Greater than a Madrid day journey

Hurtling throughout the mountains of Spain on high-speed rail, the final rays of a winter solar had been bouncing off the rolling inexperienced panorama. In underneath an hour I’d be transported from the teeming tapas bars of Madrid to the laid-back, medieval vibes of Cuenca. Whereas many would make this journey as a day journey from Madrid, I used to be excited to spend a weekend in Cuenca absorbing each little nook of its Spanish soul.

Famed for the Casas Colgadas which translate to hanging home, the previous metropolis of Cuenca is nicely deserving of its UNESCO world heritage standing. As I strolled throughout the San Pablo bridge, with the celebs and moon illuminating the sky above me, I felt like I used to be stepping again in time.

Two days later, when the second would come to depart Cuenca, it felt weird to return right down to the fashionable world. From the pastel-hued homes on Plaza Mayor to the hours I spent admiring sundown from the citadel ruins, Cuenca was the right 48-hour escape from actuality and one in every of my favorite, barely extra off-the-beaten-path Spain spots!

Attending to Cuenca, Spain

Arriving at Cuenca, Spain, is comparatively quick and inexpensive. Whether or not you decide to drive, or use public transport, coming to Cuenca from Madrid may be achieved in underneath an hour.

You’ll be able to rapidly get to the out of city station of Cuenca AVE (Fernando Zobel) in underneath an hour by high-speed rail or a slower, and barely cheaper practice service goes on to the brand new a part of town which is the station merely named Cuenca – you may wish to research the fundamentals and study Spanish on-line earlier than your journey.

From Fernando Zobel, a brand new terminal particularly constructed for high-speed rail, a bus, at the price of €2.15, will carry you to the center of the previous metropolis in underneath half-hour. An analogous timed stroll, or 15-minute experience, serve the central Cuenca station to Plaza Mayor.

Town of Cuenca is cut up into two components, ‘new’ Cuenca, which is the place the stations and lots of shops are, sits beneath the shadow of previous Cuenca, each actually and figuratively. Whereas the brand new a part of Cuenca is sweet sufficient, the primary sights and hidden gem facet of town is atop of the rocks which assist the hanging homes, and for this 48-hour information to Cuenca, that would be the focus.

I’ve tried to maintain this itinerary comparatively relaxed, however in case you are a tradition vulture, like to remain busy, or plan to discover the native space with a automotive, try my full record of issues to do in Cuenca and close by.

Checking in to Posada San Jose

In terms of reserving lodging in Cuenca, you’ll discover a shocking variety of choices. Be aware of the previous and new components of town when securing your lodging, and I extremely suggest you keep within the previous metropolis because the sunsets, and after darkish ambiance, are magical.

I researched loads of completely different decisions and ultimately settled on Posada San Jose (pictured above), primarily offered by the critiques promising implausible views, and I definitely wasn’t disenchanted. Whereas premium rooms with balconies are somewhat pricer, I booked a double room with shared rest room for €30 an evening (in December 2018). For the possibility to sleep in such a historic constructing as this, as soon as a convent after which a choirboys faculty, it appeared a particularly reasonable value.

The rooms had been immaculate, if somewhat dated, however this all added to the appeal. From crooked picket beams to the slight creeks of the staircase, the maze-like inside was charming. In fact, the primary spotlight although is the views from the restaurant or balcony, so make sure you take breakfast or dinner right here, or each, which I extremely suggest.

Cuenca Spain Night
Evening time views of Cuenca

First night marvelling on the hanging homes

With the solar already set, and my abdomen already lined on arrival, I got down to scope the land. My go to first exercise on a weekend escape anyplace, it’s my first suggestion for 48-hours in Cuenca.

With the daytrippers gone, and sure fewer vacationers within the low season, this hidden gem in Europe felt magical at nighttime.

Town is perched on limestone rocks and appears to rise above each the rivers on both facet dramatically, the Júcar and Huécar. The hanging homes do certainly appear to dangle over the gorge, however there may be solely a handful of those left to admire. For the primary night I recommend having fun with the views from throughout the iron San Pablo bridge, then dipping into one of many bars on Plaza Mayor for a night-cap earlier than an early evening, prepared for a (hopefully) superior dawn.

Day One in Cuenca, Spain

Beginning the day proper, the sunshine clouds that hung within the air immediately had been illuminated with dramatic shades of pinks and oranges because the solar rose behind the mountain, as but not in view.

At 8 am on a December morning, I felt like I used to be the king of the citadel, as not a single different soul was to be seen. I scurried across the old-town searching for the perfect viewpoint. For dawn, I extremely suggest taking the brief stroll from Posada San Jose to close the citadel ruins. From right here you may get pleasure from a wide ranging dawn as Cuenca slowly begins to wash within the golden glow.

