Travel Tips for Siguenza, Spain

Siguenza, Spain castle

What to see in Siguenza, Spain

Siguenza is a small city in Spain that is probably not on everyones’ list of what to see while in Spain but it is a lovely city that can be seen on a day trip.

The city has an interesting history as its fortress was used during civil wars as far back as the 13th and 14th centuries and during the Spanish Civil War.

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The Cathedral of Siguenza has the presence of a fortress as it is rather a massive block. Another main site is a castle that is now a Parador (a state-run hotel). You can see the lobby and the main courtyard of the hotel but, as with other Paradors, I also recommend that you eat lunch there. There is nothing like having lunch in a castle in Spain – put that on a postcard to send back home!

I also recommend that you walk outside of the city and along the hill to the back of the castle as it is an impressive fortress to see from all angles.

The city itself is rather quiet but it does have a few nice Spanish pottery shops. Overall it is a pleasant day trip!

For more information about the history of Siguenza click here.

Travel Tips for Salamanca, Spain

Salamanca, SpainTravel to The Golden City of Salamanca, Spain.

Salamanca is my favorite city in Spain! I have been there so many times and in all weather conditions and it is still top on my list.

Salamanca is said to have the most beautiful plaza is Spain, or even Europe – and I do believe it is one of the most beautiful. Most of the buildings in the city are made with sandstone that comes from the village of Villamayor. These stones have given Salamanca the nickname “The Golden City” or “La Ciudad Dorada.”

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As with most of the other cities I have covered in Spain, I got there by train from Madrid. Salamanca is a three hour train ride from Madrid and I have often done Salamanca in a day – so early train there and late train back to Madrid. So if you are short on time, it can be seen in a day.

Before I list what to see… why do I like Salamanca so much? Well it is a wonderful city in any weather which says a lot since weather can really affect you impression of a place. It does rain a lot in Salamanca but rain there still makes the city look amazing, perhaps it is the Villamayor stones. But aside from the beauty of the city there are the churches and the university which are interesting in a never ending sort of way.

Each time I go I visit the same sights and never tire of them. Plus there are gargoyles all over the place which are always intriguing. And one of the best features is that you can walk on the Cathedral roof! (You can also do this in Milan, Italy and I am sure in other places…. But this is about Spain so…). And how often do you get to walk on a roof, let alone a cathedral roof? And the old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rightly so!

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So… What to see in Salamanca, Spain:

1 – Plaza Mayor – As already stated this is one of the most beautiful in Europe. The Plaza was originally used for bull fights but now you can have a cup of coffee or dinner on the plaza and in the summer you can attend a concert here!

2 – Casa de las Conchas – This building was 15th century and was originally a palace but now it is a public library. There are over 300 shells on the facade, sea shells that are the symbol of the Order of Santiago. (There are often art exhibitions in the courtyard. And make sure to note the gargoyles!)

3 – The University of Salamanca is the oldest University in Spain, it was founded in 1218.  You can tour parts of the university and this is a must!

4 – Catedral Nueva – This is the Cathedral with the roof you can walk on. The Cathedral was built in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is a marvel inside as well as outside. The views from the roof of the old city are stupendous! Oh! And you will see many storks up close from the roof as well.

5 – Convento e Iglesia de San Esteban – One of my favorite locations because of the convent and courtyard with all of the gargoyles and creatures carved into the columns. (See a photograph of one of the column capitals by clicking here). The whole complex was built in the 16th and 17th century.

6 – Convento de las Duenas – Another magnificent building with a courtyard lined with incredible gargoyles (these gargoyles are much different then the ones in the San Esteban convent as they have a more dramatic and eerie feel to them – click here to see a photo).

7 – Colegio del Arzobispo Fonseca – This is another attractive building with another splendid courtyard. The college was founded by the archbishop of Toledo, Alonso de Fonseca, and the building was constructed in the early 16th century.

These are the main highlights and the sites I see on every trip I take to Salamanca. I did stay two nights in the city once, instead of my usual one day trip and it is more leisurely, plus you get to see the city at sunset (for a photo of Salamanca at sunset click here).

So hopefully you find time to see Salamanca as it truly is one of the most beautiful cities to see!

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Helpful Info for traveling to Ronda, Spain:

1 – For train information visit Rail Europe for schedules and fares.

2 – For the Official Tourism Site for Salamanca click here.

What to See in La Granja, Spain

La Granja, Spain The series on Spain continues with La Granja, another easy day trip from Madrid!

I have been to La Granja many times; it is one of my favorite places to see.

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What is there to see in La Granja, Spain?

The Royal Palace and Gardens. You can tour the inside of the Palace and I do recommend doing that, but I have only seen the inside on my first visit and subsequent visits were just to the gardens and the small town.

I have visited La Granja in the winter, spring, and summer. I highly recommend going in the spring when the gardens are even more spectacular! The winter is very cold, and actually La Granja can be rather chilly in the summer as well. I went one summer and ended up having to buy a wool sweater once I got there! So be prepared for a mountain chill.

The Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso was originally used as a hunting lodge in the 18th century; it was also used for the monks of Segovia. The Royal Palace became an important meeting place for court, meetings, weddings, and burials under Philip V. As a result the town was built up for workers and a crystal factory was built to provide for the palace.

The gardens are rather extensive, with long pathways lined with statues, mazes, and elaborate fountains with classical mythology themes.

The town itself is quaint but nice to see and walk around. You can have a nice lunch in town as well.

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I also recommend seeing the glass factory as well which includes a museum. The factory was originally a royal glass factory built in the 18th century. It is a fascinating factory and museum with both historical and modern pieces. You will find the factory at the end of the town – if your back is to palace, turn right into the town and then left to the outskirts of the town and you will find the factory there.

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La Granja is a great day trip and it is actually not far from Segovia. It is possible to see both locations in one day; see below for travel info on getting there. All in all I highly recommend a visit to La Granja!

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Getting to La Granja:
– You can take a bus directly from Madrid to La Granja but if you are prone to motion-sickness I do not recommend doing this. The bus from Madrid to La Granja goes through the mountains and it becomes a very long and windy trip, both ways!

– You can take a bus from Segovia which is what I would suggest, unless you rent a car. Take the train from Madrid to Segovia and then take a bus from Segovia to La Granja which is about a 15-20 minute ride and it is much flatter and not on a windy road!

Helpful Links:

1 – For hours and admission prices for the Royal Palace and gardens click here.

2 – For information and admission prices for the glass factory click here.