Gijón is the largest city in the autonomous region of Asturia, which is an absolutely stunning area in the north of Spain. Known by the locals as Xixón, Gijón is one of the more popular cities to visit in this region because there is so much to see and do.
Gijón has a very industrious background, known for producing iron and steel but there is a lot more to the city than this. This city on the Cantabric Sea has a lot to offer. Famous for its cider production and roman history, this is a great place for tourists to explore. The region of Asturia feels almost undiscovered. Gijón is like a perfect little town which has not been spoiled by too much tourism.
Although there is plenty to do and see here, Gijón was not one of our favourite cities in Spain. The layout of the town means things feel quite spaced out without a real bustling centre. Don’t let this deter you from this city though – it is still definitely worth a visit.
1 – Enjoy the beaches
Being a coastal city, naturally the beaches are something you must see. Gijon has three main beaches, all with their own unique qualities.
San Lorenzo Beach (pictured above) is the largest beach in Gijón stretching 1.5km in length. As Well as being the largest, it is also the most popular and for good reason. It’s golden soft sand draws in visitors from far and wide. This is probably the most well known beach in the whole of the Asturia region. Although this beach is massive, be sure to check the tide times as the tide comes very far in, swallowing most of the sandy bay.
As well as relaxing on the shore, people love to come to the beaches in Gijón to surf. The north coast of spain is great for surfing, especially for beginner to intermediate level. If you are planning a surfing trip to Gijon, please note that the waves in summertime are not brilliant, winter is the best time for swells in this region. There are many surf hostels in the region which can guide you on the perfect places to go the catch the best waves. Gijon Surf Hostel comes very highly recommended.
2 – Stairways
When in this industrious city, explore the many streets and discover the interesting stairways. There are 2 particularly interesting ones in the heart of the city.
In the heart of Cimadevilla you will find the ‘Escaleras contra la violencia de género’ which translates to ‘stairs against gender violence’. These colorful steps have a powerful motive. Every three stairs there is a poignant message such as “Yes To Diversity”. The rainbow stairway raises awareness and teaches valuable lessons on equality. Unfortunately the stairs have faded quite significantly over the last few years so the artwork is a little hard to see. Hopefully they will be refreshed soon so the message remains loud and clear.
Pictured above is is a more light and playful stairway known as ‘Stairway Of Rock’ or ‘Stairway To Heaven’. This colorful stairway is a tribute to rock and roll music with the 50 best albums of rock history inscribed on the steps. From Queen to The Rolling Stones; decide for yourself if you agree with the albums which made the cut.
3 – Cimadevilla (Old Town)
Jutting out into the sea on its own little peninsula you will find ‘Cimadevilla’. This is the oldest part of Gijón – the so called Old Town. This is essentially an old fishing village with a hell of a lot of charm. As the historic centre of Gijón, it is a lovely place to stroll around and soak in the surroundings. Navigate the ancient stone buildings, sculptures and alleyways. You’ll find that there are many cafes and restaurants to choose from here – many of which have a very authentic Asturian feel with local delicacies on offer.
We found that Cimadevilla was a little disappointing. Compared to some of Spain’s beautiful cities, this ‘old town’ felt as though it was lacking something. There were many closed storefronts which made the area feel a little sad. The drizzly weather when we visited probably did not help though. Nevertheless this area is still worth a visit to truly appreciate how ancient this city is!
4 – Asturian Cider
It is safe to say that Gijón is pretty obsessed with Cider, so much so that they have a cider festival each year. The region of Asturia is the home to the famous spanish hard cider – and they are proud of it. Immerse yourself in the culture and try some of Gijón’s notorious apple cider. There is an area near the harbour, on the edge of Cimadevilla which has a lot of cider bars, these are called ‘sidrerías’.
If you want to challenge yourself, try pouring your cider the traditional Asturian way. Pour from a bottle raised high above your head to your glass way below at knee height – the larger the distance, the more impressive.
If you want to enjoy the cider culture, but you’re not a big drinker, check out the cider tree sculpture (Árbol de la Sidra). It is located at Gijón Marina between Poniente Beach and Cimadevilla. Made up of 3200 green glass cider bottles, the structure is something to marvel at. Created in 2013, the glowing green structure was created to promote recycling.
5 – Universidad Laboral de Gijón
Although visiting a university is not normally on the list of things to do when exploring a new city, do not leave this one off your list! This university building is the largest building in all of Spain measuring a whopping 270,000 m2. The Universidad Laboral de Gijón building has served many purposes over the years starting off as an orphanage, then a university and now a cultural building. It’s official name now is ‘Laboral Ciudad de la Cultura’ translating to ‘Laboral Culture City’.
The building really is spectacular, covering such a large surface area there are many different areas of the building itself for you to explore. Check out the massive church inside, or the tallest tower in all of Asturia. This building is also home to many changing exhibitions and tourist activities. It is even possible to get a guided tour for a very reasonable €6 per adult.
These beautiful gardens are specialised in plants which grow in and are naturally found in aAtlantic areas. ‘Jardín Botánico Atlántico de Gijón’ is pretty huge measuring 16 hectares in land. Discover more than 30,000 plants of 2,500 different species here!Admission to the botanical gardens is less than €3 per adult.
The fantastic ‘Bioparc Acuario de Gijon’ cantains 60 separate aquariums with over 400 marine species. There is a multitude of different animals for you to see and learn about here. You can find over 4500 animals, big and small here. Admission costs €16 per adult.
For more information on the attractions in this unique city, or to find out more about the areas rich history, check out the Gijón tourism website here.
Gijón, and the Asturia region in general is quite lovely with plenty to see and do. Although this wasnt our favourite destination in Spain we still enjoyed visiting. We recommend spending around one full day here to see all of the sights.
If you are planning a road trip around Spain we would add Gijon to the list, however, the city alone is not really exciting enough to make a big detour to reach.
We hope this list helped inspire you to visit this city and Northern Spain in general. If you are planning a road trip be sure to check out our guides for other areas in Spain such as the itineraries below.
If you have any questions about Gijón or Spain travel in General don’t hesitate to ask.