What to do Mansilla de las Mulas - Leon
Next we’ll talk about the different attractions you’ll find today along the way and the many places you can visit in León.
Monastery of Santa María de Sandoval
The monastery of Santa María de Sandoval was built in Mansilla Mayor between the 15th and 16th century. In 1931, it was declared a National Historical Monument.
Currently, it has preserved a cloister from the 17th century and the chapterhouse. Although the most striking part of the church is definitely the monastery.
The church has a Latin cross plan and is formed by three naves, a transept and semicircular apses. The entrance doorway is in a Romanesque style, while the western doorway, which is currently used to access the church, has a pointed arch in a very simple style.
Inside the church, we can point out the tombs of the founders, placed on both sides of the altar, as well as an altarpiece located in the retroquire, which dates back to the 17th century and houses the images of St. Geroteo, St. James the Pilgrim and St. Bernard, patron saint of the town.
Hours: Saturday and Sunday (from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, and from 4:00 pm to 6:30 pm).
Villamoros de Mansilla
Villamoros de Mansilla is a town in the municipality of Mansilla Mayor. Currently there are approximately 90 people who live in this town. Here you can visit the church of San Esteban.
Church of San Esteban
The church of San Esteban is located in the town of Villamoros de Mansilla. The building dates back to the 16th and 17th century.
The temple is composed of a single nave with a square tower. Its walls have layers of brick and a closed arcade. The church’s chevet is square with a dome.
Inside, you can visit the small altarpiece, which houses the figure of Christ in a central niche, along with the figure of St. Stephen up above, patron saint of the church. You can also see a semicircular side chapel with outlines reminiscent of Juan de Juni. On the sides of the nave, there are two Baroque altarpieces.
Puente Villarente is a town with 330 inhabitants that is part of the municipality of Villaturiel. The town owes its name to the bridge with 17 vaults that is situated in its vicinity, and which appears in the texts of the Codex Calixtinus, in which the author refers to it as ‘enormous’.
Arcahueja is a town in the municipality of Valdefresno. The town has a little over 200 inhabitants and is currently growing, as many people from León move their residence to this small village, in search of a quieter place to live.
This movement of people out of León is affecting the town’s architecture, which can be seen in the housing that has been adapted to the uses of urban life. However, there are still many traditional houses from the region, built in adobe and brick.
The traditional homes are characterised by their distribution in two sections, with two floors each. In the first section, the home is located with the bedrooms on the top floor and the kitchen and dining room on the ground floor. In the second section, the barn occupies the upper floor, while the lower one has large doors that allow for the passage of carriages to a farmyard, next to which there are storage areas, stables and chicken coops.
León is a municipality with an area of 40 square kilometres that has a population of 126,000 inhabitants. Its origin dates back to the settlement of the Roman legion, Legio VII Gemina, in the year 74.
In the year 712, the city was conquered by the Arabs and was under Muslim rule until the year 853, when it was recovered by Ordoño I, who repopulated it and incorporated it into the Kingdom of Asturias.
Under that same reign, in the year 910, León was proclaimed the capital of its own kingdom and even came to include Galicia, Cantabria, Asturias, part of Portugal and a large part of the current Castile and León under its reign.
The historical and monumental heritage, the passage of the French Way through its streets, as well as various celebrations, among which we can highlight those of the Holy Week, make the town a tourist destination both in Spain and around the world.
Some of the most representative monuments in the city include the Santa María de León Cathedral, the Basilica of San Isidoro, the monastery of San Marcos and the Casa Botines building.
To the above, we must also add that the city has an emblematic old quarter, located around the Plaza Mayor and San Martín squares. This area is known by the nickname “Barrio Húmedo” (the wet district), and is packed with bars, cafes and pubs, being one of the main places where people go to get a drink and eat some tapas.
They say that the name “Barrio Húmedo” comes from ancient times, since there has been wine pouring out of these streets for many many years.
Santa María Cathedral
The Santa María Cathedral in León was built in the 10th century over ancient baths and public buildings that the Legion VII had erected at the end of the 2nd century.
These properties were donated by the king, after defeating the Arabs in the battle of San Esteban de Gormaz, to then build the first cathedral temple. It was by order of the princess Urraca, sister of Fernando I, that the building was made entirely out of brick and masonry.
The construction of the current building began in the 13th century and ended in the 15th century. The work is inspired by the Reims Cathedral in France, and is in a Gothic style.
The three facades of the temple display one of the best collections of Gothic sculptures in Spain. Among them is the Virgen of Dado, on the north façade, St. Froilán, on the south façade, and the White Virgen, which is currently located in one of the chapels of the ambulatory.
