19 Fantastic & Unique Things to do in Gijón, Spain

Metal sculptures shaped to show the name Gijón in Gijón Spain

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One of the most unexpected places we went last year was Gijón, Spain (called Xixon locally). It turns out that this fairly unknown (to foreigners) city is absolutely teeming with fascinating things to do, cute cafes and interesting sculptures. And, of course, even a bit of dark tourism.

In December 2019, despairing at the election results and also aware that I needed to leave the country soon, we signed up for a Workaway project in Asturias, one of the regions in Northern Spain. We had a great time with our hosts and their cats and dogs and look forward to going back in the future. However, the place that wound up unexpectedly stealing our hearts was the nearby city of Gijón.

We fell in love with this off the beaten path city, and we hope you do too! Here are all our favourite things to do in Gijón to help make that happen!


We’re not the biggest outdoorsy people (except that time we climbed the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan, which I’ll hold onto for eternity!). But that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the good old outdoors – especially in a city as beautiful as Gijón! Here are some of our top recommendations for light outdoor activities to do in Gijón. If you want to go hiking, there’s plenty of that nearby, as well. But we can’t help you!

El Cementereo de Ceares

Graves and headstones in El Cementerio de Ceares in Gijón Spain

Overlooking Gijón from its peaceful spot on top of a hill lies El Cementerio de Ceares (or El Suco, as it is known in the local Asturias language). This 19th century complex may be a cemetery, but the architecture and structural planning make it one of the most beautiful places to visit in Gijón.

In fact, we liked El Cementereo de Ceares so much that we wrote an entire article about it!

Pericones Park

A path through the trees in Pericones Park in Gijón, Spain

If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, then Pericones Park is the perfect place to head to. This sprawling green area to the south of Gijón has plenty of open space to enjoy, with a large playground area for kids to blow off steam and an abundance of benches and trees to sit on and under respectively with a book.

The park is also a popular dog-walking spot, so there are plenty of opportunities to make some new furry friends – or just enjoy their excited escapades from a respectful distance, if that’s more your thing. (Either way, dogs!)

Street Art in Gijón

A metallic bird painted onto a street gas meter (Artist Unknown) in Gijón, Spain
This is only scratching the surface…

As with many cities, Gijón has some very accomplished street art for art lovers to enjoy. While you’re walking between Gijón’s many attractions, you have the chance to see all manner of different pieces, from elaborate tags to full-blown building-side paintings.

There are several spots with high concentrations of murals, including on Avenida Manuel Llaneza and Carretera Ceares, as well as many individual pieces throughout the city. In addition to these, keep an eye out for the metal power cable boxes on many streets throughout Gijón; lots of them have been individually painted in all manner of different creative styles.

Explore Cimavilla

Stairs painted in rainbow colours with positive messages of tolerance in Gijón, Spain

Cimavilla is the old town of Gijón, and like most old towns the Cimavilla neighbourhood deserves its own mention. However, some of the specific things to do within will also be mentioned below.

Not only is this the oldest part of modern day Gijón, but roman ruins can still be found – and visited – today. Cimavilla was historically home to most of Gijón’s fisherman. Which, in addition to coal mining, has been one of the largest industries in the city.

Walking around, you will notice a lot of buildings in Cimavilla are older than those in the rest of Gijón, which gives this part of the city a different feel from the rest. A very cool detail is that many buildings have staircases on the outside, which was an intentional design in order to save space on the inside.

If the weather is nice, one of the nicest things to do in Cimavilla is head to the top of the hill and walk around the Batería alta de Santa Catalina. It is an unfinished battery, begun in 1902 to defend the bay. Now it is mostly ruins, and a popular spot to hang out and enjoy great views. There’s also a nearby dog park.

Walk along the waterfront

Rocks and waves on the seafront in Gijón, Spain

The Asturias region is at the heart of the Camino, and has many nearby, well-marked paths for anyone wanting to take even a partial hike. However, if you’re like us and hiking isn’t really your thing, but you don’t mind a bit of exercise, we highly recommend a stroll along the waterfront. You’ll come across lots of interesting sculptures and monuments, and also see some stunning coastal views.

