5 ways to enjoy Gijón on the coast of Asturias in Spain
We all know the French Riviera is associated with glitz and glamour, while the Spanish coastlines at Barcelona and Malaga attract millions of beach-loving tourists. But if you can live with lower temperatures and more inconsistent weather in general, the northern coast of Spain is a stunning encounter with a more local feel. AND you will have more space (which is worth considering in these COVID-19 times).
San Sebastián in the Basque Country might ring a bell and certainly gets its share of attention, but a city like Gijón in Asturias is commonly unknown to visitors outside Spain. Maybe because it’s so difficult to pronounce the right way? Speaking of pronouncing, Gijón becomes Xixón in the local Asturian language. Good luck!
Despite these trying times for travel lovers, I recently got a chance to explore Gijón/Xixón and I was positively surprised by its vibe, its old town and its attractive beach. And here are my five tips to how you can enjoy this often overlooked Spanish city.
Explore the city’s origins at Cimadevilla
Like most travellers, I’m always looking to explore the old part of the town whenever I encounter a new city and in the case of Gijón its origin enjoys a very unique location.
Cimadevilla, as it’s called, is set on a central peninsula connected to the harbour and surrounded by the city’s two beaches. It is crowned by the large park, Cerro de Santa Catalina, on the highest and most northern point.
A walk around it will treat you with stunning coastal views and narrow streets full of atmospheric bars and restaurants. Don’t miss Plaza Mayor at “the neck” of the peninsula and The Cider Tree (Árbol de la Sidra) which is a sculpture dedicated to the region’s beloved apple cider. It’s constructed of 3200 green bottles and weighs 8 tons.
Spend a day on the San Lorenzo Beach
Just west of Cimadevilla, Gijón’s iconic San Lorenzo Beach offers 1,5 kilometres of golden sand to stick your toes in and with stunning views back towards the old town
Whether we’re still in Pandemic-times of social distancing when you visit Gijón – or not – don’t worry, because the San Lorenzo Beach has pleeenty of space for everyone.
It is known as one of the most beautiful beaches in the of north of Spain and it is serviced by a series of stairways from the promenade above which is a treat to walk in itself.
Hang out in cosy cafés
Time for a cuppa? You’re in luck because Gijón has a bunch of cosy cafés to choose from – including several atmospheric book cafés.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t try them all during my first visit, but I did try Primero Café (Calle Celestino Junquera 17) that serves high-quality specialty coffee and tasty breakfasts (tostas for just €1,80). It is definitely worth stopping by for a delicious cappuccino (€2,20).
On my walk around the city’s streets, I was also tempted by Toma 3, La Habitación Propia and La Revoltosa, and they’re on my list to visit next time I’m in town. So check them out if you get the chance and let me know how they are.
Go out for cachopo and Asturian cider
You better be hungry and still prepared to share your meal when you go out for a traditional Asturian cachopo. Because this local classic is one of the most hearty and filling dishes you’ll find in Spain.
Between two pieces of veal fillets, you’ll find a “pocket” of ham and melted cheese and it’s fried covered in a crispy batter and often served with a side of thick fries and roasted peppers. Alternative versions can be with chicken, pork or even fish – and my personal favourite is veal with cecina (dried meat) and goats cheese inside.
The people of Asturias are proud of their regional dish and each year it is celebrated with a prestigious selection of the best ones. And in Gijón, a good place to try it (although a chain) is at the Sidrería Tierre Astur Poniente near the city’s Poniente Beach.
Enjoy your cachopo with the famous Asturian cider (sidra) which is a natural and dry apple cider. It is traditionally served by the waiter/waitress with the bottle held above their head to “revive” the cider as it hits the inside of your glass – a spectacle in itself.
Enjoy the atmosphere along the promenade
Ate too much cachopo? Then stretch your legs on a long walk along the city’s beachfront and the promenade that stretches several kilometres.
There is plenty to look at from the beaches to the old town and around the inner marina where the Gijón-sign is a popular selfie-background.
Snap your photos and pick your spot to grab a well-deserved drink while you enjoy the sunset soak up the atmosphere here at the Asturian coast.
Have you been visiting any overlooked cities you would recommend?
Please share your tips in the comments below…