Arriving in Oviedo, Spain, I found myself zipping through clean streets in a tidy cab to the sounds of classical music. I passed boxy, ornate buildings – the kind you’re more likely to see in northern Europe. Exiting the cab, I stepped past jovial patrons, over streets stained with cider and entered my hotel. A terse lady then directed me towards a tiny elevator that felt like something out of a James Bond film.
My first 15 minutes in Oviedo – which is the capital of the little known Spanish region of Asturias – was so interesting I liked it from the first. It’s a city with unique architectural charm, where well-dressed citizens walk along streets awarded the cleanest in Spain. There’s also plenty of trees, nice parks and rolling green hills that hide churches over a thousand years old. And as I got to spend just over a month in town, I came to know it quite well.
A few favourite things
Oviedo has a number of sculptures that make for an intriguing visit. Probably the most famous is the life-sized replica of Woody Allen, who loves the city so much he filmed part of Vicky Cristina Barcelona here and had the statue awarded in his honour. I often saw people getting a photo next to it, which was something I never really understood.
However, there’s much more interesting sculptures about town, such as the lady sitting idly on a bench, the curiously shaped tree held up by concrete slabs, the figure surfing a snail, people with small heads and the man with a cane and his dogs. There’s a map you can get from the tourist information office that leads you to each one.
Campo de San Francisco
Campo de San Francisco is a large green park that’s arguably the centrepiece of Oviedo, and I found myself here often. It’s a great place to rest beneath the apple-green leaves that droop, fall and rustle from the many chestnuts, oaks and English elms that reside here. The park also contains ruins of a Romanesque façade which once belonged to the San Isidoro Church, along with a pleasant lake and fountain which turtles and ducks call home.
The park also hosts regular events such as exhibitions, bands, theatre, children’s festivals and there’s plenty of sporting and playground facilities on offer. Rarely would a day go by without me paying at least a quick visit to the place.
Cider culture in Oviedo was a sight (and smell) that intrigued me immediately. At first I thought the idea of drinking cider sounded awful, but then I investigated and became a keen participant. Waiters pour the cider from great heights to give it fizz and about a third of each pour is sacrificed to the town’s floors and streets. It’s really quite exciting. I’ve written a more detailed post on Asturian cider here if you’re interested.
The food in Oviedo, Spain is distinct, delicious and I found it much more to my liking than the food in the south. A good place to introduce your palate to Asturian cuisine is at a local chain restaurant called Tierra Astur. I loved the stews here with beans and seafood. However, El Gato Negro (The Black Cat) was my favourite place in town to eat fresh seafood and drink cider. The local markets are also a superb place to sample local delicacies and watch the world go by.
Curiously, the Celts played a big part in the foundation of Oviedo and their influence is felt in all aspects of town life.
Plaza de Trascorrales
The maze-like network of Oviedo’s old quarter contains some hidden gems. One of these is Plaza de Trascorrales, which used to be a thriving fish market. Now it’s a quaint little place where patrons wine and dine near an appealing sculpture of a donkey. One night I stumbled across the plaza by chance and found it filled with couples waltzing beneath the stars. It was wonderfully surreal and I felt like I’d stepped back in time.
However, of all the things I did in Oviedo, Spain, exploring the surrounding hills was my favourite. Oh the hills of Oviedo, I miss you so! You can read about that adventure here.