The church has three naves, between the entrance and the transept, and five more, between the transept and the main altar. Ribbed vaults can be seen above them, and the interior is finished off with a large chevet.
Looking at its structure, we can highlight the huge rose window that is located between the two needle towers and the other rose windows that make up an area of more than 800 square metres of polychrome stained glass.
Without a doubt, the most beautiful part of this temple is located inside, and is the effect produced by the stained glass windows, making it worthy of the name “Cathedral of Light”.
Since 2013, the Cathedral in León has had a new organ that occupies four arches and has five keyboards and 4,334 tubes.
Seen from the outside, the cathedral seems to be on a slight incline. According to legend, this effect is due to the fact that during its construction, a rodent altered the foundations of the cathedral during the night. Ultimately, the stonemasons managed to catch it and hung its fur in the Puerta de San Juan nave in the cathedral.
Hours: Open every day. From May to September, from Monday to Friday (from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, and from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm), Saturdays (from 9:30 am to 12:00 pm, and from 2:00 pm to 6 pm) Sundays (from 9:30 am to 2:00 pm). From October to December, from Monday to Saturday (from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, and from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm) and Sundays (from 9:30 am to 2:00 pm). From January to April, from Monday to Saturday (from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, and from 4 pm to 7 pm) and on Sundays (from 9:30 am to 2 pm).
Mass Hours: Every day. From Monday to Saturday (9:00 am, 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm and 6:00 pm) and Sundays (9:00 am, 11:00 am, 12:00 am, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm).
Admission: General (€6); reduced for groups, senior citizens and students (€5); school children (€2); children under 12 with the cathedral card (free).
Royal Collegiate Church of San Isidoro
The Royal Collegiate Church of San Isidoro is located in León. It is one of the greatest treasures of the Spanish Romanesque, and is composed of a church, the pantheon and a museum.
The building was founded in the 10th century by order of King Sancho the Fat, in order to bury the remains of the martyred child of Cordoba inside.
However, in 1603 a great restoration was carried out to adapt the building in order to house the king’s daughter and her husband Fernando I. The restoration work gave rise to a temple in a fully Romanesque style.
The building has several doors that access its inside. The main one is called the Puerta del Cordero, where you can see the sculpture of St. Isidro. Another door is the Puerta del Perdón, in dedication to the pilgrims.
The presence of a tower with a weather vane in the form of a rooster grabs our attention. The tower was built in three phases. The first two stretches were made during the 11th century, conceived as part of the fortified enclosure, while the other two sections were built as a bell tower in the 12th century.
Inside, you can visit the main altar, in the Spanish-Flemish style, which preserves a beautiful altarpiece from the 16th century.
In spite of all the restorations, the most interesting element is the Royal Pantheon that is located under a vault, completely decorated with Romanesque paintings, which has led it to be known as the “Sistine Chapel of the Romanesque”.
Mass Hours: Every day. Weekdays (7:30 am, 8:30 am, 10:30 am, 1:00 pm, 6:30 pm and 8:00 pm), Sundays and holidays (7:30 am, 8:30 am, 9:30 am, 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm, 7:30 pm and 9 pm).
Convent of San Marcos
The convent of San Marcos is located in León and dates back to the 12th century. It was built thanks to the donation by the Princess Sancha of León to create a hospital on the outskirts of the city.
Looking at the building, we can highlight its Plateresque style. The temple is formed by three bodies, the third having an ornate set of fretwork. There is a niche in each of the church’s towers.
In the niche of the left tower, there is a representation of the Descent from the Cross, which is the work of Juan de Juni. In the one on the right, an inscription embedded in the wall indicates the completion of the building’s construction work in 1541, with a representation of Christ Carrying the Cross, the work of Juan Orozco.
The convent’s church is dedicated to St. Marcos and is built in a Late-Gothic style. It is formed by a single nave and has a choir made of walnut wood.
Inside the religious complex is the Chapterhouse with a beautiful coffered ceiling from the 16th century and the Classicist cloister built in three stages, during the 16th, 17th and 18th century. Between these two room is a large ribbed vault that protects the portico.
Since 1964, the convent has been turned into a well-known “Parador de Turismo”, a chain of state-run Spanish luxury hotels.
Hours: Closed on Mondays. From July 1 to September 30, from Tuesday to Saturday (from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, and from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm), Sundays and holidays (from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm). From October 1 to June 30, from Tuesday to Saturday (from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, and from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm), Sundays and holidays (from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm).
