Lleida’s battle-torn history has faded into memory, replaced by today's pacey, workaday city. During the 14th and 15th centuries, arid, inland Lleida was a centre of economic activity, fed in part by Jewish and Muslim communities. Culture and art flourished, thanks to surrounding monasteries, and a university was founded in 1300. Relics of the holy cloth and thorns made Lleida’s cathedral a revered stopping point on the Camino de Santiago (the Camí de Sant Jaume in Catalonia) pilgrimage route towards Santiago de Compostela.
Battle lines were drawn here across Catalonia’s history, with Lleida nearly always backing the losing side. The old town was destroyed during the War of the Spanish Succession, only for the conquerors' replacement settlement to be sacked by the French in 1812.
The fortress-cathedral crowning the city, La Seu Vella, evokes Lleida’s former grandeur, while a smattering of museums and Modernista buildings offer other reasons to visit.