Formerly the center of Christian Spain, today Leon (pop. 145,000) is best known for its 13th-century Gothic licathedral, arguably the most beautiful in Spain. Its spectacular stained-glass windows have earned the city the nickname ha Ciudad Azul (The Blue City) and alone warrant a trip to Leon. The cathedral’s museum displays gruesome wonders, including a sculpture depicting the skinning of a saint. (Cathedral open in summer daily 8:30am-2:30pm and 5-7pm; off-season 8:30am-l:30pm and 4-7pm. Free. Museum open in summer daily 9:30am-l:30pm and 4-6:30pm; off-season M-F 9:30am-lpm and 4-6pm, Sa 9:30am-l:30pm. ‚3.50.) The Basilica San Isidoro, dedicated in the 11th century to San Isidoro of Seville, houses the bodies of countless royals in the impressive Panteon Real. From PL Santo Domingo, walk up C. Ramon y Cajal; the basilica is up the flight of stairs on the right just before C. La Torre. (Open M-Sa 9am-1:30pm and 4pm-6:30pm, Su 9am-l:30pm. ‚3.) For nearby bars, discos, and techno music, head to the barrio humedo (drinker’s neighborhood) around Plaza de San Martin and Plaza Mayor. After 2am, the crowds weave to Calle Lancia and Calle Conde de Guillen, both heavily populated with discos and bars.

Trains ( 902 24 02 02) run from Av. Astorga 2 to Madrid (4l4hr.; M-Sa 6 per day, Su 2 per day; ‚22-32). Buses (s987 21 00 00) leave from Po. Ingeniero Saenz de Miera for Madrid (4V6hr.; M-F 12 per day 2:30am-10:30pm, Sa-Su 8 per day 2:30am-7:30pm; ‚18-30). Av. Palencia (a left out of the main entrance of the bus station and then a right onto the bridge, or a right out of the main entrance of the train station) leads across the river to Plaza Glorieta Guzman el Bueno, which after the rotary becomes Avenida de Ordono II and leads to Leon’s cathedral and the adjacent tourist office, PI. Regia 3. ( 987 23 70 82. Open M-F 9am-2pm and 5-7pm, Sa-Su 10am-2pm and 5-8pm.) Many accommodations cluster on Avenida de Roma, Avenida Ordono II, and Avenida Republica Argentina, which lead into the old town from PL Glorieta Guzman el Bueno. Hostal Orejas , C. Villafranca 6, 2nd fl. is just down Av. Republica Argentina from PI. Glorieta Guzman el Bueno. Each brand-new room comes with bath, shower, and cable TV. (987 25 29 09; janton@usarios.retecal.es. Free Internet access. Singles ‚30; doubles ‚39-49; triples ‚62; extra bed ‚10.) Inexpensive eateries fill the area near the cathedral and on the small streets off C. Ancha; also check Plaza San Martin, near Plaza Mayor. Postal Code: 24004.

DAYTRIP FROM LEON: ASTORGA. Astorga’s fanciful iSPalacio Episcopal, designed by Antoni Gaudi in the late-19th century, now houses the Museo de los Caminos. ( 987 61 88 82. Open July-Sept. Su 10am-2pm, Tu-Sa 10am-2pm and 4-8pm; Oct.-June Su llam-2pm, Tu-Sa llam-2pm and 4-6pm. ‚2.50.) Opposite the palacio is Astorga’s cathedral and museum. (Both open daily 10am-2pm and 4-8pm. Cathedral free. Museum ‚2.50.) Astorga is most easily reached by bus from Po. Ingeniero Saenz de Miera in Leon (45min.; M-F 16 per day 6am-9:30pm, Sa-Su 6-7 per day 8:30am-8:30pm; ‚3).


Arid plains bake under the intense summer sun, relieved only by scattered patches of glowing sunflowers. This land of harsh beauty and cruel extremes hardened New World conquistadors such as Heman Cortes and Francisco Pizarro.

LEON Photo Gallery

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