The Pilgrim Office : St Jean Pied de Port

Created by Colleen Sims * 12 October 2023

The pilgrim shell, on display on a window in the pilgrim office in St Jean Pied de Port
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If you are starting your Camino de Santiago from St Jean Pied de Port then one of your first stops should be the Pilgrim Office.

I know this because on my first Camino I arrived in St Jean and simply started walking to Roncesvalles. I skipped a visit to the Pilgrim Office and this was a mistake. On subsequent visits I always drop in to the Pilgrim Office and if you read on I’ll explain :

  • What the Pilgrim Office is
  • Where you’ll find the Pilgrim Office
  • When the Pilgrim Office is open
  • Services provided by the Pilgrim’s Office

What Is The Pilgrim Office?

The Pilgrim Office is an essential starting point and offers a one-stop shop for pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago. You’ll find the office at the top of the Rue de la Citadelle; the main street in the old town of St Jean Pied de Port

The Pilgrim Office is staffed by a team volunteers who give up their time freely because they’re passionate about the Camino de Santiago and about helping other pilgrims.

Pilgrims arriving at the Pilgrim Office and being helped by the volunteers in the office in St Jean Pied de Port

Where is the Pilgrim Office?

The Pilgrim office is in the heart of the old town of St Jean Pied de Port. 

Address : 39 Rue de la Citadelle, 64220, St Jean Pied de Port

Telephone : +33 5 59 37 05 09

Website of the Friends : https://www.aucoeurduchemin.org/

When is the Pilgrim Office Open?

  • The pilgrim office is usually open every day from 07:30 in the morning until 20:00 at night.
  • The pilgrim office is closed for lunch (usually 12:00 to 13:30)
  • The main season for pilgrims is from April to October.

I say usually because things do occasionally change.  I’ve visited during lunch and the office was open, I’ve arrived early evening and it was closed. During really busy times the office will stay open well beyond closing time in order to assist pilgrims.

You may arrive at the pilgrim office and find a queue but do hang around and chat to the other pilgrims. The office is often bustling with pilgrims from all over the world and many will be walking the same route; stay and chat and start building your Camino community.

Looking  down Rue de la Citadelle in St Jean Pied de Port from the Pilgrims Office

Who Runs the Pilgrim’s Office 

The Pilgrim Office is managed by the French Pilgrim Association, Les Amis de Chemin de St Jaques de Compostela. (translated this means The friends of the way of St James).

The team who work in the Pilgrim Office are volunteers from across the world.  All volunteers have already walked the Camino and are knowledgeable about the route.  Volunteers usually have more than one language meaning the team is multilingual.

In 2020 I was scheduled to spend two weeks volunteering at the Pilgrim Office but COVID changed those plans. I hope to be back in 2024 helping pilgrims start their journey towards Santiago de Compostela.

What Services are Provided by the Pilgrim’s Office?

Staff are friendly and knowledgeable, having already walked the Camino de Santiago at least once (or like me countless times). The Pilgrim Office plays a crucial role in assisting pilgrims as they begin their journey to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. They’ll understand your excitement, nerves, or concerns and they provide you with a wealth of information including :

Pilgrim Credential or Pilgrim Passport

The pilgrim passport is an essential document for any Camino pilgrim. It is used to collect stamps (sellos) from hostels, hotels, churches, bars and cafes and more along the way.

In order to access pilgrim accommodation and to obtain your Compostela when you reach Santiago, you will need Pilgrim Credentials. This document will be asked for at pilgrim accommodation along the route and it serves as proof of your pilgrimage.

You can purchase these direct from Casa Ivar in Santiago (online) or you can purchase these in the Pilgrim Office when you arrive in St Jean Pied de Port.

The Pilgrim Credential  There are many versions of this document.  Pilgrim us this to collect Sello to mark their journey along the camino de santiago

Top Tip : It’s a sad fact that credentials get lost. To increase the chance for it being returned include your phone number or an email address on the credentials. AND make sure you collect TWO SELLOS EVERY DAY during the last 100 kilometres of your walk.

Route Information

The team in the Pilgrim Office will provide you with information and advice about the Camino route, stage distances, a list of pilgrim accommodation, route elevations, and safety tips.

They have the most up-to-date information of Camino news, and of any current known issues or problems that you may encounter.

Whilst the team do provide excellent information and the Camino is well marked, I recommend you download the Wise Pilgrim App. I have been using this app for many years and it’s an invaluable source of information for just a few euros. Alternatively, if you prefer a book purchase your own copy of either the John Brierley Guide or the Wise Pilgrim Guide before leaving home.

Weather Updates

This is perhaps one of the most important reasons for stopping at the Pilgrim Office. If you are walking from St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles, they can provide you with the latest weather updates. The Napoleon route crosses from France into Spain via the mountains and the weather can be unpredictable. 

The office receive regular and up-to-date weather warnings and will offer you the best advice for your travel plans.

