Set in a region with spectacular mountain ranges and a rugged coastline, the capital of Spain’s Asturias principality is rich in architecture, art and history. Of the many Spain tourist attractions, the ones in Oviedo are sure to charm. Here are 10 classic things to do in Oviedo.
Besides a charming old town, Oviedo is home to some amazing Spanish landmarks and a fabulous place to taste delicious Spanish cuisine.
Things to do in Oviedo
1- Gothic splendour in Oviedo
The Cathedral of San Salvador is an imposing Gothic building with touches of pre-Romanesque, Romanesque and Baroque designs.
Work on the cathedral began towards the end of the 13th century and, like many significant buildings of that period, it took a couple of centuries to complete.
The cathedral’s ultimate jewel is the Camara Santa (holy chamber), remains of a 9th century church that was once the original place of worship around which the cathedral was built over.
The Camara Santa consists of a chapel and crypt that contains statues of Jesus Christ and the apostles, jewels such as the 9th century Cross of Angels and the 10th century Cross of Victoria (a glittering treasure made from gold and precious stones).
It’s also known throughout Spain for its tombs of past Asturian kings.
2- World Heritage monuments
Once the capital of Christian Spain, Oviedo can trace its history back to AD 761 when two monks built a church dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa.
As the capital of Asturias, one of the few Spanish territories to avoid invasion by the Moors, Oviedo’s unique collection of well-preserved pre-Romanesque 9th century structures survived the centuries and are World Heritage listed.
Included in this group are the churches of Santa María del Naranco, San Miguel de Lillo, Santa Cristina de Lena, San Julián de los Prados and the Camara Santa.
Also on the list is La Foncalada, a rare 9th century water supply system made up of a pond, a chapel and a water channel.
3- Museums galore
Housed in what was once the 16th century Benedictine monastery of San Vicente is the Archaeological Museum (San Vicente, 5, tel: +34 98 521 5405), a museum that displays an array of local prehistoric, pre-Romanesque and Romanesque exhibits.
There are mosaics, epigraphs and ceramics, as well as altar stones from the churches of San Miguel de Lillo and Santa Maria del Naranco.
Another museum is the Fine Arts Museum of Asturias (Calle Santa Ana 1, tel: +34 98 521 3061).
Housed within the 18th century Velarde Palace, this museum has the largest public collection of art in Asturias.
There are over 8000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings, photography and industrial art. Admission to both museums is free.
4- Sculpture trail
The entire city of Oviedo is an open-air sculpture park where lots of artistic sculptures can be found in plazas throughout the city.
You could spend several days walking around the city just admiring these works of art.
Some of the more well-known sculptures are Maternidad by sculptor Botero which is located at Plaza de la Escandalera, El Regreso de William B. Arrensberg by Úrculo which is located at Plaza de Porlier and La Regenta (the regent’s wife) by Mauro Álvarez which graces the Plaza de Alfonso II el Casto and provides an eye-catching contrast to the imposing Cathedral of San Salvador in the background.
There’s even a life-sized statue of Woody Allen created by sculptor Joan Miro after the American filmmaker was presented the Prince of Asturias award for his contribution to the arts in 2002.
5- Gastronomic delights
The rich soil around Oviedo produces a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, peas, peppers and artichokes.
Oviedo’s restaurateurs take great pride in using the readily available fresh local produce to complement meals of seafood or sausages.
The region is well-known for its local cider served in cider houses, or sidrerias, scattered throughout the city.
Watching the waiters pour cider is even more fun than drinking it and any waiter worth his salt will be an expert.
Cider is poured from a bottle held with one arm fully extended above the head into a glass held with the other arm fully extended near the hip, usually without looking at either the bottle or the glass.
Cold meats and tasty varieties of local cheese are served as an appetiser with the cider. Try the Cider House Tierra Astur (Gascona 1, 330001 Oviedo, tel: +34 98 521 5679).
For more gastronomic delights, here are 11 foods you must try in Galicia.
6- Top of the world
The Picos de Europa mountain range (peaks of Europe) was named by homecoming Spanish sailors whose first sight of their homeland was these towering peaks.
Energetic activities include rock climbing and hiking while the Fuente De Cable Car, a 900-metre ascent from Fuente De, carries visitors up to a rocky plateau with spectacular panoramic views of peaks and valleys.
You can also enjoy views of the mountains by booking in to one of the many country manors around the area.
The beautifully restored 16th century El Palacio de Cutre (33583 Villamayor, Principado de Asturias, tel: +34 98 570 8072) is one such manor.
Set in a remote rural setting just a short drive from Oviedo, the manor’s creaky floorboards, hidden staircases, a tower and a chapel are historic features that add to its charm.
7- Follow the river
Navigating the rapids and shallow spots along the Sella River, a winding waterway that provides picturesque vistas at every turn, is oodles of fun.
There are a number of professional adventure operators along the river that have kayaks for hire as well as guided kayak tours.
The International Descent of the River Sella is a race that attracts participants from all over Europe.
Join the cheering crowd along the river banks between Arriondas and Ribadesella in August each year.
8- Jurassic playground
40 kilometres from Oviedo, near the village of Colunga, is one of the most comprehensive dinosaur museums in the world, the Jurassic Museum of Asturias (Rasa de San Telmo, San Juan de Duz, Colunga, tel: +34 90 230 6600).
Shaped to resemble a giant dinosaur’s three-toed footprint, the museum has extensive displays of prehistoric fossil remains and life-sized replicas of dinosaurs that roamed the area 65 million to 280 million years ago.
There are also well-run educational workshops for children.
The museum is set on the stretch of coastline known as the Dinosaur Coast, where dinosaur remains and footprints were discovered.
9- Fishing village
Take a day trip to charming the fishing village of Llanes, once a major fishing and whaling port.
Spend the day exploring quaint historic palaces and chapels, catching waves at the beach or watching the fishermen mend their nets.
One of the highlights of the town is sculptor Ibarrola’s The Cubes of the Memory, a striking multicoloured cubical sculpture that stretches right along the shoreline.
10- To market, to market
The El Fontan market in the heart of Oviedo’s historic quarter sells everything from honey and bottles of extra virgin olive oil to pigs’ trotters and fresh bread.
The best time to visit is during la fiesta de la Ascension, the May festival that celebrates farming life in the Asturias.
During the festival there are agricultural displays, livestock competitions and lots of stalls with samples of local cuisine.
Many of the locals add to the atmosphere by dressing up in traditional Asturian folk costumes.
Northern Spain is a fabulous region for a road trip. If you’re travelling to Spain from the UK, here’s why you should take your car on the ferry. There are regular ferry crossings between the UK and Spain.