A true taster of Spain.
We are now in León, Spain, our Portuguese road trip had come to an end & we are heading north to Bilbao, to catch the ferry back to the UK.
However, we’ve come to love Spain over the last few years, and couldn’t resist sneaking in a couple of nights in the historic north-western city of León.
Our hotel overlooked the Plaza Mayor and when we awoke in the morning the local market was coming alive below, stallholders selling fresh fruit, veg & flowers.
A little peace & quiet
As you stroll around León, you’ll notice the varied styles of architecture throughout the city.
One in particular that stands out is Casa de los Botines, designed by Antoni Gaudi and one of only a few of his designs built outside Catalonia.
A lovely bronze statue of Gaudi sits outside with him deep in thought on a bench, you can even share a seat with him.
Adjacent to Casa de los Botines is Palacio de los Guzmanes a Renaissance palace built in the 16th century for one of León’s most influential families.
Such a choice, but, here are a couple of others we liked.
Convent de San Marcos
Along the banks of the Bernesga river is the Spanish Renaissance Convent of San Marcos. This is a beautiful building that overlooks the Plaza de San Marcos.
The origins date to the 12th century and would have been a hospital-temple for pilgrims travelling the Camino de Santiago.
Now the convent is home to a hotel and under restoration, so, unfortunately, we were unable to see its intricate plateresque façade.
However, the stroll to the plaza was worth it just to see the pilgrim statue in front of the convent. A lone pilgrim with his sandals by his side staring up.
The Gothic Cathedral that stands in León was built during the 13th century, although this is extremely old, this was the 3rd cathedral to be built on this site.
The original cathedral was constructed on the site of ancient Roman Baths during the 2nd century. It’s incredible the size of such a cathedral considering what the population of the city would have been at the time.
The cathedral is also known as Pulchra Leonina or The House of Light due to the astonishing amount of stained glass windows throughout there are 1,800 square metres.
Not content with an impressive cathedral, León also has a lovely ochre Romanesque Basilica, named Basílica de San Isidoro de León. The basilica was built in 10th century on the grounds of a Roman Temple.
Within its vaults of the ‘Royal Pantheon’ is the resting place of the medieval kings & queens of León.
The ancient walls that surround part of the city were built in the 1st Century BC & then further enlarged during 3rd & 4th century AD.
There is only one remaining gate to the city which is ‘Arco de la Cárcel’, although it has since been rebuilt it still retains some of its Medieval structure.
As we wander around the city, we come across so many pilgrims young and old on the route to Santiago de Compostela. León is along the ‘French Way’ of the Camino de Santiago, a very well-trodden path.
Where we ate
One of our lasting memories of León is standing in the tapas bars enjoying the local chatter around us, sipping Spanish red wine and savouring the complimentary tapas. (In some places, we paid €2.80 for 2 wines & tapas)
We love the Spanish culture of try a little and move on.
Gary enjoys the local morcilla (blood sausage) not to everyone’s taste, but ‘when in Rome’.
Where we stayed
Our accommodation for the two nights we were in León, was at the Hotel NH Collection León Plaza Mayor. This hotel was in a fantastic location, as you stepped out of the door you were straight into Plaza Mayor, within the heart of the old town.
The hotel also had allocated parking in the car park underground.
Inspired to visit León?
Stroll the ancient streets amongst the pilgrims and discover the incredible mix of architecture. It’s not every day you see one of Gaudi’s designs.
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