Part of the Castile-León region is the
namesake city of León. The most prominent attraction here is the Gothic
cathedral, but there are many more historical buildings to discover,
including the Basílica de San Isidoro or the striking Casa Botines
designed by Gaudí.
At night, the city comes alive with locals
flocking to the tapas bars around the historic neighbourhood of Barrio
Húmedo. León is also part of the Camino de Santiago, welcoming hundreds
of pilgrims every year. Even on the outskirts, there is a rich cultural
heritage to explore with places like Ponferrada and Astorga, within easy
Our itinerary below includes the best things to do in
León, including restaurants and hotel recommendations, as well as day
Morning: Barrio Húmedo (Plaza Mayor and Calle Ancha)
your tour of León in the old town. Also known as Barrio Húmedo, it’s
where you’ll find most of the city’s main attractions, The first stop is
Plaza Mayor. This picturesque square was once known as Plaza Pan (Bread
Square) since there were a lot of bakeries here. Today its colonnade
arches are home to many cafés and shops. Surrounding the square are a
series of 17th-century buildings, including the town hall on the west
end. If you come on Wednesdays or Saturdays you might catch the local
produce market. Continue exploring the old town, following narrow
streets like Calle Ancha, which leads on to the Cathedral.
within the old town, you’ll find the Museo Sierra-Pambley. This small
museum occupies a 19th-century house that belonged to the Segundo
Sierra-Pambley, a Spanish philanthropist who founded one of the first
schools in the region. Inaugurated in 2006, it allows visitors to see
how the Leonese bourgeois elite used to live. The house still features
its original furnishings, including luxurious carpets and patterned
wallpapers. If you have time, you can also visit the nearby Fundación
Vela Zanetti, a small art gallery dedicated to the painter José Vela
Next stop is the
Cathedral, the most important landmark in León. Built in a French Gothic
style, its spires are visible from pretty much every corner of the
city. It’s worth going inside to marvel at the colourful stained glass
windows decorating the walls. Most of the building dates back to the
13th century, but some parts were added later on. You can also visit the
adjoining religious museum or take a walk down to Avenida los Cubos to
see a section of the old city walls.
older than the cathedral is the Basílica de San Isidoro. This striking
Romanesque building was founded in 1063 by Fernando I and Doña Sancha.
It includes a Royal Pantheon, an Oriental and Biblical Museum and a
collegiate library. Visitors can enjoy the colourful frescoes inside or
dine below the ancient cloisters, since part of the collegiate was
converted into a luxury hotel.
Head down to
the Palacio de los Guzmanes and admire its Renaissance façade designed
by architect Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón. Established in the 16th-century
the palace was originally built as a home for the Guzman family. Today
it is the headquarters of the government of León. There are usually
guided tours of the patio between 11:30 am to 4:40 pm.
isn’t the only city where Antoni Gaudí left his mark. The Spanish
architect also designed several buildings in the North of Spain. Among
these is the Casa Botines in León. Established between 1891 and 1892,
this Modernist building was commissioned by Simón Fernández and Mariano
Andrés González, representatives of the Hispano-Colonial Bank of
Barcelona. Inside there’s a museum, with exhibits dedicated to Gaudí and
paintings by other famous artists like Salvador Dalí and Goya.
learn more about the city’s history, pay a visit to the Museo de León,
one of the oldest museums in the region. Divided into four floors, the
collection stretches from the Iron Age to the Middle Ages and the 19th
century. Among the highlights are artefacts discovered in Las Médulas,
an ancient Roman mining site located near León. Make sure to climb up to
the rooftop for a panoramic view of the city and the cathedral.
a few steps from the museum is the Iglesia de San Marcelo. The original
building dates back to the 9th century, but it was destroyed and
rebuilt in 1096, making it one of the oldest churches in León. However,
the church was modified through the years and most of its current look
is actually from the 17th century. Highlights include the gilded
altarpiece with the image of Saint Marcelo.
dinner, head back to the old town. The name Bairro Húmedo stands for
“wet district” since this area has the biggest concentration of bars in
León. Pick a spot, order a round of tapas and then follow the locals
lead, hopping from bar to bar to sample different dishes.
you’re spending another day in León, there are a few more attractions
you can cover. Start the morning with a tour around the Iglesia de
Nuestra Señora del Mercado. This Romanesque church overlooks the Plaza
del Grano, a charming cobblestone square in the city centre. Opening
hours vary, but it’s still worth passing by to admire the church’s
Next, make your
way to the Convento de San Marcos. Established around 1541, this
imposing building stands out with its plateresque exterior made up of
slender columns and intricate medallions. It features a church, an
archaeological museum and a convent which is now home to a five-star
hotel. Commissioned by Ferdinand the Catholic King, it’s one of the most
beautiful examples of Renaissance architecture in the country.
