Why visit Oviedo?
Many use Oviedo as a base for visiting the nearby UNESCO Pre-Romanesque churches but spend some time in the city itself and you will find an intimate and curious place. The architecture is so unique that in no other place did we find anything similar to the charmingly decorative bay-windows of Oviedo. The old town is a nice change of pace from the devoutness of Santiago away to the west and the industrial grind of the Basque Country to the east. Charmingly, Oviedo feels very familiar; very quickly and last but by no means least, hitchhiking out of Oviedo is not so difficult due to its size and useful bus services.
Oviedo: the facts
Capital of the Principality of Asturias in northern Spain, Oviedo is the commercial and administrative centre of its principality and is home to around 230,000 people. Legend has the city being founded in 761 by two monks who built a church to San Vincent This is, however, disputed as archaeologists have found evident of a Roman settlement dating back to the 1st century. The city first began to take off as the capital of the Asturian kingdom in the early Middle Ages and grew in significance as an important staging post along the Camino de Santiago.
For Asturias, despite remaining the only land unconquered by the Muslims, the golden age soon passed, as the capital moved further south to León , following the Reconquista and the newly conquered lands. The kingdom of Asturias gave way to the kingdom of León which in turn gave way to Castilla and then Spain, as the great land mass slowly solidified and unified.
The city’s university was founded in 1600 and the growth in mining and manufacturing during the 19th century brought much needed impetuous back to the region. In 1934 a miners’ revolt rocked the city and was harshly repressed by a young General Franco. This, coupled with a month long siege in the early months of the Spanish Civil War, saw much of the old town destroyed.
Today, the gritty Oviedo-Gijόn-Avilés industrial triangle still forms the bedrock of the region’s industry to this day. Oviedo’s economy relies upon its role as the administrative capital with much of its economy based in the service sector.
Slap bang in the middle of Spain’s green belt, Oviedo is, put simply, very wet. It rains all year round but especially in the winter months. It is an Oceanic climate so expect cool summers but relatively mild winters with temperatures ranging from 14 – 23o C (summer) and 4 – 12 o C (winter)
Weather in Oviedo now
Oviedo has been the inspiration for many Spanish authors and was the basis for the fictional city of Vetusta in Leopoldo Alas’ La Regenta. The city was also heavily featured in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
The internationally respected Orquesta Sinfonica del Principado de Asturias (Asturias Symphony Orchestra) also calls the city home. It, together with the Spanish Lyrical Theatre Festival and Opera Season, helps form the basis of high culture in Oviedo. During the summer months a range of musical concerts and events spring up across the city, including Asturian Folk Music Contests as well as more modern pop and rock performances.
The city’s main festival San Mateo takes place in the 3rd week of September and the 19th September sees America Day celebrated with a big procession in honour of Asturian immigrants. The 21st September is the pinnacle of the event when wine and bollu preñau (sausage filled bread) are handed out to the revelers.
Real Oviedo, the city’s sole football team has been having a tough time of late and are currently in Liga B. Oviedo also plays host to a lower league basketball team and is a regular stop on the cycling tour Vuelta a España.
Oviedo is a small, compact city and so can be easily visited on foot. Situated at the foot of El Monte Naranco it is surrounded on all sides by green rolling hills and farmland. The city centre is framed by the north-south N364. To the east lie the large out of town shopping centres and city hospital, and to the west the university. The largish city park, Campo de San Francisco, is considered the geographic centre of the city and is a good landmark by which to orientate yourself. The large shop-lined Calle de Uria runs concurrently with the park and ends at the RENFE train station to the north of the historic centre. From the east of the park is the El Casco Antiguo (old town), a warren of smaller, older streets centred around the cathedral of San Salvador.
