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León: the ultimate Spain in every way
For the Por Favor magazine we wrote an article about all the beauty that León has to offer.
We wrote an article for "Por Favor", a Dutch magazine that presents the best of Spain. This article was about the city and region of León. It is a very good article full of reflections in the field of travel, nature, art & culture, culinary, sports, politics and design. You can read the article here:
León is a city that few Dutch and Belgians know. Those who know it will agree with the following: León is a beautiful city, a city where people live, and the city with more hours of sun in all northern Spain. León is located in the Castile and León region, in the interior of northern Spain. Like in all of Spain, social life takes place outside and in León this is no different. León is perhaps the ultimate example of this.
The inner person
The city is easily and quickly accessible with a high-speed train from Madrid. The comfortable ride takes approximately 2 hours.
León is all about the tapas. In the evenings, the narrow streets are full of people. León is one of the few places where you always get a free tapa with your drink. Of course you can also get the most delicious wines here as there are several wine regions in the area such as El Bierzo (an emerging wine region) and Tierras de León.
León has a beautiful and cozy historic center. It consists of the two neighborhoods" Barrio Húmedo" and the "Barrio Romántico". You can go there for a wide variety of local dishes that represent the city itself, as well as the wider province of León. Think of the cecina (salted dried meat), Valdeón cheese, botillo (meat-filled pork gut) and tasty roasted peppers from Bierzo. The region also has three Denominations of Origin and six hallmarks of regional food. This is the reason why León was declared gastronomic capital of Spain in 2018.
Stop along the camino to Santiago
One hundred thousand pilgrims pass through the city of León every year. It is therefore the beating heart of the camino to Santiago de Compostela. The city is approximately 2/3 from the beginning of the camino Francés. From here it is still 2 weeks to reach Santiago if you are walking or 1 week if you are cycling. That means that many pilgrims plan a rest day there or take the city as a starting point. From April to October you will see pilgrims from all over the world in the city. It is a coming and going and the 'energy' of the pilgrimage is palpable and visible from early in the morning until late in the evening.
The Leoneses, as they are called, are very proud of their city. In this part of Spain people are a bit more distant than in the south, but they are incredibly nice. Speaking spanish is a big advantage is you want to make friends as people here hardly speak any English.
León is 800 meters high and inland. So it has a mountain climate: it can be very cold in winter and warm in summer with chill evenings. And because the humidity is low, the cold does not go through marrow and bone and it is less sweating in the summer.
Places of interest
León has many places of interest. By far the best known is the Cathedral, which is one of the most relevant examples of Gothic style in Spain. Built between 1205 and 1301, is especially praised for the beautiful stained glass windows. With an area of at least 1,764 square meters, most of which contain the original windows, it is one of the most extensive and best-preserved collections of medieval stained glass in Europe.
The Romanesque 'Real Colegiata de San Isidoro' (11th century) is also one of the highlights in the city. The ceiling paintings are often called the 'Sistine Chapel of Romanism'.
Another 'must-see' is the Convento de San Marcos. A beautiful building from the 16th century. The building has had many functions, but nowadays it houses a Parador hotel.
There are also several interesting museums, such as the MUSAC. The building itself is one of the most striking features of the museum. The exterior is made of white concrete walls and large colored glass panels, which represent an area that is open to culture and the latest artistic trends. It was designed by Spanish architects Emilio Tuñón and Luis Moreno Mansilla, who in 2007 won the Mies van der Rohe Award for contemporary architecture from the European Union.
A large part of the old city wall of León has also remained intact. In one place you can even walk a bit on the wall.
Explore the area
From León you can do different excursions. The coast of Asturias can be easily reached by bus or private transport. It is easy to find your way and there is very little traffic. The Cave of Valporquero is nearby. The cave consists of a huge space with beautiful stalagmites and stalactites. Caving is possible in this cave. You go deep into the cave with a guide. You follow the underground river via descents and climbs. The gold mines Las Médulas are also spectacular. This wonderful landscape is almost unknown to foreigners. The mountains of León are an hour away. Here you can go skiing in the winter. The areas are not large, but ideal for a sporty day. The village of Castrillo de los Polvazares is also an hour drive away and is the most beautiful authentic village in northern Spain. You just imagine yourself in the Middle Ages! A highlight is a walking tour through the Picos de Europa. The Picos de Europa Mountains are a well-kept secret, virtually untouched and therefore very attractive. The intense beauty makes it the ideal region for an active holiday. You will pass through beautiful mountain villages and walk one of the most famous and most beautiful hiking trails in the area: the route along the river Cares (Ruta del Cares).
Semana Santa is the annual cultural highlight in León. The Holy Week, which takes place the week before Easter, commemorates the passion, death and resurrection of Christ and is considered one of the most important cultural, religious and tourist attractions of the city. Sixteen cofradias, some of which are more than six centuries old, provide some thirty processions. During these processions various religious images are carried around by the 16,000 "brothers" of the society. The members of the various brotherhoods are dressed in characteristic clothing and walk to the rhythm of drums and music. The tradition of Holy Week in León dates from the 16th century.
In short ....
Whatever you are looking for during your city trip, vacation or Camino to Santiago, the city of León has it. With its various monuments and typical neighborhoods to eat tasty tapas, the environment where time seems to stand still and the delicious local cuisine combined with the most promising wines from the region, a visit is certainly worth it!Back