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Badge of the Order of Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims to the church frequently ate scallops and attached the empty shells to their hats; thus, the scallop shell became the emblem of pilgrimage to Santiago

The routes of the Way of St. James that run through France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List


The Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia has an important place in Western European history dating back to the Middle Ages.

The four main pilgrimage routes from France began at Paris, Vézelay, Le Puy, and Arles respectively, and each of these was fed by a number of subsidiary routes. Thus, the start of the Paris route saw the convergence of routes from Boulogne-sur-Mer, Tournai, and the Low Countries, whilst routes from Caen, Mont-Saint-Michel, and Brittany joined it at intermediate points such as Tours, Poitiers, Saint-Jean-d'Angély, and Bordeaux (which also served as the port for pilgrims coming by sea from England and coastal areas of Brittany and Normandy). Le Puy was the link with the Rhône valley, whilst those coming from Italy passed through Arles. The three western routes converged at Ostabat, crossing the Pyrenees by means of the Ibaneta pass, whilst the eastern route from Arles used the Somport pass; the two routes joined in Spain at Puente-la-Reina. The total length identified as being associated with the pilgrimage is over 5000 km.

The national survey of Santiago de Compostela routes in France has identified some 800 properties of all kinds that have associations with the pilgrimage. In this inscription, 71 properties were selected. In addition, seven stretches of the Chemin du Puy are included in the nomination.


As a pilgrim, you will walk for many long days. Not to make the experience more arduous than necessary, it is essential for pilgrims to be not only spiritually focused but also reasonably fit. If you start from France, there will be many days of walking.

To get a ‘’compostela’’ certificate, the last 100 km must be covered on foot or the last 200 km by bike or horse. For the former, it is enough to walk from the town of Sarria, Galicia, Spain, the last place reachable by public transport and still farther than 100 km. From France, you will have to cover at least 750 km.

Get in[edit]

On a more prosaic level, it is necessary to have permission to enter France (if you are starting your journey from somewhere else) and Spain. Both are members of the Schengen Area, so a visa for one will usually be enough for both. See Travelling around the Schengen Area.

See the article on the city where you'll join the routes described here for connections.


The fantastic Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the end point of the pilgrimage
The trail in Conque

There are four main routes:

The Paris and Tours route[edit]

This route starts with a trip from Paris to Tours through either Orléans or Chartres. From Tours, the route passes through Poitiers, Bordeaux and the forest at Les Landes before connecting to the Camino Francés (a footpath now called Grande Randonnée 65) near Ostabat and Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or to the Camino de la Costa in Irún.

The Vézelay route[edit]

The Vézelay route passes through Limoges and joins the GR 65 near Ostabat.

The Le Puy route[edit]

The Le Puy route starts in Le Puy-en-Velay in Haute-Loire and passes through Conques, Cahors and Moissac on the way to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. It is part of GR 65.

Le Puy-en-Velay has been an important pilgrimage destination in its own right, with many legends surrounding its history. Parts of the cathedral, probably built on a former pagan site, stem from the 5th century. Charlemagne made the pilgrimage to Le Puy twice. There is a copy (the original is destroyed) of an ivory image of Virgin Mary brought from the Holy Land by Saint Louis, king of France. Each morning pilgrims starting their journey to Santiago de Compostela gather in the cathedral to be blessed.

The Arles Way[edit]

The route from Italy becomes the Arles Way in southern France. It goes through Montpellier, Toulouse and Oloron-Sainte-Marie before reaching the Spanish border at Col du Somport in the Pyrenees. There it connects to the Aragonese Way.


There are traditional hostels along the route offering low-cost accommodation to pilgrims. See the links to stops along the way for specific listings.

Stay safe[edit]

Go next[edit]

78 sites are included on the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Routes to Santiago de Compostela from France. Here is a full list of all the sites arranged by region:

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