The greatest Asturian church, indeed the architectural gem of the principality, is Santa María del Naranco, majestically located amid the fields on a wooded slope 3km above the city. It’s an easy signposted drive, or a 45min walk from the train station through the quiet suburb of Ciudad Naranco. The one drawback is that its impact is inevitably diminished by the huge tour groups that descend upon it in summer.

The initial glimpses of the warm stone and simple bold outline, in perfect harmony with its surroundings, led Jan Morris to describe it as “formidable beyond its scale”. If you don’t think it looks like a church, there’s a good reason for that – it wasn’t built as one. Instead it was designed as a palatial hunting lodge for Alfonso’s successor, Ramiro I (842–52), and only converted into a church at the end of that century. Architecturally, the open porticoes at both ends predate later innovations in Byzantine churches, while thirty or so distinctive decorative medallions skirt the roof.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Spain features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Video: a 1 minute guide to Spain

Video: a 1 minute guide to Spain

From the Moorish marvels and flamenco heartland of Andalucía to Ibiza's bleached-sand beaches and hedonistic nightlife, Spain is a country you'll want to visit…

16 May 2018 • Colt St. George videocam Video
A day-by-day itinerary for the perfect weekend in Madrid

A day-by-day itinerary for the perfect weekend in Madrid

One of the sunniest and liveliest capital cities in Europe, Madrid has a lot to take pride in. Indeed, its inhabitants, the Madrileños, are so proud of their …

15 May 2018 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
An expert’s guide: the best places to stay in Madrid

An expert’s guide: the best places to stay in Madrid

A trio of world-class art galleries, an atmospheric historic core, the most successful club in the history of football and some of the best tapas, bars and nigh…

14 May 2018 • Simon Baskett insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right