We recommend crossing the Río Riles and walking parallel to Avenida de José García Bernardo. There’s an unnamed walkway you can’t miss and it follows along the coast for miles.

Atlántico Botanical Garden

A path through the woods in Atlántico Botanical Gardens in Gijón, Spain

Ah yes, this is definitely the highlight of all the things we did in Gijón! We absolutely loved our visit to the Atlántico Botanical Garden. And at less than €3 per person, it was a steal! Seriously can’t recommend this place enough.

This is possibly one of the largest botanical gardens I’ve been to. It spans over 25 hectares and houses over 30,000 different species from around the world. The Atlántico Botanical Garden is divided into four main sections: The Cantabrian Environment, The Plant Factory, The Garden of La Isla Estate, and The Atlantic Route. Each one is designed for a specific climate and the plants that grow there. You can learn more about them here.

There’s even a labyrinth lined exclusively with poisonous plants!

Parque Isabel La Católica

Statues of a boy and a girl in Parque Isabel La Católica in Gijón, Spain

This is another one of Gijón’s many beautiful parks, and a visit here is by far one of the best things to do in Gijón for wildlife lovers. We walked through here on our way to the Museum of the Asturian People (below). Like many of Gijón’s parks, it is lined with a fair few sculptures, the most notable of which are the Monument to Isabel la Católica and a sculpture of Diana the Huntress. 

But, the main reason to visit the Parque Isabel La Católica is for the birds! The park is home to over 40 different species of ducks, geese and swans – including the Mandarin duck, considered to be the most beautiful in the world. There are also many migratory birds such as teals, heron and mergansers. 


Food is an important part of Spanish culture, so it should come as absolutely no surprise that indulging in it is one of the best things to do in Gijón. And Gijón really does have it all! We loved trying out all the vegan options, the different cheeses and just relaxing with a bit of coffee culture.

Try the cheese!

Cheese lovers rejoice: the Asturian region is home to 50 distinct cheeses! There is absolutely no doubt that Asturians love their cheese, and take pride in it. And so far all of the ones we’ve tried have been very tasty, indeed! If you’re looking for a uniquely Gijón experience, try a cheese tasting at La Gijonesa (and try not to walk away with a whole bag of ‘souvenirs’).

Eat vegan

Tasty vegan meal in Gijon, Spain
Tasty vegan meal from Mostaza y Media

For those that don’t know, Spain is a meat lover’s paradise. Spanish cuisine is full of seafood, chicken, pork… and a whole myriad of meats.

Seeing as Gijón isn’t particularly popular with foreign tourists, we assumed finding me some vegetarian food might be a chore. So imagine our surprise when Gijón wound up being full of delicious vegan and vegetarian restaurants!

Green Zone Bio Bar: Green Zone was the first cafe we hit up in Gijón. Our Workaway project had limited internet and electricity, so we would head into Gijón on the weekends and work here all day. It has big workspaces, fast internet (and plugs) and the food is so good! Everything is vegetarian and almost all of it can be made vegan. We’ve tried pretty much everything here and it’s all good!

La Galla Tasca Vegana: If you want the opportunity to try out some local food sans meat, La Galla Tasca is a must! The menu changes regularly, so if you fall in love with something, it might not be there the next time! But if you can get them, we particularly enjoyed the nachos and the albóndigas! Everything is vegan.

Mostaza y Media: The menu here changes almost daily, so there’s always something new and exciting to try. The chef enjoys experimenting with fusion dishes, so you’re just as likely to find mac n cheese as an Asian-fusion paella! Everything is vegan.

Puzzle Bar: This is the only one we didn’t get to try out, but if you’re looking for even more vegan options, Puzzle Bar is supposed to be another great all-vegan spot!

Hang out at cafes

THe interior bar of Defabula Cafe in Gijón, Spain
Interior of Defabula

We also didn’t expect to find so many cute cafes to hang out at! And being Spain, most are open late, so we could enjoy a full day and then head to a cafe to read for a few hours each night. Here are just a few of the cafes that Gijón, Spain has to offer (there are so, so many more):

Defabula: Defabula is our favourite cafe in Gijón! This cafe has a very retro vibe, complete with old game machines and lots of books. But great atmosphere aside, the drinks were were just so damn delicious! My favourites were the house lemonades, of which there were a few flavours (all good), which Jeremy used to wash down a pile of waffles. I was all about the hot chocolate.

