issues to do, see, and eat
León, located in Spain’s northwestern Castile and León area, is a refined metropolis of architectural treasures and tempting tapas. These two magic substances be certain that a weekend in León is a deal with for each the eyes and the style buds.
An extended-standing cease on the Camino de Santiago for the reason that tenth century – León Cathedral is a part of its UNESCO itemizing – it’s a well-traversed metropolis with loads of historical past.
From admiring the modernist Casa Botines, one among Gaudí’s solely works outdoors Catalonia, to marvelling on the frescoes within the Royal Pantheon, León’s stacked architectural credentials are the town’s predominant draw.
Throw within the respectable bar and eating scene – the custom of free tapas remains to be alive right here – and also you’ve acquired an ideal-sized metropolis break. Slightly over two hours by high-speed prepare from Madrid, that is one among Spain’s finest cities to go to.
Right here’s learn how to spend a weekend in León, Spain.
Day one: arrival and orientation
When you’ve arrived and checked in to your weekend in León – a heritage lodge comparable to Resort Actual Colegiata San Isidoro is an efficient alternative when you’re in search of a particular keep – set out on somewhat introduction to the town, earlier than devouring León’s celebrated delicacies.
All of the solutions and opening hours listed here are primarily based on a Friday arrival and Sunday departure. Nonetheless, it’s all the time finest to examine opening occasions (and keep in mind Spain’s afternoon siestas) prematurely.
Late afternoon: Introduction on the Museo de León
Paid – Low-cost | Closed Monday | Web site
Housed within the curiously round-fronted Pallarés constructing, León’s metropolis museum affords an informative and comparatively transient introduction to the town.
The house tells the story of the town and environment from The Stone Age till modern durations. Reveals comparable to Roman limestone pillars and sacred arts paint an image of occasions passed by. There’s additionally a second a part of the museum within the Convent of San Marcos, which we’ll go to tomorrow.
The museum closes at 7 pm in winter and eight pm in summer time. When you’re arriving later within the night, you’ll be able to squeeze this in on Saturday morning.
Night: Tapas crawl in Barrio Húmedo
León’s pedestrianised medieval centre is a delight, particularly come night when it’s time to bar hop.
By nightfall, the Barrio Húmedo – actually, the moist neighbourhood – is the place to be. There are heaps of high quality bars and eating places, and the vibe feels native somewhat than touristy.
León’s different USP is that almost all taverns will provide conventional free tapas together with your drink. It is a rarity within the Castille and Leon area. Meat is beloved, so vegetarians be warned. Morcilla (blood sausage), albóndigas (meatballs), and numerous pork dishes are typical menu options. For a extra filling post-tapas dinner, Cocido Maragato, a chickpea and meat stew, is a alternative.
Stable decisions for tapas are La Ribera, 4 Lions Brewery and La Trébede. For one thing extra substantial, head to El Patio or El Romántico. Put up-feast, comply with your ears to the liveliest bar and take in the ambiance to the early hours.
Day two: issues to do in León, Spain
Spend your Saturday absorbing the ambiance, flavours, and most hanging structure of the town.
Morning: Tour the Basílica de San Isidoro
Paid | Guide guided excursions prematurely | Closed Sunday afternoons, and Monday | Web site (ticket gross sales)
Begin your deep-dive into León trio of spectacular architectural gems on the Royal Pantheon, a part of the bigger Actual Colegiata de San Isidoro. This unimaginable constructing additionally homes the Basilica and museum.
The star is the Panteón Actual, often known as the ‘Sistine Chapel of Romanesque artwork’. Extremely well-preserved frescoes depicting spiritual scenes adorn the vaulted ceilings, trying down on the chapel’s sarcophagi. Relationship from the eleventh Century, the art work is mesmerising.
When you be part of one of many guided excursions, they are going to discuss you thru the tales proven on the ceiling. There are some surprises, comparable to mountain animals and canines. It’s unfathomable that, at one level, this room was used merely as a secure.
