Historic buildings and squares in Oviedo

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Oviedo really does have a wealth of history and historic buildings dotted throughout its beautiful old quarter, so here is a summary of some of the more visually inspiring and historically important examples.

Most, but not all, of Oviedo's treasures can be found within what were once the walls of the city's medieval town. The street and plaza layout of this district has remained unaltered throughout the centuries and it therefore offers a look back in time at not just the buildings of Oviedo, but also their geography and proximity to one another within the town.

Entering Oviedo's medieval quarter

Most visitors to Oviedo will approach the old town from the south and will be initially confronted by the grand and distinctive Palacio del Marques de San Feliz (pictured above).

This is the first really striking building in the old town and it sits in the Plaza de Daoiz y Velarde. Unfortunately it is not open to the public, but its grandiose facade from the early seventeen hundreds can still be enjoyed by passers by.

Moving further into Oviedo's historic area another large courtyard, the Plaza de la Constitucion, soon opens up to reveal two of the city's most enduring and attractive buildings.

The first is the church of San Isidoro el Real which was built between 1578 and 1740 before being temporarily abandoned in the late eighteenth century. This church has a single tower, but it was originally intended to be symmetrical with towers to both sides.

The church is far larger than the photograph to the right suggests and despite the regal looking town hall, it is the dominant building on this large and open square which also holds the old town's main tourism centre to the church's left.

Adjacent to the Isidoro church sits the Town hall (left), a typical large civic building which impresses with it scale and grandeur and which appears to preside over the entire square.

A central tiered tower and entrance give this building its impressive appearance, as do the arches that run the length of its main facades at ground level.

Other interesting attractions in this part of the old quarter are the large indoor market (behind the church) and a further courtyard called the Plaza del Fontan which is colonnaded around its perimeter. This area is now populated by bars and cafes.

Heading for the Cathedral

Once beyond the Constitution square most tourists head off in the general direction of the Cathedral, but this can take a number of different courses.

A direct route passes the Fine Arts Museum and then continues on to the church of San Tirso (described further below). The fine arts museum (Museo de Bellas Artes), housed in the Palacio de Velarde (palace), contains the fifth largest collection of Spanish artefacts in the country. It is comprised of two buildings and is split, by floor level, into works on loan from the Prado art museum in Madrid and more modern exhibits created locally. Works on display include those by Goya and Picasso.

The other route to the cathedral is taken by circling around this area in an anticlockwise direction. This takes you into the arts and artifacts centre where you will firstly see the Archbishops Palace, and then find the Music Conservatory and the Archeological Museum before moving on to the monastery of San Pelayo (pictured right). All are worthy of a visit.

By moving to the west of the cathedral and taking a more leisurely route in its general direction, the buildings of Oviedo's University and the regional government building (the Junta general del Principado) can be visited. Both demonstrate attractive and provincial examples of Asturian architecture and take you outside the original walls of the medieval town.

Moving still further a field, Oviedo's Campoamor Theatre resides next to the Plaza del Carbayon and it is at this point that both the old and new towns are accessible to all.

Buildings close to Oviedo's Cathedral

To the north of the old town in the Plaza de la Catedral lay a collection of grand old buildings. The cathedral obviously takes pride of place here, but bordering this square are some other important buildings in the form of the eighteenth century Palacio de Valdecarzana (pictured left) and the Palacio de Camposagrado.

A mere hundred years ago these large stone structures would have been obscured by the presence of houses in the now reclaimed Cathedral Square, but today you can stand in the centre of this plaza and look around.

To the side of these buildings is the Balesquida Chapel. This is a smaller, but equally important part of the city's heritage that although only dating back to the seventeenth century, is on the site of a much older chapel constructed four hundred years previously. It was built in the Asturian Baroque style.

Probably less impressive, but still a keystone building in old Oviedo, is the Palacio de la Rua (or Palacio de Santa Cruz). Elevated slightly above the Cathedral square, this is the oldest of Oviedo's civic structures and dates back, almost in its entirety, to the fifteenth century. This simple building has now looked over the plaza for almost six hundred years and will have seen the present day cathedral evolve from the original basilica.

Closing the Plaza de la Catedral, and sitting almost next to the cathedral, is the church of San Tirso. This church was first erected as far back as the ninth century, but has seen many rebuilds and modifications. Despite this there are still sections of the structure with pre-Romanesque roots – in particular the central apse. Close to this church is the point at which the city's defensive castle once stood, although sadly no parts of this building remain today.

The sidra district

Whilst there is not a sidra district as such in Oviedo, there is a street (pictured during the day to the left) to the north and below the cathedral that is comprised almost exclusively of sidrerias.

This street is just outside the old quarter and it becomes extremely busy and atmospheric during the evening and into the early hours. Many tourists choose to experience the traditional “still” cider here and few are disappointed with the experience.

What photographs and general descriptions of buildings and plazas cannot do is convey the atmosphere and overall feel of Oviedo'd old quarter. For this you will need to visit the city yourself.

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