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Experiencing the Festival of St James in Santiago de Compostela

Kimxyz

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Somewhere July 23
Greetings and Salutations! I wanting to walk the Spiritual Variant (Starting in VIGO). I am considering timing my trip to end in Santiago for the Festival of St James. Can you share your experience with being in Santiago dC at that time? Is it so crazy busy that you cannot get into the mass or restaurants? I am thinking I would like to go to the Festival, but worried that treking in late July it maybe too hot. Is it worth it to be in SdC for the Festival? THanks for sharing your experience. Kimberly
 
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I was in Santiago just before the festival of St. James. It was definitely very hot at that time of year. I can't advise you on accommodation because I stayed with a friend. There is a lead up to the festival with group performances in some of the squares and so you don't have to be there on a single day.

Actually I was in Santiago at that time by accident as opposed to being there for the festival of St. James and I left the day before the festival because I needed to catch my plane back to Auckland.

The pre-festival activities were well worth attending and so the festival day itself is probably even better.
 
Festival of St James. Can you share your experience with being in Santiago dC at that time? Is it so crazy busy that you cannot get into the mass or restaurants?
Forum moderator @natefaith who lives in Santiago posted this last year: One thing to note is that the big light show and fireworks are always set for July 24. While July 25 is the actual holiday, it’s very quiet that day in town and shops are usually closed. But the big celebrations happen the night before, the 24th. And there will be outdoor concerts and events leading up to that.

As to "getting into mass", that is actually a good question. I'd be curious to know the answer. You may know that there are many masses that one can get into in Santiago. At the cathedral itself, usually four pilgrim masses are celebrated every day at the main altar: at 7:30, at 9:30, at 12:00 and at 19:30. I am confident that you will get into one of them if it is important to you to attend mass at the cathedral on July 25.

Exceptionally, on July 25, the mass at noon starts at 12:30 and it is not labelled as a pilgrim mass but as a Misa estacional. The Botafumeiro will swing. Large areas of the square in front of the Cathedral are cordonned off while a military ceremony takes place. Government representatives are lined up, sometimes the King and Queen of Spain are present. At the end of this ceremony on the square they all walk up the large stairs to enter the cathedral through portals that are otherwise closed for pilgrims and tourists all year round. I wonder whether one needs an invitation or a ticket to attend this special mass, and if so, whether it is reserved for the people of Santiago and of Galicia. Does anyone know?
 
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Greetings and Salutations! I wanting to walk the Spiritual Variant (Starting in VIGO). I am considering timing my trip to end in Santiago for the Festival of St James. Can you share your experience with being in Santiago dC at that time? Is it so crazy busy that you cannot get into the mass or restaurants? I am thinking I would like to go to the Festival, but worried that treking in late July it maybe too hot. Is it worth it to be in SdC for the Festival? THanks for sharing your experience. Kimberly

Welcome to the forum, Kimberly!

If you’d really like to be in Santiago for the Apóstol events, I would say do it! But be prepared for lots of pilgrims and tourists, and possible long waits for restaurants you’d like to visit. As for accommodations, be ready to reserve and perhaps pay more for accommodation, both in Santiago and along the Camino if you stay in hotels (which usually have more fluctuating prices than albergues do). It’s a bustling, loud, fun time in Santiago leading up to July 25, and some people would prefer to have a much quieter end to their Camino. Totally up to you. :)

If you do arrive for the festivities here, maybe plan a few extra days to go to the ocean and have some quiet again. It might be nice to get back into a contemplative space before heading home (or moving on) from the Camino. Finisterre, Muxia, and La Coruña are all good choices. One thing about the festivities is that the buses will tend to be full, too, so do keep that in mind. A train to La Coruña might be just the thing.
 
Thank you. Yes, I was thinking a few days in Santiago, then out to Finesterre and extended time; n Muxia.
 
Forum moderator @natefaith who lives in Santiago posted this last year: One thing to note is that the big light show and fireworks are always set for July 24. While July 25 is the actual holiday, it’s very quiet that day in town and shops are usually closed. But the big celebrations happen the night before, the 24th. And there will be outdoor concerts and events leading up to that.

