At a range of 132 km from the city of León, this beautiful and charming town invites you to rest and disconnect, because here it seems that time has stopped. Its history dates back to Roman times, which, due to its strategic geographical location, estuvo always linked to war conflicts.

During this time, Villafranca del Bierzo was a military fort that served to protect the well-known gold route. Later, because it is located right at the beginning of the Valcarce River valley, The town became an obligatory stop for pilgrims who went to Compostela from León.

Whether you make the pilgrimage on your own or through one of the travel agencies for the Camino de Santiago, if you go through the french route From León, you will pass through this picturesque city.

Among the places you can see in Villafranca del Bierzo are:

The Church of Santiago Apóstol

This is one of the most important monuments on this Jacobean route. It was built in the XII century. By then, the bishop of Astorga asked the Pope for special permission to build a temple in honor of the Apostle Santiago. It was for those Pilgrims who could not reach Compostela for health reasons could still reach the Jubilee.

Pilgrims must cross the famous Door of Forgiveness, which is only open during the Jubilee. As a curious fact, you should know that it remained closed during the 19th and 20th centuries due to the plague that hit the area, in addition to the looting.

It is a temple with a single nave, with semicircular arches. Inside you can see the chevet, with the apse typical of this type of church, a drum, as well as a life-size Crucified Christ dating from the 14th century.

Church of Santiago Apóstol in Villafranca del Bierzo

Castle of the Marquises of Villafranca

In this square castle and some wide circular towers in its corners. It was built at beginning of the 16th century by the II Marquis of Villafranca. Today, it is a private property and unfortunately we cannot see its interior.

This construction was built on the ruins of another older castle which they called The force. During the French invasion, it was looted by the English who were fleeing towards Lugo and later, the Gallic troops devastated it and they burned everything in their path.

The Church of San Francisco

At the end of San Jerónimo street, you will find the Iglesia de San Francisco. It is an old Franciscan convent built in the 12th century, although currently only the temple is preserved.

Su cover of romantic style It is a true beauty, although it also has some baroque and Gothic details that were added as different extensions were made.

Inside you can see its enormous Main Altarpiece, which is in the Churrigueresque style, as well as a beautiful painting of the Eucharistic Christ from the Juan de Flandes school. Another of the most striking points is the choir, Plateresque style, very in line with the austere style of the Franciscans.

Here too several tombs are found of different gentlemen and ladies of great importance in Villafranca society.

The Collegiate Church of Santa Maria

Raised on a old monastery who settled in the town in the mid-12th century under the Order of Cluny. It served as accommodation for French pilgrims, in addition to being a place where wine agriculture was promoted in the region.

This is a clear example of the Bercian architecture typical of the 16th century which was also very popular in the area. You should know that this construction It took nearly 200 years to be completed..

The church was built by order of the Marquis of Villafranca. Inside you can see different vaults and a beautiful dome that, among other things, contain different altarpieces and a wonderful baroque-rococo choir.  

Bridge in Villafranca del Bierzo

The Convent of San Nicolás

Its official name is Convent of San Nicolás El Real, which, together with the church, make up one of the most important religious complexes in the entire area. Was built during the 17th century, with a very traditional design of the Company of Jesus, who designed it as a school for children.

It has an impressive façade that is crowned by the Jesuit shield. Inside, it houses the image of the patron saint of Villafranca, the Christ of Hope.

Plaza Mayor of Villafranca del Bierzo

As in any town in Spain, a visit to the Plaza Mayor of Villafranca del Bierzo is necessary to see first-hand its daily life. It is presided over by the town hall and over the years arcades have been added that help protect the different terraces of bars and restaurants that are around from the sun.

This is the right place if you want to enjoy some local cuisine or simply have a drink while enjoying the views. It is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque towns of the Jacobean route, so write it down on your map of the Camino de Santiago Francés.

Water Street

Last, but not least, is Calle del Agua, for some, the most famous in all of Villafranca del Bierzo, surrounded by beautiful stately style houses, many of them with noble coats of arms, some palaces and also wineries.

Villafranca del Bierzo is just a few kilometers from the border between León and Lugo, so if you are planning to do the French road to Santiago from Sarria, you may be interested in rescheduling the route and starting a section earlier. It will only represent about 65 km more of pilgrimage, but it is really worth it.

Pilgrim in Villafranca del Bierzo

Other Jacobean routes

Apart from the French Way, full of history and traditions, you can consider the other three most popular pilgrimages for future pilgrimages: 

Undoubtedly, the Jacobean route can take you through the most picturesque towns and regions of the entire peninsula. A journey that combines adventure with spirituality.