Gijón has the virtue of those cities that reinvent themselves, instinctively, running against the tide, over the course of time. In the last few years, it has staked its place amongst that axis of spontaneously vibrant cities that stretch along the coast from San Sebastián to A Coruña. Perhaps it has something to do with the Cantabrian Sea that makes these northern coastal cities so alive.
Superimposed over the echoes of its industrial past, the city has reinvented itself as a cosmopolitan, charismatic and modern metropolis with a bewitching nightlife: cosy in winter, throwing itself into beach life in summer. A dramatic yet harmonious metamorphosis deeply rooted in its history.
On the same hill where the Romans laid the first stones of the city, there now stands a monumental sculpture by Eduardo Chillida, a paradigm of the avant-garde. Gijón’s gastronomy still maintains all the flavours and aromas of its former fisherman’s neighbourhood, Cimavilla; and ifit was Jovellanos who led the Enlightenment from Gijón almost three centuries ago, today the city boasts a bustling cultural scene – music, literature, ethnography – that keeps going all year round.
A city where blues and greens merge into a landscape of both urban and rural contrasts. The biggest city in Asturias cares for its natural surroundings and protects its historical heritage and traditions while at the same time growing as a pioneering city. This duality is evident in the 15 museums and other cultural facilities that invite you to partake in a whole range of experiences: stepping back into its Roman past, reliving the rural and industrial periods of its history, enjoying the very best of Asturian art andsharing its personal commitment to contemporary creativity. A wealth of riches without even leaving the city.
Gijón is at the crossroads of major transit routes. It marks the start and the end of the Silver Route and the end of a stage on the northern route of the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela. Having been declared a City of Science and Innovation, this is the Asturian city that boasts the most innovative companies.
Creativity and new trends in the broadest sense spice up the city, and the heart of its commitment to innovation can be found on the “Knowledge Mile”: an extensive natural space cradling the Science and Technology Park, the University Campus, the Laboral City of Culture and the Centre of Art and Industrial Creation. For visitors, the results are evident when you take a stroll around the city’s main commercial thoroughfares; the range of traditional stores has been enriched with the opening of new and original establishments specializing in fashion, design and accessories; and with the emergence of the Creative Gijón movement, which is bringing to light what young craftspeople are producing.
Gijón’s drive, naturalness and quality of life has been and continues to be recognized both at national and international level: As a Destination for Responsible Tourism (an accreditation granted by the Responsible Tourism Institute and affiliate of the World Tourism Organization), and as a European City of Sport 2016..
At the highest point of the headland, an ancient vantage point for whales potting, is one of the favourite works of the artist who created it: Eduardo Chillida, Winner of the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts. The Basque sculptor admits to having scoured the entire European Atlantic Coast looking for potential sites. After having received the invitation from Gijón and his visit to the Headland of Santa Catalina, he knew it was the perfect place. Constructed in 1990, in the historical quarter, the sculpture was met with suspicion due to the ironic character of the locals. Today it has become one of the symbols of the city and a must-do visit. The sculpture gives rise to different impressions depending on the viewpoint. Its conch-shell effect is also surprising, even for the artist himself, in that the sound of the sea can be heard in its interior. The climb up to the headland opens up panoramic views that help in understanding the city, its double bay and the backdrop of hills that close it off to the south.
The public baths of the city of Gigia constitute one of the most important Roman sites in Northern Spain. Constructed between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, they were discovered in 1903, although they were not opened to the public until 1965. The current museum was built in the 1980s after the completion of the programme of excavations and restoration of Roman Gijón. Each section has a presentation showing a reconstruction of the baths using computer graphics. Coloured lights are used to suggest the cold areas, the warm baths, the hot zones and the ovens along with an explanation of the Roman system of heating. The visit reveals the development of the most ancient city in Asturias, founded over 2,000 years ago. The baths are, without doubt, agood starting point for visiting other fascinating archaeological museums in Gijón such as the Campa Torres Park and the Roman Villa of Veranes.
The largest building constructed in Spain in the 20th century is a great unknown. The sheer size of the complex is astonishing, more than 130,000 m², built in the post-war period. In appearance, it follows the ideals of classical architecture, but a visit reveals its more innovative features. Closed in on itself, it is arranged around a vast central square which, at 150 metres long and 50 wide, suggests the town squares of Castile, although its main inspiration comes from St. Mark’s Square in Venice. Around it is the chapel, topped by Europe’s largest elliptical dome, the theatre, with a Hellenistic facade and the tower, the tallest building in Asturias and the highest stone construction in Spain. Originally conceived as a miners’ orphanage, when work began in 1948 under the direction of the architect Luis Moya Blanco, he had already decided it was going to be the country’s first Technical College. Today, under the name of Laboral, City of Culture, it is an essential part of Gijón’s Mile of Knowledge.
Anyone who expects to find a traditional garden will be in for a surprise. In the Botanical Gardens of Gijón you can lose yourself in a forest of centennial oaks -declared a national monument-, cross an alder grove in silence or stroll through historical gardens laid out in the 19th century. The space also has an educational area with vegetation from both shores of the Atlantic. It allows you to discover the charm of the typical natural areas of Asturias without needing to leave the city. In summer, the magical surroundings of the Botanical Gardens provide a unique format for concerts.
