Visit Castile and Leon, Spain: sightseeing and attractions

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Visit Castile and Leon

Castile and Leon is a huge region with a truly remarkable architectural heritage. Visit its many castles, monasteries, cathedrals and historic towns.

Castile and Leon tourist sites and places to visit

For a summary of the most popular sites in the region see also Castile and Leon places to visit.

Avila

The Castile and Leon region is in the north-west of Spain, just south of Asturias and Cantabria, and Galicia. Valladolid serves as the regional capital.

Castile and Leon are united to form Spain's biggest region. This region (known in Spain as Castilla y Leon) was the driving force of the Reconquest and its leaders brought great wealth to the region. If you are looking for monuments, art treasures and historic sights this is the region to choose. Salamanca and Leon are particular highlights and rank amongst the most beautiful cities of Spain

This region is much too big and contains too many sights to cram into a two week holiday and so here is an introduction to each of the nine provinces with suggestions and highlights to enable you to get the most from a visit to this remarkable region.

Leon - North West Castile and Leon

The Picos de Europa mountains and the beautiful cities of Leon and Astorga will delight visitors to the Leon province.

Astorga

Be sure to visit Leon, famous for its gothic cathedral and home also to the Basilica of San Isidoro and San Marcus Convent, now a luxury Parador. Another highlight is Astorga with its multi-turreted Bishop's palace designed by Gaudi. Astorga is considered to be one of Spain's most beautiful towns. West of these is Ponferrada with its Templar castle and iron bridge.

Continue west to Las Medulas, a small town overlooking some truly breathtaking rocky countryside. Carucedo is another good place from which to explore this great scenery. The dramatic rocky scenery was shaped into its current state by mining in Roman times and this area is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Anyone planning to do the 'Pilgrim's Way' will pass through the attractive town of Villafranca del Bierzo, which is worth visiting even if you are not doing the pilgrim walk.

Another highlight is Castrillo de Polvazares which is one of Spain's most beautiful villages and home to a castle! Penalba de Santiago is another "most beautiful village".

Palencia - Northern Castile and Leon

With the highest concentration of Romanesque art in the whole of Europe there is plenty to discover. Walkers may want to discover this as part of the "Way of Saint James" pilgrim route which crosses the province.

The towns of Fromista, Poblacion de Campos, Villalcazar de Sirga and Carrion de los Condes are all on the pilgrim route. Before the Reconquest Carrion de los Condes had to hand over a hundred virgins each year to Moorish lords!

Romanesque art can be found in the pretty town of Aguilar de Campoo, in the north of the province. The monastery is particularly impressive. Nearby in a beautiful location, surrounded by mountains, is Cervera de Pisuerga with many monuments to see.

The provincial capital of Palencia has many treasures of its own. It was an important town in the Middle Ages and is home to Spain's first ever university.

Near to Palencia are the lovely towns of Ampudia and Duenas both of which have the 'Property of Cultural Interest' classification.

If you wish to explore the Palencine mountains then head for the pretty village of Cervera de Pisuerga

Burgos - North Eastern Castile and Leon

The magnificent Burgos cathedral and the Archeological Site of Atapuerca are two highlights of the Burgos province.

Burgos

Burgos cathedral is the only cathedral in Spain which has UNESCO World Heritage Status in its own right and should not be missed. The town features many other treasures making it well worth the trip.

Close to the city of Burgos is Atapuerca which is a hugely important prehistoric archaelogical site which has traces of human activity from 1 million years ago through to the present time. It too is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In the north of Burgos visit Medinal de Pomar and explore its attractive medieval streets and 14th century castle.

South of Burgos, Covarrubias is a pretty town with typical Castilian architecture, arcaded streets and medieval walls; Lerma has an impressive historic quarter with lots of grand buildings due to the first Duke of Lerma spending his ill-gotten gains! Aranda de Duero also has some fine 15th century buildings.

One of the most beautiful towns in the province is Penaranda de Duero with its castle and medieval centre and a lovely Renaissance palace. Polvazares is one of Spain's most beautiful villages and has some unique architecture and a castle.

