1) Why visit Oviedo?
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)
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.
A good place to start any tour is the RENFE station. A short walk behind the train station on c/ Roberto S. Velázquez are the five remaining archesof the Los Pilares Aquaduct originally built to supply the town with water in the 17th Century. From the RENFE station walk down Calle de Uria passingthe Campo de San Francisco, on you right. This city park contains many interesting sculptures and fountains. Once the gardens of a San Francisco convent, the park is a lovely place for a stroll. On the other side of the park is the La Reconquista Hotel. Originally an 18th century baroque palace, this beautiful building was subsequently used as a hospital and latterly as a rather expensive and prestigious hotel. Also in this area is the Espacio Buenavista shopping centre, well worth visiting just for the crazy architecture alone.
After crossing the shopping district set along Uria, continue straight down Calle de Jesus which leads you deep into the old town. First stop is the Classicist Iglesia de San Isidoro el Real. Built in the 17th century, the sparse and Spartan façade stands nicely in contrast with the luxurious interior. Opposite the church, across Plaza de la Constitución, stands the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall). Built in the 17th century, it was badly damaged during the civil war but has been restored in all its splendour. Very close to the church is another newly renovated, picturesque square Plaza del Fontán, one of the city’s more intimate areas.
After taking a moment to enjoy the beautiful Plazas, continue down Plaza del Sol taking a left on Calle de Mon. From here it is only a short climb to the city’s cathedral but not before enjoying the sumptuous Palacio de Velarde which houses Oviedo’s fine art gallery and exhibits a wide range of works, with an emphasis on Spanish artists.
The jewel in Oviedo’s crown is the UNESCO listed Catedral de San Salvador de Oviedo. Built in the Gothic style but with some Baroque flourishes, the sight was home to an older Romanesque church, some features of which still remain today. The cathedral has long been an important part of the Christian tradition in Spain and contains many important relics as well as some of the earliest Christian monarchs who are buried in the Cámara Santa (Holy chamber). The area surrounding the cathedral is particularly pleasant so take some time to enjoy the nearby Testero de San Tirso a much modified but originally 9th century church, the charming Palacio de los Condes de Toreno, and La Rúa Palace an interesting late gothic 15th century building. All are only a short walk from the cathedral.
A quick trip down Calle Canóniga takes you to the remains of The City Wall, a medieval construction whose remaining fragments once formed over 1400m of fortifications. If you follow Calle del Águila, away from the cathedral, you will arrive at Calle de Gascona the self styled ‘Bulevar de la Sidra’ (Cider Boulevard). This road is packed with cider houses and restaurants and is a nice place for a well-earned rest.
If you would like to visit the UNESCO listed Iglesia de Santa María del Naranco just outside Oviedo you will need to take the number 10 bus from near the train station, on Calle de Uria. Situated 3km away from Oviedo on the slope of Mount Naranco this Pre-Romanesque marvel was originally constructed in the 10th century as a royal palace, but was converted into a church in the 12th century.
4 Things to do for free in Oviedo
Everybody enjoys free things and we here at HitchHikers Handbook are no different. Here are some suggestions for those on a tight budget but still want to get the most out of the city.
- Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias Oviedo’s fine arts museum is open Tuesday to Friday (10,30 to 14,00 and 16,30 to 20,30) Saturday (11,30 to 14,00 and 16,30 to 20,00) and Sunday (11,30 to 14,30) and entrance is free, so head on down.
- 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.
- Iglesia de San Julián de los Prados (Church of San Julián de los Prados) is one of the greatest examples of Asturian art and is recognised as such by UNESCO. It is also cheekily free on Mondays.
Don’t miss the chance to visit Santa María del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo, two stunning Pre-Romanesque, UNESCO world heritage, churches which are also free to enter on Monday mornings.
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:
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.
It can be tricky to find a centrally located internet café or a bar with wi-fi. If you are looking for free access to the web, check out San Antóni Bar on calle San Antóni (close proximity to the cathedral). Alternatively you can find two or three bars with wi-fi along calle de Fuertes Acevedo.
Oviedo’s Airport of Asturias is about 40km 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 (6.00am – 12.00pm) and the journey taking 40 – 45mins.
The Train station (Av. De Santander) is home to the two train companies that service Oviedo. 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.
The 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.
A big thanks to all the people on HitchWiki for some of this information. We salute you!
North & West towards 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 hitchhiked 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 2km along the motorway (it is signposted), but be careful about reaching it and remember it is illegal to hitchhike on Autovías (motorways) in Spain.
written by: Jon
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