CatLove Coffee: If you love bagels as much as we do, Catlove should be one of the first places you head! We both enjoyed our bagels immensely and the accompanying drinks weren’t bad, either! We couldn’t get the internet to work, though, so while it would be a great workspace, we were pretty limited with what we could do. But, honestly, that was probably just us!

The Revoltosa, Bookstore Café: I mean, who doesn’t love a good bookstore cafe, amirite? The Revoltosa is another wonderful little cafe to work or hang out in. There are also some open mic nights if you’re into that.

Rawcoco: An amazing little green cafe in the heart of Gijón. The drinks (and food) are incredibly filling and full of organic goodness – but definitely a bit on the expensive side. Breakfast options are fairly reasonable, though, so we highly recommend stopping by then!

Blú Café: We haven’t actually been to Blú (it was too busy every time we stopped by), but I wanted to add it because we’ve been told they have the best carrot cake in the city!

Drink Cider

La Robla cider from Villaviciosa

We’re not the biggest alcohol drinkers, and never actually managed to drag ourselves into a Sidrería because large, loud crowds make us a bit nervous. But much like going to a pub is an essential British experience, one day we will conquer the Sidrería! We’ve heard that Sidrería Tierra Astur Poniente is a bit touristy, but a great place to start!

Eat churros

While this isn’t specific to Gijón (you should be eating churros anywhere you go in Spain!), it still needs to be mentioned! Churros are a fried dough-pastry snack originally from Spain and Portugal (but now found throughout Latin America and the Philippines, as well). Even I, who doesn’t really like pastries, am a big fan! Once fried, churros are rolled in sugar and then dipped in hot sauce – either chocolate or dulce de leche (caramel).


We’re a sucker for monuments and statues, and Gijón is absolutely full of them! Here are some of our favourites.

Elogio del Horizonte

"Elogio del Horizonte" by Eduardo Chillida in Gijón, Spain

Created by Basque artist Eduardo Chillida in 1990, the Elogio del Horizonte (“In Praise of the Horizon”) has become a symbol of Gijón. The monument rests on the edge of the Santa Catalina Park and Batería de Santa Catalina overlooking the coast of Northern Spain and the Bay of Biscay.

Visiting the Elogio del Horizonte is one of the most popular things to do in Gijón. Just be prepared to wait for awhile to get photos as everyone wants a photo shoot! When you get a chance, be sure to experience it from inside the monument as it was designed to be enjoyed from within.

Monument to the Mothers of Migrants

Monument to the Mothers of Migrants by Ramón Muriedas Mazorra in Gijón, Spain

If you walk along Gijón’s coast, you’ll come across several sculptures along the way. However, by far the most arresting and poignant is the Monument to the Mothers of Migrants (La Madre del Emigrante). The sculpture was created by Ramón Muriedas Mazorra and unveiled in 1970.

It is a powerful monument to encapsulates the pain every mother feels when her child leaves the homeland to go abroad for work. The woman overlooks the sea, longingly, and you can take a moment to appreciate its vastness with her. The view from the monument is quite beautiful, as well.

Memorial Mountain Infantry Regiment “Simancas”

Memorial Mountain Infantry Regiment “Simancas” in Gijón, Spain

This memorial is for the men who died during the Siege of Gijón, and is one of the only things to do in Gijón for dark tourists. Not that Gijón is free of tragedy, there just aren’t many memorials or sites within the city.

The Asturian region was particularly opposed to General Francisco Franco, and did not want to see him rise to power. Nevertheless, the military, many of whom were in favour of Franco, had a large stronghold in Gijón, which led to it being the site of one of the first battles of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).

The Nationalists were led by the military governor of Gijón, Colonel Antonio Pinilla, a staunch supporter of Franco. Although he tried to remain seemingly neutral to control the city, the residents of Gijón knew better, and instead began plotting to overthrow his garrison.

