12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Oviedo
Amid the rolling hills of the Picos de Europa mountains, Oviedo lures visitors with its peaceful natural landscape and intriguing pre-Romanesque churches. King Alfonso II founded the city as the capital of the Kingdom of Asturias in the ninth century; he chose this strategic mountain location as a defense against attacks from the Muslim emirate of Córdoba. In the Old Town, the narrow pedestrian streets hint at the ambience of bygone eras. Take time to wander the atmospheric lanes and admire the impressive architecture that reflects the city's ancient heritage. Oviedo is also known for its gastronomic excellence. The delicious local cuisine features specialties of the Asturias region such as Fabada Asturiana (bean stew), Pitu de Caleya (special free-range chicken), and Cabrales cheese.
1 Catedral de Oviedo
Oviedo's impressive Gothic cathedral was built in the 14th and 15th centuries on the site of an earlier eighth-century church. The facade, renovated later, boasts a lovely Baroque relief of the Transfiguration. The monument's most striking feature is the 82-meter-high tower, considered one of the finest in Spain. Take a look inside the cathedral to admire the beautiful sanctuary that is full of amazing art works. In the Capilla Mayor is the 16th-century tomb of Archbishop Arias de Villar and a magnificent Retablo with numerous panels depicting scenes from the life of Christ. A splendid 11th-century silver gilt reliquary is found in the Baroque Capilla de Santa Eulalia.
To find the cathedral's most precious possession, take the flight of steps in the south transept up to the Cámara Santa. This reliquary chapel contains the Arca Santa (Holy Chest), a precious reliquary brought to Asturias after the Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo fell to the Moors. Many pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela stopped in Oviedo to venerate the Cámara Santa. The Arca Santa is covered with silver-plated reliefs and contains relics from the Holy Land along with other treasures such as the ninth-century gold-filigree Angels' Cross (Cruz de los Ángeles). Below the Cámara Santa is the Capilla de Leocadia, which contains 12th-century tombs. The cathedral also has a beautiful cloister from the medieval era.
2 Iglesia de Santa Maria del Naranco
Standing in a grassy area at the foot of the Monte del Naranco, the Iglesia de Santa Maria del Naranco lies two kilometers outside of Oviedo and offers stunning views of the city. This unassuming little church has UNESCO World Heritage status because of its exceptional historical value. Originally a royal palace built for King Ramiro I in 848, the building was converted into a church in the 10th and 11th centuries. The church is a wonderful example of pre-Romanesque architecture with its interesting exterior staircase, rectangular floor plan, and barrel-vaulted hall illuminated by arched windows. An unusual feature, the altar is on the exterior of the church and bears an inscription from 23 June 848. The building also features twisted columns, typical of Asturias, on the exterior and interior. The exterior columns have Corinthian capitals, whereas the interior columns are trapezoid capitals. It is rare to find such well-preserved architectural details that predate Romanesque architecture.
Location: Monte del Naranco, Oviedo
3 Iglesia de San Julián de los Prados
A remarkable UNESCO-listed monument, the Church of Saint Julian (also known as "Santullano") stands outside the historic center of Oviedo. The church is a short drive away from the main tourist attractions in a modern suburb (Pumarín) of Oviedo and is unfortunately located at the side of a road. It is still a worthwhile tourist attraction despite its less than picturesque surroundings. Built between 812 and 842, the church was dedicated to Christian martyrs, Julián and Basilisa, a married couple who retreated to monastic life. San Julián de los Prados is the largest pre-Romanesque church in Spain, measuring 25 meters by 30 meters. Until the 11th century, this was the largest Christian building in Spain. The architecture is based on a basilica floor plan, including three doorways, a transept, and three naves separated by pillars and arches. One unusual feature is the two-level apse with an altar on the lower level. Especially noteworthy are the detailed and colorful frescoes, full of geometric patterns, symbols, and figures. Guided tours of the church are available every 30 minutes.