Mass Hours: Every day. Weekdays (12:00 pm and 7:30 pm), the eve of holidays (7:30 pm) and holidays (10:30 am, 12:00 pm and 7:30 pm).
Chapel of Santo Cristo de la Victoria
The chapel of Santo Cristo de la Victoria is located in León. It was built on the site of the home of Santo Mártir, a Roman centurion from the Legion VII Gemina, known as Saint Marcelo and patron saint of the city.
The temple is dedicated to Santo Cristo de la Victoria and inside it houses an image of the saint from the 12th century in a neo-Romanesque style.
Houses and Palaces in the Old Town
In the city of León, you can visit different expressions of civil architecture in its old quarter. The Jabalquinto Palace is one of the most noteworthy examples, which displays the coats of arms of the Diaz, Castro and Cabañas families.
Where the Renedo de Valdetuejar palace once stood, the Hospital HM Regla is currently located. On the building you can see a Baroque façade and a main gateway that consists of four Tuscan pilasters. Above them is a triangular pediment and a balcony surrounded by four Ionic columns over which you can see the coat of arms of the Prado.
The Torreblanca Palace dates back to 1676 and is the work of Santiago Alejo Olmos Pimentel. After the French army’s looting, it was restored in the 20th century, and since 1921, the building has been home to a recreational society.
The Episcopal Palace dates back to the 17th century, although it has been rebuilt several times. As of the last restoration, inside it currently has a cloister with a large courtyard surrounded by galleries, which are connected by columns.
There are only a few remains from the old Palace of the Emperor Alfonso VII, such as the tower, known in the city as “Doña Berenguela”. The building is in a Romanesque style and is built with walls of rounded stones, masonry and mortar. Inside it houses a spiral staircase made of stone.
The house of Cardinal Lorenzana is considered a palace and is the most unique in all of León. Its construction dates back to the 18th century and is made up of three floors, made of ashlar stone and with a curved row of balconies.
Another element that stands out in the city’s old quarter is the fountain in a Neoclassical style, built by Isidro Cruela in 1787. The fountain has two water spouts, on one of which there is a lion grabbing onto a column, which is the work of Andrés Seoane.
Castle of Leon
The Castle of León is commonly known as the “Old Prison”. The building looks like a fortress, due to the bars on the windows, the isolated courtyards, the high walls and the huge stone staircase.
Two buildings stand next to the Castle. On the right, the Conde Tower, which was used as a jail for noble prisoners up until 1862, when it was began to also be used for ordinary prisoners. At that time, the noble prisoners were transferred to the three-storey building with the Canseco clock at the top.
The church of Los Descalzos, together with the Castle of León, are home to the headquarters of the Provincial Historical Archive of León.
Convent of Las Concepcionistas
The convent of Las Concepcionistas was founded in the 16th century in the city of León. Its stone doorway dates back to the 14th century, around which we can highlight the elegant yet subdued mouldings. The church that houses the convent is the work of Juan del Ribero and inside you can see an altarpiece made of gilded and polychrome pine wood consisting of a bench, two floors and an attic. The work dates back to the 18th century.
Mass Hours: Only on holidays (12:00 pm).
Convent of San Francisco
The convent of San Francisco is located in León. It was built on the site of another previous temple from the 13th century, founded by St. Francis of Assisi on his way along the Camino de Santiago.
The convent’s church is from 1791, the work of Francisco de Rivas. Inside it houses altarpieces and carvings of great value. As of the year 1882, there has been a huge altarpiece with a representation of the Assumption of Mary. The work dates back to the 18th century and is attributed to Narciso Tomé and Simón Gavilán.
Mass Hours: From July 1 to August 31, from Monday to Friday (8:00 am, 1:00 pm and 8:00 pm), Saturdays (5:30 pm and 8:00 pm) and Sundays (11:00 am, 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm and 8:00 pm). From September 1 to June 30, from Monday to Friday (8:00 am, 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm), Saturdays (5:30 pm and 7:00 pm) and Sundays and holidays (11:00 am, 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm).
San Marcelo City Council
The building where the seat of the San Marcelo City Council is located, in León, is also known as the “Casa de la Poridad”, and dates back to the 16th century. It was the work of Juan del Ribero.
The only thing that is left from the original building is the northwest wing, since the building was remodelled in 1920 after the collapse of the neighbouring Main Theatre.
Inside the building, there are two austere columns from the 16th century, which come from the former convent of Santo Domingo, which is no longer standing. You can also see the murals by Vela Zanetti and the stained glass window by Luís García Zurdo.
