León is the most northern province of of the region Castilla y León and geographically is one of the most diverse provinces in the whole of Spain with high mountains - covered in snow in Winter - steep cliffs and valleys sheltering lakes and gorges on the one hand, and flat plains watered by León's many rivers and streams providing herds with pastures and farmers with land to plant cereal crops on the other.
Towards the north-east nearing the border with Galicia, the province of León is characterized by rolling countryside, round mountains covered in forests and picturesque villages.
León has a Mediterranean
climate with continental influences in some areas and atlantic in others. Winters
are usually very cold and snowfall common, especially in the mountains where there
are some ski slopes, although no resorts. Summers are mild and relatively short.
Fiestas in León
The capital city
León celebrates the Fiestas of San Juan in June (21st - 30th) with processions
and bullfights organised during the day and open-air music concerts, bonfires,
fireworks and partying at night. The Easter Week processions in León are
famous, especially the Good Friday march through the historical center of the
Sites to visit in the City of León
San Marcos - Parador
de León: One of the jewels of the city of Leon. This magnificent
building was originally a hostal built to shelter the pilgrims on the Santiago
Way. In the 15th century it was converted into a monastery, in the 17th century
it was used as a prison and during the Spanish Civil War served as an army barracks.
Today it is one of Spain's most impressive hotels. Part of the building is the
Archeological Museum of Leon, well worth a visit.
- León Cathedral: In the Plaza Regla. Spectacular gothic cathedral built
in the 12th century with two tall towers covered with beautiful sculptures. Wonderful
tall stained glass windows the cathedral is as impressive at night when it is
illuminated, as by day. The musuem inside the cathedral has an interesting collection
of paintings and sculptures.
de Botines: Designed in the 19th Century by the famous Gaudí, the corner
towers make this building look like a fairy story castle.
de San Isidoro: Romanic church in San Isidoro Plaza witha beautiful façade
and an 11th-century baptism font. It has an interesting museum and pantheon of
St. Isidoro with sculptures, works of art, medieval textiles and the magnificent
Royal Pantheon where a total of 23 kings and queens of Leon, 12 princes and princesses
and nine counts were buried and whose tall arches are covered in beautiful paintings.
- MUSAC: Impressive modern art gallery with exhibitions
of well-known Spanish and international artists. Eachyear the museum hosts FIMA,
an international music festival.
- Fundación Vela Zanetti:
This 12th century mansion houses the collection of works of the internationally
renowned artist Vela Zanetti who, although he was born in Burgos, lived for most
of his life in León.
- Palacio de los Guzmanes: Luxurious
16th century building with beautiful indoor patio, this building serves as headquarters
to the provincial parliament.
Where to stay in León
Visitors to León who can afford to give themselves a treat should definitely stay at the Parador in León, Hostal San Marcos.
A wonderful hotel and one of the best paradores in Spain. Look out for special offers and treat yourself to an unforgettable break in what is more like a museum than a hotel.
For other possibilities,
see Hotels in León or search in
the box on the right.
Places of interest to visit in the Province of León
Just 48km. from León, this is the second largest town in the province with a great
historical and monumental heritage. Astorga rose to great importance durante Roman
occupation, and conserved its influence during the Middle Ages thanks to the fact
that the Camino Francés - the French route of the Santiago Way -
and the Route of Silver (Vía de la Plata) converged in Astorga. Today the
town is considered to be the capital of the Maragatos area of León, and is particularly
famous for its Cocido de Maragato - a very rich meat and vegetable stew
- and the pastries and cakes produced by its bakeries. Astorga's local fiestas
are held during the last week of August and are lively events. Every three years
the town organises Expoastorga in June and local companies, services and cultural
groups tak part.
Visitors to Astorga should make time to visit the following
- Town Hall: in the Plaza de España.
Barroque 17th century building
- City wall: even though only half
the wall still exists, the remains illustrate the grandeur of Astorga. Originally
built during the Roman occupation and restored in the 13th century
Maria Cathedral: Building began on this impressive cathedral in the 15th century
and finished in 18th century, so it has a mixture of gothic, barroque and renaissance
- Iglesia de San Bartolomé: Impressive church with
various styles due to the fact that it has been rebuilt and reformed several times.
