I wanted to give this city a full post. Giving this post a paragraph or two would be criminal considering how important it is for peregrinos and also for myself. I have passed through León on three occasions; 2012, 2013 and finally in 2015. I started a camino here, ended one and used the final time to see more of the city. And yet, I look forward to going back. It’s funny though…while reading up a little more on León, I learned that it is twinned with Dublin. Now that is something I didn’t know.
León is the capital of the province of the same name and one of the most important cities on the Camino. It is situated between Sahagun, to the east, and Ponferrada, to the east. It is also the place where the Camino del Salvador starts. Over 131,680 people call this city home. It was originally founded as a Roman city, and their walls still stand to this day (below). I passed through in 2013 and witnessed a celebration of this Roman heritage. Actors celebrated the past by role-playing combat, just outside the large Cathedral de Santa Maria.
León’s historical and architectural heritage make it a destination of both domestic and international tourism. Some of the city’s most prominent historical buildings are the Cathedral (below), the finest example of French-style classic Gothic architecture in Spain, the Basilica de San Isidoro, one of the most important Romanesque churches in Spain and the Hostal de San Marcos.
One of my greatest memories of León is from 2013. I had finished my Camino for that year and was due to travel back home to Ireland the following day. I had said my goodbyes to my fellow peregrinos who were staying in the main albergue. I was downbeat. I decided to visit the Cathedral. While inside, I spent a good 30 minutes listening to a choir sing. They lifted my spirits. I later learned that they were also pilgrims who were travelling on to Santiago. That memory will stick with me.
On reaching León, you will have over 300km to walk before arriving at Santiago de Compostela. Many pilgrims use León as a starting point to Santiago and gain their compostela. Here you can find plenty of albergues and hostales, as with all major cities (Gronze). In 2012 and 2013, I stayed in the very comforable Posada Regia and last year, I rested my weary head and feet in Leon Hostel, which is very central.
If you have a few hours to spare after your walk into León, talk a walk around the small streets and plazas and soak up the atmosphere. This video shows you some of this fine city.