Address: 1 Calle Selgas, Oviedo
4 Iglesia San Tirso
This ancient church dates back to the ninth century and was originally built by the architect Tioda in the Romanesque style during the reign of Alfonso II. Next to the cathedral, the Church of San Tirso formed part of an ecclesiastical complex built by Alfonso II. However, the church was remodeled many times throughout the centuries, and only one window of the sanctuary reveals the original pre-Romanesque architecture. The "Ajimezado Window" is easy to identify. Look for the three semicircular brick arches over marble columns featuring decorative capitals, within a Moorish molding. Typical of Romanesque architecture, the church interior has three naves separated by square pillars on supporting arches.
Address: 4 Plaza del Alfonso II, Oviedo
5 Parque de San Francisco
An escape to nature in the heart of Oviedo, this beautiful park covers an expansive area of six hectares. The Parque de San Francisco was once the orchard of the Convent of San Francisco. Lush vegetation, exotic plants, and colorful flowers create a verdant paradise. Banana, oak, elm, and chestnut trees are among the varieties found in the park. It's a joy to explore the shaded walking paths and tree-lined avenues of this park. Visitors will discover monuments, statues, and arches dotted throughout the premises. It's also possible to spot one of the gorgeous peacocks who make their home here.
6 Palacio del Conde de Toreno
Built in 1675 by Gregorio de la Roza, the Palace of the Count of Toreno is a designated Historic-Artistic Monument. This exquisite Baroque building is arranged around a central courtyard with three courtyards and a grand entrance staircase. Constructed from ashlar stone, the palace has a lovely façade in the Baroque style featuring Tuscan columns framing the entrance doorway. The building houses the Royal Institute of Asturian Studies.
Address: 9 Plaza de Porlier, Oviedo
7 Iglesia de Santa Maria de Bendones
Listed as a National Monument, Santa Maria de Bendones is another pre-Romanesque ninth-century church and is similar to San Julián de los Prados in its austere ambience. Distinguishing features of the building are the freestanding bell tower and well-preserved mural paintings inside, however the interior is not open to the public. Tourists can only see the exterior of the church.
Location: Bendones, Oviedo
8 Iglesia de San Miguel de Lillo
This tiny, ancient chapel is on Monte del Naranco (two kilometers outside the city of Oviedo) a little higher up from the Church of Santa Maria del Naranco. The ninth-century church was dedicated to Michael the Archangel. With its weathered stone construction, the building has a sturdy and rustic appearance. The architecture features typical Asturian-style columns on the exterior and in the interior. Ornamentation on the capitals and the latticework windows are remnants of the original decor.
Location: Monte del Naranco, Oviedo
9 Palacio de Camposagrado
This magnificent 18th-century Baroque palace is a designated Historic-Artistic Monument and now houses the Supreme Court of Asturias. The mansion was built in the 18th century for José Manuel Bernaldo de Quirós, Marquis of Camposagrado. The palace has two impressive facades: a Rococo facade is on the Plaza de Porlier and a Baroque facade looks out towards the Palace of Valdecarzana. This monument is not open to the public, but is worth visiting to see the monumental exterior.
Address: Plaza de Porlier, Oviedo
10 Archeology Museum
Oviedo's Archeology Museum is found behind the cathedral, in the cloister of the old Convento de San Vicente (founded in the eighth century and rebuilt in the 15th). The ground floor is devoted to pre-Romanesque and Romanesque art, mainly from the Asturias region. A highlight of the collection is part of the altar of Santa María del Naranco. The first floor displays ancient Roman coins, sculptures, mosaics, and other artifacts of the Roman era. The second floor presents prehistoric findings discovered in the surrounding areas; many of the objects on display date back to the Stone Age.
Address: Calle San Vicente 5, E-33003 Oviedo
11 Museum of Fine Arts
To the south of San Tirso Church on Calle de Santa Ana is the Baroque Palacio de Velarde, which now houses Oviedo's Museum of Fine Art. The collection includes noteworthy artworks from the Renaissance and Baroque periods as well as paintings by contemporary artists of the Asturias region.
Address: 1 - 3 Calle Santa Ana, Oviedo
12 Parroquia de San Isidoro (Parish Church)
Built in 1578, the former Jesuit church of San Isidoro stands on the elegant Plaza de la Constitución. The Ayuntamiento (town hall) built in 1662 is just across from the parish church on the same square. This plaza and surrounding side streets are filled with inviting shops, cafés, and restaurants.
Address: 10 Calle Magdalena, Oviedo