Oviedo is the capital of the principality and its compact size belies the fact it is bursting at the seams with monuments, museums, restaurants and a cathedral. It holds a special place in the region’s history, as this was the last stronghold against the Moorish occupation of Spain in the eighth century. Founded in 761, the city is renowned for its pre-Romanesque architecture, with examples such as the Cathedral of San Salvador and the Monastery of San Vicente standing testament to the distinctive Asturian style, recognised by its Gothic detailing and golden decorative embellishments. But Oviedo is not a city that rests on its former glory: a quick glance around and you’ll see resplendent mod era edifices such as the Congress Palace. Designed by the architect
Santiago Calatrava, the spectacular geometric structure makes for a remarkable sight. Meanwhile, downtown, you’ll also find a series of modern sculptures by a number of new and illustrious artistic talents. Cosmopolitan comforts are not far away either. In town, enjoy rustic tradition at the Mercado El Fontan, Oviedo’s colourful 19th-century food market packed with meats, fish, fruit and veg. Take a pit stop in Dos de Azucar, a homely cafe near the market calling out with a tempting range of teas, extra-thick hot chocolate and sweet treats. On a special evening, dine out at Gloria. Two-Michelin-starred Asturian chef Nacho Manzano is the resident culinary genius of this elegant food house, which is exquisitely decorated in a monochrome palette.
Tracing its roots back to the days of Roman civilisation, Gijon saw exponential growth as a working port throughout the Industrial Revolution. Now, after an extensive makeover, it has all the charm of a modern seaside city, with pedestrianised streets, parks, seafront walks, cultural attractions and lively eating, drinking and shopping areas. Summer entertainment turns up the heat during the warmer months, while water-based activities such as scuba-diving, sailing, boat trips and dolphin-spot ting means there’s an adventure to be had at every turn.
Catch a glimpse of its classical connections in the old quarter by visiting two Roman settlement sites. In Campo Valdes you’ll find the largest and best-preserved Roman baths in northern Spain, while in Plaza de Jovellanos, the remains of the city wall lie near the commanding clocktower. In the evenings, you can capture the flavour of popular Latin rhythms by visiting the bars of the Fomen to district, while the Caile Marques de San Esteban offers a variety of lively cafes and pubs that stay open into the early hours.
As one of the first commercial ports in Asturias, it’s no surprise that the commercial shipping history of Aviles, dating back to the 12th century, has paved the way to a prosperous future. On a stroll around the harbour you’ll see a range of artistic styles from all over the world, encompassing the typically Romanesque through to Modernist. Highlights include the Ferrera Palace, formerly the Marquis’s residence, which is located on the corner of Plaza de Espana and Caile San Francisco.
The gardens of the house are now a beautiful public park. And in a trading city, it’s fitting that a church dedicated to San Nicolas de Bari, the saint of traders and sailors, stands prominently nearby. Having been restored during the 16th, 17th and 20th centuries, it’s an appropriate tribute to the city’s merchant heritage. Traditional shopping areas a re found in Caile La Camara, Caile Jose Cueto, Avenida Fernandez Balsera and Caile La Fruta, while typical cuisine and nightlife can be found in the Sabugo district. This area has seen a recent revival thanks to its excellent offering of Asturian food and drink.