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The origins of the capital of the region of Asturias in northern Spain lie in a Benedictine monastery that was founded in the eighth century. Around the monastery grew a settlement, which was destroyed by the Moors in 789, but rebuilt quickly. They built strong city walls, of which parts are still visible, to withstand new attacks by the Moors.
In the center of the Kingdom of Asturias' former capital you'll find the impressive Gothic Cathedral of San Salvador. Its construction started in the mid fourteenth century and was completed two centuries later. Yet there is an even older part, a Romanesque tower on the north side, remnants of a basilica that once stood here. The rear panel of the altar is beautifully ornamented with many reliefs that represent the 'Passion', 'Christ as Ruler' and the 'Glorification of Mary'. The church' Holy Chamber (Camara Santa) holds many valuable religious objects, including the Cruz de los Angeles with an inlay of jewels, which was a gift from King Alfonso II in 898 and the Cruz de la Victoria, which his successor, King Alfonso III, gave to the church in 908. More church treasures, not only from this cathedral but also originating from many other parishes in the region of Asturias, can be seen in the Museo de la Iglesia.
The city has many more churches: Nearby the cathedral, the Santa Maria la Real de la Corte from the seventeenth century, the San Tirso Church with a window with a round arch from the ninth century and the San Isidro Church on the Plaza Mayor with beautiful woodcarvings from the sixteenth century.
East of the cathedral lies the oldest building and the origin of the city, the Monastery of San Vicente. Originally a Benedictine monastery, the complex now houses the Archeological Museum, which exhibits an interesting collection of pre-Romanesque and Romanesque art. Here you are in the oldest, most attractive part of the city, the Casco Antiguo. The many squares in the old part of town house numerous bars, restaurants and outdoor cafés. There are also a surprisingly large number of shops, including very specialized ones. You absolutely have to try the cider for which Asturias is famous. And then there is of course the Spanish chorizo, often cooked in cider in this region! There is an annual festival dedicated to this cider, the Festival de la Sidra Natural. On the Saturday during this festival you can taste the cider for free. The only requirement is that you have a green handkerchief tied around your neck. There are also many lectures and exhibitions about cider as well as various cultural events, including concerts and theater. On September 19, Oviedo provides the setting for a folkloric parade, the Día de America en Asturias.
One of Asturias' largest and most important museums is the Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias, which houses a fine collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings and engravings. The best pieces are El Greco's paintings of the twelve apostles, Apostolado. The museum also holds a photo exhibition and there are rooms dedicated to industrial and applied arts.
Just north of Oviedo lies the Monte Naranco, which houses two of Spain's most beautiful pre-Romanesque buildings, Santa María del Naranco and San Miguel de Liño. The first church was originally King Ramiro's palace, built in the ninth century. In the thirteenth century, the palace was converted into a church. Inside, the beautifully decorated columns and arches catch the eye. San Miguel de Liño was presumably the palace's court church. This construction was destroyed by a natural disaster in the thirteenth century; only the western part was preserved.
Have you seen enough historic buildings? In that case, visit the charming seaside town of Gijón, at only a half-hour drive northeast of Oviedo. This city also has a historic center as well as an open-air museum where they reconstructed a traditional Asturian village, including a workshop for the manufacturing of the so-called gaitas (a type of Asturian bagpipe).
Part of Oviedo's center is pedestrianized. In the surrounding area you have to pay for parking out on the street. We recommend leaving your rental car in one of the city's many parking garages. You can find a large parking garage near the Salesas shopping center. The Parking Público El Auditorio on the Calle González Besada is also centrally located.
Asturia Airport is located 40 kilometers north of Oviedo, closer to the city of Avilés. You can easily reach the airport by rental car via the A-8 freeway or the national road N-632. On both roads the exit to the airport is clearly signposted.