While walking or cycling on the Camino de Santiago to Santiago de Compostela, one should consider a welcome rest in Leon and try to allow themselves some time to visit and absorb the magnificence that is Leon. Much of the surrounding region has escaped the tourist boom and remains wooded or mountainous.
Leon is one of the most historic regions of Old Castile. It is a large province, bordering Galicia and Asturias, Palencia and Zamora. Very few Celtic remains have been found here but there is evidence of Roman occupation. Other peoples have settled here including the Moors but it was the Knights Templar who built castles and fortifications here in the Middle Ages.
The city of Leon has been very cosmopolitan, even since Roman times when it was known as Legio Septima due to the fact that the seventh legion was stationed here. The Moors moved in briefly but were driven out by the kings of Asturias who chose it as their new capital in AD913.
One of Leon’s glories is without doubt, the Cathedral, one of the finest in Europe. Construction started in the 13th century and continued for a period of 200 years before it was completed. Among its unusual features are its towers and steeples where no attempt was made to make them match. It has more than 250 remarkable stained glass windows including a large rose window. In total there is over 1800 square metres of glass. The cathedral museum is also worthy of a visit and has wide array of exhibits.
The Collegiate Church of San Isidoro houses an impressive collection of early manuscripts. It is an early example of Romanesque construction. Today it is a fantastic hotel whose interior has the appearance of a museum.
The Convento de San Marcos is the former house of the Knights of Santiago. The origins date back to the 12th century, although the facade dates from the 16th century. Today it is also a luxury hotel whose interior has the appearance of a museum. The building has also served as a hospital and a prison.
The Palacio de los Guzmanes is a magnificent 16th century building with an impressive courtyard. It was once the home of the Guzman family, one of the wealthiest families in León. The building has four towers.
The Casa de Botines is an impressive piece by Gaudí with large turrets on each corner.