Leon is one of the most interesting and amazing cities in Spain. It combines picturesque nature, colorful Spanish cuisine and, of course, a rich historical heritage preserved in various attractions. Leon became a source of pride not only for local residents, but also for all Spaniards, because it is the birthplace of the Spanish language, an important point on the route for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. Modern Leon is a city of students, people come here to get an education at one of the best universities, as well as gourmets – culinary tours are very popular.
Interesting fact! The city has such a number of attractions, temples, fortresses that not individual buildings, but quarters are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The city of Leon in Spain is the capital of the homonymous region, located nearby the Cantabrian Mountains in northern Spain. The population is approximately 136 thousand people. In addition to the official language (Spanish), residents also use the Leones dialect.
The first historical references to the city of Leon in Spain date back to 70 BC. At that time, the Roman Legion was stationed here, the task of the soldier was to protect the territory and peoples living in the Alps, and to control the work of mines.
Interesting fact! The name Leon is a derivative of the word “legion”.
Leon in Spain has long been a tidbit for many conquerors. In 540 the Visigoths settled here, in 717 the Moors, but after three decades Leon was annexed to Asturias. From the former greatness and presence of the Roman Legion, only separate fragments of the fortress remained, a column where storks nest.
The city has preserved the old rectangular layout, which was founded by the soldiers of the legion. In addition to the huge number of attractions, the famous university in the city, chess tournaments have been held since 1987, and there are also based here: the leading handball club in Spain – Ademar Leon, men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Interesting fact! The annual flow of tourists is 1 million people.
Leon city in facts:
- location: northwest of Spain;
- Leon on the map: province of Leon;
- administrative division: 39 districts;
- population: Spaniards, immigrants from northern Africa;
- religion: Catholicism;
- local currency: euro;
- bodies of water: Torio, Bernesga rivers;
- air terminal: Leon (accepts international flights);
- area of the city: 39.03 km2;
- population: 136 thousand people;
- height above sea level: minimum – 800 m, maximum – 944 m;
- distance from Madrid: 330 km.
Good to know! The climate in the city is subtropical and Mediterranean, depending on the height above sea level. The average winter temperature is + 3.2 ° C, the average summer temperature is + 19.8 ° C. The average annual rainfall is 515 mm.
Of course, the most interesting sights are in the historical part of the city. Previously, Leon was the capital of the kingdom with the same name, since then this part of the city has retained its former greatness.
The historical part is surrounded by fortified walls that have been standing here for hundreds of years, behind them are the walls of the Gothic cathedral, decorated with unusual stained-glass windows, the church of St. Isidore, where unique frescoes have been preserved. And on the banks of the Duero, a Renaissance-style landmark has been preserved, where today the hotel is located, and earlier it was a monastery.
The cathedral in the Gothic style is recognized as a pearl of architecture of the northern part of Spain. This is Leon’s main attraction in Spain, where stone and light are harmoniously interwoven. Inside, there is the largest collection of stained glass windows not only in Leon, but also in Spain, their total area – 1800 m2. They are located in three tiers.
Interesting fact! The cathedral was built on the site of the Romanesque church, even the materials left over from it were used.
The idea of building a religious shrine belongs to the monarch Ordogno II, who thus perpetuated the victory over the Moors. Construction work was carried out from 1205 to 1301. Masters from France, Spain and Holland worked on the project. The facade is 90 m long and 30 m wide. From a height, the shape of the cathedral resembles a cross. The cathedral has an altarpiece passage through which pilgrims pass, who hold their way to Santiago.
The construction is complemented by two towers – North and South with a height of 68 m each. The main entrance is in the western part, decorated with scenes of the Last Judgment. The altar was created by a group of craftsmen, nearby there are five chapels. One has a figure of the Virgin Mary. In addition, the cathedral houses the tombs of the monarch Leon Ordogno II, Saint Froilan, bishop of the XIII century.
In the northern part of the attraction is the basilica, where services are still held today.
Good to know! The cathedral was built of sandstone, which collapses over time, so today many parts of the building have been replaced.
- The cathedral runs from 9-30 to 13-30, and then from 16-00 to 19-00.
- Entrance is paid – 6 €.
