Astorga is a historic city in the province of León (northwestern Spain), well known for the disneyesque Episcopal Palace by Gaudi, the cosy Chocolate Museum, the ancient roman ruins (don’t miss the Roman Route), the Cathedral, or the delightful maragato stew (the local “cocido“). The Christian Holy Week and Astures and Romans (a great event of Roman reenactment scheduled on the last weekend in July) are the two main fiestas in the city, and attract thousands of visitors every year.
Near Astorga you will find one of the most charming villages in Spain, Castrillo de los Polvazares, as well as petroglyphs dated 2500 years BC and archaeological wonders such as the 600 km of roman canals around the greatest gold mining complex of the Roman era, Las Médulas.
The 11 or 12 stages from Astorga to Santiago make Astorga a popular starting point for the Camino. The city is a key spot on the Camino de Santiago, as the two mains routes to Santiago, the French Way and the Vía de la Plata, meet here. There are two albergues in the city, as well as supermarkets, spas, tapas bars and everything the pilgrim might need.
A brief history of Astorga
Astorga is a city of Roman origin. It was founded by the Emperor Augustus more than 2000 years ago. There is a Roman Route that allows you to visit the archaeological remains of this period. The Roman mosaics and sewers are very interesting. There is also a Roman Museum with objects of daily life in the city as it was several centuries ago. The city wall is of Roman origin, although it was rebuilt in later centuries.
In the Middle Ages, Astorga was one of the most important cities on the Way of Saint James. At the end of the 15th century, the construction of the Cathedral began. The work lasted three centuries. Different architectural styles can be seen in the Cathedral of Astorga. The Cathedral Museum houses artistic works of great value.
In the 18th century the Town Hall was built. The automaton clock on its façade is a tourist attraction: two figures dressed in local costume have been giving the chimes every hour for over 200 years. The Plaza Mayor is the centre of life in the city.
Astorga was one of the Spanish cities most affected during the Peninsular War. When Napoleon was in Astorga he was summoned to the Russian front and had to leave Spain. The Spanish troops defended Astorga with great courage. The city was recognized by the Spanish Parliament as Very Noble, Loyal and Esteemed. The French troops destroyed part of the wall of Astorga. The name of the city is one of the most outstanding in the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
In the 19th century Astorga developed an important chocolate industry. The city is well known in Spain for its chocolate and sweets. There is a museum dedicated to chocolate with many curious objects. The collection of stickers devoted to bullfighters and singers is very surprising.
At the end of the 19th century Gaudí moved to Astorga to build the Episcopal Palace. It belongs to the Neo-Gothic style. It is the most visited monument in Astorga. It is one of the three buildings that Gaudí designed outside Barcelona.
The best known dish in the local gastronomy is the Maragato stew. The sausages and smoked products of the region are also very appreciated, especially the cecina. Near the Main Plaza there are many bars where you can enjoy the traditional Spanish tapas.
How to get to Astorga
Astorga is about three hours from Madrid by car via the A6 highway to Galicia, and some two hours and a half from La Coruña. Astorga is less than two hours from León, Salamanca, Gijón, Oviedo, Lugo, Burgos or Valladolid, all of them in NW Spain, and less than three and a half hours from Porto, in Portugal.
You can also get to Astorga by bus from Madrid and from almost any capital city in the Northwest of Spain (check alsa.es/en for timetables, prices and offers) or by train from Barcelona, Zaragoza, Madrid, La Coruña and several other main cities across northern Spain (check renfe.com/es/en for timetables, fares and discounts).
The nearest airports are in León (LEN, 45 minutes), Asturias (OVD, some 2 hours) and Valladolid (VLL, less than two hours).