The Port of Aviles lies on an inlet of the Bay of Biscay in the Asturias Province of northwest Spain. One of the smallest cities in the province, it is one of Spain’s important industrial centers and seaports. The Port of Aviles’ Church of San Tomas holds the tomb of the founder of St. Augustine, Florida, and the city contains much wonderful medieval architecture. Nearby are the popular beaches and a busy fishing fleet at Salinas.
During the mid-20th Century, the Port of Aviles’ population boomed when new factories came to town. The city has a prosperous iron and steel industry, and the port exports coal from mines in the province. Today, the Port of Aviles works to maintain its industrial base while also restoring its ancient character. In 2007, over 83 thousand people called Aviles home.
Archaeological evidence shows that the site of Aviles was first settled in the prehistoric era. In 905 AD, King Alfonso III included the Port of Aviles in his will, endowing two churches in the village. It was an important port during the Middle Ages when the salt trade with France was active.
The early city grew around two areas, the fishing district and the wall-protected patrician center of La Villa. The Port of Aviles received authorization from the Catholic kings in 1479 for a free market that still operates every Monday.
The history of the Port of Aviles includes its position as a naval center. Ships were built here using wood from the surrounding forests. Local sailors took part in the Castilian Army’s conquest of Seville. Pedro Menendez de Aviles was born here. A soldier in Felipe II’s army, he explored Florida and founded what is now St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565.
In the 19th Century, the estuary was drained and cleared, allowing the two centers (fishing and patrician) to merge and grow outside its medieval walls. The modern city contains many ancient buildings. The churches of Santo Tomas de Canterbury and San Nicolas de Bari were both built in the 13th Century. The fact that they were both named after foreigners underscores how important trade has been to the Port of Aviles.
In the early 20th Century, industry moved to the city, and the population of the Port of Aviles grew quickly. In the 1950s, new industries were established in the city, giving it an urban atmosphere with middle- and working-class neighborhoods. A crisis in the iron and steel industry in the 1970s brought the Port of Aviles’ economy to a stop.
The Autoridad Portuaria de Aviles (APA) manages and operates the Port of Aviles.
The San Juan de Nieva Basin contains the South Dock (379 meters long with alongside depth of 12 meters) and the West Dock (300 meters with alongside depth of 10 meters). These docks handle dry and liquid bulk cargoes.
The Raices Dock is 821 meters long with alongside depth of 8 meters, and it handles dry and liquid bulk and general cargoes. An extension of Raices Dock, at 397 meters long with alongside depth of 12 meters, serves solid bulk and general cargoes.
The Inespal Dock, handling specialized dry bulk cargoes, is 133 meters long with alongside depth of 7 meters.
At 810 meters long with alongside depth of 5 meters, the Fishing Dock has two ice factories and capacity to store 160 thousand tons of fish per day.
The Port of Aviles contains a total of almost 272 thousand square meters of uncovered storage area and 27 thousand square meters of covered storage.
In 2004, the Port of Aviles handled a total of 5.1 million tons of cargoes. This was dominated by three million tons of solid bulk and 1.3 million tons of general cargoes.
Cruising and Travel
At the heart of the City of Aviles is its historic old town with narrow winding streets and interconnecting courtyards and plazas. The city is a patchwork of color, with stately sandstone buildings and brightly-painted houses. Most of the town’s popular sights lie within a few blocks of the old town city center.
Many of the Port of Aviles’ oldest streets begin a the central Plaza de Espana. Overlooked by the 17th Century Municipal Palace, the square is encircled by beautiful multi-storied manor houses, outdoor cafes, and bars.
The 16th Century Palacio de Ferrera, one of the city’s oldest buildings, sits at one end of the Plaza. The Palacio is the first stop on La Calle de San Francisco (San Francisco Street) containing many historic buildings that visitors enjoy exploring. The Parque de Ferrera features a small river running through it, a beautiful water fountain, and a band stand for community celebrations.
La Camara Street holds some of the city’s most precious architectural treasures, the church of Tomas de Cantorbery and the casa de Eladio Muniz. Just past the church is the Plaza de Carbayo, a small attractive square surrounded by many amber and yellow buildings and the Iglesia Vieja de Sabugo.
Outside old town is a modern city with suburbs, factories, and shopping centers. It’s a steel-manufacturing center, so there’s not much of interest to tourists outside the city center.