12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do 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 9th 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.
Plan your visit with our list of the top things to do in Oviedo.
See also: Where to Stay in Oviedo
1. Catedral de San Salvador (Oviedo Cathedral)
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.
Address: Calle la Rúa, Oviedo
Official site: http://catedraldeoviedo.com/en/
2. Finding the Esculturas de Oviedo (Oviedo's Sculptures)
Like an artistic scavenger hunt, seeking out the numerous sculptures in Oviedo's public spaces has become a popular thing to do for tourists. In the past few decades, Oviedo has become known for its increasing number of public sculptures, and the city continues to commission more. In most cities, you might find a few sculptures and monuments in a park or square, but in Oviedo, the artwork is everywhere, woven into the landscape and installed on sidewalks and pedestrian streets throughout.
These works vary greatly in style and topic, with many focusing on depictions of everyday people from various points in Oviedo's history; important historical figures; fictional characters; and even a bronze sculpture of "Rufo" (by Sara Iglesias Poli), a friendly stray dog who once lived on the streets of Oviedo and was adopted by the public as a beloved vagabond. Other sculptures include religious icons, abstract modern art, and classical pieces.
Among the hundreds of sculptures to enjoy, one of the most popular is the bright and whimsical "Mafalda" sculpture by Pablo Irrgang (San Francisco Park), and one especially popular with Americans is the bronze statue of Woody Allen by Vicente Menéndez Santarúa (Calle Milicias Nacionales). There are also many fictional literary characters like the luggage-laden "The Traveller" by Eduardo Urculo (Calle Eusebio Gonzalez Abascal) and the beautiful "La Regenta" by Mauro Álvarez Fernández (Plaza Alfonso II el Casto), a character from a novel by Leopoldo Alas Clarín.
Other well-known pieces include the graceful "La Bailarina" by Santiago de Santiago (Calle Alonso de Quintanilla), "Asturcones" by Manuel Valdés Blasco, and the imposing "Maternidad" sculpture (both in Plaza de la Escandalera).
3. 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
4. Museo de Bellas Artes (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 the 14th- to 19th-century collections of Oviedo's Museum of Fine Art. Since its inception in 1980, the museum has spread to occupy surrounding buildings, including the Casa de Oviedo-Portal, which holds additional 19th-century artwork, and the Modern Wing, which was completed in 2015. The modern wing focuses on more contemporary art, while the structure itself is a tasteful marriage of the old and the new, incorporating traditional decorative features with updated architectural elements.
Among the collection of paintings are works by noteworthy artists like El Greco, Goya, Miró, and Picasso; sculptures date from the Baroque period through the present and feature work by Víctor Hevia, Agustín Querol, and Manuel Álvarez-Laviada. Collections also include paintings by contemporary artists of the Asturias region.
Address: 1 - 3 Calle Santa Ana, Oviedo
Official site: www.museobbaa.com/en/
5. Archeology Museum
Oviedo's Archeology Museum is found behind the cathedral, in the cloister of the old Convento de San Vicente, which was founded in the 8th 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. The permanent exhibits also include sections focusing on the Neolithic and Metal ages, medieval Asturias, and the Roman age.
Address: Calle San Vicente 5, E-33003 Oviedo
6. 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.
7. 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 on the hill from the Church of Santa Maria del Naranco. Although only around one-third of the original 9th-century structure remains, this is still a marvelous example of pre-Romanesque architecture, featuring typical Asturian-style columns on the exterior and in the interior. Among the church's original features are its portico, sections of the nave, and four of the intricately designed stone latticework windows. The interior is vaulted and features motifs of Visigoth, Byzantine, and North African origin.
Location: Monte del Naranco, Oviedo
8. 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
9. 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 considered one of the city's most beautiful historic structures, 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 (RIDEA), an organization founded in 1946 to preserve and promote the cultural and artistic heritage of the Asturian principality.
Address: 9 Plaza de Porlier, Oviedo
10. 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
11. 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
12. Iglesia de Santa Maria de Bendones
Listed as a National Monument, Santa Maria de Bendones is another pre-Romanesque 9th-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 except for during services on Sundays and religious holidays. Most tourists will only have the opportunity to see the exterior of the church, however its old-world character and rustic charm make this an excellent backdrop for photographs, with brick archways and authentically restored lattice work.
Location: Bendones, Oviedo
Where to Stay in Oviedo for Sightseeing
- Luxury Hotels: Eurostars Hotel de la Reconquista is a five-star luxury hotel housed in a historic building, which is centrally located near Campo de San Francisco and within a 10-minute walk of over a dozen excellent restaurants. Both rooms and suites are incredibly spacious, each furnished with updated amenities that retain an old-world charm. The building is grand in stature, and the hotel's décor is stunning; this is the best place in Oviedo for a romantic getaway. Another excellent five-star hotel is the Gran Hotel Las Caldas, best known for its expansive spa and tranquil setting in the countryside just a few miles from Oviedo. Here, you can find an outdoor pool and several indoor options, including a lap pool and a huge pool within a circular atrium surrounded by grand columns. Rooms and suites are modern but classic, and the hotel welcomes families.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Housed in a stunning 20th-century mansion, Barcelo Oviedo Cervantes provides luxury accommodations and service while offering mid-range pricing. Tastefully modern and sometimes eclectic furnishings and décor make this hotel one-of-a-kind, and guests will find that the rooms and suites are well-appointed and impeccably clean. There is a good in-house restaurant, and the hotel is close to several excellent local choices, as well as the lovely Campo de San Francisco. Located between Campo de San Francisco and the cathedral, Princesa Munia Hotel & Spa is an excellent four-star hotel. Both charming and trendy, the hotel has a sleek and modern look that incorporates quirky décor to create a unique vibe. In addition to full spa services, the hotel has a sauna, hot tub, indoor pool, and even Turkish baths.
- Budget Hotels: Ayre Hotel Oviedo is an upscale hotel with incredibly affordable rates, even in high season. The hotel has a sleek, contemporary look, and rooms are modern and bright with floor-to-ceiling windows and mini-fridges. Suites and family rooms are available. Amenities include free Wi-Fi, a fitness center, and hot tub, as well as an in-house restaurant with room service and a spa on-site. Another budget-friendly hotel is Aparthotel Campus, situated in a central location within a few minutes' walk of the Archaeological Museum of Asturias. Family rooms and suites are available, which feature kitchenettes, and breakfast is available as well. This is a non-smoking hotel but it is pet-friendly; Wi-Fi is complimentary.
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Santiago de Compostela: Oviedo is just one of northern Spain's best cities to visit and sits along the rugged yet beautiful coastal Camino del Norte pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
Bilbao & Santander: Also along this old pilgrimage route are the cities of Santander and Bilbao, two very different destinations, which each have plenty to offer. Bilbao was once a run-down coastal town but it has evolved into a top tourist destination on Spain's northern coast thanks to the iconic Guggenheim Museum. In its wake came many more, and here tourists can explore museums of fine arts, history, archaeology, and Spain's maritime history. Nearby, laid-back Santander is a top beach destination with golden sand and plenty of sun. Here, you can also find excellent museums, including the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Museum of Prehistory.