Another highlight is Benavente whose 16th century castle is now a luxury parador. Toro is another fine town and

Zamora - Central Castile-Leon

Spectacular mountains, Romanesque art and the Easter Week celebrations are highlights of the Zamora province.

Zamora

For mountain scenery visit the Lago de Sanabria nature reserve, or head to the Portugese border to the Fermoselle in the Arribes del Duero Natural Park - home to the largest population of wolves in Europe.

The provincial capital of Zamora has a lovely cathedral and a number of fine Romanesque churches. Its Easter Week celebrations are some of the best in Spain. The Romanesque churches of Zamora are home to a colony of storks.

Very popular in the province is Puebla de Sanabria which not only has a castle, many fine buildings and great views but it also sits on the edge of a glacial lake, Lake Sanabria and the Lake Sanabria Natural Park.

Valladolid - Central Castile and Leon

If you like castles this is the region to head for with more than 30 in Valladolid province.

Valladolid

Some spectacular castles to visit in the region include Penafiel castle, Iscar castle, Simancas Castle and the huge Gothic-Mudejar style Castillo de la Mota castle at Medina del Campo. As well as its battleship-shaped castle Penafiel has a plaza whose buildings are all wooden and which is used as a bullring in August.

The city of Valladolid has an attractive historic centre with some fine Renaissance buildings. It is also a lively university town and hosts the Valladolid International Film Festival every year. If you wish to join in the Easter Week celebrations then Valladolid is a good choice. It is also famous for its gardens.

Other highlights include Medina de Rioseco, a fortified town which also hosts excellent Easter Week celebrations, and Tordesillas with its Royal Monastery decorated in Moorish style. Uruena is one of Spain's "most beautiful villages".

Soria - Eastern Castile and Leon

Attractive countryside and some interesting Romanesque architecture are the key attractions to this quiet part of Spain.

The city of Soria has a delightful medieval centre and some great Romanesque architecture. Its 13th century cloister has unusual interlaced arches.

To the west El Burgo de Osma also has some fine medieval architecture and San Esteban de Gormaz with its castle and Romanesque churches is a highlight of the province. Its castle was once the largest fortified building in the West.

Head south and Medinaceli is another attractive town worth visiting.

Salamanca - South Western Castile and Leon

Salamanca is a delightful province with some beautiful towns and villages including its capital Salamanca. The scenery is very varied and includes several nature reserves.

Ciudad Rodrigo

The city of Salamanca is one of the most beautiful in Spain and should definitely be visited if you are in the area. It is packed with golden coloured Renaissance architecture and its Plaza Major is surrounded by beautiful buildings.

Ciudad Rodrigo, with its 14th century castle/parador and Renaissance streets is one of Spain's most beautiful towns and the mountain village of La Alberca is one of Spain's most beautiful villages and so this province really does have some treats in store for visitors.

Also worth visiting are: San Felices de los Gallego on the Portugese border which is surrounded by imposing medieval walls and dominated by its castle; Miranda del Castanar, which is another town dominated by its castle. It is set in the Sierra de Francia mountains its location is very attractive too.  Bejar is another great town with a 16th century Ducal palace and 11th century defensive walls.

Close to Salamanca the town of Penaranda de Bracamont has typical Castilian architecture.

Avila - Southern Castile and Leon

With mountains in the north and the Tietar valley in the south this province has some striking scenery. It is also home to the city of Avilar with its stunning fortified walls.

Avila

A visit to Avila is a must. Its amazing fortified walls and its UNESCO World Heritage status old town are fascinating and its stunning backdrop of mountains make it even more impressive.

A good way to enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery is by visiting the charming villages dotted through the area. El Barco de Ávila, Arenas de San Pedro, Arévalo, Hoyos del Espino and Piedrahita are particularly nice.

In the north of the province Arevalo has a castle and some interesting Mudejar architecture to see and nearby Madrigal de las Altas Torres has rare Mudejar-style medieval walls.

Walkers will want to spend time in the Sierra de Gredos mountains.

Segovia - South Eastern Castile and Leon

With castles; Royal Palaces and the beautiful and historic city of Segovia, this province has much to offer visitors.

