Watered by the waters of the river Tuerto and between the plain of the Páramo Leonés and the Montes de León, it is located in the centre of the province of León, slightly to the southwest. The city of Astorga, the old Asturica, has its origin more than 2000 years ago. Built on a Celtic fort, when it was conquered by the Romans it was called Asturica Augusta and became an important strategic point where the headquarters of the Consilium gentis, the Magistratus, as well as the residence of the procurator Metallorum were established. With the fall of the Roman Empire, its importance almost disappears but its role as a crossroads, the Silver Route, the muleteers maragatos and the Way of Saint James with European pilgrims, especially French, sheltered by the defense of its Roman walls, avoided it. Since the 7th century it was the episcopal see and here up to twenty-four hospitals for pilgrims and the poor were installed. Astorga was not spared the barbarian and Arab invasions. The 10th and 11th centuries saw the birth of the County of Astorga, which centuries later, in the 14th century became a marquisate and a political and administrative centre with a royal delegate.
The seventeenth century saw the development of the arriería, which from the ports transported goods brought from overseas, and with it its pre-industrial effects. The beginning of the 19th century brought the War of Independence to Spain, Astorga being one of the first cities to rise up against the French. At the end of the 20th century, the city underwent a great social and economic change.
Walking through Astorga is to be fully immersed in its history, culture and customs, is to be surprised in every corner and enjoy the environment that surrounds the visitor. From the moment you enter through the walled enclosure through the Door of the Sun, of which only the padlock remains and which is exhibited in the Museum of the Roads, you will be accompanied by the convent of the Redemptorist Fathers, the Domus of the mosaic, an ancient Roman house with the beautiful mosaics of birds and bears, The square of San Bartolomé with the church of the same name built at the end of the 11th century, very reformed later there is hardly anything left of its Romanesque origin but if we remember the historical importance it had, since it was here that the Council of Astorga met from the 14th to the 18th century.
The Main Square, occupies the place where was located the old Roman forum of which you can visit the remains in the subsoil, is from the seventeenth century. In it the Town Hall, of the same century, calls the attention by its belfry that incites to observe the clock in which two maragatos of lead, Juan Zancuda and the Colasa, give the hours. In the Eduardo de Castro square, you will find the cathedral of Santa María, built on top of an earlier Romanesque cathedral from the 11th century, the current one was begun in the 15th century and it took three centuries to complete it, so you can see three different styles: Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Next to the cathedral, the Episcopal Palace has the appearance of a palace-church and was designed by Gaudí, it houses the Museum of the Way; a walk through its garden brings the visitor closer to the medieval ramparts built on the Roman remains. The Roman Museum is located in the Ergastula, which is a forum building that is not known for certain to be used, although different authors think it was prison for slaves of the gold mines of the Medulas and Teleno. Next to the cathedral is the church of Santa Marta and between this and the chapel of San Esteban the cell of the Emparedadas comes to the pass.
The Sanctuary of the Virgin of Fatima, formerly known as the temple of San Julián, dates back to the 10th century with Baroque reforms in the 18th century. The Roman bridge is on the outskirts of the city leaving through the Door of the King where you can also see a beautiful sample of 20th century modernist architecture, the Granell House. But Astorga also offers walks and enjoyment of nature in its parks, among which the oldest in the city is the Synagogue Garden, which was created in 1835 in the space that used to occupy part of the Jewish quarter and where the synagogue used to be. But the visitor cannot leave Astorga without enjoying its gastronomy and discovering the famous Maragato Stew, as well as the traditional mantecadas and chocolate.
In mid-April Astorga celebrates the patron saint Santo Toribio. At the end of July it commemorates its origin by celebrating the feast of Astures and Romans, with acts such as the Roman Circus or the Roman Market. At the end of August the festivities are in honour of its patron saint, Santa Marta.
A recurrent tradition in this region of Maragatería shared with the neighbours of Vaduerna and Cepeda is the pilgrimage made between the Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de Castrotierra, seventeen kilometres from Astorga and the Cathedral of Astorga. It is usually held in the month of June and was born as a prayer to the Virgin to alleviate a drought that devastated the countryside. This pilgrimage is celebrated, after being voted and dedicated by the procurators of the land, when it is necessary or every seven years. It is a colourful parade from the Sanctuary to the Cathedral, as the Virgin is accompanied in the procession by the flags and banners of each village in the participating regions. The banners, which have their origin in the battles as identification of the troops that were organized in each town, are very high some reach up to twelve meters, so they can be seen from afar. Once in the Cathedral, the Virgin remains here for nine days before returning to her Sanctuary.
Next to the church of Santa Marta that is located next to the Cathedral, is the so-called Cell of the Emparedadas that is original of the primitive medieval church that was here. The emparedadas were women who, sometimes forced to be sinners, sometimes voluntarily repented of their worldly life, and other times when a rich family paid a poor family to lock up one of their daughters to pray until their death for the family they paid for. These women lived locked up in a small, irregularly shaped room from which they came out only dead. A window with bars overlooked the street, it was their only contact with the outside, through it they received food and communicated with the people who passed by on their way to the cathedral. Through another window that communicated with the Main Chapel of the Church of Santa Marta they could attend the religious acts that were officiated. On one of the window frames one can read in Latin MEMOR ESTO JUDITII MEI, SIC ENIM ERIT ET TUUM. MIHI HERI, ET TIBI HODIE, which means Remember my condition because this will be yours. I yesterday, you today.
Beside the cathedral is the hospital of St. John the Baptist which was founded by the cathedral chapter in the eleventh century to assist pilgrims, but was rebuilt later after the fire it suffered in the year 1756, well, the legend tells us that it was here that San Francisco de Asís, was built.756, well, the legend tells us that it was here that St. Francis of Assisi, on his pilgrimage to Santiago, stayed to recover from an illness, when he left, with renewed strength, they realized that they had hosted the Saint and going out in search of him they asked him to found a monastery in the city. A true fact or legend is that years later, next to the entrance of the French Way to the city, the convent of San Francisco was founded in Astorga.
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A good number of roads converge in Astorga that connect it with the north and the centre of the peninsula, among others are the A-6 motorway and the N-VI national road that run between Madrid and La Coruña, the AP-71 motorway that connects it with León, the national road that links Vigo with Logroño, the N-120, and the provincial roads, LE-451 that connects it with La Cepeda, LE-141 with the interior of the Maragatería, LE-133 with Nogarejas and Zamora, LE-142 with Ponferrada by the Foncebadón port.
From the Astorga bus station located on Avenida de las Murallas, 52, telephone 987 619 100, there are services that connect it with the main Spanish cities as well as with the nearby towns and regions.
The Astorga train station is located in the Door of King district to the northeast of the urban center, telephone 987 616 444 and has long and medium distance services that connect it with the cities of Madrid, Galicia and Cataluña as well as with León, Orense, Vigo, Monforte de Lemos and Ponferrada among others.
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Sistine Chapel of Romanesque Art, palatine temple of the kings Fernando I and doña Sancha
Castle of the Templars, the most representative construction of Ponferrada
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