Continuing on this holidays in Spain we decided to spend the day in Astorga, just 52km way from Leon. A major point along the UNESCO World Heritage Site listed Way of Saint James, it comes next after Leon and middle way to Ponferrada, the next important stop along this pilgrim way. Listed as Spanish Historic Heritage site, it is well known for being the city in Spain with the best preserved Roman sewers. These are so good in state after 2000 years that are still in use today.
It was a key city during the Roman empire due to the gold mines not far towards Ponferrada to the north west of Spain, still in the region of Leon, known as Las Medulas and listed an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Being one of the largest in production, they provided to the capital of the empire, Rome, with all the gold mined here. The streets follows the original Roman pattern and since the historical city is inside the walls, it is very simple and easy to walk around without need for any map or getting lost.
But the city is not only important for its Roman origins and remains, but also for being one of the very few places outside of Barcelona where Antoni Gaudi designed one of his works; and incredibly enough for this rarity, the province of Leon has 2 of his works, with the second one in the city of Leon itself.
Although a small city, counting the time going there and back (if you do it from Leon), the size makes it perfect for a day trip, and I mean it in the sense that you don’t need to get here early nor leave late. You will have plenty of time to enjoy without any rush and of course, having the extra time you will need to enjoy the copious food if you get a Cocido Maragato.
Food is as delicious as you will find across the region on Leon and overall, the whole north of Spain. The most famous dish is without doubt, Cocido Maragato. Although cocido is famous across Spain, Maragato one is different in the sense that it is served opposite way. It is a stew of meats (as many as 12 can be at once) slowly cooked which will be served first in a large dish; tthereafter it comes another dish full of chickpeas and vegetables which were all cooked together on the same water as the meats, and lastly, the soup. And be aware it might be 2 kind of soups served at once. If you manage to eat it all then it’s a miracle. But when you though that was all, it comes the dessert. Typical for Cocido is to have Natillas. Of same consistence as custard and similar in taste, it will top your feast.
Other dishes include garlic soup, very famous for the region of Leon, and comes from the miners where they needed something hot and quick to warm up. Cuts of meats such as jamon, salchichon, cecina, lomo and plenty of cheeses are one of the best in Spain for top quality and taste, and also not expensive at all.
As for sweets and pastries, Astorga is famous in Spain for the production of chocolates, although from over 40 factories at the beginning on the 19th century, only 4 remain open. Hojaldres, very thin filo pastry layers and honey, is renown across Spain and comes from here. La Mallorquina is a patisserie with origins over 100 years ago where you can go to any of their branches the get these delicatessens.
For more information about Astorga check Wikipedia site. Spain’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Astorga
- Roman Walls The current walls we see today are the 3rd reincarnation dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries. It is 2.2km long and encloses the whole of the former Roman town.
- Roman remains Many visible on the streets, others are now part of basements in new and old restored buildings. Includes those of villas, mosaics, gates, the forum or thermaes.
- Roman Sewers It came to our days in such a perfect state that after 2000 years it is still being used in some points. A more modern sewer was recently constructed and now many parts of the Roman one can be visited.
- Cathedral of Santa Maria Construction started in 1471 in Gothic style and lasted until the 18th century hence the blend of styles from later centuries, Neo-Classical, Baroque, Renaissance.
- Episcopal Palace Located next to the Cathedral, was designed by genius modernist architect Antoni Gaudí in Neo-Medieval style. Built between 1889 and 1913, it replaces the previous Episcopal Palace destroyed by a fire in the 19th century. A remarkable masterpiece by Gaudí as all of his works. Nowadays it’s the museum of the Saint Jame’s Way.
- Plaza Mayor Translates as Major Square or Great Square. Like for any city in Spain this is the heart of the old town where the commercial streets are.
-Town Hall 1683 Baroque construction counting with 3 towers on its façade being the middle one the bell tower famous for the “Maragatos” sculptures named Juan Zancuda y Colasa which mark the hours.
- Church of Santa Marta One of the oldest churches in the city and the one dedicated to the patron of the city. Built in 1741 over the remains of an older church.
- Other churches Including San Bartolomé, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Andrés or Sancti Spiritus Convent. All located inside the walls in the historic centre.
- Gullón Theatre Built in 1923 it is only recently that is being renovated back to scenic acts after being a disco for many years.
- Streets in the old town Every street within the Roman walls is filled with historical buildings, churches and monuments. Little squares and small parks. The best way to enjoy the city is by exploring along its streets.
Astorga is in the middle of a key transport hub towards the north and north west of Spain. The motorways leading to Galicia and Cantabria and the train line towards Galicia cross the city.
At only 52km from Leon, it is very likely you will be coming to Astorga from Leon. You can either take buses or trains. Commuter, Regional or High Speed trains all do have a stop in Astorga. It takes approximately 30 minutes to get there. However coming from other cities or regions in Northern Spain is also easy but will take longer time as the mountain range of Cantabria is not far anymore. Fortunately, the new high-speed railway line has reduced the time drastically as now the journey is between tunnels rather than climbing up and down the mountain ports on a rather extremely scenic route. If you count with the time, then the slower trains on the older route are a must for the landscapes. Motorways cross the mountain range via tunnels hence consider the bus or having a car instead.
Once in the city, there is no need for taking any public transportation at all. Distances are short, and sights next to each others. And considering most of the historic walled city centre is pedestrian friendly, this is without any doubt the best way to enjoy the city at your own pace.
I’ve never spent a night in Astorga for what I cannot suggest nor recommend any place to stay. Every time I came here has been on a day trip from Leon. There, is in any case, a good choice of hotels, not as much as you have in Leon; so unless you want to continue on a trip farther to the north of Spain, it is wiser to stay in Leon. As usual, the most reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers. Then, if your budget is still not met, there is a good selection of properties through airb&b and the likes of course.