Oviedo Free Walking Tour
Monument & Sights Guide
Palacio de Congresos de Oviedo
(Conference and Exhibition Centre Oviedo)
Monument Type: Conference & Exhibition Centre
Address: C/ Arturo Álvarez Buylla s/n
Opening Times: –
Information: Dreamt up by the Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava, and built on the site of the old football stadium, the Palacio de Congresos de Oviedo is one of the most interesting buildings in Oviedo, if not Spain. The space is over 16.600 m2, and includes the Exhibition and Congress Hall Ciudad de Oviedo, “Modoo” shopping centre, Oviedo Ayre Hotel and departments of the Asturian Government.
Melia Hotel De La Reconquista
(The Reconquista Hotel)
Monument Type: Hotel
Address: Calle Gil de Jaz, 16
Opening Times: –
Information: Constructed in the 18th century as the Hospice and Hospital of the Principality of Asturias, the building was converted in the 1970s to a luxury five-star hotel. The building itself is fabulous with its Baroque façade and two exterior patios being a particular joy.
Campo de San Francisco
(St. Francisco Park)
What is it? Large city park adorned with sculptures, paved walkways and fountains
Where is it? Located in the city centre with main shopping street Calle Uria running along one edge
Information: Popularly known as ‘El Campo’ the park originally constituted the gardens of a Franciscan monastery and is considered to be the lungs of the city. Different features of interest include a Botanical Garden, an image of St. Francis of Assisi, a duck pond and the elegant Blue Peafowls which stalk around the green space.
Plaza del Fontán
What is it? Rectangular public square
Where is it? Located in the old town, close to Iglesia de San Isidoro
Information: The arcaded Fontan square is one of the city’s most iconic public areas, and its name derives from the natural spring that once flooded the whole area. Today, the square is a wonderful place to have a rest, take the weight off and enjoy some food or refreshments in one of the many restaurants and coffee houses surrounding the square.
Iglesia de San Isidoro
(St. Isidoro Church)
Monument Type: Church
Address: Plaza de la Constitución, s/n,
Opening Times: hours of service
Information: Originally constructed in the 16th century as part of a larger foundation of Jesuits of San Matías, the adjoining school was destroyed in the 19th century to make room for the Fontan market. Several renovations of the church, most notably in the 17th century, have left a single nave church with Latin cross and single outer tower. All in the classical style with baroque touches.
Ayuntamiento de Oviedo
(Oviedo Town Hall)
Monument Type: Town Hall
Address: Plaza de la Constitución, s/n,
Opening Times: –
Information: Oviedo Town Hall was built in 1622-1623 but has been renovated numerous times, most notable in the 18th century and is now predominately in the Baroque style. In the Spanish Civil War the building suffered severe damage, however it was rebuilt following the end of the conflict and a clock tower, designed by Gabriel of Torriente, was added in 1940.
Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias
(Museum of Fine Arts of Asturias)
Monument Type: Fine Arts Museum
Address: Calle de Santa Ana, 1-3
Opening Times: Winter: Tues – Fri: 10.30 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 4.30 p.m. – 8.30 p.m. Sat: 11.30 – 2 p.m. & 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Sun: 11.30 – 2.30 p.m. Summer (Jul/Aug): Tues – Sat: 10.30 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. Sun: 10.30 – 2.30 p.m.
Information: Considered to be one of Spain’s best Fine Arts museums, the collection is housed in 3 separate dwellings: the Palacio de Velarde, the Palacio Oviedo-Portal, and Palacio Solís-Carbajal. The Museum of Fine Arts of Asturias has around 10,000 inventoried items, with 350–400 on public display at any one time with works by Spanish artists, with a special emphasis on those from Asturias, as well as those from foreign countries: such as Italian and Flemish painters. There is also an extensive collection of sculptures, photographs, glass objects, and earthenware as part of the main collection.
Palacio de los Condes de Toreno
(Palace of the Counts of Toreno)
Monument Type: Palace
Address: Plaza de Porlier 9
Opening Times: –
Information: Although it is not possible to visit inside. The Palace of the Counts of Toreno is a rectangular shape hiding three bays structured around a central courtyard, where the staircase ascends. Built in 1675 by Gregory de la Roza the façade which you can see is an asymmetrical façade, Baroque in style, made of stone and flanked by Tuscan columns. Currently, it houses the Royal Institute of Asturian Studies (RIDEA), an organization initiated by Provincial Government in 1946.
