The city of León is in the northwest of Spain. It is on the Way of St. James and has a vast cultural, historical and architectural heritage. León was founded in the 1st century BC by the Roman legion Legio VI Victrix, which served under Caesar Augustus during the Cantabrian Wars (29-19 BC), the final stage of the Roman conquest of Hispania. In the year 74 AD, the Legio VII Gemina —recruited from the Hispanics by Galba in 69 AD— settled in a permanent military camp that was the origin of the city. Its modern name is derived from the city's Latin name Legio. The Kingdom of León (established in 910 CE) was an ancient territory with a great Dynasty of Kings that would become kings of Spain after the union with the Kingdom of Aragon. The counties of Portugal and Castile were born as divisions of the ancient kingdom of León that remained independent until the union with Castile again.
ALSA (+34 902-44-22-42) runs buses from Madrid several times a day (3.5 hr). Buses leave from Estación Sur de Autobuses at the metro station Méndez Álvaro, a round trip costs between €20-40 per person. There are also some direct bus connections from Madrid Barajas International Airport.
Renfe, +34 902-240-202, operates train service to/from Madrid (2h 50 min). Trains leave from Chamartin (Madrid north station) to León several times a day.
León Airport (LEN IATA) is in the municipality of Virgen del Camino, 6 km from the city, and has daily connections with Madrid and Barcelona. Flights are operated by (Iberia) with connections to main Spanish and European cities. Access to the airport by road is from the N-120 Leon-Astorga road, and a taxi to the city centre costs between €20-25. There is also a public bus which costs €3, for the schedule, contact +34 987 219 656.
Nearby airports are Valladolid Airport (125 km) and Asturias Airport (170 km). ALSA operates daily direct services from Valladolid airport to León.
The city is not too big to see on foot, especially the main attractions, which are all quite close to one another.
The city of León was founded by the Romans. Its name originates from the name Romans gave to the city, "Legio VII". Tourists who come to León can enjoy many monuments such as the city walls, the gothic cathedral or Roman monuments such as the Church of San Marcelo.
- 1 Santa María de León Cathedral. The premier architectural attraction, completed in the late 16th century. Superb stained glass - one of the oldest and largest in the world. Try to be there when the sun is streaming through.
- Church of San Isodoro (Real Basilica de San Isidoro). Built in the 11th century, with the adjoining Pantheon of the Kings of León. The ceiling paintings in the latter are breathtaking. There is a small library packed with 10th, 11th and 12th century hand-written manuscripts, and the sarcophagus of King Ferdinand I (not the Ferdinand of Ferdinand and Isabella.)
- Hospital de San Marcos.
- 2 Casa Botines. One of the few buildings by Gaudi to be found outside of Barcelona. (There's another one - Palacio Episcopal - in Astorga.)
- Palacio de los Guzmanes, a 15th century palace.
- Palacio de los Condes de Luna. It's under restoration.
- Roman Walls near Plaza San Isidoro
- MUSAC. The new Museum of Contemporary Art.
- Museo de León. In Edificio Pallarés, a 20th century building in Santo Domingo circus.
- [dead link] Fundación Vela Zanetti. The museum about Zanetti's paintings.
- Astorga Village. Astorga sits on a spur of rock, with mountains to the north and west. It has extant city walls to the south, east, and west. You can walk along the walls to the south and gaze up in awe from one of the more scenic car parks to the north. Most camera crews doing Gaudi do not get as far as Astorga. The Bishop's Palace is a fantastic piece of non-functional design. Balconies open over halls, walls curve and the whole flows. More conservative than others of his design, but still too much for the bishops, who never lived in it. It also has a museum dedicated to the Pilgrim's Way, which is not worth seeing.
From the cathedral, to the Bernesga River, there are two main streets, Calle Ancha, and Ordoño II, full of shops. In the middle of Ordoño II there's Alcázar de Toledo Street with shops.
Within the wide range of Leonese cuisine the following dishes are the most representative: Cecina (cured, smoked beef), morcilla (a superb variant of blood sausage), botillo (a dish of meat-stuffed pork intestine), garlic soup, el cocido leonés (a mix of meat with vegetables and chickpeas, served after a vegetable-vermicelli soup) and mantecadas (a sweet).
Another very important part of the gastronomy of León are the tapas that you can get in most of the many bars in the city. The most important thing about these tapas is that they are free unlike in most cities in Spain. It is a very common thing to do to go "de tapas" or "tapear" i.e. to go for a few drinks ("un corto", which is a very small beer, "una caña", which is roughly half a pint of beer or "un vino," a glass of wine) just before lunch, but more normally as a light form of dinner.
Any tourist visiting León will enjoy the ancient streets of "Barrio Húmedo". There it is possible to visit many bars in which tapas (for free) are served along with nice wines from "Tierras de Leon", "Ribera de Duero", or "Vino del Bierzo".
You can also visit some villages near Leon with vineyards such as Valdevimbre. There you will find caves that are as old as 300 years. Originally they were dug for wine cellars since they maintain nearly the same temperature year round. Today they are still used to make wine. Some of them have become restaurants or pubs.
The oldest cave-restaurant was opened in 1979 and it is called La Cueva del Tunel. It has a typical decoration with an Indian touch.
In Los Poinos you can find a mix between new cuisine and typical food from Leon.
In any of the Cuevas restaurants you will be able to enjoy the typical food from Leon such as cecina, callos, morcilla (blood pudding), etc. all those traditional place will be accompanied by local wines as Pardevalles, Tampesta, Barcillo or Los Palomares (inside the new D.O. Tierras de Leon).
Valdevimbre is 23 km from Leon and you can drive there or get a taxi for approximately €25 from Leon.
Tierra de León is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) for wines from the south of the province of León. This wines are usually done with the unique grape variety typical from Leon, the Prieto Picudo, although Mencía type of grapes are also used. The Tierra de Léon wine region consists of 36 vineyards (Bodegas), which produce 1.5 million litres of wine annually.
Go bar-hopping and/or clubbing in the barrio húmedo, a charming old neighborhood with narrow streets, with a concentration of pubs, discos, and restaurants. This area isn't usually very active during the day and can get fairly rowdy at night. However, despite how many people may be stumbling around drunkenly at 03:00, this neighborhood is very safe, even for single females late at night.
- Hotel Paris, Calle Ancha. 100 m to cathedral.
- Hotel NH Plaza Mayor. Set in the middle of Barrio Humedo. 300 m to cathedral.
- [dead link] Hostal de San Marcos. A great deluxe hotel set in a gorgeous 15th century building.
- Hotel Alfonso V Santo Domingo circus, town centre.
In León Province:
- Grajal de Campos: Medieval castle, church and palace
- San Miguel de la Escalada, 10th century monastery
- Sahagún 15th century churches
- Villafranca del Bierzo
Outside León Province: