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 Segovia, Spain

Segovia, Spain - Alcazar

What to see and do in Segovia, Spain

If you want to see a fairytale castle and not travel to Disney World go to Segovia, Spain!

Segovia, Spain is another easy day trip city that you can get to from Madrid. I have always taken a bus but now you can take the train and be there in 30 minutes!

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There is a lot to see in Segovia and you start out right away by walking down a main street right towards the Roman Aqueduct, so you obviously will not miss this site. The aqueduct is an impressive site as it spans from one hill to the other.

Follow the pedestrian street along the aqueduct and up into the city where you will pass interesting buildings and churches including the 11th century church of San Martin – note the adorable details on the exterior column capitals.

The main road will lead you to the Plaza Mayor and the Cathedral. The Cathedral of Segovia was built between 1525 and 1577 in the late Gothic style so it is very dramatic and has an imposing and grand presence. The cloister is beautiful as well.

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The Castle in Segovia

Then there is the main attraction, the fairytale castle or the Alcazar of Segovia. This is truly a picturesque castle with towers, stone walls, and is built on top of a rocky hill. The Alcazar was originally built as an Arab fort, later used as a royal palace, military academy, and state prison (perhaps not the worst place to be incarcerated).

You can see most of the rooms in the castle, many of which are elaborately decorated. One room has elegant stained-glass windows that look out onto the valley below and it is quite a sight. There is also the Hall of the Kings with a frieze representing all the Spanish Kings and Queens! And don’t forget to climb the Tower of John II of Castile from which you get views of the whole city and the surrounding land.

To get a great view of the Alcazar (the one you see in most photographs of it), you have to walk down the hill to the green pasture right below the castle. There are various routes, none of which are clearly marked with any sort of sign saying “this way to the panoramic view of the Alcazar.” Each time I have done this I have walked down differently so really you just have to look for a path heading down (helpful I know). While down there – go to the grassy pasture, cross the river and get your photographs of the Alcazar while admiring its strategic location. (This is also where you can see that it is shaped like the bow of a ship).

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If you make the effort to find your way down to the bottom of the hill you must stop to see the Vera Cruz Church. It is not always open, and I have only actually been able to see in the inside once, but the Vera Cruz Church is a darling 11th century church that deserves a visit.

There are other interesting buildings to see in Segovia but these are the main sites. I have been to Segovia in all weather conditions but I can say it is quite chilly at any time of year.

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A note on food options… the delicacy of the area happens to be suckling pig which comes with no disguises, so be prepared for that!

Otherwise enjoy your trip to Segovia and see below for some helpful links!

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Helpful Info for traveling to Segovia, Spain:

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

2 – For the official tourism site for Segovia, Spain click here.

3 – For more information on the Alcazar of Segovia 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.