Past the breathtaking frescoes, you may as well go to tour a lot of the complicated. From 1000-year-old silver jewels and a golden chalice to the aged-library and predominant spiritual corridor, you’ll wish to permit no less than 90 minutes to your go to.
Lunch: Typical dishes and wines on a plaza
For lunch, head to one of many eating places occupying the town’s squares. Plaza Mayor and Plaza San Martín are good bets. When you’ll discover loads of delights on the meals menu, be sure you browse the wine checklist too.
León has round 40 wineries in its designated area and has been producing beneath DOP standing since 2007. Nonetheless, the wines and manufacturing date again lengthy earlier than, and there are some thrilling flavours available.
The native grape – Prieto Picudo – is a dashingly darkish grape which produces a deliciously minerally wine with notes of berries and liquorice. When you choose white, the area’s restricted manufacturing of Albariño is the go-to alternative.
As manufacturing is minor in comparison with most of Spain’s wine areas, the wines of León will not be really easy to search out when overseas. Thus, now’s your likelihood – and an ideal excuse for a barely boozy lunch.
Choose to go to the vineyards? Guide this 4 hour Valdevimbre vineyard buggy tour (with choose up from León)
Afternoon: Marvel at León Cathedral and the cloister
Paid | Open each day, closed for lunch and through mass | Web site
After an extended lunch – the Cathedral doesn’t re-open till 4 pm – it’s time to see some beautiful stained glass home windows, hopefully with the late-afternoon solar including to their enchantment.
As quickly as you step into León Cathedral, you’ll see what it’s known as the ‘Home of Mild’. These 1800 sq. meters of stained glass home windows are a number of the world’s most in depth and spectacular, second solely to France’s Chartres Cathedral. The rose home windows, and detailed depictions when seen up shut, are excellent.
Many of those authentic home windows date again to earlier than the 1700s, with the oldest painted within the eleventh century. Sadly, some have been misplaced through the years. Nonetheless, an intensive venture to restore and re-touch every one is ongoing.
Having seen its justifiable share of troubles – a part of the constructing collapsed on account of poor foundations – it’s a miracle these artworks stay in any respect. When you improve your ticket, you’ll additionally be capable to go to the museum and cloisters. The latter’s intricate ceilings and statues make the additional few euros a sound funding.
Late afternoon: Self-guided strolling tour
Earlier than the solar disappears for the day, get pleasure from a golden hour stroll across the metropolis.
Admire the Palacio De Los Guzmanes (there are some transient guided excursions to the patio inside when you want to enterprise inside). See how the outdated Roman Partitions have change into a part of the town’s cloth, with properties and retailers constructed into them. Then, tour Leon’s assortment of quaint squares, the Plaza de Santa María del Camino being a selected favorite.
Away from the centre, stroll alongside the Bernesga River in the direction of the Convento de San Marcos. This hulking Renaissance constructing, now a luxurious lodge, is a sight to behold. When you arrive earlier than 7 pm, you’ll be capable to enter a part of the constructing which homes the archaeological assortment, the secondary outpost of Museo de León.
With a lot of the constructing now in use as a luxurious lodge, exploring freely contained in the grand cloisters is restricted to staying visitors solely. So, if you need an all-access move, you’ll wish to make this your weekend in León lodge of alternative.
Choose a information? Guide this 2.5 hour strolling tour
Night: Get pleasure from an opulent dinner in a monumental setting
Splash your money on Saturday evening and luxuriate in an upscale dinner in one of many metropolis’s heritage properties.
The restaurant at Parador de León is a grand alternative, particularly when you’ve ended your strolling tour right here. It is going to additionally get you contained in the lodge if you wish to peek round. Sadly, the eating room lacks somewhat allure, because it’s a part of the fashionable conversion. Nonetheless, the premium dishes are scrumptious, and the outdated wood doorways and arched home windows assist retain one thing of an opulent really feel.
