Oviedo, the capital of Asturias can be found between coast and mountains in the north of Spain. While it is usually overshadowed by the extreme beauty of the surrounding asturian landscapes, and that is certainly how I remembered it from visiting as a kid, I’ve come to tell you that Oviedo makes for a wonderful weekend city break. It is actually one of the best weekends away we’ve had in a while, and if you are interested on giving it a go, keep on reading because I’m about to tell you how you too can enjoy a great weekend in Oviedo.
How to get to Oviedo
Flights: Flights to Oviedo depart a couple of times a week regularly from London Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted airports. Unfortunately I think those and Madrid airport are the only ones that currently have direct flights to Oviedo. The cheapest flights are with Vueling and Easyjet at an average of 50£ return, although Iberia and British Airways also fly to Oviedo.
Getting from the airport into Oviedo: A bus from the company ALSA connects the airport with Oviedo approximately every hour for 8€. Oviedo airport is very small, so the bus stop is really not hard to find – it’s just to the right as you exit the airport. The bus journey to Oviedo is 30 – 45 minutes depending on traffic, and will leave you at Oviedo’s bus station. If you are not keen on taking the bus, there is also the option of getting a taxi, which I believe costs about 40 – 50€.
Once in Oviedo, the only form of public transport is the bus, but it is a small city and very easy to explore on foot. We did not have to use neither taxis nor the bus to move all around Oviedo for the whole weekend.
Things to do in Oviedo:
- Mercado del Fontán and Plaza de Daoiz y Velarde: the Fontan market is worth a visit to check out the local food products. You will not really find ready-to-eat foods but more of the products that the locals buy to then cook at home. These include fish and seafood (including live crabs and lobsters in tanks), butcher’s meat, beans and grains as well as loads of local cheeses. If these type of markets are not what you are into, the surrounding area is also worth checking out. This includes the Plaza de Daoiz y Velaverde, a cute little colourful square with local shops and some nice terraces. The weekend we were visiting there was also a lovely flower market around this area.
- Wandering the streets in Old Town: this is by far my favorite thing about Oviedo. The Old Town is very well conserved and is a compact masterpiece of small wandering streets lined by houses adorned with beautiful balconies. Both days we stayed in Oviedo I made a point of having a wander around this area before 10.30 in the morning, and I basically had the whole place to myself. Some of the sights include the local council building as well as the cathedral. What you will find the most though, will be cafes, restaurants and bars. Literally one in every two. And also, did I mention we did not bump into a single non-Spanish person during the whole weekend? Maybe it was just that February is off-season, but Oviedo did have an overall feel of being completely untouched by tourism so learning a couple of Spanish words before going might come in handy.
- Oviedo’s cathedral and Basílica de San Juan el Real: a weekend in Oviedo should be all about relaxed aimless wandering and loads of good food and drink. There aren’t many sights that need to be ticked off or a long list of things to see and do. However there are two that I felt were worth mentioning. First one is the Cathedral, which stands proudly at the edge of the old town. Especially at night, when the square is emptied, it is definitely a beautiful sight. It does cost about 6€ to go in, which we decided not to do, but I hear it is as beautiful inside as it is on the outside. It also has very weird opening hours, so maybe check in advance if you are planning on going in. The other site I thought was worth mentioning, and that I actually preferred to the cathedral, is the Basílica de San Juan el Real. We accidentally found it during our initial evening stroll and we were completely taken aback. Just sitting there surrounded by shopping street as if it was the most common of things, the Basílica de San Juan el Real is a beautiful work of art both in and out and both during the day and at night. And contrary to the cathedral, it is free entry.
- Boulevard de la Sidra: the Calle Gascona (Gascona Street) is also known as Cider Boulevard and it is not hard to see why. It is basically a short street lined with some of the best cider bars in town. They are actually called Sidrerías and all of them serve the local delicious cider all throughout the day at the wonderful price of about 2€ a bottle, and when I say a bottle, I mean the size of a bottle of wine. Consuming cider in Oviedo or Asturias in general, is quite a cultural experience in itself. The cider needs to be poured from quite high up for it to air and thus only a small bit is poured at a time. Your waiter/waitress will keep an eye on your glass and keep coming around to refill. You can watch the strange looking pour here. If you do not drink alcohol or are just not that keen on drinking cider, the Cider Boulevard is still worth a visit, as the do serve delicious local food as well, and there is a great atmosphere especially after 8.00 in the evenings when the locals tend to get together after work.
- Boulevard del Vino: this is similar to the Cider Boulevard, but with wine instead. While the local wine gets overshadowed by the cider, it is still pretty good, and worth a try. The wine boulevard is also not just one street but a couple, including Campoamor, Manuel Pedregal and Río San Pedro Streets. Although despite both boulevards are very popular, you can get both good wine and cider in any restaurant/bar around Oviedo.
- Campo de San Francisco: the Campo de San Francisco is a medium sized park that can be found in the centre of Oviedo. It is a very well kept park that includes a pond with ducks and swams and also some free roaming peacocks. If you pay attention you will also be able to spot the statue of Mafalda sitting on one of the benches. Mafalda, in case you don’t know, is a 6 year old girl of a very famous comic strip originated in Argentina that would show concern about humanity and the world and discuss serious problems in a very innocent manner. While on the topic of statues just opposite one side of the park, at the start of Milicias Nacionales Street you can also find a statue of Woody Allen. The director has Oviedo as his favorite Spanish city (it featured in Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and it once described it as a fairy-tale.
