Oviedo vs Gijón: Which City to Visit in Asturias

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by Neota Langley


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Deciding between Oviedo or Gijón can be fraught with difficulty. Two cities, in the heart of Asturias, each with their own allure.

Gijón is a city perched on the coast, tempting travellers from all over the world with beautiful beaches and a blend of culture and modern-day amenities. Whilst Oviedo is located further inland, the lack of sandy shores is made up for with multiple UNESCO heritage sites, a charming old town and endless history to discover.

No matter which Asturian city you decide on, this region is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Oviedo

Oviedo is the capital city of Asturias. Its perfectly preserved historic centre is home to a rabbit warren of cobblestone streets, majestic cathedrals, and local restaurants serving culinary delights.

A centre for culture enthusiasts, there are six World UNESCO Heritage Sites in and around Oviedo, as well as endless museums, churches and cathedrals to explore. 

Oviedo Town Hall
Oviedo Town Hall

Accessibility

Reaching Oviedo is straightforward and convenient, whether you are travelling from another city in Europe or from further afield. 

Asturias Airport is the only international airport in the region. If you are flying into Asturias, there are several options to reach Oviedo. The most affordable is taking a direct bus transfer (line 20) that departs from the bus stop at the arrivals area. The route takes between 45 minutes and an hour depending on traffic on the route.  

If your schedule does not align with the bus timetable, you could opt to take a taxi. Obviously, this is more expensive than the bus but if necessary, the option is available.

You could also hire a car at the airport and drive into Oviedo yourself, this is especially convenient if you want to take an Asturias road trip. Driving in Oviedo can be tricky however so if you are not confident in cities or driving on the right, it may be worth parking outside of the centre and using public transport to reach the heart of the city.

Once you have arrived in Oviedo, navigating on foot is the best way to see the sights. The city is relatively compact and by walking from destination to destination, you will discover the hidden gems along the way. 

Renting a bike is another great option for exploring the city streets. There are bike rental stations dotted around the city and many of the roads have dedicated bicycle lanes.

If you want to head out of the centre, you can reach many of the UNESCO sites by bike and continue on to explore some of the lush green countryside that surrounds Oviedo. 

Affordability

When deciding between Oviedo and Gijón, affordability is an important factor. Seeing as these Asturian cities are only 30 km apart, there is not a huge disparity in cost. Whilst you are unlikely to notice a considerable difference, there are a few things to note when discussing budget. 

Seeing as Oviedo is an inland city, on average, accommodation is slightly cheaper than in the seaside city of Gijón. In both cities you will find a range of accommodations, from budget-friendly hostels to 5-star spa hotels. 

Eating out can be slightly more expensive in Oviedo, it is a smaller city so there are fewer options when it comes to restaurants. The difference in price is minimal however so don’t let this put you off, the local Asturian culinary scene in Oviedo is hard to beat so it’s worth spending a few extra pennies.

Overall, by spending a couple of nights in Oviedo, there will be a small saving when compared to Gijón but the difference is so marginal, it should not be a deciding factor. 

Oviedo Cathedral
Oviedo Cathedral

Things to do in Oviedo

Oviedo Cathedral

Starting in the centre of the city, the Oviedo Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of San Salvador is a must visit.

Located in the central Plaza Alfonso II, this majestic cathedral is the city’s focal point. With soaring spires, ornate sculptures and carvings on the exterior, while the interior features a breathtaking altarpiece and the revered Holy Chamber (Cámara Santa), housing religious relics dating back to the 9th century.

A visit to the Cámara Santa de Oviedo is part of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, the Camino de Santiago. 

Old Town 

Oviedo’s Old Town (Casco Antiguo) allows you to step back in time, a place where history, culture, and architecture converge. Wander through quaint squares like Plaza del Fontán and Plaza de la Constitución, bustling with local restaurants, cafes and shops.

Here you will find plenty of traditional cider houses (sidrerías) where this local drink made from apples is theatrically poured from a height to incorporate bubbles. Alongside the sidrerías, local restaurants serve Asturian cuisine such as fabada asturiana (bean stew), mountain cheeses and frixuelos (similar to crepes) served with a variety of sweet and savoury fillings.

Also visit the Mercado El Fontán, a lively indoor market offering a range of local delicacies. Outside, there is a flea market. It is officially open 3 days a week but during the summer months you will often find it open all week. Here you will find a wide range of stalls, from clothing to vibrant flower bouquets. 

Don’t forget to visit the statue of Rufo, the stray dog that lived in the city in the 1980s. Rufo was well loved by locals and became an icon of Oviedo. The bronze statue has been patted so many times the top of his head has changed colour.

Pouring sidra
Pouring sidra

Pre-Romanesque Churches

Whether you are a history enthusiast or not, the Pre-Romanesque Churches on the outskirts of Oviedo are unique and make for a fascinating afternoon outside of the city centre.

