Eating and Drinking on the Camino de Santiago
The route to Santiago is filled with wonder. There are sights and sounds to lose yourself in; there are glorious hills and ice-blue rivers and the most fantastic, generous and welcoming people. There is no doubt that whatever stage of the Camino Frances you walk, you will enjoy your time on the route. While this pilgrimage is a journey of the mind and body, there is a particular part of the body that many people are rightly concerned with, their stomach! Where to eat on the route, what type of food to expect, where to get lunches: all of these questions need to be answered and this blog aims to do just that.
What do I eat on the Camino de Santiago?
Getting sufficient food and drink on the Camino is not something that anyone should worry about. On the full Camino Frances you will pass through four regions of Spain, all with distinct regional variations on food. They all have their regional specialities and are incredibly proud of them. Eating is a wonderful, social affair in Spain and one which is celebrated with passion and enthusiasm. Mealtimes are always a highlight of a walking trip in Spain, and the Camino is no different. Just about everywhere you will stop along the route will have a small selection of restaurants, so that you have a choice. However, on every stop, in every location, you can eat the Pilgrims menu or Menu del Dia. These meals are a very affordable, very generous meal that most pilgrims tend to flock to. For between €10-15 you will have a choice of 3-course meal, including wine, water and often a coffee too. There is always a vegetarian option, and if you have any other culinary requirements, the staff will be more than happy to advise. Some companies include this on their trips, however, here at Macs Adventure, we don't do that for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we believe in getting an immersive experience on your trip, experiencing all there is to experience and indulging in the local specialities and eating where local people eat. The Pilgrim's Menu is always tasty, but it is made with feeding many people in mind, not with a culinary experience. The other reason that we don't include the menu as part of our trip is that after a week of Pilgrims Menus, you can be a little sick of them. The offering can be similar for several nights at a time, so while it is filling, tasty and cheap, it can become a little repetitive. Most of Spain does not start eating until around 2030. It is a bit of a cultural adjustment for many of us, but well worth getting into the rhythm of this. The Pilgrims Menu is often served earlier, so if you are hungry before 2030, don't worry, you will still be able to eat.
Culinary Highlights of the Camino Frances
There are a couple of places on the route where we would certainly encourage you to ditch the Pilgrims Menu and get out exploring.
Pamplona has an amazing culinary scene. You can eat and drink in the same places that Hemmingway used to haunt in the 9120s, by visiting Cafe Iruna, on the main Plaza del Castillo. It is a charming place, and still has the same glamourous decor that harks back to those glorious days. The main draw here though is your first introduction to pintxos. Tiny, bite-sized snacks that line the bars of Pamplona in varying degrees of quality. The idea is to pick a couple, wash them down with a glass of something nice (Txacholi is the local, light, frizzante, white wine that locals joyfully pour for you) and then head to the next bar to see what they have on offer. A couple of the highlights would be La Cocina De Alex Mugica, BasseriBerri and Irunazarra. With all pintxos, make sure you order from the blackboard rather than just from the bar as this is where many of the tastiest morsels hide.
There is only so much enthusing that I can do about eating out in Logroño. You can read the separate blog on one of the best culinary experiences of my life, by clicking on the link. Logroño is also the capital of the Rioja region, so you can imagine the feast of wines available to accompany your meal. Food heaven.
An honourable mention for Santo Domingo. Beautiful town, with slightly less gastronomic flair. However, I ate anchovies with green pepper ice cream for my starter in Los Caballeros, followed by a whole pickled pheasant. While this may sound unusual and/or unpleasant, it was simply outstanding.
Burgos was named Spain's gastronomic capital in 2013. Fantastic restaurants are abundant here, and I would heartily recommend ditching the Menu del Dia and getting out to explore. Burgos is famous for its morcilla, black pudding and you will find it in a variety of unusual combinations, all of which seem to work a treat. The best recommendation we have here is Cerveceria El Morito, inexpensive, crowded and not only enjoyable for food, but great for people watching too. You will undoubtedly feel part of Burgos after a night eating here. La Parilla is another restaurant well worth a visit. Its tapas are extraordinary. Oh, and tuck into the Ribera del Duero wines. Big, bruising reds, perfect with lamb (another local love) and rivalling Rioja for the boldest wines in Spain.
Leon has a large student population, so the atmosphere at night is fantastic. It also helps that Leon is one of the best cities in Spain for tapas. It is also nicely situated between several wine regions, so you have an abundant choice to help digest your food. You will see Prieto Picudos on the menu everywhere, a light, fruity local wine that is generally very cheap! The city has two main neighbourhoods for tapas, Humedo and Romantico. Humedo is the more traditional, serving up beautifully crafted versions of Spanish classics, whereas Romantico is more on the experimental side, showing flair and passion. We would recommend checking out El Palomo, El Rincon del Gaucho and if you want a good restaurant recommendation, you should visit the exciting, sumptuous Becook.
The final part of the Camino is the most popular, and for this, I will direct you to a blog written by my colleague Rachel, who has just explored the gastronomy of this region and produced an excellent blog all about it.
In all of the towns, villages and cities you will visit, they will cater to any special food requirements that you may have. It is always helpful if you tell us before you travel so that we can inform your accommodations about your needs. However, if you are out and about in the local restaurants, you can check out our helpful language guide, which will give you a few pointers on how to alert the restaurant staff to your needs.
If you have any questions about the Camino de Santiago or its gastronomy, don't hesitate to get in touch with our Camino specialists at [email protected]