This week we have a special insider’s view of the beautiful city of León, located on section 5 and section 6 of the French Way. León was the capital of the kingdom in the Middle Ages, as well as a historic enclave on the pilgrim’s route to Santiago de Compostela. Today this city is packed full of historic treasures to explore.
Enjoy Moñi’s account of her hometown with some tips for anyone travelling through this wonderful town on their Camino journey.
Explore León by Moñi Jorgey
León is a quiet and not very big city located at the North West of Castilla y León. You can arrive to León, by plane, bus and train. The airport is connected with the center of the city by bus, and the bus and train stations are very close to the city center. It is only a five to ten minute walk to reach the main places to visit in the city.
León was built it the first century due a roman settlement. All around the old town, you can find roman and medieval vestiges. León is also a transit place in the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The traveler will feel the Leonese hospitality from the very first moment. People from León know how to host their guests with wisdom and simplicity.
WHAT TO VISIT
León’s Cathedral: It’s a spectacular gothic cathedral built in the 12th century with two tall towers covered with beautiful sculptures in the plaza Regla. With wonderful tall stained glass windows the cathedral is as impressive at night when it is illuminated, as by day. There is a museum inside the cathedral, and it has an interesting collection of paintings and sculptures.
Hostal San Marcos – Parador de León: One of the jewels of the city of León. This magnificent building was originally a hostal built to shelter the pilgrims on the Santiago. In the 15th century it was converted into a monastery, in the 17th century it was a prison and during the Spanish Civil War it served as an army barracks. Today it is one of Spain’s most impressive hotels. Part of the building is the Archeological Museum of León, well worth a visit.
Casa de Botines: Designed in the 19th Century by the famous Gaudí, the corner towers make this building look like a fairytale castle.
Basílica de San Isidoro: This is a truly romantic church in San Isidoro Plaza with a beautiful façade and an 11th-century baptism fountain. It has an interesting museum and pantheon of St. Isidoro with sculptures, works of art, medieval textiles and the magnificent Royal Pantheon. If you are interested in painted murals then this is the place to be.
The streets of Calle Ancha, Burgo Nuevo, Pícara Justina, the square Plaza de San Marcos or the Catedral’s surroundings are some of the zones that have been turned into pedestrian streets, thinking about comfort for pedestrians. The construction of some underground carparks, the traffic diversions and widening the pavements helps to create better access and protect León’s valuable heritage.
WHAT AND WHERE TO EAT
Nowadays, the Barrio Húmedo, in the old town, has a wide range of delicious places to eat. Here the custom is the “tapa”, served free with your choice of drink. It is one of the areas where the traveller can mix with the Leonese and taste the delicious Leonese cuisine.
Pork is the main meat in León food, used for black pudding, spicy dry sausage, ham and loin. This is a handmade cold meat which is most often smoked, keeping the traditional old taste alive. Don’t forget the star from all the cold meat: cecina (salt-dried meat). You must try this when you are in town.
NIGHT LIVE AND ENTERTAIMENT
Visit any of the bars in the old town to enjoy the nightlife in León. There are lots of inns and pubs where you can have fun and a dance.
León is a cosy city, with great hotel services, good restaurants and inns, and a vibrant culture.
We would like to sincerely thank Moñi who gave us this lovely account of her home town and we hope that anyone who visits will take some tips from her.
For more information about the sections of the Camino that pass through León please get in touch with one of our travel specialists.