An alternate is the Restaurant at Resort Actual Colegiata San Isidoro. The restaurant takes over the engaging courtyard on hotter weekend evenings, and stay music provides to the night. Whereas the meals right here was extra conventional and right down to earth, it was wonderful high quality.
Afterwards, it’s time for spherical two within the bars of Barrio Húmedo – cheers!
Day three: what to do in León, Spain
After a lazy Sunday breakfast, dive somewhat deeper into León’s inventive scene, and go to one among Gaudí”s few creations outdoors of Catalonia.
Morning: See Gaudí’s Casa Botines
Paid | Closed Tuesday, and Wednesday morning | Web site (ticket gross sales)
Bringing somewhat architectural magic to the Barrio Romántico (Romantic Quarter) is Casa Botines, one among Gaudí’s few works outdoors of Catalonia.
León province is definitely house to 2 of his creations, the second being the whimsical Episcopal Palace within the close by city of Astorga, which makes for a fantastic aspect journey when you spend an extended weekend in León.
When you’ve envisioned one thing flamboyant, scrap that thought. The design is a far cry from his traditional model. Straight traces and the considerably typical facade of the Modernist constructing appear ‘easy’, but it surely’s not with out its quirks.
Constructed to be a home and cloth manufacturing facility, the plans have been barely restricted by the proprietor’s concepts somewhat than the artist’s creativeness. But, if you enterprise contained in the now museum and be part of a guided tour, they’ll level out a few of his signature inclusions. The bottom ground is devoted a lot to the constructing’s historical past and design course of. On the higher ranges, you’ll discover extra perception into each Gaudī and the way the 2 properties right here was once.
Lunch: Head underground to El Modernista de Ezequiel
Within the basement of Casa Botines, you’ll discover the fashionable and streamlined El Modernista de Ezequiel restaurant.
Sadly, it isn’t Gaudí themed, so don’t come right here anticipating elaborate dishes embellished with flamboyant designs. As an alternative, the workforce provide a strong alternative set-course lunch primarily based on dependable native flavours, comparable to roasted peppers, high quality pork objects, and regional cheeses.
The drinks checklist additionally highlights León wines alongside an honest alternative of cocktails.
Afternoon: Go to the Up to date Artwork Gallery
Paid | Closes Monday, and each day for lunch | Web site
When you nonetheless have time earlier than departure, take into account spending an hour or two in MUSAC, the regional modern artwork gallery.
Simply distinguished by its multi-coloured glass panels and trendy frontage – a stark distinction to the town’s heritage buildings – the comparatively small assortment adorns 5 totally different rooms.
Representing some 400 artists, the modern items cowl an array of inventive disciplines, with momentary exhibitions often specializing in an usually social or political narrative.
When you didn’t handle to make it into the Convent of San Marcos the day gone by, that is additionally close by so there’s a second likelihood to go to and luxuriate in a grand finish to your weekend in León.
When to go to León, Spain
Summer time is, after all, the most well-liked time to go to Spain for Brits. Nonetheless, the exceptionally excessive temperatures can typically really feel somewhat insufferable. The identical may also be mentioned of winter, when the mercury plummets, typically falling under freezing at evening.
Fortunately, being a incredible metropolis break with loads of museums and spectacular structure to tour, there isn’t a fallacious time to go to León. Nonetheless, when you can, I counsel plumping for late spring or early autumn. This can hopefully imply fewer crowds, higher offers on lodging, and extra balanced climate.
The place to remain in León, Spain
León is a reasonably large metropolis and a longtime tourism vacation spot, so that you’ll have an inexpensive quantity of decisions relating to lodging to your weekend in León.
Finances – Palacio Actual Hostel There aren’t too many finances choices in León, however this straightforward and trendy hostel has clear and fundamental dorms and doubles.
