León preserves an interesting Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance legacy, the result of its splendour during the Middle Ages. The Plaza Mayor forms the centre of this city, crossed by the river Bernesga. Among this baroque collection of buildings stands the City Hall, popularly known as the "Balcón de la Ciudad" (Balcony of the City), since from its galleries the nobles observed the town's activities taking place.
Next to the City Hall is the neighbourhood of San Martín, built around the square and the church of the same name. In this area, there are small palaces and large houses such as the Casa de las Carnicerías and the Palace of Count Luna. The palace has a 14th-century Gothic façade with Arab influences and a large dressed tower. Also worth a visit is the church of San Salvador de Palat del Rey, dating from the 10th century and the oldest in the city.
Around these streets there are bars and restaurants where we can sample the best of the region's gastronomy and which have made it worthy of the nickname "El Húmedo". We can continue our route on to the Palace of los Guzmanes and the Casa de los Botines. The main façade of the palace, site of the County Council, dates back to the 16th century and featuring prominently on the building are the lattice balconies and the lateral façade. The Casa de los Botines, meanwhile, is the work of the architect Antonio Gaudí, who launched the modernist style in the city. León has more examples of this artistic trend in the square of Santo Domingo.
From here, we can enter the area surrounded by the Roman walls, with the city's two jewels located at either end: the Cathedral and Basilica of San Isidro. The "Pulcra Leonina", one of the most striking Gothic temples in Spain, stands on the site of an old Roman baths and a Romanesque church. Approaching it face on offers us, on its main front, a view of one of the most significant series of Gothic sculptures, a richly-coloured rose window and two towers, curiously free-standing from the main façade. But perhaps what most captures the visitor's attention are the 1,800 square metres of stained-glass windows. Once inside, stopping by at the choir, the Romanesque tombs in the transept and the chapels of the ambulatory is a must. A visit to the Cathedral Museum, one of the most complete of its kind, takes us to see the cloister and a plateresque stairway, as well as major paintings and sculptures.
One of the most significant sites in the whole of Europe is the Basilica de San Isidoro. Its thick walls jealously guard what is known as the "Sistine Chapel" of the Spanish Romenesque style. It has a series of frescoes from the 12th century which decorate the underground crypt of the Royal Pantheon. We can find scenes from the Old and New Testament, floral motifs and a calendar of agricultural tasks. They still preserve their original colour. But the exceptional condition and quality of the paintings must not distract us from viewing the architectural features. The sculptures on the main fronts are a true Bible in images. Its prestigious collection of medieval art is enriched by the San Isidro Chest, the Ivory Chest or the Chalice of Doña Urruca.
Walking around the city, you can discover churches of all ages and styles. In San Marcelo there is a reredos created in part by Gregorio Fernández, one of the most significant sculptors of the Spanish baroque style. Meanwhile, a church which recalls the splendour of the Pilgrim's Road to Santiago de Compostela (Camino de Santiago) as it passed through León is the Virgen del Camino (the Virgin of the Way), highly venerated in the city.
Oficina de Turismo: Plaza de Regla, 3
24003 León (León)
Tel. +34 987237082
Source: Web server of Instituto de Turismo de España, TURESPAÑA.