Catedral de San Salvador de Oviedo & Cámara Sant
(Cathedral of San Salvador, Oviedo & Holy Chamber)
Monument Type: Cathedral
Address: Plaza Alfonso II s/n
Opening Times: 1 Mar – 15 May & 15 Sep – 31 Oct: Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. & 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. 16 May – 14 Sept: Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. & 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. 1 Nov – 28 Feb: Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. & 4 p.m. – 6.30 p.m.
Price: Cathedral: Free Cámara Santa, Museum and Cloister: General Admission: 3 € Pensioner, Group +10: 2.40 € Cámara Santa only: 1.25 €
Information: Oviedo’s star attraction is a wonderful blend of architectural styles from Pre-Romanesque to Baroque, by way of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance influences. The site of the cathedral traces its history back to 781 AD when Fruela I constructed a basilica in honour of San Salvador and a later Romanesque renovation was to follow. The construction of the a new Gothic basilica was undertaken in the 13th century and was complete in the 16th. Later baroque additions include a private chapel (Capilla de los Vigiles), the Pantheon of Asturian Kings and the ambulatory.
The façade was designed by Juan de Badajoz and Pedro de Buyeres, and the tower, a 15th century addition is of interest for its slender, integrated steeple. It is a three nave church with side chapels. Notable features includes an array of plant motifs decorating the capitals of the roof supporting pillars and the Gothic main altarpiece that contains a series of niches, on which is depicted the story of the life of Christ.
In the chapel of King Casto there is a Royal Pantheon in which lay the bodies of the Asturian monarchs also within the cloister is a Diocesan Museum with many archaeological items on display.
The Cámara Santa (Holy Chamber), a UNESCO World Heritage site, is integrated into the cathedral and houses the cathedral’s most treasured items: the Cross of Los Ángeles, the Cross of La Victoria, the Agate Box, a coffer supposedly made by the disciples of the Apostles and containing the most precious relics of the Holy City, and the Holy Ark.
6 Things to do for free in Oviedo
Everybody enjoys free things and we here at HitchHikers Handbook are no different. Here are our suggestions for 6 things to do for free in Oviedo for those on a tight budget but still want to get the most out of the city.
1. The city’s star attraction and UNESCO world heritage site the Cathedral of San Salvador, Oviedo (Plaza Alfonso II s/n, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. & 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. but check monument & sights guide for more details) is Free, although you will have to pay to enter the Holy Chamber.
2. Standing on Plaza de la Constitución you can see the wonderful façades of Ayuntamiento de Oviedo, Iglesia de San Isidoro as well as many other wonderful buildings.
3. Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias (Museum of Fine Arts of Asturias) (Calle de Santa Ana, 1-3, 10.30 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. but check monument & sights guide for more details) is considered one of Spain’s best and is Free.
4. Stroll through the expansive Campo de San Francisco and be joined by elegant Blue Peafowls which stalk around the park,
5. Museo de la Iglesia de Oviedo (Oviedo Church Museum), can be found over the Gothic cloister of the Catedral de San Salvador de Oviedo and contains eight halls displaying a wide variety of religious pieces spanning 1500 years. It is free to enter on Thursday afternoons.
6. Take stock on Plaza del Fontán, enjoying the wonderfully quaint blue and yellow design, from there head to the Mercado del Fontán and soak up the sights, sounds of smells of Oviedo.
Oviedo, unfortunately for us penny-pinchers, is lacking in truly wallet friendly accommodation. Unfortunately sometimes it is unavoidable so here below are a couple of the cheapest options available out there:
Search for Oviedo’s cheapest accommodation (hostels, airbnb, home-stays etc.).
