There is a tourist office at 16 Calle Masones, they can provide a town map and a city map for Leon. Mansilla was a Roman settlement and town, on the banks of the River Esla, which is noticeable from the town plan with its east-west / north-south streets.
The town’s connection to Mules is an English language mistake, however, it was known for its cattle and horse markets from the 10th century, shortly after it was taken from the Moors and repopulated.
The two Camino routes enter the town at different points, the Camino Real, (Road Route), enters via the south gate, Puerta de Santiago, which has lost its arch; the Roman Road route enters via the east gate, Arco de los Concepcion, which is the only town entrance with an intact arch.
Much of the original town walls, (built by Fernando II of Leon in the 12th century), are intact and at some point you can walk along them for great views.
The parish Church of Santa Maria is 18th century, however inside the church there is a 13th century Christ originally from the Cathedral in Leon.
The retablo illustrates both Baroque and Renaissance elements arranged in an unusual circular fashion. The church also has a small museum that contains various statues, one of San Roque as a pilgrim.
The 14th century Church of San Martin was a ruin, however, parts of the original walls have been incorporated in the new building the Casa de Cultura.
If you decide to have a rest day in Mansilla nearby, about 10 km (6 mi) north, is located the best preserve red Mozarabic monastery in Spain. It is believed that Alfonso III built the monastery for monks fleeing persecution, however, a Latin plaque at the building suggests the monks built the monastery.
Today’s Walk: 18.2 km (11.3 mi)
The Camino leads out of Mansilla by way of a medieval bridge over the River Elsa and then leads onto a dirt track that once again runs alongside the N120. The route will hug the N120 until Leon. The walking today is easy with only one small rise and fall between Arcahueja and Leon.
As the day passes it will become obvious that you are closing on another major city, the last major city until Santiago, though Ponferrada is a very large town which you will pass through within the next few days.
There are many villages and places to stop for food and coffee all day with fairly short distances between the villages. It is worthwhile getting into Leon early and leaving your rucksack in a hostel or Albergue and exploring.
There is a major youth hostel beside the main pilgrim’s albergue. This is a better place to stay if you want time to get out and see Leon.
The Convent Santa Maria, another albergue, closes at 10 pm and will lock their doors and not allow pilgrims entry after that time. I had one pilgrim that could not gain entry to the albergue sleep on the floor in my room at the youth hostel.
Leon is one of Spain’s most beautiful cities, it is a great place to take a day off and explore all it has to offer.
Villamoros de Mansilla
4.1km (2.5 mi), water, bar
A small straggling village of little distinction. Towards the of the village on the route, (right side), there is a bakery, which is convenient if you do not want to go off the route and into the village – Panaderia.
Just before the bridge that leads into Villarente there is a rather down at heal cafe restaurant with a shaded rest area opposite. After this cafe be careful to follow the pilgrim signs and not carry on along the road, both will lead you into the next village, however there is a newish pilgrims footpath over the river which stops you competing with cars for space at the side of the road.
Puente de Villarente
1.8 km (1.1. mi), water, bar, shop
Again there is little to see in this village, the bridge was once renowned for its twenty arches however it has been repaired due to flooding so many times that it has lost all of its original grandeur.
If you don’t want to stop in the village there is a cafe bar at the end of the village on the left just opposite the dedicated pilgrim’s path which turns off to the right. The dedicated pilgrim’s path runs all the way to Arcahueja going under the new motorway.
4.7 km (2.9 mi), water, bar, shop
As a result of the decongestion of the city of León, the village had a minor growth in population at the turn of the century. The Our Lady of the Assumption Brotherhood was founded in the town in the 19th century.
The town reclaimed its banner in 2010, thanks to the town’s Cultural Association. It is hung on a 7.2-meter mast and displays the colors red, green, and white.
2km (1.2 mi), water, bars, cafe, shop, pharmacy
The pilgrim’s path no longer goes directly into Arcahueja as it now travels along the back of it off the road quite a bit. However, there is a marked path into the village and it is only about two hundred meters.
Shortly after Valdefuente you pass through an industrial area and weave under and around the motorway before entering Puente Castro on the outskirts of Leon. From here to the center the walk is interesting, unlike the slog into Burgos.
3.6 km (2.2 mi), all services
Puente Castro is essentially a suburb of Leon there is no distinction where one end and the other begins. It is a good place to stop, rest and drink a refreshment before the last 2km into the center.
There was once a Roman fort here and the bridge over the river gave the area its name. There is documented evidence of a Jewish settlement here as far back as 905 and some archaeology excavations have unearthed Hebrew gravestones some are now in the San Marcos museum in Leon.
In 1196 the troops of Aragon and Castilla combined to attack Puente Castro, they took possession of the castle, burnt the Jewish Quarter, the synagogue, and captured and took away the Jewish population. Although Leon retook the hill quite quickly the Jewish population did not resettle here again and instead moved into the city.
Leon is just a 2-km (1.2 mi) walk from Puente Castro. You’ll find everything you might need in the city.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.