Roman Pallantia was a crossroads and an imporant centre of textile manufacturing in other ages, but Palencia lived its period of greatest splendour in the Middle Ages. During the reign of Alfonso VIII, the capital became a royal residence and in 1208 the first Spanish university was founded here.
The city is watched over by the imposing sculpture of Cristo del Otero which, standing 20 metres tall, dominates the area from one of the hills surrounding the city.
Calle Mayor, Palencia's main street, is the backbone of the city running north to south and boasts distinguished façades and a great many shops. To one side of this major road stands the arcaded Main Square, the site of the façades of the City Hall, from the 19th century, and the church of San Francisco, a Franciscan building from the 13th century.
The surrounding streets lead towards the "unknown beauty", which is how Palencia's Cathdral is known. The austerity of its Gothic façade from the 14th century conceals a wealth of art inside. Among its most prized treasures are a valuable plateresque reredos from the 16th century and the crypt of San Antolín, with remains of the Romanesque and Visigothic temples which stood on the same spot centuries earlier. Lastly, inside the cloister, a visit can be made to the Cathedral Museum, which contains works by painters such as El Greco and Zurbarán.
Next to the Cathedral is the Episcopal Palace, site of the Diocesan Museum, whose collection includes pieces of relgious art from several churches in Palencia.
Another traditional image of Palencia is provided by the church of San Miguel. Its openwork tower from the 13th century stands above the structure of Romanesque origin finished in pointing.
The banks of the Carrión is one of Palencia's major recreational areas, with extensive green spaces such as Sotillo de los Canónigos.