In the heart of the most cosmopolitan city of Asturias, the old quarter transport us to an authentic fisherman’s neighbourhood. Since the Romans abandoned the first settlement on Cape Torres to found Gigia, in the first century, the city was contained within this peninsula which divides the bay of San Lorenzo. No attempt was made to expand into the interior until the 18th century, giving rise to the current layout of the city. Coexisting in Cimavilla are Roman remains, the memories of the fishing tradition, the whalers and the cigar makers from the tobacco factory. There is also the birthplace and tomb of Jovellanos, the footprints of the Santiago Pilgrimage and the nightlife, the district’s hallmark. At its feet is the Marina, the ancient domain of the sailors and trade with the Americas. Above it, one of the region’s most impressive baroque palaces and the city’s main commercial zone.
Cider, discovered by the Romans when they arrived two thousand years ago, is more than a drink: it is a way of relating to others, to converse and to celebrate. It is never drunk alone or in silence. It is shared with friends, family or workmates; and if you really are on your own, then with the devotees of the sidrerías (cider bars). You don’t ask for a glass, you start with a small bottle (and something to eat to go with it). Everything to do with cider has its own ritual, vocabulary and explanation, starting from the way it is served. There are many options for experiencing the cider culture of Gijón. Go into any of the city’s cider bars or, if the weather is good, go down to the bars in the Marina. You can visit wineries set in a rural landscape or escape to the open-air merendero snack bars on the outskirts of the city centre. If you are lucky, you could take part in an espicha which is an event organized for a family or works celebration or to round off a congress. Technically the word refers to the action of opening a barrel for the first time by fitting an espita or tap. In popular culture, it is a traditional celebration that takes place in a winery. There the cider is served directly from the barrel, the food is all homemade and it is eaten standing up so that people can circulate and interact.
In the 90s, Gijón rediscovered (and recovered) its seafront. Enjoying the spectacle provided by the Cantabrian Sea is simple and virtually unavoidable in a city which has three beaches and one of its marinas in the city centre. In order to understand the fascination the people of Gijón have for San Lorenzo beach, you have to join the evening walk known as El Muro (The Wall) which takes in a view of three kilometres over this part of the bay. The name of the walk refers to the “water retaining wall” built in the 18th century to protect the city. In winter, in the area around the port, the breaking waves provide the entertainment, often crashing over the breakwater. To get to know the precipitous jagged Asturian coastline without leaving the city, you can take the walk between the Piles Bridge and Rinconín, and then explore the Cervigón trail, where you can confront the open sea, until arriving at the beach of Peñarrubia or the ProvidenciaHill.
Where is Gijón? Covering 181.7 km²the Concejo (municipality)of Gijón is situated at the centre of the Asturian coast. Its bay opens to the sea between latitude 43º2’‘30” and 43º34’‘18” North and longitude 1º 52 ‘’ 29” and 2º 8’’ 0” West of the Madrid Meridian. With a history going back 2,000 years, it is 477 km from Madrid (5 h), 384 km from the French border (4h40 min) and 432 km from the Portuguese one. It is about 3 hours 15 minutes from Bilbao and 4 hours 15 minutes from Santiago de Compostela. The flying time to London is a little over 2 hours.
How many people live there? It is the most populous municipality of Asturias, with 280,000 inhabitants. 90% live in the city and the remaining 10% are spread throughout its stunning rural surroundings.
Is it a safe city? One of the safest in the country, with an extremely low incident record. One of the attractions of its lively nightlife is that it can be enjoyed into the small hours of the morning without any problems. Basic common travel precautions are all that is required.
What is the weather like in Gijón? What kind of clothes should I take? Gijón’s climate, being within the area of the Spanish Atlantic, can be defined as mild, with an average annual temperature of 15°Cand light fluctuations between the average maximums and minimums. In summer the average temperature is 19.5°C and in winter 9.5°C. Rainfall is between 800 - 1.000 mm/annually, with a relatively even distribution. Suggestions: Always bring a set of casual and warm clothes and footwear. They will come in useful if, during the course of your meeting, you have the chance to go to an espicha. The Espicha is a celebration that takes place in a winery which Asturians go to dressed casually in sturdy shoes. The wineries are always cool and always impregnated with the smell of apples. Your feet won’t warm up until you have drunk enough cider and have danced to the sound of the gaita (bagpipes).
How much money should I budget to take? Some helpful pointers:
To get to the city from the airport Taxi: €45-60 and 35 min. Bus: €8
To get around Gijón Taxi: To get around Gijónbr>Bus. €1.25
To get out of the city Gijón has a number of high quality restaurants (from those with a Michelin star to those with more grassroots appeal). There are also excellent cafés, bars and pubs.
A cup of coffee: €1.25-1.40 Menu of the day: €7.00-24.50 (Average €12) A la carte: €18.00-40.00 A beer: €2.50 A bottle of cider: €2.50