Mary was in Spain for three months in 2021-2022 and visited Oviedo for the first time. What she has discovered about the city surprised her.
Oviedo, Asturias, Spain
Oviedo? Have you ever heard of the city? I have to confess I have not heard of the place even though I have visited Spain several times.
Last winter, I was in Spain for three months, and despite the pandemic, I tried to visit some places I hadn't been to before.
Having missed visiting Oviedo on my previous visits to the north of Spain, as I didn't even know its existence, I decided to see the capital of Asturias. It's the region many of my friends in Spain said they love the most.
One of my friends who had been in Spain for three years told me how beautiful the north of Spain is, particularly Asturias. So, I started digging. Learning about it, the more inviting it became. I decided to have a look at this place.
I went to San Sebastian, Santander, and Bilbao on my first visit. I missed Oviedo because of the distance and limited time I had. So, on my next drive to the north, I prioritized Oviedo by scheduling our lunch there, enticing my companions with the lore of its delicious food.
What We Have Discovered About Oviedo
As we approached the area, the Asturias mountains and luxuriant forests revealed their beauty amidst the fog, and immediately, they captivated us. One in the group pointed to the tiny cabins on the hills neighbouring the houses and told us that people in the hamlets use those as storage for their produce. It perked my imagination as pictures of cheese came to mind.
Having seen the landscape, I got excited and looked forward to knowing what secret offerings awaited us in the area.
As we already knew where we would eat, we went to the restaurant upon arriving in Oviedo. Unhappily, the restaurant was closed. So, we moved on to the city center, and luckily, we got a table outside where we could watch the locals go about their business.
Here are the highlights of what we've discovered about Oviedo. Hopefully, after reading these, you'll put Oviedo at the top of your list of the places to visit in Spain.
1. Delicious Food and Top-Notch Cider
So, we sat down in that restaurant and ordered the food our friends in Madrid said is the most typical of this region: Fabada and cachopo.
We started with a cider, another recommendation from our Madrid friends. It was heavenly. Then, the Fabada came. First, they served the soup, which was tasty as they added sausages and other chunks of meat.
Then, they served the sausages and meat with the beans. I was not a fan of beans, so I never ordered this dish in Madrid, but was I surprised? I have never tasted beans like that, buttery to the taste. These beans are only grown in this area, and people here are very particular about them.
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The Fabada I have resisted in Madrid as I am not a fan of beans, but I convinced myself to try it here. I was glad I did, or I would have regretted it. It was the most delicious bean dish I've ever tried.
I have had cachopo in Madrid, but this one here is much more delicious. Of course, the ingredients are the local produce. Nothing can compare with fresh and more so when people who have been doing this for generations prepare them.
If only I had more space in my stomach, I would indulge in it. We only ordered one for the three of us because it is enormous, so even divided into three, we still had plenty to enjoy.
2. Plaza de la Catedral
One we went to first was a sizeable vehicle-free square in front of the Cathedral of San Salvador with its impressive Gothic Tower that offers a relaxing stroll for those who just enjoyed Fabada and Cachopo.
Inside this Cathedral is the Chapel of San Miguel, which constitutes part of the collection of landmarks named UNESCO World Heritage Site.
3. Pre-Romanesque Churches
A few Pre-Romanesque Churches still exist in the north of Spain. Several of these churches got destroyed or abandoned when communities moved. Their altarpieces and whatever items rescued are now on display in the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona.
Two of these pre-Romanesque churches are in Oviedo. A 30-minute walk or a 10-minute car ride from the center will bring you to the hill of Naranco. Halfway to the top are the Church of Santa Maria del Naranco and the San Miguel de Lillo, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
4. On the Route of the Camino de Compostela
Another exciting discovery of Oviedo was its prominent place on the Camino Way. French pilgrims have trodded this city to make their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims' places abound, and maps of the Way and the famous shell signs indicating the path are all over. The city is clearly on the track for the pilgrimage.
As you walk a few streets, you find several statues, and one stands out as a pilgrim sitting on one of the benches, nursing pains and relaxing weary bodies.
