Why visit Segovia?
There are several cities in the world whose architecture has been influenced by three great civilisations: Christian, Jewish and Muslim. There are also cities whose charming stone architecture dating back to the Middle Ages has been appreciated and protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. But how many of them can take pride in having a perfectly preserved soaring Roman aqueduct in the middle of the old town surrounded by 3km of stone medieval city walls? I can assure you that not many of them have a dream-like castle which served as the model for the Disneyland castle, either. In Segovia you have all these dished out on a silver plate, garnished with the friendliness of its inhabitants and served with a free tapa on the side.
If you need more reasons to find out why Segovia became one of our favourite places in the world, read on.
Segovia: the facts
Segovia, with 56,660 inhabitants is the capital of Segovia Province in the autonomous community of Castile and León. Its proximity to Madrid (92km) makes it a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the Spanish capital.
There are numerous legends about the founding of the city, involving such diverse characters as Hercules and Noah’s son. What we know for sure, however, is that Segovia, once a Celtic city, fell into Roman hands around 75BC. Abandoned after the Islamic invasion, the city gradually started regenerating and gaining more importance after the conquest of Toledo by Alfonso VI of León and Castile. Being located on important wool and textiles trading routes, Segovia reached its golden era in the late Middle Ages with an increasing Jewish community contributing to its growth. Nowadays we can still admire the versatile cultural and architectural influences of these bygone times.
Segovia’s climate can be classified as continental Mediterranean, which means it’s rather dry and the average daytime temperatures oscillate between 8oC (in January) and 28oC (in July and August). The average sunlight hours are between 3-4 (in winter) and 10-11 (in summer), and you can expect about 76 rainy days throughout the year in Segovia (with May being the wettest month).
Present day Segovia is a bustling tourist city with a lively student population. In November the city also holds an annual film festival (MUCES –The City of Segovia Festival of European Cinema) which gives the public the opportunity of getting to know current Europe-wide cinema.
The city of Segovia is located on a single hill surrounded by yellowish plains that reach the horizon. All the main tourist sights and hotels lie within the old town walls, excluding the Aqueduct which stretches into the modern part of Segovia. As the Aqueduct joins both parts of the city, it’s very easy to orientate yourself around it. On the southern side of this Roman invention you can find Plaza del Azoguejo with the tourist information centre; on its northern side lays Plaza de la Artillería.
Segovia is relatively small and strolling around its narrow medieval street is so pleasant that I think there is nothing wrong with allowing yourself to get lost in this charming stone labyrinth. However, if you’d like to see as many important sites as possible in a relatively short walk, follow me :)
By the end of this tour you will have seen all the most important sights of Segovia, a fair selection of its Romanesque churches and I will also show you some great spots from where you could take some really nice photos.
Starting from Plaza del Azoguejo, look straight at the Aqueduct (El Acueducto). The most important and best preserved example of Roman engineering in the whole Iberian Peninsula, and the symbol of Segovia at the same time, it is so prevalent that I can guarantee that you will see it every day during your stay in town. Its construction was carried out between the 1st and 2nd century and what’s really impressive is that not a drop of mortar was used to hold the 25,000 granite blocks together. It’s 818 metres long and consists of 170 arches. In the highest point, right in front of you, measures 29 metres.
Direct your steps towards the tourist information and then past it, find the stone steps going up, right next to the Aqueduct. Go under a stone arch and you will find yourself within the old city walls which existed back when Alfonso VI of León and Castile took the city off the Arabs. The walls are 3km long and contain 80 towers!
Follow the Aqueduct until the end and turn left. You are on a charming narrow street Calle del Obispo Gandasegui with several stone arches above your head. To your right there is Iglesia y Colegio de la Compañia de Jesús (The Church and the School of the Society of Jesus), which is a Jesuits’ college built in the late 16th century and nowadays classified and an important monument in Spanish heritage (Bien de Interés Cultural).
If you walk towards the end of the street and then turn left, in front of you, behind a terrace café, you will see a mirador (a viewing point) from which you will be able to view all the lower part of the old town. It’s a great spot to get the bigger picture of Segovia.
You are now on Juan Bravo street. Having the mirador behind your back, on your right hand side there is a gray stone building with an interesting façade covered with a multitude of identical granite little pyramids. It’s Casa de los Picos (C/ Juan Bravo, 33, timetable: summer: 12.00-14.00, 19:00-21.00, winter: 12.00-14.00, 18.00-20.00) built in the late 15th century and known for its unique exterior and Renaissance patio.
If you follow the road straight, and turn left at the first corner, you will see Palacio de Cascales, also known as Palacio del Conde Alpuente (Platero Oquendo street). This palace was built in the late 15th century by an affluent knight and nowadays houses offices of the Concierge Building of Castilla y León. In its interior you can see a lovely stained glass window ceiling made by Carlos Muñoz de Pablos.
If you follow Juan Bravo street, eventually you will get to Plaza Medina del Campo where you will see a statue of Juan Bravo and St Martin’s Church (Iglesia de San Martín). It was built in the 12th century halfway between the Aqueduct and the Cathedral. The emblem features of the church are its Romanesque soaring belfry and an impressive portico surrounding it.