The MUSAC building in León was founded on April 1, 2005 and is the work of Emilio Tuñón Álvarez. Two years after its creation, it received the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture - Mies Van der Rohe Award. Inside it is home to more than 1,650 works of art, by close to 400 national and international artists.
The highlight of the building are the 3,000 multicoloured glass panels that create a large mosaic of colours. The museum is dedicated to spreading the city’s heritage, while also bringing to mind the contemporary character of the León Cathedral, as the architects drew their inspiration from its main rose window.
Hours: Closed on Mondays. From Tuesday to Friday (from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, and from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm), Saturdays, Sundays and holidays (from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, and from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm).
Admission: General (€3); reduced price for large families, university students and groups of more than 18 people (€2); children aged 8 - 18 (€1); children under 8, the disabled and senior citizens (free).
The Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter in the city of León occupies the area between Plaza Mayor square, Santa Ana street and Grano street. Its origin dates back to the 13th and 15th century when the Jewish community came to the city.
Currently, work is being done to recover part of the Jewish heritage that was once found in the district. Here we can highlight the historical heritage that has been preserved on the streets of Misericordia and Santa Cruz.
Church of San Marcelo
The church of San Marcelo is located in the city of León. In 1493, when the body of Saint Marcelo (the patron saint) was brought from Tangier, the idea arose to build a new temple to house his remains. Thus the old church was rebuilt completely by Juan del Ribero Rada and Baltasar Gutiérrez, with the work being finished in 1627.
The remains were transferred to León by King Ferdinand the Catholic in 1493, however they remained hidden until 1588, at which time the construction of the current temple began.
Inside the temple we can point out the main altarpiece, from the 18th century, in the centre of which is a carving dedicated to Saint Marcos.
Mass Hours: Every day. Weekdays (10:00 am, 12:00 pm, 7:30 pm and 8:15 pm), the eve of holidays (7:00 pm and 8:00 pm) and holidays (11:00 am, 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm, 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm).
Church of San Martín
The church of San Martín in the city of León dates back to the 11th century and was built in a Romanesque style. However, due to the innumerable restorations it was subjected to throughout history, only a few elements have remained from its original style.
Currently, you can find an apse attached to the adjacent building of the former Town Hall and inside, it houses a carving of The Pity, the work of Luis Salvador Carmona from the 18th century.
Mass Hours: Every day. Weekdays (12:00 pm and 7:30 pm), the eve of holidays (7:30 pm) and holidays (10:00 am, 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm).
Palace of the Guzmanes
The palace of the Guzmanes is located in León and was built between 1559 and 1572, on top of the old city wall. Over the years, it has undergone numerous restorations, among which we can highlight the one carried out in 1882, at which the time the property passed into the hands of the provincial government.
Looking at its structure, we can point out its trapezoidal floor plan endowed with a tower in each of the corners. The building is formed by two bodies. In the upper one there is a set of balconies and, in the lower, there are a few large windows covered by bars. It is distributed around an interior courtyard of columns.
On the outside, we are drawn to its façade that is formed by glazed arches and surrounded by Corinthian pilasters. With subdued decoration, we can highlight the coat of arms of the Guzmanes family, where we can see a cauldron with six snakes coming out of it.
In the main entrance, you can see reliefs of the Annunciation and of St. Augustine washing the feet of the pilgrim Christ, as well as a sculpture in honour of the bishop Don Juan Quiñones de Guzmán.
Hours: Closed on Monday and Tuesday. From March 20 to September 14, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (10:00 am to 12:30 pm, and from 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm) and Wednesday (from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, and from 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm). From September 15 to April 7 (from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm).
Admission: With admission to the council chamber (€3); general (€); reduced price for schoolchildren, groups of more than 25 people and senior citizens (€1); and children under 6, people with disabilities and students (free).
Tower of Ponce
The tower of Ponce is the oldest fortification in the city of León and the only one that is still standing. It was built as an ecclesiastical prison and later was constituted as the place where the taxes on bread were to be paid.
Its name comes from Count Don Ponce de Minerva, the butler to Alfonso VII and governor of the city’s towers.
Church of San Salvador de Palat
The church of San Salvador de Palat de Rey is located in León. The temple was built on the remains of an ancient temple with a Greek cross, of which only the transept is preserved, protected by an umbrella vault.
In the 10th century, the church was rebuilt by order of Ramiro II, who wanted to build a small monastery where his daughter Elvira could live. The building work was abandoned during the Middle Ages, after which it began to be used as a parish church.