Segovia

The city of Segovia has a Gothic cathedral, a Moorish Alcazar, a Roman Aqueduct and a stunning location - what more could you ask?

Also be sure to visit the Royal Palaces at La Granja de San Ildefonso which was modelled on the palace and gardens of Versailles. The Royal Palace of Riofrio is also in the municipality of San Ildefonso.

If you are interested in castles be sure to visit the splendid Mudejar castle at Coca, the Castillo de Coca, as well as the castles at Cuellar, Turegano and Pedraza de la Sierra.

Sepulveda is an attractive town with a great location overlooking the Sierra de Guadarrama close to the las Hoces del Duration National Park.

About an hour from Segovia is the pretty town of Ayllon with charming traditional architecture.

Castile and Leon tourism and sightseeing

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Castile and Leon

Burgos Cathedral

Las Medulas - amazing rocky scenery formed by Roman gold mines

Old town of Avila with its Extra-Muros churches

Old town of Segovia and its aqueduct

Archaeological site of Atapuerca

Route of Camino de Santiago de Compostella

Museums

Museum of Burgos - archaeological treasures

Museum of Leon - an excellent museum

National Museum of Escultura - museum of religious sculptures, housed in a beautiful building, Valladolid. This is one of the best sculpture museums in Spain.

Oriental Museum, Valladolid - items from China and the Philippines

Art Nouveau and Art Deco museum of Salamanca - the collection includes furniture, jewellery and furniture.

Parks and Caves

Cuevas de Valporquero/ Caves of Valporquero - a huge system of limestone caves with incredible stalactites lit to great effect.

Sierra de Francia and Sierre de Bejar, rolling hills and flat plains and some delightful villages scattered throughout. The villages of Miranda del Castanar, Bejar, Candelario and La Alberca are among the best.

Sierra de Gredos, an attractive mountain range. The National Park of Gredos lies near its highest peak, the Pico Almanzor at 2592m high.

National Park of las Hoces del Duration near Sepulveda.

Las Medulas is the jagged remains left from strip mining for gold in Roman times. Sounds terrible but is spookily beautiful and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site./p>

Monasteries

Monasterio de Santo Domingo de Silos - an 11th century monastery in a peaceful setting. It has lovely Romanesque cloisters and carved capitals. It is one of the best in Spain. The monks in this monastery released a best selling CD of Gregorian chant and are thought to be one of the top three Gregorian chant choirs in the world. Attend the morning Mass or vespers to hear them or even better Saturdays and Sundays at noon.

Carracedo del Monasterio - a large ruined monastery near Villafranca del Bierzo.

Real Monasterio de las Huelgas - a 12 century Cistercian convent. It has a gothic cloister decorated in Moorish style.

Cartuja de Miraflores - a Carthusian monastery of the 15th century. Contains two tombs and an altarpiece by Gil de Siloe.

Gardens

Gardens of La Granja de San Ildefonso - These are very French-style gardens with lots of parterres, fountains and statues. La Granja was a royal retreat for the king of Spain.

Valladolid is a town famous for its attractive gardens.

Paradors of Castile and Leon

Parador de Avila, Avila

Parador de Benavente, Benavente

Parador de Villafranca del Bierzo, Villafranca del Bierzo

Parador de la Granja, La Granja de San Ildefonso

Parador de Cervera de Pisuerga, Cervera de Pisuerga

Parador de Ciudad Rodrigo, Ciudad Rodrigo

Parador de Gredos, Gredos

Parador de Leon, Leon

Parador de Lerma, Lerma

Parador de Puebla de Sanabria, Puebla de Sanabria

Parador de Salamanca, Salamanca

Parador de Segovia, Segovia

Parador de Soria, Soria

Parador de Tordesillas, Tordesillas

Parador de Zamora, Zamora

Wines

This region of Spain is home to the famous Rioja wine. Look out for the Reserva or Gran Reserva when selecting. Haro is at the centre of Rioja production.

See also:

Map of Castile and Leon and places to visit

Castile and Leon places to visit