León, a northern Spanish discovery

In En-Route, Europe, Our Journeys, Spain, Trip-Types, World Travel by Janis8 Comments

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.

You're in León, León, Spain

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.

Market Day

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.

The view of the market from our hotel room, León, Spain
Fresh on the market, León, Spain
Fresh Vegetables , León, Spain

A little peace & quiet

The view from our room over Plaza Mayor, León, Spain

The Plaza Mayor as you can imagine often plays a central role within a city or a town, however, when the market cleared away, it became very sedate.

It’s a lovely square overlooked on one side by the Baroque old city hall, and around the other sides are arcades with cafes & bars nestled in between.

The corner of Plaza Mayor, León, Spain

Striking Architecture

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.

The Casa de los Botines, León, Spain

A lovely bronze statue of Gaudi sits outside with him deep in thought on a bench, you can even share a seat with him.

A monument to Antoni Gaudi on a bench, León, Spain

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.

The Palacio de los Guzmanes, León, Spain

Such a choice, but, here are a couple of others we liked.

Wonderful architecture, León, Spain
The Museum of Art, León, Spain

Our favourite travel reads

Why not?

Start creating your own Spanish adventure and discover the delights of northern Spain yourself, easyJet & British Airways are just a couple of options.

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.

Convent of San Marcos, León, Spain

The origins date to the 12th century and would have been a hospital-temple for pilgrims travelling the Camino de Santiago.

Time in front of the Convent of San Marcos, León, Spain

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.

Resting against the cross, León, Spain
The resting pilgrim, León, Spain

Have You

Visited Spain and discovered any towns or cities that you really want to share with us, as we’d love to add them to our next road trip?

Pulchra Leonina

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 Cathedral at León, Spain

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.

Detail inside the Cathedral, León, Spain
Stained glass window inside the Cathedral, León, Spain

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.

The Interior of the Cathedral, León, Spain

Did you know?

León cathedral is one of the three most important cathedrals, along The Way of Saint James (El Camino de Santiago), along with that of Burgos and Santiago de Compostela.


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.

Basilica of San Isidoro, León, Spain

Within its vaults of the ‘Royal Pantheon’ is the resting place of the medieval kings & queens of León.

The Romans

The ancient walls that surround part of the city were built in the 1st Century BC & then further enlarged during 3rd & 4th century AD.

The Arco de la Cárcel, León, Spain
The City Walls, León, Spain

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.

Something to make your travels easier?

Tempted to?

Discover more of historic Spain and its picturesque countryside, jump in a car and head south to visit the windmills on the plains of La Mancha. You can do it all on a road trip, SIXT car hire cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

Birdseye view

During our road trip, we had seen storks nesting in some unusual places, but this one was undoubtedly comfortable where it had made its home.

The stork with the classy home with a view, León, Spain

Passing through

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.

The brass marker, León, Spain
Improvised marker, León, Spain
Brass footprint leads the way, León, Spain
Follow the way, León, Spain

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’.

Complimentary Tapas, León, Spain


If you wander into the tapas bars and order a drink to consume inside you are often given free tapas. If you sit outside and place your order, the portions will be larger, however, you will you pay for the tapas.

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 NH Collection León Plaza Mayor, León, Spain

The hotel also had allocated parking in the car park underground.

Something for the Traveller

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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About the Author


Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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  1. We love Spain, and always talk about when we were there and when we will go again! I’ve visited San Sebastian and Bilbao in the North, but haven’t been to Leon. I’ll put it on my list! #farawayfiles

  2. Leon is really a lovely city, very traditional. Other places in the north we’ve visited are Oviedo, Burgos, Logrono & Santander. Like you we also enjoyed Bilbao, fantastic tapas or pintxo as they call it there.We have only started to visit Spain in last five or six years and found some fascinating places, all over the country, (I’m always talking about Seville).

  3. Well you’ve certainly inspired me to visit Leon. I hadn’t heard much about it until now and it looks more than worth a visit, and what a great location you chose for your hotel! That must have really added to your experience. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    1. We really enjoy visiting these types of Spanish cities and towns, ones that slightly off the radar. Salamanca was another city we really loved.

      It was great staying in the heart of the city, however, it’s not always possible when you want somewhere with secure car parking.

  4. Gah, I love lesser known Spanish cities! I studied in Salamanca and visited so many unexplored places in Spain, I loved it. Never quite made it to Leon, unfortunately, as it looks lovely! It reminds me a little of Estrella, in the north, which is also on the Camino.

  5. We really enjoyed Salamanca as well, love the tapas culture of eat a little then move on to the next bar. I’ll keep an eye for Estrella, if you have any other recommendations we’d love to hear them?

    1. Oh there’s loads!! Burgos is also worth a visit, I think. And even though San Sebastian and Bilbao are a bit more wellknown, they’re well worth the visit. I have my eye on Tarragona and Zaragoza for next spring!

      1. Thanks for the tips. We briefly visited Burgos but certainly need to return & really loved Bilbao. Never been to Tarragona and Zaragoza, so I’ll keep a look out for your posts next year.

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