The Siege of Gijón lasted from 19 July to 6 August 1936, and was between a Spanish Nationalist troop (pro-Franco) and anarchist militia (anti-Franco). Shortly after the Siege of Gijón, the Siege of Oviedo also broke out. As Oviedo was so close to Gijón, the military struggled to maintain control of both cities. By mid-August, the barracks were stormed by miners, who laid dynamite as they went. Colonel Pinilla refused to surrender and the entire Simancas barracks, including the inhabitants, were burned to the ground.

Please note: The Spanish Civil War and Franco remain extremely contentious topics in Spain. Please do not give your opinion on either to a Spaniard no matter how well informed you think you are.

RELATED: What is Dark Tourism and Why it Matters (According to a Dark Tourist)

Árbol de la Sidra

"Árbol de la Sidra" BY Barcelona designers Labula in Gijón, Spain

Árbol de la Sidra (Tree of Cider) was designed by Barcelona designers Labula in 2013. The concept behind the monument is to promote recycling. It is a rather striking installation, and even lights up at night with flickering green lights.

The Árbol de la Sidra is composed of thousands of bottles of Cider, and represents the average glass consumption of 100 families in Spain throughout the year. 


Museum of the Asturian People

The grounds of the Museum of the Asturian people in Gijón, Spain

If you’re remotely interested in learning more about the Asturian people, you’ll want to head to the Museum of the Asturian People. This large complex houses a few museums, as well as several traditional Asturian homes, which are very unique.

Although a lot of the information is only in Spanish and Asturian, it is still worth popping in for some background info (and to test out your Spanish). Plus it’s free!

As I said, the museum is comprised of several museums. So, as part of this complex we also recommending checking out:

The Photography exhibit: This changes regularly, so I can’t say what will be on when you visit, but when we went it was exhibit on mining (an important part of Gijón’s history) and miners. I’m a big fan of photography, so I loved this, even though many of the photos were quite heartbreaking. If you also like photography, it’s worth visiting for this alone, in my opinion.

Exhibits in the International Bagpipe Museum in Gijón, Spain

International Bagpipe Museum: Bet you didn’t see that coming, did you? Did you know that bagpipes are an integral part of Asturian culture? Yup, me neither. This entire building is dedicated to this history of bagpipes – both in Asturias and abroad. It houses a collection of bagpipes from around the world, and tells the history of the instrument within Asturias and Spain in general. Well worth a stop for music lovers, or anyone looking for something different.

Iglesia de San Pedro Apóstol

Iglesia de San Pedro Apóstol in Gijón, Spain

This beautiful church is located at the foot of Cimavilla and holds quite a commanding presence. There has been a church on this ground since the 1600s, but unfortunately the original church was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. On 24 August 1936, the Iglesia de San Pedro Apóstol along with two other churches in Gijón were burned to the ground by Franco sympathisers. The church that sits there today was rebuilt after the war between 1945-1955.

The church is named for San Pedro (Saint Peter), one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. A visit to the Iglesia de San Pedro Apóstol is one of the top things to do in Gijón, even if you’re not religious. Visitors can burn a candle for San Pedro and enjoy the stone pillars and stained glass within. From the outside, the church has a fantastic view over the coast – and it is even more impressive looking at night!

The roman baths, which we missed, are actually located beneath the church!

The Universidad Laboral de Gijón

The Universidad Laboral de Gijón in Gijón, Spain

What trip to Gijón would be complete without a visit to the The Universidad Laboral – the biggest building in Spain (270,000 m2)! In case that wasn’t impressive enough, it also houses the largest oval church in the world and is the tallest stone building in Spain and the tallest building in Asturias. And you can visit!

The Universidad Laboral de Gijón was originally used as an orphanage for the children of mining families. As we learned at the Museum of the Asturian People, coal mining was one of the largest industries in the Asturias region. But sadly, coal mining is a dangerous business and many of the workers were seriously injured or died, leaving them unable to care for their families. That’s where the orphanage came in. Not only did the children stay at the Laboral, but they were also taught academics, sports and trade skills to equip them for the future.

As mining became less popular in the region, the building evolved into a university. However, these days it is known as the City of Culture and used for a variety of cultural activities and exhibitions. Plus, tourists can visit to the see the impressive oval church and get great views over the city!

Have you been to Gijón, Spain? Did you love it as much as we did? Are there any other things to do in Gijón that we missed that you recommend? Let us know in the comments!


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