With its status as the Asturian capital, Oviedo is a large and prosperous city and one which is not unaccustomed to overseas tourism. The city contrasts a modern outlook and booming commercial centre with an older and much more relaxed historic town and this enables it to be all things to all people – or at least most things to most tourists.
For short stay visitors it is the areas around the city's cathedral and the medieval old quarter that provide the greatest interest, but Oviedo has much more to offer, particularly for anyone with three or four days to spend in the city.
The new town
Away from Oviedo's old district, the more recent and interesting expansions of the city occupy an area around the Calle Uria street (pictured above), most of which is now pedestrianized.
This main road has many side streets and tributaries leading from it and when combined they represent the main shopping area of Oviedo.
Within this district you will find everything from designer boutiques, to the quaint and typically Asturian specialty outlets that most tourists to this part of Spain hope to encounter. You will also find no shortage of eateries and cafes and even the occasional street performer.
The pedestrian only aspect of this shopping area is something of which Oviedo is extremely proud and it sees itself as a model for other contemporary European cities.
One benefit of the absence of vehicles is the expansion of shops, but more especially of cafes and bars onto the streets with the creation of a continuous courtyard feel. This has been enhanced through the use of stylish street lighting and the positioning of many pieces of street art in the form of statues, kiosks and casual seating. Clever planting of small flower islands and the incorporation of trees along many streets adds to this open and pollution free ambience.
Oviedo, old and new, is very much in the possession of people rather than cars.
The Escandalera Square
Right in the centre of Oviedo is the Escandalera square, a large and open piazza that not only forms the heartbeat of the city, but also links the old town to the new and makes an ideal starting, finishing and meeting point for tourists. Around this square there is a profusion of bars and shops and some of the side streets running from it show glimpses of the more bohemian side of Oviedo.
The Escandalera square is faced by the imposing Cajastur building and contains a large fountain and a famous sculpture, the Maternidad (motherhood), which stands almost two metres high and is cast in bronze. Also adjacent to this formal square is the city's large and ornamental park and there is a tourism point located at the junction of the park and the plaza.
Architecture and sculpture
Outside the old quarter, Oviedo has no shortage of visual treats and pretty follies to attract the eye.
The newer sections of the city date from the early nineteenth century to the present, but this is a city in a permanent state of evolution and it reflects the present as well as the past.
One of the cities most notable and recognizable buildings is the Campoamor theatre. Located just off the Escandalera square, this beautifully symmetrical building has the classic lines of a Greek acropolis and was completed in 1892 by architects Lopez Saladero and Siro Borrajo. Many see this theatre as a symbol of Oviedo and this image is further enhanced by its annual use as the venue from which the coveted Prince of Asturias Awards are held.
Exploring the city leads you through streets like the Millicias Nacionales, Doctor Casal Street, Uria Street and Palacio Valdes Street and all demonstrate different aspects of this fascinating city's architectural and cultural heritage.
Uria Street has the beautiful white Casas del Culto building whilst Millicias Nacionales features a life size likeness of Woody Allen, an extremely popular, respected and (Prince of Asturias) award winning actor in Asturias.
Detail is everything in Oviedo and the attention to initially small, but none the less important features, is one of the things that makes this city so interesting. Sculptures like the abstract “Matador” and the curvaceous “Culis Monumentabilis” catch the eye, whilst the subtle street signs are cast in bronze and fulfill much more of an aesthetic role than an informative one. Everywhere you look in Oviedo there is something to demand your attention and the steady supply of regal buildings like the Hotel de la Reconquista or the pretty church of San Juan make the exploration a rewarding one.
Even in the new town, heritage is never far away with streets and building using the historic references of Pelayo, or the Reconquista for their names.
The modern parts of town
Although less frequented by tourists, Oviedo does have some more modern and functional districts and there are a number of structures aimed at keeping the city in the architectural “fast lane”.
The large “Avenida de la Fundacion Principe de Asturias” is one such area where a large metal arch spans the square and is faced by a minimalist fountain. It is not everyone's cup of tea, but along with the “Principe Felipe” auditorium (pictured right) it shows that Oviedo accommodates a wealth of styles and ideas.
Also demonstrating the more modern outlook of Oviedo is the Princesa Letizia exhibition and congress centre. This is a new building designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and is intended as an international business and conference centre. The building is worth seeing for its “state of the art” design featuring a dome and high flying angular wings, all in a bleached white finish.