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Lleida is a great destination worth looking into for those interested in the region of Catalonia while in Spain. Not as well-established with tourists as Barcelona, Girona and Tarragona, this small city in the west of Catalonia highlights the region away from its famous coast. What’s great is that even just allowing one day in Lleida will give you a broader sense of what travel in Catalonia is like.
This is what drew me to Lleida after all. I wanted to get to know the region a little better and felt like a brief stop in Lleida would definitely suit that. And in all honesty, one day visiting Lleida and its sights felt appropriate. There was enough time to explore the main things to do in Lleida and wander about, without feeling like I’d seen every inch of the city.
You also won’t have to share Lleida with too many other tourists, even though the city is fairly easy to reach and has a few nuggets of history that are of interest. If you’re curious, here’s what to do in Lleida to fill a day of sightseeing.
As soon as you set foot in Lleida you can’t help notice the huge fortifications on the city’s main hill. That is the Castell de la Suda, an extensive fortress central the city’s geography as well as its history. Originally built by the Moors in the early 9th century, the fortress was taken by the kings of the Crown of Aragon in the 13th century. Afterwards, it hosted their royal residence and became a crucial setting for the complex politics of Spain.
While it still looks mighty impressive today, the fortress in Lleida is far from complete. Only the southern sections of the fortress are still fully standing, but what is left is seriously impressive. Within the fortress grounds, there are two major city landmarks, one of which we’ll get to shortly. The other though is Suda Castle or King’s Castle, essentially the remains of the keep around the castle throne room. Here you can walk through a small museum and head on up to the roof for plenty of panoramic views over Lleida.
Old Lleida Cathedral
By far the main highlight among the places to visit in Lleida though is the city’s signature cathedral. The Seu Vella Cathedral takes pride of place among the grounds of Castell de la Suda and is able to be spotted most places. While you can tell it’s relatively large from its exterior, it’s only once inside this Gothic-Romanesque building that you see its best features.
When I approached the Old Lleida Cathedral, I was a little disappointed to see considerable restoration work obscuring much of the exterior. Thankfully, the cathedral was still open and mostly accessible, allowing me to explore this 13th century landmark. The only thing I really missed out on was climbing the beautiful bell tower, which is meant to provide a fantastic view of the city.
Inside, the cathedral features some interesting chapels, doors and murals from its Romanesque period. Chances are though that you too will be most captivated by its stunning gothic cloister. Vaulted ceilings, ornate details and excellent views make it seriously special.
Helping offset the busy urban feel of parts of Lleida is the vibrant nature along the Segre River. The green riverfront borders the city centre and the historic areas squeeze between it and Castell de la Suda. It’s really quite nice to walk along the river park area here, especially with the interesting architecture that sits behind the trees by the water. I’m sure it’s nice in spring and summer, but the colours of autumn definitely work here.
Compared to other cities in Catalonia, it’s fair to say that Lleida doesn’t provide quite the same Old Town experience you may hope for. For that, you do need to head somewhere like Girona or parts of Tarragona. What the historic centre of Lleida does offer though is a curious mix of modernist buildings. Casa Melcior above and a handful of other buildings showcase an interesting variety of 20th century designs. As a fan of Belle Epoque and Art Nouveau buildings, it was a little surprising to see it in such an unexpected place like Lleida.
To get the most from a walk through the historic centre of Lleida, I recommend simply following Carrer Major. This pedestrian street curves around with the Old Town area and presents plenty of things to look at as you follow it. Because of its length and many squares it passes through, it changes names regularly but is easy enough to find. Stretches of Carrer Major also feature arcades along it, like at Plaça de la Paeria, that add to the character of the historic centre. Some of the previously mentioned modernist buildings are found along here as well, like the Casa Magi Llorens seen above.
Lleida Town Hall
While it didn’t really make too large of an impact on me, it feels wrong not to mention the Lleida Town Hall here. Set inside the Paeria Palace from the 13th century, it’s one of the main medieval buildings in the heart of Lleida. It turns out you can visit inside the Town Hall if you like, but it is a government building so don’t expect too much access.
Santa Maria Hospital
A small spot off Carrer Major that’s worth ducking into is the former Santa Maria Hospital. Sitting directly opposite the New Cathedral, this historic building from the 15th century was once a hospital. While there are some small exhibits inside the building, the main appeal here is the central stone courtyard. What’s not to like about the grand staircase, stone balcony and palm trees?
Jaume Morera Art Gallery
One last attraction that’s worth mentioning is the Jaume Morera Art Gallery. While it was the building’s exterior that caught my eye initially, you’ll be surprised by what you find inside. The gallery’s focus is 20th century art, but it really leans into the kind of avant-garde, surrealist art that people tend to either love or hate. While generally not my thing, there were some landscapes inside that I quite liked.
Travel Tips for Visiting Lleida
Hopefully you now have a good sense of what to do in Lleida in a day of sightseeing there. So lets move onto other things worth knowing like how to get there and where to stay. Normally, I’d recommend the accommodation I used during my visit, but it was a little lacklustre honestly. Lets just say that renovation work taking place down the hall from my room didn’t help. The good news is that you have a decent selection of places to stay in Lleida to choose from, even if only for one night.
As for getting to Lleida via public transport, you have a decent range of options open to you. While there are bus and train connections with other cities like Tarragona and Zaragoza, Barcelona is unsurprisingly the best place to travel from. Trains from Barcelona to Lleida take one hour and run fairly frequently. As is common in Spain, buses are usually a cheaper but slower option if you’re on a budget.
Would you consider adding one day in Lleida to your next trip to Spain? Have you travelled to Lleida in the past and recommend other places to visit in the city? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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