Oviedo was one of the few places in Spain that was not invaded by the Moors in the early 9th century, this means that these Pre-Romanesque style churches were preserved. Dating back to the 800’s these churches are incredibly rare and only a handful remain across Europe, three of which are located in Oviedo. 

If you only have time to visit one of these UNESCO Sites, the Santa Maria del Naranco is the best of the three.

Just around the corner, a short walk away, you will find the second of these sites, San Migueil de Lillo.

On the other side of town, you will find the third and final church, San Julián de los Prados. Just a 10 minute walk from the old town, this is the largest of the three churches. Although crumbling, you can still see most of the original frescos.

Santa Maria del Naranco
Santa Maria del Naranco

Museums

There are several museums to explore in Oviedo. If you are an art enthusiast, the Museum of Fine Arts of Asturias is a must visit. Housing a rich collection of artworks spanning various periods and styles, this museum is located in a beautiful historic building.

For those of you who are interested in history, the Archaeological Museum of Asturias takes you on a journey through the region’s rich history and prehistoric past.

One of the highlights is the impressive Asturian Gold Hoard, a collection of gold artefacts dating back to the Bronze Age. 

Monte Naranco

There are hundreds of hiking routes to be found in the mountains that surround Oviedo. For the best view of the city, climb the 634m elevation of Monte Naranco.

Starting at the San Miguel de Lillo chapel, the path is easy to follow and is relatively gentle as it zig-zags up into the forest. As you reach the top you are welcomed by the gigantic statue, The Sacred Heart of Jesus.

You can drive up to the summit of the mountain if the hike doesn’t appeal but the hike is highly recommended – it’s the best way to work off all of that delicious local cuisine!

San Migueil de Lillo
San Migueil de Lillo

Where to Stay in Oviedo

Soho Boutique Oviedo – Centrally located in the city centre, this 3-star hotel is pet-friendly, has a great breakfast, parking available and rooms for solo visitors, couples and families.

Aparthotel Campus – Offering studios and several one-bedroom apartments, these are a good a choice for those looking for a self-catering option. There is also on-site parking, a restaurant and breakfast.

La Hospedería Oviedo – This hostel is an excellent option for budget visitors. Centrally located, there are lots of rooms to choose from and good common areas and kitchen facilities.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Oviedo hotels!

Gijón

Gijón, although not officially the capital city of Asturias, is much larger than Oviedo. This vibrant coastal city boasts a lively waterfront lined with sandy beaches and bustling seafood restaurants.

When comparing Gijón vs Oviedo, you will notice that although there are plenty of cultural sites to discover here, this is a livelier city in Northern Spain, with a more modern side. 

Accessibility

Accessing Gijón by air is comparable to Oviedo. Both cities are served by the Asturias Airport and both require a transfer from the airport. There is a direct bus transfer that takes between 30 minutes and 45 minutes depending on traffic or, you could opt to take a taxi or a private transfer.

If you plan on hiring a car for the duration of your stay, you can pick one up from the airport. Driving in Gijón can be stressful, as city driving often is, but it is definitely more straightforward than driving in Oviedo. Having a car will also allow you to explore more of the region – such as in the Picos de Europa National Park or the gorgeous Covadonga.

If you are travelling from inside Europe, you may find that the train is a more economical and environmentally friendly way of travelling. Gijón is connected to major cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, and Oviedo by direct train routes.

Once you have arrived in Gijón, navigating the city is easily done on foot. The hot spots are located in and around the city centre so if you don’t have access to a car, there is no need to rely on public transport.

This being said, Gijón is a coastal city so there are plenty of beaches and fishing villages to explore just outside of the city. If you are staying more than 2 days, you may want to hire a car to head off on a road trip along the coast. 

Gijon Marina
Gijón Marina

Affordability

Budget is an important factor when deciding between two cities. Fortunately, there is not a huge difference in the cost between Gijón or Oviedo so you are able to decide based on your preferences rather than budget. 

Per day, the difference in price between these two Asturian cities is barely noticeable but there are a few variables that may be worth noting.

Gijón is a popular coastal destination, during the summer months thousands of Spaniards and visitors from across the world flock to enjoy the summer sun on the refreshing Atlantic coast. The high demand means that, during the peak season, accommodation in Gijón can be slightly more expensive than Oviedo. 

However, Gijón is a larger city with plenty of options so when it comes to dining out and entertainment, you may find that it is slightly cheaper than Oviedo. The more expensive accommodation and cheaper entertainment costs do tend to balance out the overall spend in either city. 

Beautiful facades in Gjion
Beautiful facades in Gjión

Things to do in Gijón

Beaches 

For those of you seeking a Spanish holiday by the sea, Gijón is the city for you. Perched on the Atlantic coast, there are multiple beaches within a stone’s throw from the city centre as well as quieter, more rugged beaches along the coast. 

The most popular beach in Gijón is Playa San Lorenzo. This beach is easily accessible and is close to all the city’s amenities so it makes a great choice if you are travelling with a family. 

