León was founded by the Romans in the 1st century and it’s name is derived from Legion. It became the capital of the old kingdoms of Asturias and León and over time was conquered by the Visgoths, the Moors, and then by the Christians. It then became the centre of Christian Spain.
It sits along the banks of the Río Bernesga and is the last major city on the Camino de Santiago, before it climbs west into the sierras that separate Castilla from Galicia.
León’s cathedral, The Pulchra Leonina, described as the “Sistine Chapel” of Spanish Gothic & Romanesque architecture and the old Romanesque Hospital de San Marcos are the key points of this former Roman encampment.
The cathedral has undergone some restorations over the centuries in which a number of famous architects have participated.
Ordoño II built the temple on the site of his royal palace to show his gratitude for defeating the Moors at the battle of San Esteban de Gormaz. His remains are buried here.
The stained glass in the Cathedral is from the 13th through to the 16th century. The three main rose windows, some thirty or more grand kaleidoscopic windows as wellas the many smaller ones cover an area of 1,765 square metres.
The Last Judgemet is dipicted on the cathedral typanum
Adjoining the church is a cloister of which are many rooms which contain a lot of religious art ranging from Romanesque to Baroque.
From here head north west to the Real Basicilica de San Isidoro is one of the most notable and emblematic in all of Spain.
It was constructed on top of an old church dedicated to St. John the Baptist and was demolished by Almanzor in 988.
Alfonso V rebuilt it and Fernando I reconstructed a new temple in which the relics of San Isidoro and San Vicente were placed, bestowing the church with an extra reverence. The style of the temple was Pre-Romanesque, and subsequently it was completely rebuilt in a Romanesque style, with three naves and a sanctuary with three apses.
One of the apses disappeared when it was converted into a Gothic style.
If you visit the church it is worth checking out the Puerta del Perdón, Door of Pardon. It was said that any sick pilgrims could pass through the doorway and be granted the same absolution as those pilgrims who made it all the way to Santiago.
The nearby Casa Botines was declared an Historic Monument in 1969.
Antoni Gaudí started the project in 1891 when commissioned by the fabric merchants of León.
The result was a modernist Noe-Gothic building with a medaieval look. Today it is the social headquarters of Caja España.
Next as you enter the Calle del Generalísimo Franco is the Palacio de los Guzmanes. Construction work on this 16th-century building was never finished.
It is the work of the architect Enrique Gil de Hontañón. On the lower part of the building you can find large openings with solid grilles and corbels with the arms of the Guzmans. On the upper part there are balconies with projecting sills and iron balustrades. It was declared a National Monument in 1963 and is currently the home of the Regional Government of León.
From here head west to the Hospital de San Marco was residence to the Knights of Santiago between the 12th and 15th century. The Romanesque facade was remodelled in the 16th century. The building is now one of the countries finest parador hotels.
The chapterhouse, Sala Capitular, houses a museum that includes weapons from León and Maragato artefacts from around Astorga.
You can pass through the museum into the hotel cloister, where you can see the magnificent artesonado ceiling.
The Train and bus station lie on the west of the cirty along the banks of the Río Barnesga. The centre of the city is on the east across the bridge near to the train station.
Cross the bridge and onto the Avenida de Ordoño II and make your way across the Plaza de Santo Domingo and after 1km you’ll reach the cathedral.
From the cathedral there are plenty of bars and restaurants and you are a short walking distance to many pensiones and hotels.
Getting There & Back
Albergue Municipal, Calle Campos Góticos. Tel: (0034) 987 08 18 32 / 987 08 18 33
Beds: 70. Open all year. Email: email@example.com
Albergue Santa María de Carbajalas, Monasterio de las Benedictanas, Plaza Santa María del Camino. Tel: (0034) 680 64 92 89
Beds: 180 in several dormitories. Open all year. Has laundry facilities. Also offers hostal rooms.
Youth Hostal Miguel de Unamuno, Calle San Pelayo 15. Tel: (0034) 987 23 30 10
Camping Ciudad de León, 3km before León. Tel:
Hostal Reina *, Puerta de la Reina 2. Tel: (0034) 987 20 52 12 / 987 20 52 00
Hostal Espana *, Carmen, 3. Tel: (0034) 987 23 60 14
Hostal Orejas **, Villafranca, 8-2. Tel: (0034) 987 25 29 09
Hostal Albany **, La Paloma, 11 – 13. Tel: (0034) 987 26 46 00
Hostal Casco Antiguo **, Cardenal Landázuri 11. Tel: (0034) 987 07 40 00
Parador de San Marcos *****. Plaza de San Marcos 7. Tel: (0034) 987 23 73 00
Where to Eat
Typical products, like the cured meats, cecina, which generally comes from cows and, sometimes, from young goats. This kind of meat is cured in the open air in the mountains and is the best known product of the region.
The botillo, coming from the Bierzo region, is another type of typical meat of León and it is usually accompanied by “chorizos” and potatoes and vegetables.
The Bierzo pie and Callos are usually found at the restaurants and taverns of the region.
León offers a variety of vegetables, the green beans and peppers stand out especially, wild trout, cured beef, thick pork sausage, spicy sausage, magnificent wines and traditional sweets are all available in León’s restaurants.
The Maragato stew from the combination of some of these above ingredients is the most famous dish of León.
If you make your way towards León cathedral you’ll see a lot of restaurants and bars in the area.
Local meal times are generally 14:00 – 15:00 for lunch and 21:00 – 22.30 for dinner.
Tourist Information/ Oficina de Turismo
Tourist Information, Plaza de la Regla 3 (opposite the cathedral). Tel: (0034) 987 23 70 82
Open Mon – Fri 10:00 – 14:00 & 17:00 – 20:00
Sat 10:00 – 14:30 & 16:30 – 20:30
Sun 11:00 – 14:00 & 16:30 – 20:30
Post Office / Oficina de Correos
Main Post Office, Avenida de la Independencia by the Plaza de San Francisco.
Open Mon – Fri 10:00 – 14:00 & 16:00 – 23:00
Sat 10:00am – 14:00 & 16:00 – 21:00
Medical & Emergency Services
Emergency Number for all services: 112
Municipal Police: 091
General Hoapital Yague: 947 28 18 00 – Avenida del Cid Campeador
Emergency Ambulance: 947 24 24 24 / 23 23 2
Comisaría: Calle de Villa de Benavente
Citizens’ Enquiries: 010
National Directory Enquiries:11822
National Directory Enquiries (in English):1004
International Directory Enquiries:11822
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