Hours: Closed on Sundays. From Monday to Friday (from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, and from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm) and Saturdays (from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm).
Church of Santa Ana
The church of Santa Ana is located in the Jewish Quarter in León. Its structure is divided into three naves. The central one is the widest, while the two lateral ones are divided by pointed arches.
Inside, we can highlight the mural paintings with influences from the Mudéjar style, along with the altarpiece in a Neoclassical style that houses the statues of Saint Lazarus and Saint Anthony the Great.
Mass Hours: Every day. Weekdays (9:30 am and 7:30 pm), the eve of holidays (8:00 pm) and holidays (9:30 am, 10:30 am, 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm and 5:30 pm).
Church of Santa María del Mercado
The church of Santa María del Mercado is located in the city of León and dates back to the 12th century, although it underwent significant restorations in the 15th, 16th and 18th century, eliminating and incorporating various elements to the original temple.
The structure of the temple grabs our attention, since the height of its naves decreases from one end to the other, leaving it with the shape of a sarcophagus. Of the three primitive apses, only the two lateral ones remain, covered by a semi-dome.
The central apse was demolished at the beginning of the 18th century in order to build a small room that allowed the temple to be accessed from the back, in order to venerate the image of the Our Lady of El Camino, from the 15th century.
Mass Hours: Every day. From July 1 to August 31, Monday to Friday (11:00 am and 8:00 pm), the eve of holidays (8:00 pm) and holidays (11:30 am, 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm). From September 1 to June 30, Monday to Friday (11:30 am and 7:30 pm), the eve of holidays (7:30 pm) and holidays (9:00 am, 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm and 6:00 pm).
Church of Santa Marina
The church of Santa Marina was built in the mid-16th century in the city of León, by order of Bishop Juan de San Millán. Currently, it houses numerous sculptures, among which we can find the one dedicated to Bishop Juan de San Millán, one of San Francisco Javier and another of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Mass Hours: Every day. Weekdays (12:30 pm and 7:00 pm), the eve of holidays (7:00 pm) and holidays (10:00 am, 12:30 pm and 7:00 pm).
Palace of the Condes
The palace of the Condes de Luna is located in León and was built by Don Pedro Suárez de Quiñones and his wife Juana González de Bazán, in the 14th century. However, from that time, only its Gothic and Mudéjar portal remains, decorated with the heraldic coats of arms of its owners.
Later on, Clara Pimentel decided to expand the building by adding a Renaissance-style tower, covered with slate. Today, the palace is the property of the City Council and is home to the headquarters of the University of Washington in Spain and the Interpretation Centre of the History of the Kingdom of León.
Hours: Open every day. From Monday to Saturday (10:00 am to 2:00 pm, and from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm), and Sundays and holidays (from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm).
The Casa Botines building is located in the city of León and was built by Antonio Gaudí at the request of the company founded by Homs i Botinàs. The building is reminiscent of a castle with a Gothic style.
In the past, the building housed a textile workshop on the ground floor and in the basement; while the upper floors were rented out for private use. Currently, it serves as the headquarters of a financial institution and the upper floors often house temporary exhibitions.
Next to the Modernist-style building, you can see a sculpture of the architect himself, contemplating his work.
If you would like to visit the inside of this building, you can do so during the bank’s opening hours.
Plaza del Grano
Plaza del Grano is one of the most popular squares in León, as it was where the grain market used to be held every month, along with bullfights every now and again.
Looking at the square, we can point out the design of the ground, consisting of classic cobblestones. Surrounding the space are houses with arcades, which give the space a stately appearance. In the centre of the square is a stone cross that, according to legend, points to the place where Mary once appeared.
Plaza Mayor is the main square in the city of León and used for both leisure and administrative purposes. It was built at two different times. The first construction took place between 1654 and 1672, and was the work of Antonio Ambrosio. This was followed by a remodelling in 1677 by Francisco del Piñal, after having been devastated by a fire.
The space continues to host a traditional market and you can find numerous bars and restaurants located under its columns.
The Roman wall in León is known as the “Cube Wall”. The structure is approximately five metres thick and about eight metres high. It has towers (“cubos” – cubes) with a canted, semicircular floor plan. Of all the different gates in the wall, only the one known as the “Gate of the Castle” is still standing, which was restored in 1759.
The Municipal Auditorium in León won the Spanish Architecture Award for its exclusive architectural layout and the high quality of the materials used to build it.
The building was inaugurated in 2002 and has three rooms, in which a great deal of cultural activity takes place (theatre, dance, music, opera, etc.). Among its three rooms, the building has a total capacity for 1,500 people.