Tip: What I wish I knew when I first walked the Camino

Camino de Santiago map

Not really a question, but more a tip:

In another thread, Tim-the-fat-Canadian said he has learned not to start his Camino on a Sunday. This reminded me how ill-prepared I was for the rhythm of life, openings and closings and holidays and festivals in Spain when I walked my first Camino. For my second camino, I made sure I knew this information. In addition to the information here, there are the festivals. Some are national, some are regional (such as April Fair in Sevilla (April 24-29 this year). Whether you want to attend these festivals or avoid them, planning is necessary. Here are some of the tips I picked up:


Sundays and Mondays
Sundays in general are not a convenient time to get anything done. Different Autonomous Communities have different laws regarding shopping on a Sunday – in Madrid, for example, the shops are open on the first Sunday of a month and closed on the rest of the them. Most regions are more relaxed regarding Sunday opening in December.

Big shops like El Corte Inglés and FNAC often open on public holidays (though not on Sundays and not on Workers’ Day – May 1).

Museums and other activities aimed at tourists may have their weekly closed day on Monday instead. Bars and cafes will usually have either Sunday or Monday off. Some stay open.

If a holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, many businesses will take the Monday or Friday off too. This is known as a ‘puente’, a ‘bridge’ between the holiday and the weekend. Sometimes, if the holiday falls on a Wednesday, staff may take both Monday and Tuesday off.

There are two periods of siesta in Spain – siesta for shops and businesses, during which time many people go to a bar or restaurant, and then siesta for the restaurants, who obviously can’t rest when everyone wants to come and eat.
The siesta for shops and businesses is from approximately 2pm until 5pm while bars and restaurants close from about 4pm until about 8 or 9pm

Public Holidays 2012
January 1 New Year’s Day.
January 6 Epiphany.
Week Before Easter Semana Santa – the later in the week you get, the more likely things will be closed – with Thursday, Friday and Sunday the most affected. Easter Monday is not a public holiday, except in Catalonia and Valencia.
May 1 Workers’ Day.
August 15 Assumption of the Virgin.
October 12 National Day.
November 1 All Saints’ Day
December 6 Constitution Day
December 8 Immaculate Conception
December 24 Navidad. Christmas Eve (Night) is far more important than Christmas Day in Spain. Shops may close early on Christmas Eve, though most will be open in the morning.

Read other Camino de Santiago related tips left behind by pilgrims in our Camino de Santiago forum.

8 Replies to “Tip: What I wish I knew when I first walked the Camino”

  1. The dates for the April Fair are incorrect. It is from the 15th to the 21 this year.

  2. we found many shops shut in France on a Monday or a Wednesday in addition to Sunday. It varies across the country, but not in any logical way.

    1. School lets out at 1 pm on Wed. in France, so many shops close then so the family can be at home together – particularly in smaller towns.

  3. There is only one piece of advice that I would give anyone doing their first Camino. On no account what so ever go up the Napoleon route on your first day. Half the people who die on the Camino die on the first day and almost all of them die because they decided to take the Napoleon route… WHAT EVER ANYONE TELLS YOU IT IS NOT WORTH. If I have scared a few people then I am glad because I may just have saved a life

    1. How do these pilgrims die? from heartattacks, weather? I’m nearing 60 and am worried about the first few days.

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