The attraction is built on the site of a Roman temple. Earlier (10th century) the church of St. John the Baptist was erected here. Then, during the conquest by the Arabs, it was destroyed, in 1063 the basilica was rebuilt and consecrated in honor of Isidore of Seville, the famous Spanish scholar, the theologian of the Visigoth rule. It is noteworthy that the Muslim ruler allowed the burial of Isidore, who during his lifetime was a Christian, in Leon. Within the walls of the basilica lie the remains of many royal monarchs of Spain.
The building is made in the Romanesque style, however, some parts are decorated in Gothic style. Architecture connoisseurs will also find details of the Renaissance, even Arabic details in the design of the facade. The most famous values of the basilica:
- carved tympanum, it was built before 1100;
- The Royal Pantheon is a chapel where the remains of royal people rest.
Interesting fact! The equestrian statue of Isidore stands out among the sculptural compositions on the facade.
There is a museum in the basilica where you can see art from the early Middle Ages, and the library contains more than three hundred manuscripts, and the highlight of the collection is the Bible of the 10th century.
- Tickets cost 5 €.
- The work schedule is best specified on the official website: https://www.museosanisidorodeleon.com/horario-de-visita
Casa de los Botines is an amazing modernist building that appeared in Leon thanks to the famous craftsman Antonio Gaudi. Today, the Kaha Espanya Bank is located here, but tourists can also visit the museum.
The story of the creation of the house is this – after seeing the creation of Gaudi in Astorga (the bishop’s palace) Eusebi Guell (friend of the master) recommended designing the house in the very heart of Leon. Subsequently, the Guell factory was bought by Simon Fernandez and Mariano Andres, they ordered Gaudi to build a house in the city. At the beginning of the 20th century, the building was purchased by Kaha Espanya Bank, while the original architecture of the building remained untouched.
Creating the project, Gaudi thought that the attraction harmoniously fit into the city landscape, which is why the building is decorated in a medieval style, but there are elements of a neo-Gothic style. The house has four floors, as well as an attic, basement. The roof is sloping, and towers are built in the corners. The moat around the building is used for ventilation, as well as lighting the basement.
On the second floor there were living quarters, two separate entrances were organized for them. The rooms on the upper floors were leased, but the rooms on the ground floor were designed for offices.
Interesting fact! In the middle of the last century, under the dragon sculpture adorning the main entrance, drawings of the building, signed by Gaudi himself, were discovered.
- Ticket price – 5 € or 8 €.
- The schedule of the museum and the store at the museum is the same – daily from 11: 00 to 14: 00 and from 16: 00 to 20: 00.
- All detailed information on the official website: https://www.casabotines.es.
Convent of St. Mark is one of the main religious shrines of the Renaissance and, undoubtedly, is included in the list of main attractions of Leon. Every year, pilgrims always stop here on the road to Santiago de Compostela. Today, the building houses a luxury hotel.
The history of the monastery begins in the 16th century, earlier in its place was a shelter for tired pilgrims, but when the building fell into disrepair, it was decided to build a new one. The decree was issued by the monarch Ferdinand in the early 16th century. Construction work was completed in 1537, however, the finish was carried out for several more years. Then the building was finalized, individual elements were completed – part of the gallery, main staircase, another wall. The building resembles a palace complex. Its facade is 100 meters long, made in the style of Plateresco – this is the Spanish Renaissance.
Initially, a hospital was located here, and the monastery appeared here in the early 16th century. It should be noted that the construction was not used for a long time as a monastery. In different years there was a prison, then a veterinary clinic and the faculty of the University of Leon.
Interesting fact! In the period from 1936 to 1940, the monastery building was a real concentration camp, which contained more than 7 thousand men and 3 hundred women.
Today, the building has been converted into a luxury hotel, and in one building is the Archaeological Museum and the City Museum.
Location: Piazza San Marcos.
Seven narrow streets lead to the square. A huge number of cafes and restaurants are concentrated here, guests are offered a glass of wine, and for appetizer – small snack sandwiches with jerky, vegetables, fish or black pudding. In the evenings, the square is filled with tables and chairs, hundreds of tourists and local residents flock to the square. But in the afternoon there is a fair of handicrafts and agricultural products.
In June, celebrations are held on the square in honor of the San Juan holiday (an analogue of Ivan Kupal), young people gather and sing. Dancing and having fun all night.
Housing in Leon
If you imagine the city simplified, it looks like this. The train station and bus station are located on the opposite side of the historic center. The cathedral is located a quarter of an hour from the station, it is around it that most of the hotels have been built (many are in old buildings). If you want to stay in a more modern area and hotel, go south to the shopping center El Corte Ingles (Velazquez street). Another area worthy of tourist attention is located in the northwestern part of Leon.
