Ribadesella, a privileged location between sea and mountain

On the banks of the Sella, watched over by the promontories of Somos and El Cordero, this beautiful village enjoys a privileged location. In its surroundings there are numerous and important caves for the knowledge of prehistory. Don’t miss the history and the best things to see in Ribadesella.

The town is one of the most beautiful in the eastern part of Asturias. This is seen in the influx of visitors, especially in summer. Indian palaces and a privileged natural environment make up what to see in Ribadesella. Because of this, the stay can range from one day to several, if you are a lover of nature or archeology. It is worth mentioning that the town is part of the Northern Way to Santiago, although it does not offer many lodging options in this regard. It is also bustling with activity during the famous Descent of the Sella.

If you wish to continue your journey, the towns of Colunga or Lastres are nearby options. To the west are three notable cities: Aviles, Gijón and Oviedo. The best places to stay and restaurants are in the pages about sleeping and eating in Ribadesella you will find all the information.

Prehistory and modernism


Ribadesella. | Shutterstock

The local past is rooted in the dawn of humanity, so it will be reviewed before dealing with what to see in Ribadesella. Human societies have been living in this area of eastern Asturias since the Middle Paleolithic. Both the town and the Ardines Massif have become a center of prehistoric research recognized throughout Europe.

The cave of Tito Bustillo is the most outstanding example. It was declared a World Heritage Monument by UNESCO. It has a similar relevance to Altamira or the French cave of Lascaux. In addition, it is worth mentioning other caves such as: La Cuevona, La Lloseta, El Cierro or Cierru, Les Pedroses, Cova Rosa, Cueva del Ríu, Cueva del Tenis and San Antonio. Subsequently, the Orgenomescos and Salaenos spread along the Noega estuary, today Sella. Both tribes retreated before the Roman advance or were integrated into the new society of the Empire.

In early medieval times the churches of San Salvador de Oviedo and Santa María de la Vega dominated Ribadesella. By 1270 Alfonso X the Wise formally constituted the town, which had boundaries very similar to those of today. Since then it grew thanks to some shipyards that were nourished by the wood coming from the Sella. It was also used for maritime trade, which was essential due to the difficult land communications. Salmon fishing and whaling expeditions were the other bases of its economy.


Ribadesella. | Shutterstock

Still in the Middle Ages, Ribadesella was the scene of clashes between great noble families. Among them were the Quiñones, Álvarez de las Asturias, Ruiz de Junco or Trastámara. The former finally prevailed. However, in 1488 the Catholic Monarchs proposed a change of location. Thanks to this, the town was reincorporated into the Crown along with Llanes, Cangas del Narcea and Tineo. Since then the group has been known as ‘Las Cuatro Sacadas’.

In the 18th century there was a significant decline in catches of salmon and whales. In order to maintain its status, a project was presented at the end of the century to convert it into a port link with Castile. This project included the construction of a road to the Meseta. In the end, Gijón and the Pajares road were chosen.

During the War of Independence the troops of General Ballesteros were quartered in Ribadesella. The French defeated them and settled in the town, enduring the constant harassment of guerrilla groups. The second half of the century was dominated by the consequences of emigration to America. The local Indians went mostly to Cuba.

The town remained loyal to the Republic at the beginning of the Civil War. Thus, it was the scene of heavy fighting in the summer of 1937. As a consequence, the bridge that joins the two banks of the Sella estuary was blown up. It would later be rebuilt in its present form. From that moment on, it evolved into the tourist town it is today. In addition, the well-known Northern Way to Santiago passes through it.

Fascinating places to discover in Ribadesella

This Asturian village is a quiet fishing village in winter. However, it becomes a busy tourist center in summer. Due to its location, it is divided into two areas, one on each side of the estuary. The old town is one of the most popular areas to see in Ribadesella. Declared a Historic-Artistic Site, it includes the Calle del Infante, the Plaza Vieja and the Calle Mayor. Most of it was created in the 17th and 18th centuries.


Ribadesella at sunset. | Shutterstock

The oldest building still standing is the Prieto-Cutre Palace (16th century), located in the Plaza de la Reina María Cristina. It is characterized by the facade of well carved ashlars, ornamented with the coat of arms of the Prieto family. The style of the work is advanced plateresque. The openings of the façade are asymmetrically arranged with pure lines. The building is the headquarters of the riosellano City council and one of the key points to see in Ribadesella.

