The last stretch of the French Way is undoubtedly the busiest throughout the year. That's why we wanted to compile here for you the monuments to see on the French Way from Sarria. Often when we reach the end of the stages we do not know very well what they can offer us, what we can visit and we are too tired to wander in search of incredible places. Therefore, we want to give you all the information you need to get the most out of your Camino, because man does not live by walking alone.
Around Maior street, which is where the Camino passes through, are its main attractions, so we will not have to deviate much from our route. Sarria was born almost with the phenomenon of pilgrimages and its evolution is closely linked to the hospitality of the pilgrim. In fact, we will pass through each of them on our way to Portomarín, but it is worth taking the time to visit them. We also recommend Where to eat on the Camino. From Sarria to Santiago without breaking the bank. so you can get the most out of your Camino.
This 13th century fortress was the victim, like many others in Galicia, of the Revoltas Irmandiñas, the largest European revolt of the 15th century, the result of social conflicts such as epidemics, famine and abuses by the Galician nobility, but also political conflicts due to the civil war in Castile. For this reason, it is in a ruinous state and only one of the four original towers of what was the seat of justice of the town and of the Marquisate of Sarria until the end of the 18th century remains.
Church of the Saviour
This small parish church of medieval origin, shows a transition from Romanesque to Gothic. The façades of the main façade, adorned with capitals with vegetal and zoomorphic decoration, and the façade of the north wall, which is directly overlooking the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela, stand out. The tympanum depicts a Pantocrator (image of Christ with his right hand in an attitude of blessing and the left hand holding the book of the Gospels, although in this case the palm is raised) protecting the entrance together with two small Maltese crosses.
The Order of Malta maintained and still maintains a close historical link with the Pilgrim's Route to Santiago de Compostela, specifically with the French Way. Since the 11th century, the hospices and hospitals of the Order covered this route and its knights protected and cared for the pilgrims. In fact, next to the church, today the courthouse, was the Hospital of Santo Antón Abade.
This monastery, whose history has always been linked to the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela, has a hostel inside. Although it was built during medieval times, the appearance it has today is due to later alterations. The last one was made in the 16th century. We recommend that you take the time to visit the church and cloister.
This small village, far from what it may seem, was built in the 60s of the last century. Just when the old village, declared a Historic-Artistic Monument, was flooded by the construction of the Belesar reservoir, which you can see at the entrance to the Camino. This small village, which was divided into two neighbourhoods: San Pedro on the left of the river and San Juan on the right, was connected by a medieval bridge. If you have the opportunity to see the reservoir with little flow, this submerged village is one of the great attractions to see on the French Way.
The appearance that Portomarín has today is due to the fact that some of its main monuments were moved stone by stone to their current location so that they would not disappear under the water. In fact, the part that was left under it can be seen when the level of the reservoir drops, houses, mills, two medieval bridges and even jetties.
Staircase of Portomarín and chapel of As Neves
This staircase that gives access to the current Portomarín was made using one of the arches of the old medieval bridge and, at the top, there is the old chapel of the Virgen de las Nieves, which was part of the pilgrims' hospital of the Order of St. John.
Church of St. Nicholas or St. John
This church is sure to catch your attention when you arrive at the centre of Portomarín and it does not leave pilgrims indifferent. Its fortress-like appearance, finished with battlements, makes you think more of a castle than a church. It was founded by the military order of the Knights of Santiago in the 12th century and was designed as a defensive element to which its inhabitants could resort in case of need. Portomarín is built on the narrowest part of the Miño river. This church was moved stone by stone from the lower part, and you can probably still see on some of them the numbering that was placed to rebuild it.
The main doorway depicts the 24 elders of the Apocalypse playing their instruments, just as they are shown in the Portico de la Gloria of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Pazo del Conde de la Maza or of General Paredes
In the same square is the Pazo del Conde de la Maza, also known as pazo del general Paredes or casa grande del barrio de San Juan. It dates from the 16th century although it was abandoned for many years. To restore it, stones from the pazo itself were used, but also from the now disappeared pilgrims' hospital. In order to maintain this harmony, the town hall closes the square and follows the appearance of this noble house.
Palas de Rei
According to legend, this small village owes its name to Pallatium regi, the palace of Witiza, the Visigoth king who ended the life of Favila, the father of Pelayo (who is considered the first monarch of the kingdom of Asturias). Its main attractions are not to be found on the Camino, but you will have to travel to visit them, but the journey is worth it.
