Leon is one of the most attractive excursions from Madrid. The city concentrates many historical attractions and is a stop on the famous Camino de Santiago. In addition, it is an ideal base to discover all the charms of Castilla y Leon, which are not few! We tell you 18 things to see and do in Leon so you can enjoy the city to the fullest.
18 Things To See And Do In Leon
Cathedral of Santa María, an essential visit to do in Leon
The Leon Cathedral is the quintessential symbol of the city. This impressive 13th century building is an impeccable example of Spanish Gothic. Also known as Pulchra Leonina, it stands out for its huge stained glass windows, rose windows and beautiful sculptures that adorn it.
Hallucinate with Casa Botines
Gaudí had a period during which he was inspired by the Gothic. The famous architect only did three works outside Catalonia and Leon is lucky to have one of them. Casa Botines is a building built in 1894 in a neo-gothic style with modernist influences. It currently houses a museum on the life and work of Gaudí. Admission costs €8.
Go for tapas in the Barrio Húmedo, something essential to do in Leon
The liveliest area of the historic center is known as Barrio Húmedo. And what will surely get wet will be your mouth from salivating so much! There are plenty of tapas bars to try the stars of the region: cecina de Leon, spicy black pudding, cheeses, wines and more.
Visit the Basilica of San Isidoro
The Basilica of San Isidoro is a symbol of Leon. It is considered the most valuable building of the Spanish Romanesque. To give you an idea of its historical value, it has the nickname of “the Sistine Chapel of Romanesque art” for its painted vaults with all kinds of details. The entrance to the museum costs €5.
Stay in the convent of San Marcos
This former convent is a must-see in Leon. It is a Renaissance architectural gem that has gone through a thousand phases: hostel, jail, cavalry barracks and hospital. It currently serves as a tourist hostel and church. If you have the opportunity, staying in this 5-star hotel is an incredible experience during a visit to Leon. The setting and decoration will make you go back in time.
Enter the beautiful Palacio de los Guzmanes, one of the most beautiful places to see in Leon
There is no lack of historical monuments in the historic center. The Palacio de los Guzmanes is one of the best examples of palatial architecture during the Renaissance in Spain. It is an impressive set that was finished as originally planned in a restoration in 1977, almost nothing! The inner courtyard is beautiful. Guided tours of the interior are made to discover it in depth and learn about its history. They cost €2 or €3, depending on the duration.
Visit the Palace of Count Luna
Another building steeped in history to see in Leon is the Palacio del Conde Luna. It is a palace made of stone during the fourteenth century that served as the home of a powerful family of the time. Later it was the seat of the feared Tribunal of the Inquisition. After many years of neglect, it was restored to host various temporary exhibitions . There is also a part given to the University of Washington for its students who are learning Spanish.
Discover the remains of the Roman walls
Did you know that Leon has Roman origin ? The city was born from a military camp established in the year 29 BC The current old town is still delimited by remains of the walls of Roman times. They underwent modifications in medieval times and today they are restored ruins to maintain this piece of history of Leon.
Learn at the Roman Lion Interpretation Center, something curious to do in Leon
You cannot miss this place to discover all the details about the origins of the city and how people lived in Roman times. The center gate is the starting point for the free guided tours that take place every day through the remains of the Roman Lion. They take place at 10am and 5pm on weekdays and at 11am on weekends.
Have a drink in the Plaza Mayor, the most beautiful place to see in Leon
As a good Spanish city, Leon has a Plaza Mayor worth visiting. The Mirador Building stands out, a typical Baroque palace with spiers at the ends that draws all the attention. The square has performed various functions over the centuries. In medieval times it was the great commercial center of Leon, where all kinds of products were sold in the market that was set up under the arcades. It was also the scene of public executions and even a bullring. Nowadays, you can have a drink in the bars under the arches or see the traditional weekly market that is organized every Wednesday and Sunday morning.
Museo de Leon, an essential visit to do in Leon to learn about its history
The city is full of wonderful historical buildings. You will find them even more interesting if you know the history of Leon in depth. There is no better place to do it than the Museo de Leon. Review the history of the province from prehistory to the present through archaeological remains, works of art and everyday objects. The ticket has a symbolic price of €1.
Go on an excursion to Las Médulas
You should not leave Leon without visiting one of the most beautiful landscapes in Spain. We are talking about Las Médulas, some ancient Roman mines where gold was extracted. Its exploitation changed the landscape in a very curious way: its reddish sands with undulating shapes contrast with the vegetation that covers them. An ideal combination of nature and history.
Surround yourself with modern art at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Castilla y Leon
In Leon you will get tired of seeing Gothic and Renaissance works of art. If you want something more current, you should not miss this museum. It has more than 1,600 works from the 20th and 21st centuries , a quarter of them by artists from Castilla y Leon, although there is also international representation. The facade of the building is one more work of art thanks to its colorful design made by a prestigious Madrid architecture studio. Admission costs €3.
Explore the caves of Llamazares and Valporquero
One of the coolest visits to do in Leon are these caves full of stalagmites and stalactites. Once again, nature proves that she is the best artist. If you have a vehicle, you can visit both caves in the same day. They are an hour’s drive from Leon.
Go back in time at the Sierra Pambley Museum
It is not a typical museum, but a house-museum that shows how an enlightened family of the 19th century lived. It is an interesting visit to do in Leon for history lovers. You will be able to see precious furniture and the advances that were beginning to be introduced at the time in the houses of the wealthiest families. For example, they had electricity and heating. Admission costs €5.
Enter the Merino pharmacy, a curious visit in the city
We do not want you to need any medication during your visit to Leon. But we recommend you enter the Merino pharmacy, the oldest in the city. It can be considered a pharmacy-museum, since it preserves the original appearance of the 19th century when it was founded. A little gem to see in Leon that often goes unnoticed.
Be amazed by the Fjords of Riaño
One of the great surprises in the province of Leon are the Riaño fjords. Who would say that you would find a landscape typical of Norway so close to Leon? The Riaño reservoir is surrounded by mountains, as the Picos de Europa National Park is just a few kilometers away. A landscape spectacle!
Take an excursion to Astorga
To finish off our list of things to do in Leon , we recommend taking a trip to neighboring Astorga. It is a very important city on the Camino de Santiago due to the religious importance of its cathedral. It also has a Roman past and even a great heritage of modernist buildings. A little gem that you can discover just 50 kilometers from Leon.