Visitors can access the chapter house and the cloister, but to
appreciate the convent’s full glory it’s worth spending the night here.
the convent, cross the Puente de San Marcos and you’ll end up at the
Parque de Quevedo. Set along the Bernesga river, it’s one of the largest
parks in León, stretching for over 40,000m2. Take a stroll through the
tree-lined walkways and keep an eye out for the peacocks.
on the other margin is the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo. It’s among the
most important contemporary art museums in the region of Castilla y
León. Inside, you’ll find over 1,500 art pieces from Spanish and
specifically Leonese artists, alongside international names. Open since
2005, the museum’s collection covers the 20th and 21st century. The
building itself is also quite striking, with its rainbow-coloured glass
exterior designed by Luis Mansilla and Emilio Tuñón. These are meant to
be inspired by the colours of the cathedral’s stained glass windows.
Astorga: This hilltop village is only a few miles west
of León. It has a picturesque setting, amid the plains of Castilla and
the Mountains of Galicia. Despite its small size, Astorga has quite a
few attractions, including a striking Gothic cathedral, Roman ruins and a
palace designed by Gaudí.
Ponferrada: Ponferrada is another
place worth visiting. Highlights include the Templar castle and a
16th-century basilica. The town is also a stop on the Camino de Santiago
and a great base to explore the Roman mines of Las Médulas.
Burgos: About two hours east of León, you’ll find Burgos. This city is
famous for its impressive Gothic cathedral, which dominates the skyline.
Other attractions include a medieval castle and the Museum of Human
Valladolid: Head south from León, and visit the
lively city of Valladolid. Home to a series of medieval landmarks, it’s
the capital of the Castilla-León region. Famous monuments include the
Gothic San Pablo Church and a Royal Palace that welcomed Spanish kings
in the early 17th century.
León is home to many family-friendly attractions. If you’re visiting in
the summer, you can head to Islaleón, a water park with a large swimming
pool and fun slides. Another option is to visit Villafranca del Bierzo,
a small village near León famous for its river beach.
The region of Castilla y León is renowned for its grilled
and roast meats. Specialities include cecina (smoked beef) and the
botillo, a meat-stuffed pork dish from El Bierzo, a district that also
produces wine. Among the local sweets is the Mantecadas de Astorga, a
kind of muffin that tastes similar to a pound cake. If you’re looking
for places to eat in León, below is a list of the city’s top
Restaurante LAV: This modern restaurant is located a few steps away
from the Museo de León. You can order à la carte or get the tasting menu
which includes six different courses. The dishes change with the
season, but the local cheeses are a constant feature.
Restaurante Cocinandos: Close to the Iglesia de San Marcos, you’ll find
Cocinandos. This Michelin-star restaurant offers two seasonal menus and a
wine list featuring mostly local wines. Specialities include the cold
tuna and tomato soup and the pastrami.
Casa Mando: Casa Mando is
located on the edge of the old town on Calle General Lafuente. It’s one
of the best places to sample traditional Northern Spanish dishes. Try
the solomillo (sirloin steak) or the cachopo (veal fillets with ham and
cheese in breadcrumbs).
Parador de León (5 stars): This luxurious hotel occupies a
16th-century building once used as a military outpost. The vast property
has an opulent decor with antique furnishings throughout. Some rooms
even include four-poster beds and offer river views. There’s also a bar
and a restaurant on site serving regional dishes.
Colegiata San Isidoro (3 stars): In the heart of the old town, you’ll
find this historic hotel attached to the Basílica of San Isidoro. The
city’s main attractions are only a few minutes away, making it the
perfect base to explore León. The rooms are spacious and modern,
contrasting against the historical features in the hotel’s patio and
Hotel Alda Vía León (3 stars): If you’re on the
budget, this small boutique hotel is the perfect choice. Housed in an
18th-century building, the rooms have a rustic decor with exposed wooden
beams and cast iron beds. It’s only five minutes away from the
The best time to visit León is between June and September. The weather
will be pleasant enough to walk around with average temperatures ranging
around 27º in August. Summer is also the perfect opportunity to catch
local festivities like the Fiestas de San Juan y San Pedro. Another
alternative is to visit around Easter for the Holy Week celebrations.
Semana Santa: Like most Spanish cities, León celebrates Easter
with a series of processions. These traditions date back to the 16th
century and remain alive today. The event lasts for about 10 days and
brings together the local hermandades (lay brotherhoods) who parade the
streets with religious sculptures on their shoulders. Alongside the
processions, there are also concerts and special sermons.
Fiestas de San Juan y San Pedro: Around the last week of June,
León comes alive with the San Juan and San Pedro celebrations. The
festival includes concerts, food stalls and plenty of street