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León City Guide
- Places of Interest
- Getting to
- Getting around the city
The city of León is the capital of the province of the same name located in the autonomous community of Castile and León and is the largest municipality in the province. León is famed for many of its outstanding monuments and sights such as the gothic cathedral and its numerous other historical buildings and architectural legacy mostly of Roman and medieval origin such as the Real Colegiate de San Isidoro. This large Roman church and monastery holds the Royal Pantheon, a mausoleum in which the medieval Kingdom of León's royal family members are buried as well as holding one of the world's best collections of Romanesque paintings and a museum. The city has a rich and thriving history and the Roman Walls encompass the old part of the city and its Roman and medieval architectural legacy. The area is bustling with bars, restaurants, coffee shops and buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries as well as a maze of medieval streets. The other part of the city feels almost like a different world with its modern and contemporary buildings built from the 20th century onwards and in a variety of different styles. This intense architectural diversity makes León a highly desirable destination.
Lying along the banks of the river Bernesga, León is the final city in the Camino de Santiago hence there are always pilgrims from across the world travelling through the city. The diversity of the nearby landscape is also a massive attraction as in the north the forest Campo Sagrado is full of pine trees and further up the landscape gets greener until it reaches the mountains. On the other hand, travelling south, it becomes drier and more desert-like and in addition to this, León is located less than one hour south of the ocean and beaches.
Places of Interest
The San Marcos Parador
The King Fernando The Catholic made an impressive financial contribution towards the construction of this parador and its façade is supposedly one of the most remarkable from the Spanish Renaissance built in a Plateresque style. The parador is of a single canvas with a two-body wall embellished with fine ornaments and candlesticks. The plinth also shows medallions of prominent Latin and Greaak figures from Spanish heads and is towered over by angel heads.
The construction of the city's cathedral began in 1205 with a Gothic style and was the inspiration for the French Cathedral in Reims. The cathedral has a number of striking features such as that fact that the towers are not built onto the nave, but joined to it by flying buttresses. The cathedral is also highly characteristic as it has been worked on by a number of architects during different periods and for different amounts of time. As one of the city's most stunning architectural features an effort should be made to visit the cathedral.
Palace of the Guzmáns
Construction of this palace began in 1560 and the building was enlarged from 1973-1976. The top floor consists of a stunning little gallery with arches between Corinthian columns and large gargoyles. This palace was built at the orders of Juan Quiñones and Guzmán, Bishop of Calahorra. The building is an eye-catcher to a passer-by and is well worth a visit.
The city's Roman walls which once formed a surrounding quadrilateral still stand. They were of great defensive importance until new openings and entrances to the city were formed. Made of river stones and mortar, the walls extend from behind the Plaza Mayor at Ponces' Tower all the way through Puerta Castillo to the Tower of St Isidore's. Many stretches of the walls retain their original rubblework.
St Isidore's Basilica
This is famous for being Spain's most important Romanesque building and is a synthesis from the Romanesque style to the Baroque. The Basilica was once the headquarters of an important marble, jet and gold and silverworks school. The church dates back to the 9th century and was devoted to San Juan Bautista however in the 11th century it was rebuilt using brick and cheap material. The façade has a number of highly characteristic features and the main door being the most so with fantastic geometrical images being depicted in the arc's inferior surface. Inside the church, there are a number of staggering features and all of different styles. The Transept has arcs of Muslim influence, the Central Chapel is based on a Spanish-Flemish style finished in a star vault and finally the Main Chapel has a beautiful altarpiece composed of 24 Renaissance panels.
Museo de León
Open all day apart from being closed in the early afternoon due to the Spanish siesta, this museum contains Spanish artifacts and objects depicting the province's history such as gold and silverworks and Roman mosaics. The exposition is divided into 7 areas of knowledge and even has a huge coin collection from many historical periods. This museum provides a great opportunity to discover more about the rich history of the province and city of Leon. Entry is a runaway 1,20€ however there is free entry to under 25s, over 65s, cultural groups and also during certain days of the year. With fares like this you definitely shouldn't miss out on a visit to this museum.
Museum of Contemporary Art of Castile and León (MUSAC)
This significant museum has been highly important in the development of contemporary art in the autonomous community of Castile and León. The brightly coloured building is made up of a number of squares and rhombuses and is easily eye-catching. With an incredible one-floor level of well over 8000 square metres, there is plenty of room to admire and observe the art. The unavoidable art is clearly an allusion to the stained-glass windows of the Cathedral and is the museum's main feature.
Getting to León
The city of León has its very own airport named La Virgen del Camino which is located very near the city. This airport has many daily connections into Madrid and Barcelona and flies with the airlines Air Nostrum (Iberia) or Lagunair. There are also flights with Ryanair into Valladolid and from here it is also possible to get a bus with the bus company ALSA to the airport direct to the city of Leon.
Madrid again has a number of daily trains which leave both Atocha (Madrid south station) and Chamartin (Madrid north station) for León. There is also a fast train from the company ALVIA which it easy to get to Leon in just 3 hours when travelling from Madrid. There are also direct train connections to Pontevedra and Barcelona.
For those flying into Valladolid Airport, the train here is fast and takes a mere 2 hours to reach the city of León.
León is easy to reach from Madrid with several buses a day leaving Madrid's bus station at Metro Mendez Alvaro and costing between 20-40€ for a return ticket. There are also a number of daily buses which go to Leon from Madrid Moncloa station. The bus journey from Madrid to Leon generally takes just over 3 hours.
Getting around the city
León is a comfortable city to get around in and with all the beautiful sights to see, walking is the perfect way to see the city. In fact, León is one of the main stops in the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. There is no real need for public transport if you are a tourist wanting to get to grips with the city however if you do want to hop onto a bus for a ride, there are a number of routes which will take you around the city for affordable prices and at reliable times. In fact, there is even a new online service that allows you to check if your bus is late and if so, by how many minutes.