Palencia information

Introduction to the Province of Palencia
The province of Palencia in northern Spain is part of the autonomous community of Castile y Leon. Despite being traversed by the famed Camino de Santiago, it is a relatively undiscovered part of the country. In the north of the province the Cantabrian Mountains loom high, forming an area of outstanding natural beauty. To the south are wide agricultural plains and the whole province is liberally scattered with mediaeval towns and villages.

Palencia City
The city of Palencia has been of importance since Roman times but it was during the Middle Ages that its greatest period in history began, when it became the seat of King Alfonso VIII and also, in 1208, the home of Spain’s first university.

Modern day Palencia is presided over by an enormous statue of Christ, known as the El Cristo del Otero, which at around 20m high is the third largest such sculpture in the world. The city is sited on the River Carrion and this river effectively divides the city into two, with the oldest part being on the left bank. The oldest bridge that spans the river, the Puentecillas, is mediaeval, having been built to replace the original Roman one. There are some pleasant green, open spaces along the banks of the river, including that at Sotillo de los Canonigos.

Palencia’s large Gothic Cathedral of San Antolin (the patron saint of Palencia) contains some very fine chapels and artwork including an El Greco, paintings by Juan de Flandes and tapestries, mostly exhibited in the Cathedral’s Museum in the cloister. More examples of religious art can be found in the Diocesan Museum, housed in the Episcopal Palace, beside the Cathedral.

Take a stroll along the pedestrianised Calle Mayor, which is nearly a kilometre long, and admire the elegant architecture of the buildings along its length. Off this street is the lovely arcaded Plaza Mayor and also the 13th Century Church of San Francisco.

Drop in to some of Palencia’s bars and restaurants to sample the region’s speciality, suckling lamb. See below for more on the gastronomy of Palencia.

Around Palencia City and Beyond
Near the city of Palencia you will find the Canal de Castilla, an amazing feat of hydraulic and civil engineering that was constructed in the latter half of the 18th Century, designed to facilitate the transport of grain products out of Castile. It is over 200km long and has 3 main branches with many locks along its length. There are also protected areas for birdlife along the canal, and the area is home to bitterns and aquatic warblers. The canal can be explored by boat, on foot or by bike.

In the north of the province the town of Aguilar de Campoo is an attractive stop off point. It has a lovely arcaded square and you should visit the Monastery of Santa Maria la Real and the hermitage of Santa Cecilia. In the south of Palencia, the village of Baños de Cerrato, near Venta de Cerrato, holds the accolade of having the oldest church in Spain, the 7th Century Church of San Juan de Baños.

Palencia has a high concentration of Roman ruins and sites and to see an impressive display of restored Roman mosaics, visit the Villas at Pedrosa de la Vega and at Quinanilla de la Cueza.

The Palencian Mountains are nothing short of spectacular and their limestone peaks rise to over 2500m. These mountains are where the province’s two main rivers, the Carrion and the Pisurga rise. The River Carrion has its source at the lake of Fuente Carrionas and the whole area has been designated as a Natural Park. The park is home to the endangered Cantabrian Brown bear, about which you will find an interpretation centre at Verdeña.

The Gastronomy of Palencia
The range of produce from Palencia is enormous. Onions, leeks, peas, potatoes, peppers, pulses and mushrooms are just some of the products from the land for which the region is known. Vegetable stews and soups such as Menestra de Verduras (vegetable broth) or Sopa con Cebolla de Palanzuela (onion soup) are commonly to be found on menus, often enriched by the addition of ham or chorizo sausage. Patatas a la Importancia is a stew of potatoes, peas, chorizo sausage, garlic and paprika.

The region’s most well-known speciality dish is Lechado Asado, which is roasted suckling lamb, usually simply served with salad. Veal and pigeon are also commonly used, such as in the dish Pichon Estofado (pigeon stew) or Chuleton de Cervera de Pisuerga (veal steaks).

Honey is also produced in Palencia and you will find it used in the dish of Torrijas con Miel which is a kind of French toast with honey and cinnamon.

To accompany your meal, Palencia’s Cigales wines are recommended and to finish off, how about Palencia’s very own brands of the digestif liqueur, Aguardiente, such as Doncel or Gonquil?


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