Just because you’ve been to Benidorm or Barcelona doesn’t mean you know Spain, so keep looking! There are a lot of fascinating towns of great charm inland and León is one of them. Founded in Roman times, it’s a historic hub, with a beautifully maintained 13th century gothic Cathedral which boasts striking stained glass windows. The Cathedral dominates the town, but you’re strongly advised not to miss the smaller Basílica de San Isidoro. This Romanesque church is an absolute gem and has some of Europe’s best preserved frescoes on it ceilings (pictured).
León is one of the last important city stops on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail, hence the trove of impressive buildings. Its luxury Parador is housed in what was once a 12th century convent-cum hospital, where the pilgrims were welcomed, and its ornate facade gives some indication of what to expect inside. There are more than 800 works of art on display, the rooms are built around the monastery cloister and the church is of special historic interest.
Then, of course, there’s the food. León is famous for tapas, which are still often free when you order a drink. The food is hearty, with lamb, suckling pig and wild boar high on everyone’s list and visitors to the area inevitably gravitate towards ‘las cuevas’, the caves. Originally used for producing and preserving wine, a number of them have also morphed into top-class restaurants, serving steaks to die for. Try Los Poinos (www.lospoinos.com).
And if you need any more reasons for visiting the city, there’s a ‘magic festival’ (www.magicfestival.com) for children and adults alike, beginning on Christmas Day and ending on December 30th. Magicians and illusionists from France, Japan, Korea, Holland, Argentina and the US are taking part, so book now and don’t miss a trick!