconnecting while walking the camino even more unique and special. I'm looking forward to a lot of screen-less time.
 
Ideal pocket guides for during and after your Camino. Each weighs just 40g (1.4 oz).
I was so happy to hear the bagpipes playing when I arrived at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in November 2017.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_7311.MOV
    504.7 MB
3rd Edition. More content, training & pack guides avoid common mistakes, bed bugs etc
I was fortunate enough to hear pipes played in Asturias. I am a musician, but not a piper, and my memory of observations of the Asturian pipes made at the time is that they are different again to the Galician pipes - but I am happy to be corrected on that one. I seem to recall that at the time I thought they had a more mellow sound than the gaita, I guess in a similar way when comparing the Scottish and Irish pipes.

Back from expectations to the subject of bagpipes, I am not a musician and do not know anything about bagpipes, except I have come across them in Scotland and Galicia and we have them too in the traditional music of Brittany. The breton version of bagpipe is called a “biniou”.
 
Here is a link to the article I mentioned earlier but now it is a link without a paywall. Each piper plays for about an hour and a half. The group meets early in the morning and arranges who takes which shift during the day. The tradition of playing under the arch is about 30 years old.

 
They say that a true gentleman is someone who knows how to play the bagpipes, but is polite enough never to do so.
 
Ideal pocket guides for during and after your Camino. Each weighs just 40g (1.4 oz).
When I arrived in Santiago last October, there were a group of walkers who had just arrived in the square with the traditional red scarves and white outfits. They had a piper with them - though you can't see him in the pic I took.

As these musicians are professionals, you should be able to hire one for your (groups) grand entrance into the square. As I expect the group I saw did.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_2785.JPG
    IMG_2785.JPG
    2.2 MB · Views: 10
In my three visits to Santiago there has (at varying times of the day) been a bagpipe player. Whether he is a busker or not I do not know - but I always put a few Euros in his tray. His music is a welcome message to the tired pilgrim.
When I was in Santiago last year, there was a woman piper....
 
The “traditional” Celtic Nations are Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man and Brittany although some debate surrounds their official validity there is also Galicia and Asturias (I personally include them) and all have a version of bagpipes obviously I’m biased and think the Scottish pipes are the best 😉A3EBF4B4-D4D0-4098-96AE-85F598A807A4.jpeg
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
In countless videos about the arrival in Santiago we see the bagpiper playing near the entrance to the cathedral square. Just wondering if these pipers are essentially random buskers, or is this an official job that a piper has? I'm assuming they have their pipes case open for donations. Are they Spaniards or Scottish?

I also notice that the piper generally seems to be playing the same song, which has quite a fast tempo. Do they always play the same song? Is there some significance to that particular song?

Perhaps no one pays attention to the piper, but because I took bagpipe lessons for a couple years when I was a kid I tend to notice pipers more. And I am very much looking forward to hearing the sound of those pipes when I arrive. Perhaps as much as seeing the cathedral.
I believe there is a rota for various performers in the arch. They like it as the acoustics are great. As to the piper himself, the pipes are traditional instruments of Galicia. You can find them at other points along the way in Galiicia. There is a legend that Ireland was colonised by three Galician brothers who brought the pipes with them. Us Irish didnt take to them as they were too hard work so we modified them to the elbow pies that required no blowing. When the brothers reached what is now County Antrim they could see another land to the east so they then arrived in Scotland, once again bringing the pipes with them. It is a great tale but as to its authenticity, who knows. I know there is a project in Santiago University exploring the connections between Galicia, Ireland and Scotland. Apparently, there is a connection in early architecture between all three but the Irish and Scottish development was halted by English invasions which knocked the local cultures off course including outlawing the language. Finally, add the classical singer to your list of things to see and hear. He gives his performance in the evening time and it is fantastic. One of my regrets is not buying his CD to bring home so all my family could enjoy it.. Sorry about this essay when all you asked was a simple question about the piper
 
The “traditional” Celtic Nations are Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man and Brittany although some debate surrounds their official validity there is also Galicia and Asturias (I personally include them) and all have a version of bagpipes obviously I’m biased and think the Scottish pipes are the best 😉View attachment 122791
 
Prepare for your next Camino on Santa Catalina Island, March 17-20

Most read last week in this forum

In The Way the Botafumiero was my highlight but I now read it only gets swung on special holy days. Is that true and I have plan my whole pilgrim trip around one of those days?
This is my 1st time flying into Portugal on my 3 previous Caminos I’ve flown into Madrid gone to Correros and sent a pkg. to Casa Ivar to pick up when I arrived in Santiago. Can I do the same in...

❓How to ask a question

How to post a new question on the Camino Forum.

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Camino Updates on YouTube

Camino Conversations

Most downloaded Resources

This site is run by Ivar at

in Santiago de Compostela.
This site participates in the Amazon Affiliate program, designed to provide a means for Ivar to earn fees by linking to Amazon
Official Camino Passport (Credential) | 2024 Camino Guides
Back
Top