Photo of Leon

Visit Leon

Leon is the capital of the province of Leon in the Castile and Leon region of Spain. Leon is a key resting point on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

Leon is a pleasure to visit. It is a lively university town, has an attractive modern town and it has a fantastic old centre with one of Spain's best cathedral which has 1,800 meters sq of magnificent stained glass windows.

Explore Leon

Leon's cathedral is the main sight of the city. It was started in the 13th century and took 200 years to build. The exterior is covered in towers and buttresses which range in sizes and shapes. Symmetry was certainly not the goal of this cathedral.

San Marcos

Inside the stained glass windows are superb - amongst the best in Europe. The windows range from 13th to 20th century and display a wide range of scenes including details of medieval life. The Rose Window in the West Facade is 8m in diameter and is one of the oldest in the cathedral. There is a Diocesan museum inside and the entrance fee includes entrance to the cathedral's cloister.

The second main attraction of Leon is the Basilica de San Isidoro was built largely in the 12th century. It was built for Fernando I as a shrine for San Isidoro and a mausoleum for himself and future royals of Spain. Attatched to the basilica is the Romanesque Pantheon which is the burial place for many kings, queens, princes and princesses of Spain.

The Basilica has a beautiful facade and inside are magnificent capitals and frescoes. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in Spain.


The Hostal of San Marcos is another wonderful example of Spanish Renaissance architecture. It was a station on the pilgrim route to Santiago and began as a convent to house the pilgrims and as a residence for the Knights of Santiago who protected the pilgrims and led the reconquest. In the 16th century it was rebuilt as the Knights' headquarters.

Its main facade has stunning plasteresque relief work. The Hostal of San Marcos is now a parador, the Parador de Leon, and so you can stay here and really enjoy the beautiful architecture up close.You can enter the foyer and bar and restaurant even if you are not staying here.The chapter house and cloister can also be visited even if you are not staying in the parador and of course its stunning plateresque facade can be seen by all.

Another key sight in Leon is the Casa de Botines. This was built by Gaudi and has a fairy-tale aspect with a gothic twist! This is one of only three Gaudi buildings to be found outside of Catalonia. Look out also for the beautiful 16th century Palacio de los Guzmanes and the 17th century Palacio de los Marqueses de Prado built in Baroque style.

Also worth seeing are the Roman and Medieval town walls especially the San Isidro tower. The walls were built in the first century AD, enlarged in the 3rd and 4th centuries and then further enlarged in the 13 and 14th centuries.

Leon has a couple of excellent museums including MUSAC which is a modern art gallery which hosts an international music gallery every year, and the Fundacion Vela Zanetti with exhibits of Zanetti's work. Gaudi's Casa Botines is a museum dedicated to Gaudi and to 19 and 20th century Spanish art.

Leon is a lovely town to visit and explore during the day and also has a vibrant night life especially around the old quarter, the Barrio Humedo.

Places to visit nearby

Astorga with its unusual Palace Episcopal, designed by Gaudi, is close by and worth visiting. Just next to Astorga, Castrillo de los Polvazares is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful villages in Spain.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Leon guide and the Castile and Leon guide.

See also: 

Map of Leon and places to visit


Leon places to visit



Astorga has a fine cathedral and a multi-turreted palace the Palacio Episcopal (Bishop's Palace) designed by Gaudi.

Astorga guide
Castrillo de los Polvazares

Castrillo de los Polvazares

Castrillo de los Polvazares is one of Spain's most beautiful villages. It was built in the 16th century in a lovely reddish stone.

Castrillo de los Polvazares guide

...or see all our recommended places to visit in Castile and Leon