Pension La Casina is a little out of the centre but offers the cheapest rooms in the city with single rooms (€19) and double rooms (€29). There is also Wi-Fi offered in the on-site café.
Hotel Cityexpress Covadonga located just minutes away from the Cathedral and ‘Bulevar de la Sidra’ (Cider Boulevard) prices and rooms vary from (€16) three bed private to (€32) single private, prices are higher at the weekends.
Sidra (cider) drinking in Oviedo is an institution. The whole ritual of cider drinking in Asturias is surprisingly intricate, with a waiter pouring the cider from above his head into the glass below, in order to increase and preserve the fizz. However, he pours no more than a mouthful into the glass, which the customer is supposed to drink in one, and return the glass. This circle repeats endlessly. The best place to experience it is on Calle de Gascona. Look out for signs saying “Sidrería” or “Chigre”.
The area just south of the university the area known as El Cristo is home to many bars and pubs. Calle del Rosel also has a number of late night bars and is home to a younger crowd and lastly the probable centre of late night Oviedo, Calle de Mon which attracts all sorts from Erasmus students to 30 some-things and is the place most people finish up at the end of night’s drinking.
Things to try & buy
Some local specialities include the heavy and filling bean stew Fabada Asturiana is well known all over Spain. There is also a strident local cheese market, like the highly regarded cabrales and for those with a slightly weaker taste preference gamoneu.
The city of Oviedo runs a WiFi network free to both citizens and travellers alike, check out the map below to find your nearest hotspot:
Oviedo’s Airport of Asturias is about 40 km outside of the city and offers many domestic and international (mainly Europe) services. There is a bus that connects the airport and city centre bus station, with buses leaving every hour (6 a.m. – 12 p.m.) and the journey taking 40 – 45 mins.
Oviedo Estación Uría (Oviedo train station) (Av. De Santander) is home to the two train companies that service the city. RENFE runs the León, Madrid and Barcelona lines, with at least one train daily. There are also multiple trains to Gijón. FEVE, located on the upper floor of the train station, cover more local destinations, as well as trains to Santander and Bilbao.
Estacion de Autobuses de Oviedo (Oviedo bus station) (Calle de Pepe Cosmen) is the hub of both nationally and international coach services. The majority of services are organised by ALSA including Madrid, Barcelona and other major Spanish cities. There are also numerous providers of more local lines. More information can be found here
The generally cheap and effective city bus system is run by the TUA with single journey tickets costing less than €1. Must city buses travel down Calle de Uria.
Getting out of Oviedo is relatively easy, as the city is served by multiple motorways and national roads leading off in all directions. To the east, the A-64 to Villaviciosa that connects to the A-8 which continues to Santander and beyond. The A-66 Autovía Ruta de la Plata which runs from Gijón in the north, down the spine of Spain, all the way to Seville in the south and to the west the A-63 to La Espina.
North & West towards Grado & Santiago de Compostela
The N-634, which runs near the University in the east, provides good access to the A-63 for those wanting to go west towards Galicia. To get there from the centre is a 20 – 25 minute walk. From the edge of the park take Av. De Galicia, walk up the hill, crossing the roundabout, after a short while the road changes name to Calle de Fuertes Acevado, but not direction. After passing the university on the left there is a hotel on the right when the houses start to thin out. We hitch-hiked from the hotel entrance and it took about 15 minutes to get a ride.
South towards León
Access to the A-66 Autovía Ruta de la Plata which heads towards Leon can be quite tricky. Av. De León, to the south of the old town, does offer access but it can be problematic due to lack of cars and position. There is a motorway service station a further 2 km along the motorway (it is signposted), but be careful about reaching it and remember it is illegal to hitch-hike on Autovías (motorways) in Spain.
North towards Gijon
It’s not ideal, and you might catch a lot of travel heading to the local housing estates but there is a space, just big enough for cars to pull over on the roundabout connecting Av Cantábrico to the beginnings of the A-2
written by: Jon