Leon may not be a very well-known Spanish city, but it does offer visitors a fantastic variety of things to see and do. If you love architecture, you’re in for a treat, as Leon is home to a a wealth of grand, historic buildings, which include some of the most important in Spain. From convents and cathedrals to historic and contemporary museums, you’ll certainly find more than enough to keep you occupied here.
The Basílica de San Isidoro
The Basílica de San Isidoro is a grand caramel-coloured old church and collegiate college sitting at the edge of the Old Town. It was consecrated in 1063 and comprises a Royal Pantheon, covered in stunning colorful frescoes; an Oriental and Biblical Museum; and a collegiate library. As well as these, the collegiate is also a beautiful luxury hotel, where you can dine in among the ancient cloisters and look down on the fountain-filled courtyard from your bedroom.
Gaudí’s Casa Botines
The famous architect Antoni Gaudí not only designed buildings in Barcelona, but in northern Spain, too. One of these is Leon’s Casa Botines, which opened in April 2017 for the first time in 125 years. Built between 1891 and 1892, it was commissioned by Simón Fernández and Mariano Andrés González, representatives of the Hispano-Colonial Bank of Barcelona. From the outside, it looks like a medieval fortress, but it was actually inspired by Leon’s gothic cathedral.
The Museo de Leon
Leon Museum is one the oldest and biggest history museums in the region of Castilla y Leon. The permanent collection takes visitors on a journey back in time through the province. Objects on display date as far back as the Bronze and Iron Ages. There are also artefacts from Las Médulas, the ancient Roman gold-mining site.
The Convento de San Marcos
The old convent of San Marcos is one of the most famous and stunningly beautiful buildings in Leon. It’s made up the convent itself, which is now a luxury five-star hotel; a church consecrated in 1541; and a fascinating archaeological museum. It was a gift from Fernando the Catholic to the city of Leon, and today is considered to be the most important Spanish Renaissance buildings in the country.
Leon Cathedral and Museum
Leon’s Cathedral, the Catedral de Santa María de Regla de Leon, is a French style gothic cathedral, which was built on the site of King Ordoño II’s royal palace. He wanted to give thanks to God after he was able to defeat the Moors, and the cathedral was his way of doing this. It has a stunning facade, decorated with a huge rose window and lots of colourful stained glass. As well as seeing inside the cathedral, visitors can learn more about it and see some of its exquisite objects on display at the museum.
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo
The Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, one of the most important contemporary art museums in Castilla y Leon, houses more than 1,650 works by around 400 Spanish and Leonese artists, as well as international ones. The works only date as far back as 1992, and one of its most impressive galleries is the one devoted to the 21st century. Inaugurated in 2005, it was designed by architects Luis Mansilla and Emilio Tuñón, and is covered in hundreds of sheets of rainbow-coloured glass, which are supposed mimic the colours of the stained glass of the cathedral.
Palacio de los Guzmanes
The Palace of the Guzamanes sits right next to the Casa Botines and is a grand renaissance building that is the seat of the provincial government of Leon. It was built in the 16th century and was designed by the architect Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón. He was ordered to build it by the wealthy Guzman family, one of most influential in the area at that time.
Have Tapas in the Barrio Húmedo
The Barrio Húmedo is the name given to the city’s casco antiguo, or old town. It translates as the ‘wet district’, because it’s where the city’s biggest concentration of bars, pubs and taverns is located. This is also where you’ll find the city’s best tapas bars. What better way to seek out the best of them than to hop from bar to bar, sampling as you go?
The Sierra-Pambley Museum was only inaugurated in 2006, even though the building dates back to the 19th century. Here, visitors can enter the world of the Leonese bourgeois elite to find out how they used to live. The house was built in 1848 by Segundo Sierra Pambley and features all the original furnishings and fittings, such as patterned wallpaper, luxurious carpets and gilt-edged mirrors.
Have a Drink on the Plaza Mayor
At the centre of the city sits the grand Plaza Mayor, surrounded by colonnade arches, beautiful architecture and buildings painted in crimsons, mustards and rose. It was originally constructed in 1672, although there were some later additions in 1677. The original name of the square was Plaza Pan, or Bread Square, because it was home to so many bakeries. Why not admire this elegant square and its graceful Consistory building from one of the many cafes while you enjoy a drink?
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.