It is also worth mentioning the group of buildings with arcades on López Muñiz street, among which the Casa de Ardines stands out. It is a residence of an illustrious family of merchants, sailors and military. For its part, the Plaza de la Iglesia is named after a defunct temple.

Meanwhile, on Fernandez Juncos Street there are several houses of special architectural interest. Some examples are the Casa de González Prieto, today the Casa de Correos, and the Casa de Collado, a famous merchant family. Both stand out for the monumental 18th century coat of arms located on their stone façade.

Following this tour of the stately homes to see in Ribadesella, it is necessary to highlight the set of the Plaza de la Atalaya. There you will find the Casa del Pixuecu and the Palacio de la Atalaya.

It is  now time to go to the Paseo de la Grúa. This road was opened at the end of the 18th century as a towpath, margin of way that had to leave the riparian owners. In the route of the walk, among the sparse grove, is La Fuentina. This stone sculpture reproduces a Xana, nymph of the fountains, and two mythological bears. This landmark pays homage to La Fonte del Cay, a work by the outstanding writer in bable Pepín de Pría.


Colorful houses of Ribadesella. | Shutterstock

At the end of the Grúa path there is a traffic circle intended to assist ships entering the port of the town. This old port infrastructure is an interesting example of the solid engineering of the time.

From there, ascending Mount Corberu, you reach the Hermitage of Nuestra Señora de Guía. Reformed in 1892, it houses the image of the patron saint of sailors. The three cannons that can be seen at the top were thrown into the sea by the French in their retreat in 1811. However, they were restored in 1999.

To see the other side of Ribadesella you can walk along the Paseo de la Princesa Letizia. This goes from the Lonja del Pescado to the bridge. Along with the parallel Calle de los Marqueses de Argüelles is where most of the local cider houses and restaurants are located.

At the opposite end of the bridge that joins both banks of the estuary is the beach of Santa Marina. This place was created in the early 20th century, promoted by the Marquise of Argüelles. Luxury residences, modernist palaces and ostentatious chalets of indianos were built there. The Chalet de la Marquesa de Argüelles and Villa Rosario stand out. Both are now hotels. Another notable example is the House of the Uría-Aza brothers, which has a collection of outdoor sculpture.

A fishing atmosphere typical of Northern Spain

indianos ribadesella

A typical Indianos house of Ribadesella. | Shutterstock

The Tito Bustillo Cave is the largest site to see in Ribadesella. Discovered in 1968, it has an impressive collection of paintings of surprising quality. It is a cave of recognizable natural beauty, with its intricate galleries. The stalagmites help to compose a visual symphony. Recently. For all these reasons, it is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Monuments.

As a complement, you can visit the Tito Bustillo Cave Art Center and La Cuevona, another wonderful natural monument. The rest of the surrounding caves have much more restricted visits. The Cueva de la Moría, the Cierro cave and the Les Pedroses cave stand out.

In the surroundings of the town, which is part of the so-called Dinosaur Coast along with Gijón, Villaviciosa and Colunga, there are monuments of recognized attraction. The Church of Santa María de Junco, for example, is Romanesque, with a single nave and rectangular floor plan. It also has a semicircular apse preceded by a straight section. Its triumphal arch is supported by six columns with capitals in which there are interesting representations of monstrous heads.

Another important medieval sanctuary to see in Ribadesella and surroundings is that of San Mamés de Cuerres. Its stone vault is full of crosses and engravings from the 14th century. In the town of Leces is the Temple of San Esteban, of Romanesque origin. The Chapel of Santa Rita, in Barréu, and the Church of San Martín de Collera are also very interesting.

ribadesella promenade

Ribadesella and its promenade and fishing air. | Shutterstock

Regarding the civil architecture of the surroundings, the 14th century Torre de Junco and the Torre de San Esteban de Leces stand out. This belonged to the Ruiz de Junco family, who owned a palace in Sebreño built in the mid-16th century. It was rebuilt in the 18th century, following the model of ‘U’ shaped plant.

Finally, it should be noted that the town is part of the network of Villas Marineras (fishing villages). This groups the also Asturian Cudillero and Llanes, the Galician Baiona, Sanxenxo, Ortigueira and Viveiro and the Cantabrian San Vicente de la Barquera, Santoña and Laredo.

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