Accommodation

The Pilgrim Office can not book accommodation in St Jean for you but in peak times when there is no accommodation left in St Jean they do offer assistance. They may be able to assist with finding beds in nearby villages and help with booking taxis.

Top Tip : St Jean can and does get fully booked.  During peak times, the first few days on the Camino can be busy and finding a bed can be more difficult. My usual advice is to book accommodation ahead until Pamplona. This will give you peace of mind and will be one less thing to worry about when you start your Camino.

Your first Sello or Stamp

As you walk the Camino de Santiago, your pilgrim credentials will fill with the sellos that you collect en route.  Every night your accommodation will stamp your pilgrim passport and you should also collect at least one more during the day. Two sello per day are required as proof of your walk over the last 100 kilometres but I always collect more.

The Pilgrims Office can provide your first stamp.

pilgrim credentials showing the first sello from the pilgrim office in St Jean and other sello from the first few stages

Pilgrim Registration

It is not mandatory to visit the office nor is it required to register your start.  On my first Camino I got my first Sello at the Tourist Information in St Jean Pied de Port and I started walking to Roncesvalles.

However, at that time, I wasn’t aware of the Pilgrim Office, nor did I know about the wonderful people working there. 

Subsequent visits have always included a stop at the office and I always take my groups to register. Not only is it a part of the Camino experience, it is helpful for the pilgrim associations to know the numbers of pilgrims.

Maps and Guides

Whilst not detailed, the office usually provides maps and other resources to assist pilgrims with navigation and planning.

However I would suggest that you do not rely solely on this but purchase a small guidebook or App as well.

information, maps, guides and pilgrim shells available at the pilgrim office in St Jean Pied de Port

Pilgrim’s Blessing

The Pilgrim’s Office can provide information and times for those wishing to attend a pilgrim’s blessing.

The nearby church of Notre-Dame-du-Bout-du-Pont at the bottom of the hill on Rue de la Citadelle, hosts a pilgrim mass on most days.

Pilgrim Shell

Many pilgrims like to carry a shell on their backpack to identify themselves as pilgrims. There are many pilgrim and hiking shops in St Jean Pied de Port selling these, but you can also purchase them in the office.

Scallop Shells for sale on the Camino de Santiago.  These are worn by pilgrims to identify themselves as pilgrims

Can you Volunteer to Work in the Pilgrim Office?

Yes.  Indeed volunteers are sought not just in the Pilgrim Office in St Jean but at pilgrim accommodation across France and Spain and the Pilgrim Office in Santiago de Compostela. You must have already completed a Camino and be knowledgeable about the route. 

Most people volunteer for two weeks at their own expense.  And most (but not all) speak more than their native language.

There are several organizations that you can contact if you would like to volunteer including by the French Pilgrim Association, Les Amis de Chemin de St Jaques de Compostela.

For information on how you can volunteer in an albergue in Spain or other ways that you can assist or help Pilgrims contact Peaceable Projects in Spain.

The Pilgrim office in St Jean helps pilgrims starting their journey along the Camino de Santiago

Do You Need to Visit the Pilgrim Office?

You don’t need to visit the office but I do recommended it. They provide a great service and act as a useful bridge between home and the Camino. Their assistances with credentials, information and guidance, and the initial pilgrim stamp makes everything seem very real.

I also feel that the office fosters a sense of community among pilgrims and marks the starting point of your amazing journey along the Camino de Santiago.

Stop off and say hello; you never know, one day you might see me helping new pilgrims!

Accommodation Near the Pilgrim Office

The Pilgrim Office in St Jean Pied de Port is located right on the Camino in the Rue de la Citadelle. Thankfully there are also a number of pilgrim hostels and accommodation choices just a few metres from the Pilgrim Office in the same street.

I do100% recommend that you book your bed in advance and having stayed in each of these hostels and hotels I’d happily recommend then to new pilgrims. And the great thing with these is that you walk out of the door right onto the Camino.

Visit the Pilgrim Office In St Jean Pied de Port

If you are planning to start your Camino de Santiago in St Jean Pied de Port then I do recommend you pay a visit to the Pilgrim Office. If for no other reason you can find your first pilgrim sello for your credentials and you’ll met and chat with other pilgrims.

And if you’re planning to walk the Camino De Santiago from St Jean to Roncesvalles I have a series of posts that may be of interest :

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Whenever you travel overseas it’s imperative to travel with a good travel and medical insurance policy.  None of us expect anything bad to happen, but in the event of an incident, you want to be sure that your insurance will be there for you.

I’ve had the mis-fortune to end up in hospital in Peru, Indonesia, Portugal and Ireland; every time my insurance took care of everything. We all hope and expect to complete our Camino without incident but I would never leave home without full and comprehensive insurance.

Globelink : We have used and recommended Globelink for years and we’ve not heard of any issues. They are a great choice for European and UK Residents.

TrueTraveller : We have this policy now for an extended global trip and we are very happy with the cover, especially considering our ages and pre-existing conditions

Safety Wing : Many of my travelling buddies from the USA have recommended this company to me, although we’ve not used them personally.

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