Top choice in León

León's 13th-century cathedral, with its soaring towers, flying buttresses and breathtaking interior, is the city's spiritual heart. Whether spotlit by night or bathed in glorious northern sunshine, the cathedral, arguably Spain's premier Gothic masterpiece, exudes a glorious, almost luminous quality. The show-stopping facade has a radiant rose window, three richly sculpted doorways and two muscular towers. The main entrance is lorded over by a scene of the Last Judgement, while an extraordinary gallery of vidrieras (stained-glass windows) awaits you inside.

French in inspiration and mainly executed from the 13th to the 16th centuries, the windows' kaleidoscope of coloured light is breathtaking. There seems to be more glass than brick here – 128 windows with a surface of 1800 sq metres in all – but mere numbers cannot convey the ethereal quality of light permeating this cathedral.

Other treasures include a silver urn by Enrique de Arfe on the altar, containing the remains of San Froilán, León's patron saint. Also note the magnificent choir stalls.

Combine your time in the cathedral with a visit to the Claustro & Museo Catedralicio-Diocesano, just around the corner. In the peaceful, light-filled claustro (cloisters), 15th-century frescos provide a perfect complement to the main sanctuary, while the museum has an impressive collection encompassing works by Juní and Gaspar Becerra, alongside a precious assemblage of early Romanesque carved statues of the Virgin Mary.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby León attractions

2. Museo Sierra-Pambley

0.02 MILES

This stately house dates from the 19th century and was built by Segundo Sierra-Pambley, who founded one of the first schools in the region in 1887. The…

3. Farmacia Alonso Nuñez

0.06 MILES

Don't miss the fabulous Farmacia Alonso Nuñez at number 3. It dates from 1827 and, aside from the displays of anti-wrinkle creams and condoms, the…

4. Plaza Mayor

0.14 MILES

At the eastern end of the old town is the beautiful and time-worn 17th-century Plaza Mayor. Sealed off on three sides by porticoes, this sleepy plaza is…

5. Old Town Hall

0.15 MILES

On the west side of the charming Plaza Mayor is the late-17th-century, baroque old town hall.

6. Palacio de los Guzmanes

0.17 MILES

León's recurring Renaissance theme finds expression in the splendid Palacio de los Guzmanes (1560), where the facade and patio stand out. The latter is…

7. Museo Gaudí

0.21 MILES

Antoni Gaudí's contribution to León's skyline is the castle-like, neo-Gothic Casa Botines (1893), though the zany architect of Barcelona fame seems to…

8. Real Basílica de San Isidoro

0.23 MILES

Even older than León's cathedral, the Real Basílica de San Isidoro provides a stunning Romanesque counterpoint to the former's Gothic strains. Fernando I…