Mid-range – FC Infantas de León Truthful priced and well-furnished rooms within the metropolis centre complemented by a rooftop terrace with cathedral views.
Luxurious – Resort Actual Colegiata San Isidoro For one thing somewhat particular, go for this restored and transformed basilica. Whereas the historic constructing is a grand setting to remain in, the costs are comparatively truthful due to the 3-star ranking. I loved my keep right here, and you’ll select between extra trendy and renovated rooms within the new quarter and chambers within the older part. The music evenings within the courtyard are additionally nice for dinner. The Parador de León is one other luxurious heritage possibility, however not so centrally positioned.
Learn how to get to and round León, Spain
Exploring the town centre is definitely achieved on foot, particularly with a lot of the historic centre pedestrianised, so that you doubtless gained’t want to make use of any public transport throughout your weekend in León. Under, I’ve highlighted learn how to arrive from Madrid or additional afield.
Travelling to León by prepare and public transport
When you’re coming from elsewhere in Spain, then the prepare service is probably going the very best connection, with buses being an honest various. From Madrid, the journey by prepare takes round 2 hours on Renfe’s AVE service (high-speed rail).
Prepare tickets, particularly for long-distance journeys, which you need to e book prematurely, will be made instantly on the Renfe web site (often cheaper) or utilizing widespread apps like Omio. ALSA is the main bus firm for intercity journey in Spain, and FlixBus is sweet for worldwide bus connections.
BlaBlaCar, a car-share service (the place you e book a spare seat within the automotive of somebody already making a journey), can be highly regarded in Spain and price trying out when you wrestle to discover a direct connection out of your place to begin.
Learn extra: A information to travelling in Spain by prepare
Travelling to León by airplane
León does have its personal airport, only a few miles from the town; nonetheless, it solely affords home connections. Oviedo/Asturias is the closest worldwide airport with a rising variety of hyperlinks, together with London.
Santander and Bilbao’s airports are different choices (see connection particulars under), though I’d counsel Madrid as the very best. Not solely does it have an enormous alternative of flights from all around the world, however the direct prepare connection to León can be fast – solely two hours – if utilizing the high-speed rail service.
Travelling to León flight free from the UK
If you wish to get pleasure from a weekend in León from the UK with out flying, you’ve a few choices.
The primary is to take the Eurostar to London and, from there, the prepare to Hendaye, with two additional prepare connections by way of Irun and Palencia. You possibly can anticipate this path to take round 24 hours if timed properly. Buses from the UK will take longer (over 24 hours), however the journey solely entails one change, both in Vitoria-Gasteiz or Paris. From Paris, there are direct 18 hour FlixBus connections to León.
An alternate is to take the ferry from the UK, operated by Brittany Ferries, both to depart Portsmouth or Plymouth (although some sailings are solely in summer time) and arrive in Santander or Bilbao. Each journeys contain two nights aboard the ship. From both arrival level, you’ll be able to proceed by automotive if driving, choose up a rental automotive, or take an roughly 5-hour prepare journey to Le, with a connection in Palencia from Santander or Miranda De Ebro from Bilbao.
Whereas there are direct trains from Bilbao, it’s on the sluggish service, therefore the connection maybe being finest. Generally, although, the bus routes are often faster than the prepare in these cases.
If returning the identical manner, you would possibly wish to take into account spending an evening in San Sebastian – a stunning coastal city with a number of the finest meals within the county – earlier than crusing again.
The place to journey after a weekend in León
From León, it’s straightforward to proceed your journey by prepare to expertise the youthful power (and wine) of Valladolid, head north to Asturias and the town of Oviedo, or get pleasure from a coastal escape in Gijon. Past, a lot extra of Spain’s hidden gems await.
Learn extra: Northern Spain itineraries by prepare
This text was written as a part of my #SpainByTrain journey in autumn 2022 in partnership with Spain Tourism and Castilla y León Tourism.