Despite increasingly luxurious hostels, I love the simple accommodations full of history and hospitality. These are my favorite hostels on the Camino Francés.

Roncesvalles Monastery

The old albergue in Roncesvalles Monastery was legendary: before the current, updated albergue opened, more than 100 pilgrims slept in one room. Such stench and epic snoring! But I still kind of loved the original albergue. The new hostel is now in the main building and accommodates a whopping 180 pilgrims.  But at least the rooms have been partially divided into 4-person compartments. I like this hostel because it has been welcoming pilgrims for about 1000 years. Very few existing hostels along the Camino Frances can boast such a history!

Price: 14 Euros

Tip: Roncesvalles only consists of the large monastery and attached restaurants and there are no shops for groceries (but there are vending machines in the hostel). That’s why you’re forced to go to one of the restaurants that offer a pilgrim’s menu for about 12 euros. It will fill you up, but the quality of the food isn’t great. I recommend choosing dishes from the regular menu, even if they end up being a bit more expensive.

Viana: Church Hostel

With the commercialization of the Camino de Santiago, there are now far more private hostels, some with a high level of comfort, than public hostels. Even if I sometimes stay in private hostels or even in a hotel, I prefer the public and church hostels, which often have been hosting pilgrims for several decades and still retain the original spirit of the pilgrimage. The hostel in Viana is located in a former apartment next to the church on the main square. You sleep in two rooms on mattresses on the floor. In the evening volunteers cook dinner for everyone and in the morning there is coffee, milk and biscuits. It’s bare-bones but wonderful hospitality. 

Price: Donation (for behavior in donation hostels on the Camino Francés see here)

Grañon: Albergue Parroquial San Juan Bautista

The Albergue Parroquial San Juan Bautista, in the small village of Grañon, was founded more than 25 years ago as a counterpoint to the commercialization of the Camino Frances. Like many monasteries and churches that cared for pilgrims in the Middle Ages, their foundation is Christian charity. In the simple but cozy rooms at the church everyone cooks, eats and prays together. The latter is of course voluntary – but you should help with the cooking and/or cleaning up if you stay here. Every time I have stayed here there has been a wonderful sense of community. I highly recommend this hostel.

Price: donation

San Nicolas de Puente Fitero – Outside Castrojeriz

About 10 kilometers past Castrojeriz is probably the most beautiful and unusual hostel on the entire Camino Frances: the small church of San Nicolas. A few kilometers between towns, you sleep here in the middle of the wheat fields of the Meseta. The building was part of an 11th-century pilgrims› hospital and has been restored by the Italian Confraternity of Saint James, who also run the hostel. Inside there are only 12 beds, a large dining table and a small chapel in which an old medieval ritual takes place: before the communal dinner, the pilgrims› feet are washed (after they have hopefully taken a shower). Participation is voluntary. I was very fortunate to be able to volunteer here for two weeks and I carried out this ritual, even with atheists, who nevertheless found this moment very moving. Afterwards everyone eats together by candlelight (electricity is only available in the modern annex building, where the toilets are located). My time in San Nicolas is one of the best memories of my Camino.

Price: donation

Ribadiso: Public hostel

Normally, Galician public hostels are functional buildings devoid of any charm – with the exception of the hostel in the hamlet of Ribadiso (about 3 kilometers before the town of Arzua). It stands on the site of a historical pilgrim hostel from the Middle Ages where the bridge over the river was built specifically for pilgrims.  The hostel consists of several stone houses surrounded by meadows directly on the river. In summer you can relax here and cool off in the water.

Price: 8 euros

Meals: There is no grocery store here. So you have to bring your own food or eat in one of the bars that have sprung up here in recent years.

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