As to "getting into mass", that is actually a good question. I'd be curious to know the answer. You may know that there are many masses that one can get into in Santiago. At the cathedral itself, usually four pilgrim masses are celebrated every day at the main altar: at 7:30, at 9:30, at 12:00 and at 19:30. I am confident that you will get into one of them if it is important to you to attend mass at the cathedral on July 25.

Exceptionally, on July 25, the mass at noon starts at 12:30 and it is not labelled as a pilgrim mass but as a Misa estacional. The Botafumeiro will swing. Large areas of the square in front of the Cathedral are cordonned off while a military ceremony takes place. Government representatives are lined up, sometimes the King and Queen of Spain are present. At the end of this ceremony on the square they all walk up the large stairs to enter the cathedral through portals that are otherwise closed for pilgrims and tourists all year round. I wonder whether one needs an invitation or a ticket to attend this special mass, and if so, whether it is reserved for the people of Santiago and of Galicia. Does anyone know?
We were in Santiago July 25th, 2021. There was a 1030 and a 1230 Mass that were closed to the public. The 1030 was for " municipal " leaders, and the King of Spain and his family attended the 1230. The Botafumerio only swung at that (televised) Mass
 
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Thank you. That is good information. Did you like being there during the festival. What did you like and/or dislike.
 
:::chuckle::: I liked some parts, not others.
Since the CoVid, Pilgrim Office, and police procedures at that time are no longer in effect *and it's no longer a Holy Year*, I can tell you what it was like, but I can't tell you what portions of it you might experience.

However, I can generalize (being in the general professions affected) that the public will not be permitted to attend any Mass where a significant political figure is present. Wish I'd known to check the Cathedral website before.
 
:::chuckle::: I liked some parts, not others.
Since the CoVid, Pilgrim Office, and police procedures at that time are no longer in effect *and it's no longer a Holy Year*, I can tell you what it was like, but I can't tell you what portions of it you might experience.

However, I can generalize (being in the general professions affected) that the public will not be permitted to attend any Mass where a significant political figure is present. Wish I'd known to check the Cathedral website before.
Well, that's a bummer!
 
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A little bummer, but not huge. If I'd known any of the King coming beforehand, I would have planned differently. Did I mention that I did almost no research except for Brierleys guidebook beforehand? ;).

What did I like? Fireworks the night before, energy among the pilgrims, everything about finally getting into the last Mass of the night, seeing the crypt, oh the emotions when we finished. I'm not normally a crier, but...there's more, but you get the idea.

What not? The last couple of kilometers (not marked, couldn't see the cathedral, the abrupt shock at seeing not pilgrims, but just city folk mildly annoyed by the hubbub). This is a common experience.

The Galician independence protesters ( polite enough, only blocked traffic for a little while on several occasions, but goes against my inclination to stay out of other people's protests). I doubt this happens frequently.

The COVID restrictions !!!! Couldn't go in the Cathedral except if you were lucky enough to wait in excess of 3 hours for Mass, or in the very long line to see the crypt, and that was in one door, down the stairs, see, move along, leave the church again. Never got into the museum for a ticket to see the Portico. No tower/ rooftop tour ( did I mention the king was coming? the museum was closed half of Saturday, and all of Sunday). Those made the crowds much worse. If you're not a fan of the type and thickness of crowds at Chinese tourist sites, then you wouldn't have liked COVID-era restrictions in Santiago. I'm sure it's much better now - remember, we went in 2021.

I would highly recommend planning to arrive on the Feast Day (actually, the day before). But even with fewer COVID restrictions, expect crowds. And, again, if a high political figure is attending a Mass, expect it to be closed to the public.

Buen Camino!
 
Thank you. I think I'll skip the festival. I hope to see the b....incense swing randomly. Looking forward to it!!! You've got me excited.
 
July 25, 2023...arriving in Santiago July 24th, 3rd camino, and so happy to be in Santiago for the Feast of St James. I will be there for several nights, and had hoped to see the botafumeiro in Mass. So from what I've read in this forum, that may not be happening for me on that day. Certain masses are closed to the public on that day for dignitaries, I understand that. So is the time for the public masses posted anywhere? I really want to attend mass in the cathedral that day., and yes, I will wait in a line if need be. Any thoughts or suggestions please. Buen Camino.
 
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