Gothic entrance. Set in the Plaza San Bartolomé, there is an interesting
Roman Museum in the same square which is also worth a visit
- Ruta Romana:
guided tours around the main roman remains, including 8 archeological excavation
- Seminario Diocesano: Built in the 18th century, it contains
a cloister designed by Gaudí.
in Astorga: Casa Maragata I and II, excellent choice for visitors
brave enough (and hungry enough) to try the famous cocido maragato; La Peseta,
popular restaurant serving very good quality traditional dishes and excellent
deserts; Serrano, considered by many to be the best restaurant in Astorga
as it offers a mixture of traditional and modern cuisine.
del Bierzo: This is one of our favourite places in the whole of Spain. A wonderful
sleepy village on the Santiago Way surrounded by spectacular countryside on the
border between the provinces of León and A Coruña. It has a parador (see Villafranca
del Bierzo parador) and is an ideal place to stop off during a long drive
up to northwest Spain. The village organises a popular Trade and Folklore Fair
from 13th - 15th August. Despite its small size - under 4000 inhabitants -Villafranca
del Bierzo has several churches and monuments worth visiting during a stroll around
the village, including the Villafranca Castle-Palace (see photo above), the 16th
century Colegiata de Santa María, the convents de la Anunciada (1606) and de San
Francisco (13th century) and the Romanic Santiago Church (also 13th century).
- Cacabelos: This small village with under 5000 inhabitants
was founded by the Romans who called itBergidum
Flavium, and rebuilt by Archbishop Diego Gelmírez en the 12th century.
Set in beautiful surroundings next to the River Cúa, like many other small
villages in this region, it has received many visitors and pilgrims during the
centuries thanks to its location on the Way to Santiago. Of special interest,
the Roman Remains of Castro Ventosa in nearby Pieros just 2 km. away. The Carracedo
Monastry is also worth a visit as is Prada a Tope, an interesting restaurant/farm
homemade wines, liquors and famous for its bottled red peppers.
de los Polzávares: Beautiful tiny village with just 80 inhabitants,
pebbled streets and the traditional houses of centuries gone by. Many say this
is the best place to try a cocido maragato and we have some friends who travel
each year from Alicante to Asturias and always break their journey at a lovely
rural hotel in Castrillo called Hostería Cuca la Vaína (http://www.cucalavaina.com)
which they say offers outstanding value for money.
de las Mulas: Founded in 70 A.D. this attractive village lived its hey-day
during the Middle Ages and isyet another example of how the Santiago Way bought
wealth and splendour to places lining the route. Remains of the 12th century wall
which surrounded Mansilla are still standing today, and guided tours around the
village are free during the Summer months. The village has some interesting churches
and the monastries of Gradefes and Villaverde Sandoval are nearby. The village
also has an excellent restaurant called El Hórreo with traditional dishes
using excellent local fresh produce.
- Ponferrada: This
medium-sized town (65,000 inhabitants) is the capital of the Bierzo region of
Leon. Called Ponferrada because of the bridge build in the 11th century under
the orders of the Bishop of Astorga to facilitate the route for Santiago Way pilgrims.
The rivers Sil and Boeza meet here, and the town provides its local agricultural
and mining sectors with a bustling trading centre. Monuments and sights worth
seeing in Ponferrada include:
- Ayuntamiento: The townhall
is a magnificent example of barroque design
- Basilica de Nuestra Señora
de la Encina: 16th century church with gothic and renaissance influences
de Nuestra Sra. de Vizbayo: 11th century church
- Castillo de los
Templarios: Castle-palace originally built by the Romans and then rebuilt
by the Templarians, a religious order
- Compludo: Interesting place
21km from Ponferrada with an impressive monastary built by San Fructuoso in the
17th century and a blacksmith which was built in the middle ages and still functions
- Las Médulas: These mines were built during Roman occupation
of Spain and have been declared UNESCO World Heritage site. 24km. from Ponferrada.
de Santiago: Mozarab style monastary built in the 10th century with a wonderful
entrance. 20km. from Ponferrada.
- Sahagún: This small town is located on the banks of the River Cea and is linked to the
Monastary of San Benito and is a landmark on the last part of the Codex Calistinus
route of the Santiago Way. As most other villages and towns on the route of the
Santiago pilgrimage, the town has plenty of churches and monasteries.
- Sena de Luna: Beautiful small village located in the Luna area
of Leon, surrounded by enormous lime rocks and lots of streams. Perfect for a
weekend break if you enjoy hiking, with lots of routes and paths leading to wonderfully
unspoilt rural spots. There is a spa hotel just 18 km. away offering specialised
treatments at reasonable prices.