After a café con leche and breakfast on the resort, the place the view is equally as spectacular, and a front-facing balcony bed room could be the very place to get pleasure from a lazy dawn, it was time to begin placing collectively this weekend in Cuenca itinerary.

Hanging Houses of Cuenca
Hanging Homes of Cuenca

10.30 – The Casas Colgadas and Summary Artwork Gallery

Whereas in days passed by, these hanging homes with their picket balconies would have lined a lot of the cities cliffs, now only a few stay to at least one facet of the San Pablo bridge. For a lot of, these are the primary draw to town, however I need to say whereas spectacular, they wouldn’t be purpose sufficient for me to enterprise to Cuenca. Town and ambiance although gives numerous different causes to enterprise right here.

When you’ve received your pictures of the Casas Colgados, at 11 am the gallery area inside opens so you may really enterprise into these historic homes.

As with a lot of Spain, many locations open later after which shut for siestas. As such, I’ve added some tough instances to this 48-hour information to Cuenca, hopefully permitting you to benefit from the day. Town is comparatively compact, so doubling again on your self actually isn’t an enormous deal right here.

Contained in the summary artwork gallery is a superbly appointed area, with apparently a substantial period of time being devoted to changing the rooms right into a gallery. The proper stability of white partitions and authentic options praise the gathering of Spanish Summary Artwork, and whilst you can’t get onto the hanging balconies, you may see them from the big glass home windows.

12:00 – St. Pablo Bridge to Parador de Cuenca

One other of the enduring options of Cuenca is the iron and picket bridge of St Pablo which has ferried folks throughout the gorge for over 100-years.

When throughout, you may actually respect the magnificent views of the hanging homes and in addition go to the Parador de Cuenca.

12:30 – Espacio Torner

Hooked up as a part of the Sixteenth-century Parador de Cuenca is the St Pablo Church. As with most of the historic buildings throughout town, a brand new breath of life has been given to this restored constructing.

Now a gallery area, it’s price visiting even when you aren’t within the artwork merely to see the previous gothic construction inside.

The artwork area is devoted to displaying the work of Gustavo Torner, who’s an artist from Cuenca. Whereas the gathering isn’t big, the realm is nicely laid out, and the imposing excessive ceilings amplify the gathering.

13:30 – Lunch at Parador de Cuenca

For many who don’t thoughts somewhat splurge, you may really resolve to remain within the Parador de Cuenca. The Parador assortment which spans throughout Spain has seen many of those spectacular previous buildings transformed into high-end inns.

For many who aren’t staying although, you may nonetheless go inside and admire the spectacular repurposing of this Sixteenth-century monastery and the flamboyant eating places is the right place to get pleasure from some lunch in redefined luxurious.

15:30 Ruins of the Fort of Cuenca

Constructed within the eighth century, the ruins of Cuenca Fort are a reminder of the Moorish historical past right here within the metropolis.

Ruins is a really unfastened phrase right here, as little stays of the previous Arabian wall that surrounded town, nor of the Christian, Fortress which adopted. Yow will discover a number of turrets, and a few components of the wall, all close by the well-preserved entrance arch and wall to town.

Cuenca Spain
The solar units on Cuenca

Sundown adopted by Dinner

As I used to be visiting Cuenca throughout winter, the times had been shorter, and it was rapidly time for sundown. If you’re right here in the summertime months, when the times are longer, there are many different issues to do in Cuenca through the daylight to fill your 48-hour go to with.

For sundown although, I urge you to stroll alongside from the Fort Ruins and skip out on the viewing platforms. As a substitute, take a major place on prime of the karst mountains of their distinctive shapes, however please, don’t get too close to the sting!

From right here you’ll see the solar slowly dip behind the hanging homes and metropolis of Cuenca, and the lights begin to illuminate and dance throughout the historic buildings.

Because the sky turned from orange, to pink after which to probably the most unbelievable shade of purple, I misplaced all sense of time admiring the views and taking far too many pictures of this postcard-perfect hidden gem.

With the solar set early, and dinner a late affair in Cuenca, I returned to the colorful buildings of the Plaza Mayor to get pleasure from a pre-dinner drink.

In terms of eating in Spain, you might be at all times in for a deal with, with every area boasting its personal speciality dishes.

I loved two night meals throughout my go to to Cuenca and can record them each right here in case both encourage you for eating.

The primary was at my resort, Posada San Jose, which additionally welcomes reservations and dinners which aren’t friends. Firstly, you’ll be capable of benefit from the spectacular views as per breakfast when you safe a window or balcony desk. Secondly, the pleasant workers and inexpensive menu supply the right alternative to pattern among the native dishes.

I opted for the blended platter of Cuenca delicacies, which showcased among the best-known dishes within the Castilla-La Mancha area. These included Ajo arriero, which is a cod, potato and garlic combine, Morteruelo, a wealthy and heat sport pate, and my favorite, the tomato, pepper and courgette roasted goodness of Pisto Manchego.

