I have never been much of a city girl, always preferring the quiet wide open spaces of the countryside and green spots of the world. But that being said, there are a few cities here and there dotting the globe that I not only like, I love.
Surprise, surprise, Oviedo is one of them.
Here are my reasons for loving this random city in the north of Spain – Enjoy!
1. Thank you Woody Allen!
Woody Allen once described Oviedo as “…a delicious, exotic, beautiful, clean, lovely, tranquil and pedestrianized city…It’s like it doesn’t belong to this world…as if it did not exist…Oviedo is like a fairytale.”
Too many adjectives, Woody, but I can’t help but agree!
While I had heard about Oviedo since I first moved to Spain in 2007 (man how time flies!) it never stood out to me until I watched Woody Allen’s classic – Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Remember when Javier Bardem invites the girls to visit Oviedo for a weekend jaunt from Barcelona? How can you not fall in love with it?
Woody Allen has called Oviedo his favorite city in Spain and there are hints and traces of him everywhere. His love for this part of Asturias is dated long before the movie – back in 2002 he won Spain’s most prestigious art prize, the Prince of Asturias award.
It’s so much fun walking around town and trying to pick out places from the film, like the Hotel de la Reconquista where they stayed in Oviedo.
Oh and don’t forget to go pose next to the Woody Allen statue which you can find here, on Calle de las Milicias Nacionales (street) across from the city’s main park. Depending on when you visit, he might have glasses or not, as they are often thieved.
2. The ridiculously awesome food
It’s no secret, one of my favorite things to do while traveling is to eat. I think the one of the best ways to experience and begin to a understand a culture is through it’s food, and in Asturias, the food is exceptional.
After living in La Rioja for a year, another great region in northern Spain, I absolutely fell in love with the food which is so different from the typical ham and potatoes that you think of when Spanish cuisine springs to mind. The food in northern Spain is elaborate and extraordinary, and Oviedo is no exception.
Considering most of Asturias is along the coastline, there is no shortage of amazing fresh fish and seafood. FAVORITE!
One of my favorite meals in Oviedo was in a very nice restaurant with a kickass menu called Restaurante Gloria. I let their staff pick for me so I could get the best of everything, many items being innovative traditional regional cuisine. I left feeling fat and happy.
3. Beautiful and squeaky clean
Let’s be honest here guys, there are beautiful cities and there are ugly cities, while most fall somewhere in the middle. Oviedo is really beautiful in its own way, and I mean that in the nicest way possible.
It’s not ostentatious. It doesn’t scream “look at me look at me” like some other places I could name. Oviedo has an old, subtle traditional beauty that if you pay attention and listen closely, you will spot it.
But the thing that stood out for me the most about Oviedo? It is well cared for. It is clean and green well loved and well taken care of. In fact it has been named the cleanest city in Spain and one of the cleanest in Europe, which is pretty impressive considering how filthy the rest of Spain can be. Hardly any dog shit, ciggys or party vomit anywhere!
I was impressed!
4. So fresh and so green
Another thing I just loved about Oviedo was how green it was. There are beautiful trees and parks and plazas galore, and just outside the city is one of my favorite spots – Monte Naranco.
Besides cider, this is another Oviedo must-see, and the views are just amazing.
A mountain/hill outside the city center, Monte Naranco is an easy drive up or a very long walk which I don’t recommend. Along the way to the top you’ll pass a few of the most important historical sites in Asturias – Santa María del Naranco, a church that was originally a palace built around 848, as well as San Miguel de Lillo, a church also built around 848.
Of course these were featured in Vicky Cristina Barcelona in case you were wondering.
5. The deep history
While Spain has no shortage of historical spots to visit, Oviedo has them in abundance. The only region of Spain not conquered by the Moors in the Middle Ages, it was the heart of the Reconquista and has the churches and palaces to back it up.
