When you are looking for undiscovered tourist locations in Spain, you have to consider Ponferrada. It can be found in the province of León, in northern Spain. The city has a ton of medieval charm and architecture. Lucky for you there is no shortage of things to do in Ponferrada.
Although mainstream tourism is yet to discover the beauty of Ponferrada, it has always been an important pilgrimage site. It’s an important stop on the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela.
Among the important pilgrimage attractions, you will find beautiful medieval relics. The city has a huge castle and a cute old town part. If you care to venture out of the city limits, you will be treated to even more amazing castles and beautiful nature.
How to get to Ponferrada
Ponferrada doesn’t have its own airport. If you are looking for the closest airport to fly into the city, you have to take a flight to León. As León is relatively close to Ponferrada we would not recommend a different airport.
From the airport, you can either rent a car and drive (1h40m) or take a bus into León, from where you will be able to find public transport options into Ponferrada.
Best Things to do in Ponferrada
1. Visit the Templar Castle
You can find the Templar Castle in a central location. It is overlooking the Old Town and Sil river. Castillo de Los Templarios is one of the most impressive forts in northern Spain. The walls and bastions are well preserved.
When you enter the castle through the main gate you will arrive at the courtyards. You can start exploring the castle walls and defensive towers. We definitely recommend going up the towers, as they have amazing views of the city.
Still, inside the castle, you will find another attraction, Templar Library. The library boasts a great collection of templar works. To make the experience full, make sure, that you visit Templum Libri where all the most important books are exhibited for everyone to see.
2. Explore the Old Town
As you come out of the castle, you will end up in the old town part. Make sure that you slow down and stroll through the cobblestone streets. There are multiple beautiful buildings to see.
In the center you will find Plaza del Ayuntamiento de Ponferrada , which is essentiall the town hall square. The city hall itself is a beautiful historical building.
3. Torre del Reloj
Leaving the main square you will walk through the historical city gates. The Torre del Reloj is both the old gate and clock tower of Ponferrada.
It’s a unique building and an important sight. As a things to do in Ponferrada you can seek out the stairs that will take you to the bell tower. Once up, you will have the opportunity to take the best pictures, posing with the city in the background.
4. Visit a Railway Museum
One of the best family things to do in Ponferrada is to go and see the Museo del Ferrocarril. This railway museum is full of vintage steam trains. Most of them are well renovated, while some kept their original looks.
You take walk around them and imagine what travel was like in the age of steam. There are numerous vintage items on display apart from the trains. These are all related to running trains and railways in the past.
5. Vintage Radio Museum
Another great family attraction is the Radio Museum. You can find this museum in the Old Town for easy access. You can see radios of different ages.
Apart from the awesome items exhibited, you will be able to learn about the history of radio. It’s a good and informative museum.
6. Church of Santo Tomás de las Ollas
A small church that you can find near the university. Well hidden, but worth seeking out. Although small in size it’s a picturesque sight. You can walk around and marvel at the Mozarabic style.
7. Stroll alongside Sil river
The Sil river crosses in the middle of Ponferrada. Most of the area next to the river is a huge park. You can come here and stroll the small paths to catch a break from city life.
You will feel as if everything has slowed down. Still inside the city, but far from the noise and cars. Along the way, you will probably meet locals jogging, walking their dogs, and enjoying the fresh air. It’s a good activity that you can do to feel like a real local.
8. Ruined Castle
Castillo de San Blas lies just outside the city limits. It’s a true hidden gem in Ponferrada. The main road passes by, but it’s overgrown with nature, so you can’t even see it from the road! You can leave the car somewhere nearby and find your way on foot.
This ruined castle is a beautiful sight. You might feel like it’s straight out of a fairytale. It will capture your heart with its circular towers.
9. Visit a Roman Gold Mine
With only a 30 minute drive from Ponferrada, you can visit an ancient gold mine. Las Médulas was once the single most important gold mine in the Roman Empire. As such, it is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tourists come to visit Las Médulas from all over Spain. It’s a true sight with a beautiful otherwordly landscape. The attraction is complete with hiking paths, guided tours, and a visitor center.
10. Castle on the hills
Halfway to the Roman Gold mines, you have Castillo de Cornatel. It’s a well-preserved castle that has the best views. When you visit you will be surrounded by history and spectacular landscapes.
11. Visit an ancient village
Located up in the mountains, you can find a charming little village. Just a short drive from Ponferrada and you can end up in a place that seemingly lives in the past.
People who visit Peñalba de Santiago feel like stepping through time. The buildings and the church in the city are all very old and very well preserved.
12. Hike in Valle del Silencio
In the same area that you would find Panalba de Santiago, you can also find an excellent hiking area. You can walk through the valley and be immersed in nature.
There are mountains, lush vegetation, and charming villages on the trail. These villages are perfect to sit down a little and rest. We guarantee that you will want to take as many pictures as possible in the valley.
A visit to the countryside
Although this city is one of the lesser-known destinations in Spain, you can find a ton of things to do in Ponferrada. When you want to go off-the-beaten-path this is a very good choice. You can easily find cheap flights to León and start exploring this unknown area in Spain.