Just around the corner you will find the slightly quieter, Playa de Poniente.

If you want to avoid the crowds, there are several beautiful beaches outside of the city to discover. You can either drive, take the bus or walk along the coastal route.

If you are an avid hiker, spend the day exploring the coastal path. This route is 10km long (approx 2.5 hours) and takes you out to Estaño and Playa de la Ñora before you either turn around or get the bus back into Gijón.

San Lorenzo Beach
San Lorenzo Beach

Old Town

Gijón may not be as historical as Oviedo but you will still find plenty of culture in the city’s old town (Cimadevilla). Cimadevilla was the original fishing village that was here long before the industrial port of Gijón was formed.

Start your tour of the old town at the bustling Plaza del Marqués. Whilst you are exploring this square, you can’t miss the gigantic glass sculpture made up of sidra bottles Arból de la sidra (literally – the cider tree).

Cimadevilla truly comes alive at night, with the local sidra bars and restaurants opening their doors for locals and tourists to enjoy regional traditions. The cuisine in Gijón blends the Asturian mountain foods such as Fabada Asturiana and Cachopo (deep-fried veal fillets stuffed with ham and cheese) with the coastal cuisine, incorporating plenty of fresh fish dishes. 

Laboral Ciudad de la Cultura

A short drive or bus ride out of the city centre will bring you to the largest building in Spain. Covering over 270,000 square metres, this building is shrouded in a controversial history.

The site was originally built as an orphanage for the children of miners during the 1940s, but when its main promoter, the minister of labour, was removed from his position, the building’s original purpose was forgotten. It was then repurposed to serve as an education centre, the ‘Universidad Laboral de Gijón’.

There were plenty of doubts of Franco’s original intention for this gigantic self-contained city and there were even talks about demolishing it due to its sworded past. The application to list it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site was also blocked because of its Francoist past. 

Now it is referred to as the City of Culture, home to schools of art, theatre, dance and music. Visitors are welcome to wander around the building but if you want to go inside, you will need to arrange a guided tour. 

Laboral Ciudad de la Cultura
Laboral Ciudad de la Cultura

Atlantic Botanical Garden

If you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, the Atlantic Botanical Garden is a true hidden paradise. This living museum of plants covers 25 acres, an area dedicated to the study and conservation of the flora species found in the North Atlantic biome.

There is a small admission fee but it is well worth paying a couple of euros for the privilege to wander through these incredible gardens.

Roman Baths

Another historical site that is a must-visit when in Gijón, the Roman Baths (Termas Romanas) are located just outside of the city centre, on the western side of San Lorenzo beach. Walk on platforms alongside the archeological site, taking a glimpse into the city’s Roman history. 

As you leave the Roman Baths, walk up the grassy hill on the Santa Catalina Headland. One of the city’s most famous landmarks can be found here, the Eulogy to the Horizon. From here you can look back towards the city and out to the vast Atlantic Ocean. 

Eulogy of the Horizon Monument
Eulogy of the Horizon Monument

Where to Stay in Gijón

Hotel Alcomar – A 3-star hotel on the city’s promenade, there are plenty of comfortable rooms to choose from along with a bar on-site and breakfast served each morning.

El Môderne Hotel – This modern hotel is great for those looking for a high-end stay in Gijón. There are countless cool rooms along with amenities like a bar and a fitness centre.

Apartamentos Bahia San Lorenzo – These bright and modern apartments are located on Gijón’s waterfront. Offering one- and two-bedroom options, they come fully equipped with everything you may need.

Gijón Surf Hostel – Offering dorms and private rooms, this is an excellent budget option for those looking for a convivial place to stay in the centre of Gijón.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Gijón hotels!

Oviedo vs Gijón: The Verdict

Oviedo is undeniably the centre for culture and history, if you want to fully immerse yourself into the culture of Asturias and learn more about this incredible region, this is the city for you.

Surrounded by mountains, Oviedo is also an excellent choice for adventurers, if your idea of the perfect holiday involves lacing up your hiking boots and heading out into the wilderness, Oviedo is the perfect base for you.

If the call of the salty sea breeze is too much to ignore, the coastal city of Gijón may be a better option for you.

Gijón definitely has a more modern vibe, it is a larger city so there is more going on for those who want to experience the vibrant nightlife and party like a local at the sidra bars. 

If you really can’t choose, you’re in luck. There are only 30 minutes by car and direct public transport options between each city so visiting both is incredibly straightforward. Pick one to be your base then explore the other as part of a day trip. You really can have the best of both worlds!

Are you visiting Asturias? Have any questions about where to stay? Let us know in the comments!

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Neota Langley

Neota is a writer for The World Was Here First. Born and bred in Cornwall, she can usually be found with hiking boots on, ready to embark on an adventure. For the last 6 years, she has travelled throughout Europe in her self-built campervan with her trusty canine companion, Ivy. She loves exploring France, the Nordics and spending time in Alpine destinations.

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