As you walk further, you find the shell symbols of the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. There are also hostels where pilgrims can stay. A welcoming center orients pilgrims as they arrive.
Since medieval times, this city has welcomed pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. We imagined what it would have been during that time to see the pilgrims go through here.
5. Museum of Fine Arts of Asturias
The Museum of Fine Arts of Asturias is on the square. Oviedo is the capital of Asturias and its commercial center, so most of the region's attractions are located here, including this Museum.
Oviedo, primarily built by Asturians who went to the Americas and returned with wealth, has monumental art nouveau edifices referred to nowadays as Indianos.
The Museum of Fine Arts has some Spanish artists' best works of art, including El Greco, Goya, Dali, and Picasso. There are also works of lesser-known Spanish artists who are worth knowing.
6. Plaza del Ayuntamiento and Art Noveau Building
Oviedo, primarily built by Asturians who went to the Americas and returned with wealth, has monumental art nouveau edifices referred to nowadays as Indianos. They are also monuments to a part of world history.
They stand out among the newer buildings because of their unusual motif, like Casa del Cuito with its mythological motifs. These buildings dotting Oviedo's streets are now shops and offices.
7. Mercado El Fontan
As we walked on, something attracted us. A glass market famous in the 19th century. It teemed with fresh produce clearly from the area when we went in. I wish we hadn't eaten yet to enjoy a taste of the local produce. But we bought the famous locally made Cabrales cheese to sample in our hotel.
8. Intriguing Statues in City Squares
The presence of these statues in Oviedo's various squares intrigued us. While there are statues in other cities, they are often of important heroes and leaders.
But here in Oviedo, several statues are scattered in its various squares of ordinary folks like the fisherman and fisherwoman, the milkmaid, the beggar with dogs, and the pilgrim exhausted from his walk seated on one of the benches in the square.
Another interesting sculpture is of Mavi, located in the Plaza Longoria Carbajal. Made by Santiago de Santiago, La Pensadora depicts a young woman kneeling and her hands covering her face as if overcome with the gravity of her problems. It's a celebration of crucial moments in life.
The first sculpture that caught our attention as we wandered around Oviedo's historic center was The Traveler or The Return of Williams B. Arrensberg by Eduardo Orculo. It caught us, travellers that we are, immersed in the nostalgia and adventure of the man with his hat, coat, and luggage beside him.
Even a Colombian artist, Fernando Botero, contributed a well-polished bronze statue, The Maternity, an enormous mother, is holding a giant baby.
And there's even one of Woody Allen. This statue took its place on Calle de Pelayo after Allen complimented the city and agreed to film part of "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" in Oviedo. He thought the city isolated but very beautiful. It is as if it doesn't belong to reality.
People sit with these statues, walk with them, talk to them, mimic them, and get photographed like being with friends. It is an engaging interaction with intense human conditions.
There are more statues which I will leave for you to discover when you find yourself in the city. I know that by now, you will put Oviedo on top of your places to visit when in Spain. I assure you, it will fascinate you just as it did Woody Allen.
9. San Francisco Park and Other Nature Parks
After the walk in the historic center, we wanted a breath of fresh air, and upon arriving, we saw a vast park, the San Francisco Park, a 90,000 square meters park right at the center of the city.
We went there for a gentle stroll and followed some trails. Each tree in the park bears a card giving information about it. You'll learn so much by just walking here.
Accompanied by the resident peacocks, we saw fountains, and monuments, including the main Romanesque facade of the old San Isidro church. There was also a piece dedicated to the writer who lived in Oviedo, Leopoldo Alas Clarin.
For those interested in walking through the park, here's the link.
Aside from this Campo de San Francisco, Oviedo has several nature parks, including the Route to Santiago de Compostela, Rio Nalon, Monte Narranco, where on its hills, you'll find the Pre-Romanesque churches, Zoologico El Bosque, Senda Verde Oviedo Fuso de la Reina, La Pista Finlandesa and Parque Invierno.
We missed the university, but some friends told us it was worth visiting. But alas, there will surely be a next time for us in Oviedo!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Mary Norton