I usually get puzzled looks whenever I tell people where I come from in Spain. Yes, Asturias, in the Northern Spain is one of those places off the beaten track, and not touristy at all. Very different from southern Spain but equally as beautiful.
I’m from Gijón, the biggest town in Asturias. Its a trendy coastal city, relatively unknown outside Spain with a great night life and plenty of things to do and see. I thought I’d share with you my top 10 things to do in Gijón:
10 things to do in Gijón, Northern Spain
Go to the beach
The weather in Gijón might not be as great as in Southern Spain but there is still plenty of opportunities to enjoy strolling along the beach or having a swim at one of the beaches. Gijón has 2 main beaches; San Lorenzo is 1.8 kms long and the most popular one, and Poniente, by the harbour is man made with hardly any waves so is ideal to visit with children. Poniente is also designed to be well above sea level so not impacted my the tides. Both beaches get extremely busy in the summer or on a hot day, so you need to get there early!
If planning on visiting San Lorenzo is advised to check the tides, at some point in the day, when the tide is high the water covers most of the beach.
See the aquarium
The aquarium is probably my kid’s favourite place to visit in Gijón. We have been there lots of times and it’s a great place – not a cheap one though – to visit on a rainy day. Situated off the Playa de Poniente, it’s the only one in Spain where you can see all five groups of vertebrates (mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish) and where there is a unique recreation of a Cantabrian river.
Visit the Universidad laboral
Over the years the activity changed and it became a school. Nowadays the building is known as City of Culture and has a variety of uses. There are various cultural activities and exhibitions throughout the year.
Stroll around Cimadevilla
Cimadevilla, the old fishing neighbourhood, is now a vibrant and popular area full of colourful houses and narrow streets. It still retains the old fashion village charm, and is also where a lot of Gijón’s nightlife happens. If you are visiting Gijón I recommend you spend a couple of hours wandering around , and then stop by one of their bars and have a drink on a terraza.
Have a go at water sports
Gijón has always been a popular surfing destination. I always remember being fascinated by the surfers on the beach when I was growing up. The past few years the surfing scene completely exploded, and there are now lots of surfing schools and surfing lessons on offer at San Lorenzo, Gijón’s main beach. Lessons and courses are aimed at kids and adults of all abilities. My 7 year old had a week course this summer at Tablas School and he loved it. He had so much fun he is already thinking of having more lessons when we go back next summer.
Surfing is not the only water sport you can have a go at in Gijón, jet-skiing, paddle boarding and of course sailing are some of the other options.
Visit the Roman Thermal Baths
Situated by the edge of the old town and the beach, a bit hidden away are Gijón’s Roman Thermal Baths. They are considered to be one of the most important Roman remains in Northern Spain. Visitors can see the public baths built between the 1st and 4th centuries. The museum, located in the same thermal complex, shows the importance of these baths in Roman culture, highlighting the heating systems and wall paintings. You can also see the cold zones, warm bath areas, and hot spaces used as saunas.
Elojio del Horizonte
Elojio del horizonte ” In praise of the horizon” is a modern sculpture that has become the symbol of the city. Situated in a park in the top of Cimadevilla it has amazing views of the city and Gijón’s coastline. The sculpture was designed to be admired from the inside. If you stand on the centre sound of the waves and the wind are intensified.
Go on a boat ride
Gijón is a great city to discover by foot but you can also view a different side of the city by boat. During the summer months, from early July from the middle of September, you can do a boat trip and and discover the beautiful coastline.
The boat departs from the harbour, opposite the cider bottles tower sculpture, and the journey takes around 30 minutes. These boat trips are quite popular, specially on nice clear days, so you might have to queue a little bit to make sure you get a seat, or book in advance.
Cider is a local speciality in Asturias. Of course Gijón is full of sidrerias, bars where you can have something to eat (usually seafood) and drink cider. Drinking cider is a sociable event, something to do with friends. Both the bottle and the glass are shared, and the glass gets passed around. Asturian cider is poured from a height into a wide very thin glass,the cider falls into the glass, forming bubbles and it’s then drank quickly.
Gijón holds a very popular cider festival at the end of August. It includes free tastings, tours of local cider makers (llagares) and an annual attempt to break the Guiness World Record for the number of people simultaneously pouring cider. 30,000 litres of cider are consumed during this festival.
If you are visiting Asturias you must give Cider a try!
Spend the afternoon at the Atlantic Botanical Garden
In the outskirts of Gijón, close to the Universidad Laboral you can find the Atlantic Botanical Gardens. Most trees and plants in the Botanical Garden are native to Asturias or to Northern Spain. It’s divided into four different zones: Cantabrian Environment, “La Isla” Plant Factory and Atlantic Route. It’s a great place to spend a few hours exploring all it’s got on offer.
The Botanical Gardens have an extensive entertaining offering for all audiences, with children’s workshops, activities in the Children’s Woods, gardening courses, celebrations with each change of season, night-time activities, theatre and concerts, especially in the summer.
Have you been to Gijòn or Asturias before?