If your goal is sightseeing of Castile and Leon, walking, choose hotels in the historical part of the city. If you plan to visit not only Leon, but also the suburbs, it makes sense to stay at a hotel closer to the train station. If the deciding factor is the cost of the hotel, pay attention to the hostels.
Important! Since Leon is located on the Way of St. James, on the days of the annual pilgrimage a huge number of pilgrims come here and there may be problems with booking accommodation.
- The budget accommodation in the city starts from 28 € – a room in a hostel or guest house,
- hotel accommodation will cost from 35 € (category 3 stars),
- a 4 star hotel room will cost from 42 €.
For a large company, the best option is to rent a house.
How to get to Leon
An experienced traveler will notice that Leon on a map of Spain occupies a comfortable geographical location, there are large transport routes connecting many Spanish cities. It is easy to get to Leon via highways – A-66, A-6, A-231. For the trip you will need about 17 liters of gasoline.
Iron communication takes a leading place in the transport system of Spain. Between the cities there are trains of two companies: Adif and Feve. Today, these carriers are united by a single service center. Flights are provided from many Spanish cities.
Good to know! A speed line has been laid between Madrid and Leon; the road takes a little more than two hours.
Tickets are sold at the box office, as well as on the official website: www.renfe.es. Station address: Astogra street. Schedule: around the clock. Tickets cost from 14 € to 45 €.
Another way to get to Leon is by bus. The bus station is located at: Prospect named after the engineer Sayentz de Miera. The main carrier company is ALSA. Public transport goes to most cities in Spain.
Tickets are sold at the box office, as well as on the official website: www.alsa.es. Tickets cost from 15 € to 25 €.
Leon has an airport that accepts international and domestic flights. From here you can fly to Madrid, Barcelona, in summer flights to other resort cities of Spain are provided.
Prices in the article are for December 2019.
Interesting facts and recommendations
- The Leon dialect, which was the official language of the Kingdom of Leon, is still preserved in Leon and Castile; occasionally it can be heard in Portugal. The language is ancient, has Latin roots, and the authorities of Leon in every possible way develop it. Leon Language Day is celebrated every year on June 10th.
- Especially in winter, the climate in Leon is notable for its inconsistency and variability; sometimes it snows for several weeks.
- Be sure to check out Piazza San Marcelo, there are also shopping centers.
- Entertainment venues can be found in the old quarter of Barrio Humedo, many of which are located in old buildings.
- A fascinating legend about the Holy Martyr Marcellus, who is the patron saint of the city, is connected with the city. Saint Marcellus was born and lived all his life in Leon and served as the centurion of the Roman Legion. According to legend, in the summer of 298, Marcellus openly declared his commitment to Christianity, while the man said that he honored the one God. After that, Marcellus was exiled to Tangier, where he was convicted and executed. The same fate awaited his wife and 12 sons.
- In the city center is the Exhibition Hall, which presents renewable energy sources of the city. We are talking about alternative solutions in the field of energy efficiency. The devices that make up the exposition generate enough energy to supply 1,100 local residents with electricity.
- Leon is the birthplace of Moses Leon, a philosopher and writer of the Middle Ages, who wrote the book Zohar – the most famous in the field of Kabbalism.
- Leon’s busiest streets are Ordoño II, El Burgo Nuevo and Calle Ancha. Here are the most visited restaurants, discos, shops, large shopping centers. Shopping admirers come here, because here you can find pavilions of various subjects and with various goods. And in Leon stores a large selection of fruits and delicacies.
- In the suburbs of Leon, there are caves Cuevas de Valporquero, where today wine cellars are open.
- The city regularly hosts ancient holidays, festivals, celebrations, participation in which will allow you to better learn the traditions of the country and the city. By the way, holiday processions in Leon are rightfully considered the brightest and best in Spain.
Now you know where the city of Leon is, and you can enjoy the exterior and interior decoration of the Spanish Cathedral itself and the beauty of other attractions, take part in a culinary master class, find the stork’s nest, hidden in an ancient column built during the rule of the Roman Legion.
Leon is a city that is perfect for visiting historical sights, connoisseurs of gastronomic delights. The region is known for its luxurious vineyards and wonderful wines. And in the city there is a large selection of excursions and types of recreation.
Walk along the old streets of Leon: