The first reaction when I mentioned my impending trip to Palencia (using my close-enough Spanish pronunciation) was invariably, “oh, you are going to Valencia! I love the beach there, it’ll be great weather, etc.”
Nope. As the shirts from Palencia say, “PALENCIA (CON P).” I was on my way to the small city north of Valladolid in Castilla y León. While smaller than the major cities I’ve visited in Spain, this little metropolis has a few nice treasures up its sleeves.
The most known landmark is definitely the Cristo del Otero, an enormous statue on top of a hill, showing a tranquil Christ holding up his hands, as if blessing the city below (the rumor has it that the statue was supposed to have his arms spread wide, but that problems with funding created his current posture instead). Visiting it makes for a good view of the city, whether you drive up or walk up the various switchbacks that lead you up the hill, and at the top is a small museum dedicated to the artist and the process of building the statue that comes in at more than 20m high.
Downtown, you will find various churches and the enormous Catedral de San Antolín. On select days, they open the crypt below the church, and tradition has it that the water in the well down there is blessed. This time of year, there are weddings quite often, so at the smaller churches or even in the cathedral you may catch glimpses of very formal fashion; search GuiriGuide to learn more about how unique weddings are in Spain.
Outside of town, you can visit various small towns, from Dueñas (famous for an old abandoned building that supposedly is where Ferdinand and Isabella got married in secret, and for the house of Pepe Botella, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte) to Baños (famous for having a Visigoth-era church still standing, very possibly the oldest in Spain).
If you stop for an afternoon drink in the plaza next to San Pablo or one of the neighborhood bars, you will be pleasantly surprised at the small-town prices, often one or two euros less than the norm in Madrid.
Overall, while in no way a tourist hotspot, Palencia is a nice place to take a break from the big city and see authentic Castilla y León; the lack of tourism actually adds to the charm.