Avilés ranks among the yet to be discovered architectural gems, not only of Asturias, but of Spain as a whole. Tourists flock to Oviedo. They also pour down to the coast to Gijón. Relatively few visit the third of the large urban areas that comprise the central Asturias conurbation. For the car driver, Avilés is something of a put-off - trying to find somewhere to park conveniently close to the centre can be a nightmare, except, perhaps, early on a Sunday morning. Visiting by train is simplicity itself - there are (mainly) half-hourly RENFE services to and from Oviedo, half-hourly or more frequent FEVE ones to and from Gijón, and an hourly FEVE service from Pravia. In ten years' time there may even be a new urban tramway network, part of the 'tram-train' network proposals for central Asturias.
Fishing and heavy industry were the economic mainstays in the past - the railway arrived towards the end of the nineteenth century, and was used mainly for the movement of coal from the Nalón and Caudal valleys o the quaysides, whence it was shipped mainly to the industries in the Nervión valley, downstream from Bilbao. Then, after the Civil War, came the vast steelworks complex based on nearby Trasoña, and associated industries.
Sadly, heavy industres and mining can no longer be relied on to keep the local economy ticking over. For the future, Avilés is looking further into her past - and promoting her remarkable architectural heritage. The extensive old quarter of the town is well concealed by more recent developments from visitors arriving on the main road, or by public transport. Indeed, most of it has been pedestrianised by now, making exploration away from the noise and fumes of road traffic a delight. Moreover, exploration on a wet day can be undertaken without getting wet - the total length of pavements running under 'soportales' - arcades under the first floors of blocks of buildings - is incredible, a couple of kilometres at least.
I am guilty of having ignored Avilés (at least the old quarter) for over 20 years. One Sunday morning in late March 2009 I made partial amends, and paid a return visit to complete (for the time being) the photographic record in October that year.
We will start our tour down at the railway station (RENFE, ex-Norte), in itself f great architectural value, head up into the old quarter and nineteenth century urban area, returning finally to the quayside.
Adjacent to the stations - bus, RENFE and FEVE - is this fine municipal park.
Also not far from the stations, a pedestrianised street heads upwards into one part of the extensive old quarter.