Why you must visit León in 2018 or any other year for that matter…
As the summer heat dissipates and the nights begin to draw in, what better time to retake to the skies and prolong those summer vibes?
If you still have another holiday left on the cards and you are looking for something different, I cannot recommend León enough. It’s vibrant, it’s authentic and there’s hardly a tourist in sight.
So when I sat down to write this post, it came as no surprise to find little information available, apart from it being part of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.
The ancient city sits in the less frequented north of Spain and is the country’s reigning capital of gastronomy – yep food, and oh my is there lots of it.
And here are my reasons for why you should totally consider it as your next city break…
A great place not everybody is talking about.
Food. Did I mention the food?
First on the list is… oh yea, food. One of the greatest parts of this trip for me was León’s unmissable drinks and tapas culture.
Sure thing – tapas is enjoyed throughout Spain but I have not felt its prevalence anywhere quite as much as I did in León.
The small dishes are delicious no matter which taberna you stumble upon and the prices are mind-blowingly cheap, so much so that I had to refrain from declaring my amazement half way into each day! So let me say once more, you can enjoy a whole evening of drinks and tapas for just €15 – €20.
If you’d like to hear about my five favourite spots, all recommended by friends in León, watch out for my later post.
Santa María de León Cathedral
When exploring the city centre, the cathedral is the place to start. The gothic stone building is more than 800 years old and is built on top of what used to be Roman thermal baths.
Inside, you’ll find 1,800 square metres of stain-glassed windows. Beaut! My favourite section is the rose window to the west of the cathedral, full of the richest blues and purples.
You can catch a special glimpse of the stain-glass lit up at night on weekends between midnight and 2am.
If you’re up for living like a local, I’d recommend heading out for tapas at 10pm and you’ll finish just in time to catch the cathedral illuminated in all its glory on your way home.
Convento de San Marcos
Once you have marvelled at León’s cathedral, next on the list is the Convento de San Marcos – which I will always remember as the place my friend Marta got married ❤️
It’s a looker
León is simply a good-lookin’ place to spend the weekend and I’m sure you’ll agree when you see it for yourself.
It’s very walkable – not only geographically, because the city is very flat, but aesthetically too.
There are beautiful sites to admire at every turn such as the Basilica de San Isidoro in the old quarter, which is a car free zone.
A bit of Gaudí
For all you diehard Gaudí fans out there, did you know the architect also designed a building in León?
Casa Botines was built in the late 1800s and is ready to welcome you right on the edge of the old quarter. The fairytale looking building is one of only three the architect built outside of Catalonia.
Gaudí started to build the Casa Botines while working on another project in nearby Astorga – Episcopal Palace.
The town is just a 40 minute drive from León – which brings us nicely to my next point…
León is a great base for day trips and if you have more than two days to play with, I highly recommend you swing by Astorga.
The town is a manageable size and its plaza and smokey cathedral really compliment León’s character.
There is a regular bus service from León which takes 50 minutes and will set you back just €4 – 6 each way and you can spot the pilgrims en route!
And lastly… its history
The Kingdom of León was founded more than 1,000 years ago in 910 and became a hub for trading gold.
It was once the most important kingdoms throughout the Iberian Peninsula and covered what is now the north west region of Spain.
León city is now the the capital of León province – just to confuse things a little.
Here’s a bit of my history with the city way back when my friend Marta first showed me her home town in 2011.
*Old photos alert!