Last weekend we made a visit to the historic city of León. It was a Valentine’s day getaway, where we dined, relaxed and enjoyed the architecture of its Gothic old town. León dates back to Roman times, but grew to prominence in the Middle Ages as a stop along the Camino de Santiago. It’s classic Gothic cathedral is undoubtedly one of the most impressive in Spain.
The Gothic masterpiece of León draws many comparisons with its predecessor cathedral in Burgos. Both are stunning, yet have their own unique merits. While the Burgos church is larger and in my opinion more ornate from the exterior, the León cathedral has a some of the best stained glass windows on the continent. If I had to rank the two, I would probably put the cathedral of Burgos slightly ahead of León’s, but not by much. Both deserve attentive visits.
Beyond the cathedral, León has several other noteworthy monuments that give the city almost a regal atmosphere. Most prominent are the Hostal San Marcos, which sheltered pilgrims centuries ago en route to Santiago, as well as the Casa Botines, one of only three works of Antonio Gaudí outside of Cataluña. Though not as experimental of some of Gaudí’s work, it’s location in León lets you get close and really enjoy the architecture, without the traffic, noise, and tourist hordes prevalent in Barcelona.
León is one of my new favorites in northern Spain. You can see the city comfortably on foot at a relaxed pace while enjoying some great architecture from various eras. If you are looking for a place to stay, the Posada Regia is highly recommended. It was a bit of a splurge for us, but is priced reasonably by European standards and offers great service in a preserved old-town building. While up on the meseta, a stop in León is well worth your time.