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…

27 Jul 2017 • Colt St. George videocam Video
The 10 best summer festivals for escapism in 2017

The 10 best summer festivals for escapism in 2017

Festivals are a different beast in 2017. They used to be associated with drinking warm cider while watching crusty bands in your naffest clothes; now the best e…

07 Jun 2017 • David Hillier insert_drive_file Article
Why you should visit Palma in 2017

Why you should visit Palma in 2017

Forget package holidays: Palma is far more than just the gateway to Mallorca’s beach resorts. The Balearic capital is a dynamic city of stylish restaurants, c…

28 Feb 2017 • Helen Ochyra insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook