Gijón is a city in the northern Spanish region of Asturias, and sits right on the country’s north coast. It’s surrounded by rolling green scenery, rugged clifftops and wild, natural beaches. But it’s not just the surroundings that will keep you interested here. As well as great seafood restaurants and cider bars, Gijón is home to many museums, an aquarium, old archaeological sites and a botanical garden. Here are our top ten things to do and see in Gijón.
The Railway Museum of Asturias is responsible for conserving Asturias‘ historical railway heritage. It displays exhibits on the Industrial Revolution, technological development and the social impact of railways in the region. It is housed inside an old railway station and features lots of old steam engines that the kids will love. You can even climb inside some of them.
The Atlantic Botanical Garden Gijón lies 5km southeast of the centre of the city, and is a lovely, peaceful and green area way from the busy town. It features over 2000 varieties of plants, many of which are native to northern Spain and the Atlantic coastal regions. Two of the highlights include the Garden of the Island – a historical garden dating back more than 150 years – and the Natural Monument of La Carbayeda El Tragamón, a natural forest with 400-year-old trees.
Called Eulogy to the Horizon in English, this mammoth sculpture is found on the top of Santa Catalina Hill and is one of Gijón’s most famous sights. Created by the celebrated Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida, it’s made from cement blocks and was completed in 1990. Locals have nicknamed this sculpture ‘King Kong’s Water Closet’ because of its interesting shape.
You can’t leave Gijón without trying a traditional Asturian sidrería (cider bar). Tierra Astur is one of the best and has a few branches dotted all over the region. Inside you’ll find that it’s rustic and cosy, filled with lots of dark wood, wooden benches and green glass bottles hanging from the ceiling. See the way the cider is poured into your glass from a great height to aerate the bubbles. They also serve good seafood and cheese platters.
Gijón Aquarium is a great option for visitors to the city, especially families. It covers 4,000 square metres and is home to 5,000 marine creatures from 400 different species. There’s everything here from otters and Magellanic penguins to sharks. The Aquarium is also the only one in Spain where you can see all five groups of animals – mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish. There is a section on Cantabrian rivers as well as tropical oceans.
East of the city centre and the Plaza Mayor you’ll find this museum of Asturian culture. From the outside, it’s an avant-garde and contemporary, while inside and around the back, you’ll find old stone roundhouses and historical displays. Look out for the traditional Asturian bagpipes, the elegant carriages, prints, lithographs, old photographs and documents, showing what life used to be like here in the old days.
This museum is the birthplace of the Age of Enlightenment politician, philosopher and author Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos (1744-1811). It sits on the grand square of the same name and is a beautiful 18th-century building. On the main floor, exhibits display objects from his life, as well as original pieces of furniture. On the upper level, visitors can see artwork from the late 19th and 20th centuries by a number of Asturian artists, including painter Evaristo Valle who was born in Gijón.
To the west of San Lorenzo Beach, and close to Santa Catalina Hill, sit the ancient Roman Baths, built around 100 AD. Inside, you’ll move across walkways, looking down at the ruins below and learning all about the different functions of the rooms and how they aided in the health of the people who lived here at the time. Look out for the cold zones, warm bath areas, and the hot spaces used as saunas.
San Lorenzo is Gijón’s main city beach and one of the most stunning urban beaches in the north of Spain. A long sweep of fine yellow sand, it’s framed by a high stone wall and backed by a promenade lined with restaurants and shops. The beach is very popular with families and sunbathers and can get quite busy in the summer. In other seasons, it’s also popular with water sports enthusiasts, home to surf schools and kayak and windsurfing rental outfits.
Santa Catalina Hill sits high above the city with views over the centre to one side and the ocean to the other. The whole area is one giant park, perfect for walks, exploring and picnics. There are a few kids’ playgrounds, as well as lots of lush grass and stunning views. At the top sits the old artillery battery, complete with canons, and further up still, you’ll find the previously mentioned Eduardo Chillida’s sculpture Eulogy to the Horizon.
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