Think of Gaudi, and the place that immediately comes to mind is Barcelona.
Think of chocolate, and you get Belgium.
However, if you like both of these things, there is only one place to go.
Astorga is a small town in Northern Spain, in the province of Leon. It is a quaint and modest place with only a few streets. It hardly shouts about its many virtues from the rooftops, but it is well worth discovering.
Firstly, it is the European birthplace of chocolate. Hernan Cortes first brought cacao here from Mexico and for many years, Astorga buzzed industriously with chocolate production. There is a superb little museum dedicated to chocolate; entry is only one euro and that includes a tasting session!
The history is also fascinating and the informative staff wisely explain the artefacts before moving on to the tasting, at which point their audience is invariably lost for good!
You can buy anything in Astorga, as long as it's made of chocolate; a wander through its few streets will offer all the chocolatiers you could ever need, so it's a great place to stock up!
Astorga's other claim to fame is that it has been on the Santiago de Compostela pilgramage route since time immemorial and it boasts an incongruously large cathedral. However, the real spectacle is Gaudi's Palacio Espiscopal. This fairytale structure stands just around the corner from the cathedral and is completely dazzling.
Gaudi's work is always a marvel, but in this small town, it is even more remarkable than in Barcelona. Inside, there is a museum dedicated to the pilgramage, so you can take in a bit of spiritual piety to make up for all that indulgence at the chocolate museum!
Astorga is easily accessible from Leon and is not far from Madrid so it makes a perfect day trip. If you're looking for a charming little town which packs in history and culture, as well as a lot of chocolate, this is the place to come.
Written and contributed by katyabroad