I don’t want to bore you with the details as I can’t imagine many of you are as big of medieval history nerds as I am, so I will just tell you, that Oviedo has some of the oldest Christian buildings in Spain owing to its significance in the famous Reconquest.
And if you look closely you will see the impact of much more recent historical events around the city, like marks from the Spanish Civil War.
An unexploded shell buried in this church
6. The fabulous Hotel Barceló Oviedo
Tucked away in a restored 20th century mansion, Hotel Barceló Oviedo Cervantes was a great introduction to the city. Super central and having everything you could want plus an awesome jacuzzi tub (always a win for me haha), I was pretty thrilled to get to rest my head here for a couple of days while I got to know Oviedo.
I really loved the mix of a historical facade with the shiny glass windows of the buildings around it.
Though, I think the pillow menu sealed the deal, can you blame me?
7. All the cider!
Asturias is known for its hard cider, or sidra in Spanish, and if you do only one thing when you are in Oviedo, make sure it’s to visit a sidrería (a Cider House).
I think I had been Oviedo for approximately 2 hours before the cider started flowing after I met up with some locals who took me out. I cannot stress this enough, it’s the PERFECT introduction to Asturias!
SHOW ME THE CIDER!
I’ll be writing a lot more about this soon, but in the meantime I just had to mention my dinner at Tierra Astur Sidrería on the outskirts of the city. Walking inside this warehouse sized building, I was immediately met with facing what was clearly a massive locals party night.
Watch your toes when I am pouring the cider haha
While there is a restaurant in the front with normal tables, in the bank there were long tables with no chairs piled high with local food buffet style free for all next to enormous casks of cider surrounded by dozens of locals having a blast. Holy crap. Intimidating and awesome.
Being an introvert at heart, walking into those kinds of situations, ESPECIALLY in a foreign country, always make me nervous, but the best thing about Asturias is how friendly everyone is. And good food and good cheer is a universal language, am I right?
*I’ll add that that kind of service isn’t every night. I am double checking but I’m pretty sure it’s called an espicha, which is a special meal with light tapas and cider shared with friends. Any asturianos out there who can confirm?
But anyways, I digress. An espicha is something every typical in Asturias and if you want a truly local experience, figure out how to get to one when you’re there. Thank me later.
8. Shutters and balconies oh my!
I have a secret to confess. So…I…um…. have a pretty strong obsession with beautiful wooden historical shutters and old world style balconies. Oviedo has these in abundance which means I was absolutely fizzing walking around the town.
Those windows! Those shutters! Those balconies! Those potted plants! Someone stop me please!
Now try to imagine me explaining this to my guide in Spanish. Trust me, it was hilarious.
But seriously, how pretty are these???
9. Getting fat eating carbayones
Oviedo is one of the most traditionally Spanish cities I’ve ever been to, if that is even possible. I’m sure the locals will hate me for saying so, but it’s true. A conservative place where memories run for a long ass time and people don’t forget, it makes sense that the most famous pastry in Oviedo has a story to go with it.
A carbayón is sickeningly sweet pastry made from egg, almonds, sugar, and cognac, with a hard icing of lemon and cinnamon. It’s tasty as hell and if you aren’t careful, you can easily eat a handful and feel extremely ill. Not that I have any personal experience with that…
Back in 1879 there was a humungous oak tree in the middle of the city nicknamed El Carbayón which was controversially torn down to make room for one of the main promenades. A local baker at Camilo de Blas Pastelería invented this pastry in honor of the tree that people still talk about over 130 years later. Memories are long in Spain, that’s for sure.
At least this led to something delicious.
10. Random Statues
Besides old Woody downtown, Oviedo seems to be a city of statues. Seriously, they are everywhere.
It’s as if Oviedo is one giant open air museum.
I don’t really know why there are so many sculptures around Oviedo. It adds to the mystery and my inner competitive child that just HAS to find them all.
Have you ever fallen in love with a city live Oviedo? Have you been?