Spain Snapshots: The Romanesque Churches of Oviedo

There is little I don’t love about Oviedo, the capital of the Principality of Asturias, nestled between the Picos de Europa and the Cantabrian Sea – the enormous cachopos, the spontaneous rainpours, the colorful plazas with cidra bars and the raucous Calle Gascona.

Gran amigo of Oviedo is the American director Woody Allen. Uvieu has been front and center in a few of his films, and there’s even a statue of Allen in the central part of town.

Claudia assured me I would recognize this famous monument of Oviedo:

Recognize these churches? Perhaps from the film Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona when Juan Antonio takes the women to Oviedo for the weekend to meet his father?

We spent a lazy Sunday morning hiking to the pre-Romanesque churches that rest just outside the city on Mount Naranco. There’s a small visitors center just off the parking lot, but the beauty is really in the details of the two churches – completed in the late 9th Century. Santa María del Naranco was built as part of a large palace complex to the Virgin Mary, with San Miguel de Lillo, 100 meters downhill, though both were converted into worship places.

It’s easy to see why – the views from Monte Naranco of the picos are incredible. Clau and I spent easily an hour there, looking out over the capital.

If you go: You can drive to Monte Naranco by following signs leading away from the train and bus stations in Oviedo, or you can also take the local bus numbered 10 from the city center, getting off at the stop marked ‘Cruce.’ Follow the signs uphill until you reach San Miguel. Santa María is just 100 meters on. There are a number of bars in the area with great views and sandwiches.

San Miguel is currently not open, though guided tours will take you to Santa María to explain its history, construction and patrimony every morning but Monday. The structures can be visited year-round.

What’s your favorite UNESCO World Heritage Site, either in Spain or beyond?

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. Oviedo looks amazing! I would love to visit during a puente. How many days do you suggest for a visit to Oviedo?

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Oviedo is pequeñito! I wouldn’t do more than two days in the capital, though there are other pretty places to see in the region (I’d rent a car or look into the FEVE trains). Definitely do the western part of the province, like Llanes, Cangas de Onís and Covadonga.

    • Gijon is really worth a visit as well – there are many beautiful places within easy reach of Oviedo.

      • Sunshine and Siestas says:

        I’ve heard loads of negative things about Gijón, but I enjoyed the colorful old town and the empanada de pulpo I snacked on while visiting!

  2. For whatever reason I have this extremely nerdy obsession with Romanesque architecture and I can. not. wait. to visit Oviedo for this reason! Thanks for explaining how to get up the hill.
    Trevor Huxham recently posted..A Guided Tour of Úbeda, SpainMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      You should hook up with my friend Claudia! She’s huge into showing off the city (erm, the tascas).

  3. So many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, so little time. It’s really hard to pick just one favorite. The Alhambra immediately comes to mind, though. It’s fascinating!
    I haven’t seen Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona…yet, but Ovieda looks like a nice place to visit. I’d probably enjoy sampling the cidra 😉
    Gayla recently posted..Things to do in Cadaqués – Visit the Portlligat House-Museum (Salvador Dali House)My Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      There are so many in Spain! I wasn’t aware that the churches were a part of the collection until we arrived!


  1. […] are also pleasant pockets throughout – the plazas, the old man bars, the green spaces, the old Romanesque churches. I highly recommend the bar Platero y Yo for their cachopo – the north’s answer to a […]

  2. […] had wrapped up, I sent my rebajas-laden bag to Seville and traded it for a hiking bag and boots. I stopped in Oviedo to visit my friend Claudia and take in the pre-Romanesque churches of the city before spending the […]

  3. […] next day’s sun burnt the clouds off early in the morning. We hiked to the Pre-Romanesque churches of Monte Naranco, taking time on the way down to stop in bars for the views over the valley, have a caña and share […]

  4. […] Coinciding with the start of the Muslim campaign in Iberia in 711, the following two centuries saw a burst of box-like structures that later became places of worship. The Principality is dotted with them, but none more accessible or charming as those of San Miguel de Lillo and Santa María del Naranco. […]

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