The Plaza Mayor in the city of Léon, Castilla y Léon © Shutterstock

León travel guide

About León

León in Castilla y León is an historical city, once the capital of the Kingdom of León, and is full of interesting architecture in a mixture of artistic styles.

A city 1,000 years old, León was built on a Roman military camp and in the 10th century became home to the nobility and monarchy of North East Spain, the Kingdom of León. The city is a key stop on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route through France and Spain with its incredible Gothic cathedral, famed for its Latin cross known as "Pulcra leonina" (exquisite leonese), which is the symbol of the city, and over 18,000 sqm of multicoloured stained glass windows.

There are also many churches including the Plateresque church of San Marcos, the Rennaisance San Juan and San Pedro de Renueva, and the 10th century church of San Marcelo. The Basílica de San Isidoro from the 11th or 12th century guards its saint's remains and also houses the stunning Royal Pantheon, the funeral chapel of the Kings of León that is covered in beautiful Romanesque frescos, and a museum of religious art from the medieval period.

Other museums in the city that are worth a look are the Museum of León, an Ethnographic Museum, a Biblical Oriental Museum containing antiques from the Orient, and MUSAC, the contemporary art museum.

Go for a walk through the city streets by following the Camino de Santiago route, past the palacios and Roman walls and through the Puente Castro quarter and the traditional Santa Ana quarter, where you'll find the Plaza del Grano, one of the oldest and most beautiful plazas in León, or walk along the bank of the Bernesga river where the locals go for a relaxing stroll. Travellers can approach the city from the Alto del Portillo from where there is a beautiful view of the entire city.

Fiestas are an important attraction in the towns and cities of this region and León is no exception with the Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrated here at Easter and the Fiestas de San Juan and San Pedro are celebrated in June creating the Semana Grande de León with street shows, processions and activities for everyone to take part in. October sees the Fiestas de San Froilán take place and on the last Sunday of April, the traditional ceremony of Cabezadas is celebrated.

Shopping in León is a traditional affair with an indoor market, the Conde Luna Market, and many small shops where traditional trades are kept up including silversmiths, blacksmiths and handicrafts from natural materials such as ceramics, leather and metals.

There are large department stores and more modern businesses as well as specialist food shops selling local produce, particularly local cheeses. Valdeón, Babia and Laciana cheeses and the cheeses of Valdeteja, are all available. Other gastronomic specialities in León include cecina de vacuno (cured beef) and botillo (a smoked and semi-cured sausage) as well as wines from El Bierzo and the Vinos de la Tierra de León.

Holidays in Spain

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