It is the best example of Galician military architecture that remains after the Revoltas Irmandiñas. Its construction dates back to the 14th century when it was built by Gonzalo Ozores de Ulloa to protect his properties on the banks of the Pambre and Narla rivers. It currently has an Interpretation Centre with projections and information about the castle and you can visit its walls, the parade ground and the keep.
Church of Vilar de Donas
This temple of monastic origin was built in the Galician Romanesque style. The Arias de Monterroso family founded a female family monastery, hence the name "donas". It was later donated to the Order of Santiago and was used by the latter as a general burial place for the knights of the order who died in Galicia. This has made it possible to preserve inside the church a large number of tombs and shrouds from different dates belonging to these knights.
Torrentes del Mácara
Very close to the castle of Pambre are the Torrentes del Mácara, a succession of rapids, small waterfalls, pools and waterfalls in an idyllic place of wild nature. To get there you will have to do a route of medium difficulty, but the journey through a wooded landscape, surrounded by chestnut trees and on the banks of the river Ulla is definitely worth being in our ranking of what to see on the French Way from Sarria.
This small town is undoubtedly known for the quality of its cheeses. If you like cheese, be sure to try this creamy, full-flavoured wonder with the Arzúa-Ulloa designation of origin.
Visit the Centro de Divulgación del Queixo e da Mel (Queixo and Mel Dissemination Centre)
If we say that this is the ideal place to enjoy a good cheese, this centre should be at the top of our list. Here you will discover the world of cheese and honey from different points of view: the uses and properties of both foods, how they are made and how they have evolved from ancient times to the present day. As well as the relationship they have with our gastronomy and tradition.
This small donkey's back bridge is of Gothic construction, dating from the 12th century. Crossing it during your pilgrimage is a privilege due to the setting, on the banks of the river Iso, with an area where you can take your shoes off and soak your feet in the cold water. Nearby is the Ridabiso recreational area, with various leisure areas such as picnic areas, barbecues, a river beach, sports courts and a children's playground. You can cross several bridges to cross the course of the river, which give this area a special charm.
La Fonte Santa
In the vicinity of Arzúa there is a chapel, a mill, a river and a fountain. This ensemble makes up the site of A Fonte Santa. Different rites have always been performed around the waters of this fountain, both pagan and Christian, due to the attribution of the curative nature of the waters that emanate from this fountain. All kinds of miracles are attributed to it, from curing burns to removing grief. We do not know how much truth there is to this, but what we can say is that pilgrims continue to wash their feet with water from this spring to soothe their wounds.
This is the last night for pilgrims before reaching Santiago de Compostela.
Parish Church of Santa Eulalia of Arca
This church, although it is not in the centre itself, together with its atrium and the rectory, forms a complex of great historical-artistic value. The interior of the neoclassical church is richly decorated and is known for its scallop-shaped altar. According to history, at the beginning of the 19th century the atrium served as a camp for the Napoleonic troops on their way to Santiago de Compostela.
Gaul Festival and Horse Show
One of the most important festivals in this small town is held on the first Sunday in August. So if you are travelling in August, this is one of the festivals we recommend and what to see on the French Way. A Celtic fair, with craft stalls, exhibitions, an exhibition of roosters and hens of the Piñeira breed, and several musical performances.
Bonus Track. Corners for Instagramers
In Sarria, don't miss the vertical garden at the crossroads between Rúa Maior and Rúa Calexa, the signs to the Matías Locanda hostel and the Ponte da Áspera. Be sure to take a photo on the bench next to the steps overlooking the reservoir. The Church of Vilar de Donas or Pambre Castle in Palas de Rei are two magnificent places to visit and photograph. Taste the dishes of O Tobo do Lobo, in Melide. Visit the waterfall known as Fervenza das Hortas in Arzúa. Before arriving, visit the sculptures overlooking Santiago Cathedral on Monte do Gozo. Finally, on your arrival in Santiago de Compostela, enjoy a coffee in the gardens of the Hotel Costa Vella, go through the narrow alley of Entrerrúas, photograph the Cathedral from the Paseo de los Leones de la Alameda, visit Bonaval Park, don't miss the stairs of the Museo do Pobo Galego, and enjoy the smell of old books in the library of the Faculty of Geography and History.