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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Leon

León lies at the confluence of the Río Torío and the Río Bernesga in the northwestern part of the central Spanish plateau, the Meseta, under the south side of the Cantabrian Mountains.

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Old Town

Plaza MayorPlaza Mayor
To the south of the Diocesan Museum lies the arcaded Plaza Mayor, on the west side of which is the handsome twin-towered Old Town Hall (Consistorio Viejo) of 1677. The square has an appealing charm, particularly on market days, when it is a bustle of activity. Equally lively are the little streets of the old town leading to the Plaza de San Martín (with the 13th century church of San Martín) and the Plazuela de San Marcelo. An evening stroll around the old town can be pleasantly combined with a visit to some of the tapa bars with their variety of enticing appetisers.

Cathedral

CathedralCathedral View slideshow
A splendid example of Gothic architecture, the Cathedral in Leon dates back to the 13th century.

Plazuela de San Marcelo

Plazuela de San MarceloPlazuela de San Marcelo
In the Plazuela de San Marcelo, the hub of the León's traffic, are a number of important buildings.

San Marcelo

The Plazuela de San Marcelo takes its name from the church of San Marcelo (1588-1627), with a reliquary containing the saint's remains.

Town Hall

Opposite San Marcelo is the Renaissance Ayuntamiento.

Casa de Botines

Casa de Botines 1657
The most striking building in the Plazuela de San Marcelo is the Casa de Botines on the north side of the square, a Neo-Gothic building by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1894). It is now occupied by a bank.

Palacio de los Guzmanes

Palacio de los Guzmanes 1666
On the northeast side of the Plazuela de San Marcelo stands the Palacio de los Guzmanes (1560), a building in the style of an Italian palazzo which is now occupied by the Diputación Provincial. It has an imposing facade, with round-headed arches, large corner towers and wrought-iron balconies.

Colegiata de San Isidoro

Colegiata de San IsidoroColegiata de San Isidoro View slideshow
From the Palacio de los Guzmanes it is a few minutes' walk along Calle del Cid (behind the Palacio), passing the Jardín Romántico, to the collegiate church of San Isidoro.
The church can be reached from the cathedral by following the well preserved old town walls (northeast of the choir), going north and then turning west. The walls, which date in part from the third century A.D. and are reinforced by numerous round towers (cubos), lead to one of the old town gates, the massive Puerta del Castillo (1759), southwest of which, by way of Plaza del Castillo, is the Plaza de San Isidoro.
The square is dominated by the Colegiata de San Isidoro, which originated as a 10th Century church but which was completed in its present form in 1149. It is of great importance to Spanish Catholics as the last resting place of San Isidoro, bishop of Seville and the greatest Visigothic doctor of the church, whose remains were brought here from Seville by Ferdinand I in 1063. At the west end of the church rises a massive Romanesque tower. The finest features of the exterior are the two Romanesque doorways on the south front, which faces on to the square: on the left the Puerta del Cordero (Doorway of the Lamb), the main doorway, with sculptured figures of San Isidoro and San Pelayo and the Lamb of God, and on the right the Puerta del Perdón, with a relief of the Crucifixion.

Colegiata de San Isidoro - Interior

The most notable feature of the rather dark interior is the 16th century Capilla Mayor. In the north transept are the Capilla de San Martín and the Capilla de los Quiñones, which has Romanesque frescoes.

Colegiata de San Isidoro - Treasury and Library

The Treasury and the Library contain many valuable items, including (in the Library) a Bible of 960, a 15th century breviary with miniatures by Nicolás Francés and the embroidered "Banner of Baeza" and (in the Treasury) the 11th Century reliquary of San Isidoro, the agate Chalice of Doña Urraca (11th C.), a casket decorated with Limoges enamels and a processional cross by Juan de Arfe.

Colegiata de San Isidoro - Royal Pantheon

The highlight of a visit to San Isidoro is the Panteón Real, the burial vault of the kings, princes and nobles of León, which was built on to the west end of the church in 1054-66. The groined vaulting of the Pantheon is borne on two marble columns which, like the columns round the walls, have capitals carved with plant and animal motifs. The ceilings and vaulting along the east and south walls are covered with superb frescoes painted in the reign of Ferdinand II (1157-88). The glowing color of these paintings, which depict Biblical scenes, hunting scenes and the labors of the months, interwoven with animal and plant ornament, have earned the Pantheon the name of the "Sistine Chapel of Romanesque art".

Monasterio de San Marcos

Monasterio de San MarcosMonasterio de San Marcos
On the northwest side of León, on the banks of the Río Bernesga, is the former monastery of San Marcos, now a luxurious parador. The main (south) front, over 100m/330ft long, is unsurpassed in the richness and delicacy of its Plateresque decoration. The eastern half was built between 1533 and 1541, the western half, with the doorway and the tower, between 1708 and 1716. Over the main entrance is a Baroque figure of Santiago (St James) in his legendary role as the Moor-Slayer (Matamoros).
The site was occupied from the 12th century onwards by the mother house of the knightly Order of Santiago, which protected pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela. In gratitude for their exploits the Catholic Monarchs ordered the building of a new monastery for the order.

Iglesia de San Marcos

At the east end of the Monasterio de San Marcos is the church of San Marcos (consecrated in 1541), which has beautiful choir-stalls of 1543 and sculpture by Juan de Juni and Juan de Horozco.

Provincial Archeological Museum

The sacristy (by Juan de Badajoz, 1549), the cloister and the adjoining chapter rooms are now occupied by the Provincial Archeological Museum, which has a rich collection of material. Its greatest treasure is an 11th century ivory figure of Christ; other exhibits include an altar dedicated to Diana, Roman and Celtic antiquities, sculpture, carved ivories and pictures.

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