My second dinner was one other of Spain’s specialities, Pork, and I loved this in Restaurante El Secreto, which has two venues within the previous metropolis. Whereas the meals was scrumptious, the service was detached, although I feel this was as a consequence of being a solo dinner with restricted Spanish from viewing different tables within the room.

This is part of Spain the place English isn’t so frequent, which I really like, however with simply fundamental Spanish to get by with, I did discover myself utilizing google translate, particularly when making an attempt to e book excursions, to completely perceive what was on supply.

Cuenca Spain Food
Mountain climbing in Cuenca Spain

Day two in Cuenca

My second day in Cuenca didn’t precisely go to plan. I used to be meant to affix a tour to the close by Ciudad Encantada, a park consisting of varied karst limestone mountains. Being winter, and with the rain rolling in, this didn’t go forward. Yow will discover extra particulars on the Ciudad Encantada on one other of my posts, which lists all of the issues to do in Cuenca.

That stated, I ended up having a implausible day and here’s what I received as much as.

8:00 Head mountaineering alongside the river

With dawn already seen throughout the gorge, I descended to the opposite facet of town and the Júcar river. Right here there are a number of mountaineering trails of various difficulties which offer ample alternatives to marvel on the glowing inexperienced river.

It wasn’t till I used to be mountaineering alongside right here that I actually appreciated the dimensions and spectacular structure of town. From down alongside the Júcar river, you may’t assist however look upwards and marvel on the metropolis constructed onto the sheer rock face.

Folks had been mountaineering, and abseiling on the rock faces both facet, and faces is sort of literal because of the eyes which have been painted in the direction of the highest. On the opposite facet of town, there may be one other hike which is able to take you to the Jesus statue wanting down on Cuenca, and gives some unbelievable views of town, given you two completely different choices when strapping on these strolling boots.

Cuenca Spain
The colors of Cuenca

11:00 Fundación Museo de la Semana Santa de Cuenca

Returning to Cuenca, I slipped into one of many many museums within the metropolis, this time one devoted to Spain’s celebration of Easter.

Having been fortunate sufficient to be in Seville this 12 months for Semana Santa, I used to be fairly intrigued to study extra about this celebration oh holy week in Spain and the small museum stuffed in my data.

12:00 Mangana Tower

Shut by the Museum is the Mangana Tower, one in every of Cuenca’s many monuments and marking the spot of the previous Arabian fortress.

It is among the cities most notable monuments. It lies on the location of an historic Arabian fortress. Constructed within the Sixteenth century, the tower is in wonderful situation, and you’ll discover the small ruins of the fort which additionally has a number of homes in an analogous model to the hanging homes close by, though with out the cliff faces.

12:30 Plaza Mayor

The colorful homes, city corridor, and Cuenca Cathedral dominate Plaza Mayor, which is a central hub within the previous a part of town.

With many eating places and cafes each on the sq., and the small cobbled streets main off it, seize some lunch right here earlier than heading into the well-known Cuenca Cathedral

14:00 Cuenca Cathedral

Whereas traversing Europe, you will get somewhat bored of Cathedrals and Church buildings, and whereas I used to be tempted to sit down this one out, I’m so glad I coughed up the modest entrance and conservation payment.

The Cuenca Cathedral is grand and was one of many earliest examples of that constructed within the Gothic model in Spain.

Constructed within the Twelfth-century, it sits on the identical spot a Mosque had tons of of years earlier than. Inside, you will discover the imposing towers of the primary corridor, basking within the vibrant gentle of the stain glass home windows. Main off from the primary corridor and lots of smaller rooms, every with their very own model and distinctive ornament.

The constructing work, each in and out, has been ongoing because the day the Cathedral opened, which is why there may be such a variety of kinds starting from neo-Gothic to Baroque. That is evident from the surface, however much more so within the smaller rooms. Within the courtyard outdoors, and from the terrace of the Cathedral, you’ll discover some equally spectacular panorama views. For many who have an interest, there are additionally particular nighttime excursions of the Cathedral the place I think about the illuminations so as to add one other dimension.

16:00 Vibrant homes of Alfonso VIII road

As my weekend go to to Cuenca was coming to an finish, I made a decision to stroll again to the brand new a part of town quite than taking the bus. The brightly colored Alfonso VIII road winds down the mountain and the varied shades of homes make for a implausible picture alternative.

This road additionally has a hidden set of passages, referred to as the Alfonso Tunnels and whereas they had been closed throughout my go to, extra particulars of those may be discovered on my issues to do in Cuenca put up.

Having fully fallen in love with Cuenca, reemerging to the fashionable world was a tragic shock to the system, and simply an hour later I used to be transported again to Madrid. Cuenca is the right sized metropolis break and mixing the old-world appeal of the cobbled streets with the gorgeous nature surrounding town ticked all of the bins for me.

Take pleasure in discovering probably the greatest cities to go to in Spain.

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