473km (293 miles) N of Madrid, 192km (119 miles) W of Santander, 29km (18 miles) E of Oviedo
The major port of Asturias and its largest city is a summer resort and an industrial center rolled into one. As a port, Gijón (pronounced hee-hohn) is said to predate the Romans. The Visigoths came through here, and in the 8th century the Moors wandered through the area, but none of those would-be conquerors made much of an impression.
The best part of the city to explore is the barrio of Cimadevilla, with its maze of alleys and leaning houses. This section, jutting into the ocean to the north of the new town, spills over an elevated piece of land known as Santa Catalina. Santa Catalina forms a headland at the west end of the Playa San Lorenzo, stretching for about 2.5km (1 1/2 miles); this sandy beach has good facilities. After time at the beach, you can stroll through Parque Isabel la Católica at its eastern end.
Gijón is short on major monuments. The city was the birthplace of Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos (1744-1811), one of Spain's most prominent men of letters, as well as an agrarian reformer and liberal economist. Manuel de Godoy, the notorious minister, ordered that Jovellanos be held prisoner for 7 years in Bellver Castle on Majorca. In Gijón, his birthplace has been restored and turned into the Museo-Casa Natal de Jovellanos, Plaza de Jovellanos (tel. 98-518-51-52; www.jovellanos.net), open July to August Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 1:30pm and 5 to 9pm, and Sunday 11am to 2pm and 5 to 8pm; September to June, hours are Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 1pm and 5 to 8pm, and Sunday 11am to 2pm and 5 to 7pm. Admission is free.
You can also visit the Termas Romanas, or Roman Baths, at Campos Valdés (tel. 98-534-51-47), which are underground at the end of the Old Town, opening onto Playa de San Lorenzo. Discovered in 1903, these baths are now fully excavated, and the town has opened a museum here. Near the baths are reconstructed parts of the old Roman wall. The baths are open July to August Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 1:30pm and 5 to 9pm, Sunday 11am to 2pm and 5 to 8pm. From September to June they are open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 1pm and 5 to 8pm, Sunday 11am to 2pm and 5 to 7pm. Admission is 3€, free for children 15 and under.
After viewing the baths, you'll find yourself at Playa San Lorenzo, the city's best beach, which attracts sunbathers from the surrounding area. Tip: If this beach is too crowded, you can find more remote beaches strung along the bases of some cliffs farther on. The beaches here are more rock strewn, however, and the surf a bit rougher.