“a delicious, exotic, beautiful, clean, pleasant, tranquil and pedestrianised city. It’s as if it didn’t belong to this world. As if it didn’t exist… Oviedo is like a fairy-tale” – Woody Allen
- Shopping: I’m not a big shopper, but Oviedo sure makes for a great shopping spot. Pelayo Street and Palacio Valdés streets are both a good place to start as they are both pedestrianised. You will find a mixture of the classic stores such as Zara combined with some local shops as well as some cafes where you can refuel. It’s not just these streets but most of the parallel streets around this area, which also include the most popular department store in Spain – el Corte Inglés.
- Monte Naranco – Santa María del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo: a visit to Monte Naranco is a worthy detour from Oviedo I’d definitely recommend. Technically you can walk up to it but it will take a couple of hours and I wouldn’t recommend it, especially since it is very easily accessible through public transport. You can get the A2 public bus at Calle Uría heading to Centro Asturiano for 1.20€ each way. The only thing is they don’t run too often so maybe check the schedule ahead of time. Just tell the driver you want to get off at the ‘monumentos’, which will be the stop beside a car park. You can then start a brief but steep walk up to Santa María del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo, two small churches that date back to pre-roman times and that are currently both UNESCO world heritage sites. And though both are worth visiting, that’s not actually the main reason why I think a visit to Monte Naranco is worth it. It’s the amazing views. You can enjoy views of all of Oviedo but also of the stunning Asturian mountains that lie behind. Unfortunately we didn’t get a clear day when we were visiting, but I still enjoyed the views. I can only imagine just how spectacular the views can get with clear weather!
Things to eat and drink in Oviedo:
Asturias in general has a very rich gastronomy and a weekend in Oviedo would not be complete without trying some of the local cuisine. However, even I as a Spanish person, found it tricky to figure out what to try and even what was what, so here are some of the classics you should try and eat while in Oviedo.
- Fabada: this is THE Asturian dish, and you just cannot not try it. It is a type of bean stew that also contains pork or bacon, black pudding, chorizo and saffron. It is served hot and though a starter, it is a very heavy dish. Actually portions of food in Oviedo in general tend to be very generous.
- Cachopo: this was advertised in most bars and restaurants over Oviedo and it took me a while to find out exactly what it is. Turns out a cachopo is two veal fillets with ham and cheese in the middle that then get breaded and fried. Although it doesn’t always contain ham and cheese, as apparently it can contain anything from fish to chicken to vegetables.
- Cheese: there is a great variety of asturian cheeses (just go check out the cheese stands at Mercado Fontán if you don’t believe me), all supposed to be delicious. I however don’t like cheese so have nothing else to report on it other than I’m told it’s worth a try.
- Pixín (rape): the rape fish (I bet you whoever named it didn’t know English…) is known as pixín in Asturias and it is a very popular dish. I eat a lot of fish but had never actually tried this before, and I’m happy to report it is delicious – my mouth is watering now just from thinking about it! It is also really easy to eat as it doesn’t have a lot of side bones. If you like fish this is a must try for sure.
- Cider, cider and more cider: of course I’d have to mention cider again. Seriously, it is everywhere. You will be walking around and wherever you look you’ll see waiter/waitresses pouring cider. I should also mention it’s only got 5-6% alcohol, so even if you are not too keen on alcohol it’s worth a try.
Finally with regards to where to eat, I very much doubt you can go wrong with wherever you choose to go in Oviedo. We tried a place called La Mal Querida which was on a small side street to the left at the bottom of the Cider Boulevard. They served classic and simple homemade-type dishes. We both ate starter and main as well as a bottle of cider for 18€, and I’d definitely recommend it, although it was there that I discovered I certainly do not like “bacalao”. We also ate at another restaurant also close to the Cider Boulevard called El Bosque. We decided to splash out a bit more and spend about 50€ between the two of us, but it was totally worth it. We didn’t even check the menu, we just ate what the waiter recommended and had one of the best meals we’ve ever had anywhere. The service was excellent as well, such wonderful waiters.
How much money to spend in Oviedo:
Finally there is the question of how much money you’d need to spend a weekend in Oviedo and you’ll be glad to hear it is a very cheap destination.
- Transport: since the city is very easily walkable, your main transport expense will be the 16€ to come and go from the airport. You could add 2.80€ to that if you decide to visit Monte Naranco. If I were to factor in flights as well, like I said they are usually about 50£ return, although obviously that’s going to depend on the time of the year as well as whether you are flexible with your dates. I spotted some flights as cheap as 8£ with easyjet!
- Accomodation: much like with flights, I’d imagine that accomodation prices may vary. In our case we stayed in a 4-star hotel right between the Cider Boulevard and the cathedral in the old town for 40€ a night. That could just be that we got a non-intentional superb deal given the time of the year but I have a feeling that you’d be easily paying 50 – 60€ a night for an average hotel all year around. You can also probably find ridiculously cheap hostels given that some pilgrims go through Oviedo when doing the Camino de Santiago.
- Food: the major factor when it comes to saving on food, even when eating out on restaurants are the menus. Each restaurant would usually have a ‘day menu’ that costs from 8 – 15€ and that includes a starter, main, dessert and sometimes even a drink. And don’t think that you are missing out on the good food by eating a menu – the menu in most restaurants actually contains the classic local dishes, and in fact, the portions are so ridiculously big, you’ll be wishing you had only gotten a starter. Even outside of the menus, food and drink in general is not expensive at all for european standards and you could comfortably eat very well for less than 20€ a day.
Given that there are no major paying attractions in Oviedo, those would really be all of your essential weekend expenses, meaning you could grab yourself a weekend in Oviedo for about 150€ to 200€ per person.
If you are planning on going and would like to know about something I haven’t covered, feel free to ask me in the comments!