Oviedo, the capital of the Principality of Asturias, is a lively university town and has been one of northern Spain’s most important industrial cities since the 19th century, thanks to nearby coal mines. The region’s three major cities – Oviedo, Gijon and Aviles – are all within 20 kilometres of each other and less than an hour’s drive from the airport, which is also close to the region’s Atlantic beaches.
Although Gijon is not the regional capital, the city is larger and in many ways more modern than Oviedo. Heavily damaged during Spain’s civil war, it was extensively reconstructed during the second half of the 20th century, and is a major seaport. Its historic centre stands above the sea on a small peninsula, surrounding the frivolously charming Palacio de Revillagigedo and the Plaza Mayor. Gijon is more than just an industrial city. In the summer it attracts crowds of visitors from all over the region to the long, sandy beach within walking distance from the centre.
The principality’s third city is Aviles. Like Gijon, it is mainly an industrial city with a historic core. The hub of the old quarter is the Plaza de Espana, overlooked by the Iglesia de San Francisco and the Iglesia de San Nicolas, both dating back from the 14th century. The arcaded streets around the square are lined with restaurants and cafés and are the liveliest on summer evenings.
Ribadesella is claimed to be one of the prettiest seaside towns in Asturias. Here you can find a clutter of old Neo-classical houses clustered on either side of a wide river mouth, and a harbor full of yachts and fishing boats, surrounded by tapas bars and seafood restaurants.