An early account is Gonzalo Solís de Merás, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés (tr. and ed. by J. T. Connor, 1923, repr. 1964). See also W. Lowery, The Spanish Settlements (1905, repr. 1959); study by A. C. Manucy (1965).
The few Prehistoric remnants are important enough to demonstrate that there has been a settlement in the area whose existence is known since the year 905 . The name "Avilés" is thought to come from a local Roman landowner, Abilius.
The first well known document is an endowment of two churches by Asturias King Alfonso III, in 905. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the most important ports of the Biscay Bay, trading mainly with French ports, the main trade was salt. At this time, it had two nuclei: a fishermen's district, Sabugo, and the aristocratic centre, La Villa, standing each other across a small water inlet at the site of present-day Avilés' main Park. La Villa was surrounded by strong walls, which demonstrated its strategic and commercial importance. In 1479 (on January the 15th) the Catholic Kings granted a free market on each Monday of the year, which still takes place. The importance of the town as a naval centre is supported by the building of ships with wood harvested from nearby forests, and with the participation of local sailors in the conquest of Seville by the Castilian army, which is reflected in Avilés's coat of arms.
It is the birthplace of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, a soldier on the army of Felipe II, who explored Florida in the 16th century and founded in 1565 the first European town in what is now the United States, San Agustin (now St. Augustine, Florida). It is also the birthplace of Juan Carreño Miranda, court painter to the king Carlos II.
The estuary, which had been closed to navigation since the early modern era, was partially drained and cleared in the 19th century. The water inlet dividing the place was covered, so that the two nuclei, Sabugo and La Villa, could be joined together. Then the city began to grow outside the medieval wall, which had been demolished in 1818. In the 20th century, there was an enormous growth in population due to the arrival of several large factories to the town. In 1953 were started the first earthworks for the construction of the factory of ENSIDESA, a large steel mill, currently Aceralia (Arcelor); other companies in the area are Cristalería Española, which together with ENDASA, currently Alcoa, transformed Avilés into one of Spain's industrial centres. Nowadays, the city is trying to focus on new industries and recover its antique flavour.