On the corner of calle Juan Bravo and calle de Herrería you will see a gray coarse stone building – Cárcel Real (the old prison). If you turn right and then the first left, you will find yourself in the centre of Segovia’s nightlife zone. Calle Infanta Isabel is known for its excellent tapas bars and usually it’s very lively, filled with young people staying up till the early hours.
From here only a few steps separate you from Segovia Cathedral (Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción y de San Frutos), one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world! This impressive Gothic masterpiece was built in the late 16th century next to the Alcazar (Segovia castle) and played an important role in defense of the city. Only later was it relocated to its present position on Plaza Mayor. Inside the cathedral you can see 18 lovely chapels and its soaring bell tower is almost 90 metres high.
You can visit the cathedral everyday outside mass between 9.30-17.00 (November-March) and 9.30-18.30 (April-October). Entry fee: 3€; free on Sundays between 9.30-13.15.
Plaza Mayor is not the best place to take a picture of the cathedral. Much better views are on offer from the top of the castle where we’ll now direct our steps. From Plaza mayor take calle Marqués del Arco and follow it up. When you get to a small square, Plaza de la Merced, right in front of you, you will see the tiny San Andres church (Iglesia de San Andrés), built in the 12th century in a Romanesque style.
Right behind the church, find calle de Daoiz which will lead you to the castle gardens.
I’m a Middle Ages buff and I love visiting castles wherever I am and have already seen a fair selection of them in my life, but I must admit that none of them can compare to Segovia Castle (Alcázar de Segovia).
It’s built on top of a rock above the old town and stands out distinctively against yellowish plains. It was built as a fortress but over the years it has been used as a royal palace, a prison, a Royal Artillery College, a military academy and nowadays a museum (of the Royal Artillery School). It’s also served as the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella’s Castle.
The first discovered reference to the castle comes from the 12th century, however, archaeological findings suggest that this place was also used as a fortification in Roman times. Throughout the Middle Ages, the castle was one of the favourite residences of the monarchs of the Kingdom of Castile and the most important fortress in their realm. It was during this period that the castle was extended and the majority of its present form built.
When the royal family moved to Madrid, the castle became a state prison for more than two centuries.
After you have visited the Castle, the Cathedral and the Aqueduct, you can feel a sense of accomplishment. You’ve seen all the most important sites of Segovia! However, if you have a little bit more energy left in you and want to explore further, there is a bunch of lovely Romanesque churches and aristocratic houses left to see.
Go past the royal gardens and take the middle street, right in front of you, calle de Velarde. If you follow it until the end (at some point it will join calle del Vallejo), you will get to Plaza de San Esteban. On your left hand side you should see San Esteban’s church (Iglesia de San Esteban), with its imposing Romanesque belfry, considered one of most beautiful in this style. After a fire in the late 19th century the church was dismantled and rebuilt.
If you go straight through the narrow street María Zambrano, on your left you will see another tiny square tucked into the maze of medieval streets. This is Plaza de Capuchinos with San Quirce church and an old Capuchins’ convent. If from María Zambrano you turn right, into calle Capuchinos Alta and then take the first left, you will get find another square – Plaza de la Trinidad with Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad (The Holy Trinity Church), another Romanesque beauty built in the mid-12th century. It’s one of the best preserved Romanesque churches in town which houses some impressive paintings and which will charm you with its simple but authentic interior.
If you’ve had enough churches, I’m going to show you something completely different now, a spectacular view from the city walls onto the surrounding plains. Follow calle de la Trinidad, which you’re on, until you get to Plaza de Guevara. Once there, turn left into the tiny and narrow calle de la Rosa. You are on the cobbled St Nicolas street now Go a couple of steps to your left and you’ll find yourself on the quiet Plaza de San Nicolás. There you’ll see some lovely stone houses surrounding another Romanesque church – Iglesia de San Nicolás (Saint Nicolas church).
In the maze of the narrow medieval streets it’s very easy to forget the whole old town is set on a hill but now you will notice that where you’re standing is much higher than the street behind the church which is adjacent to the city walls. This is where we are going now. Even from here you can see the magnificent plains stretching up to the horizon, but you will get a much better view down there, where all the trees won’t be blocking your view. Standing in front of the church, follow Cuesta de San Bartolomé street until the point on your left where you could go one “level” down, so to speak.
Now you’re on Paseo del Obispo, a very quiet street, which is as close to the city walls as you can get in this part of town and where you can see the whole beautiful landscape surrounding Segovia. The large building in front of you is Santa Cruz la Real monastery.
Follow the road down until you get to calle del Taray, at the end of it you will find a lovely park with a palace and a Romanesque church. This is Plazuela de Colmenares and the church to your left is Iglesia de San Juan de los Caballeros. It was built in the late 11th century and is one of the oldest in Segovia. Its name derives from the tombs of Segovia’s noblemen (caballeros means knights) which used to be located in its catacombs. Nowadays there is a ceramics museum that shows work of the Zuloaga family who restored the church in 1905. (entrance fee: 1,20 €, Opening hours: October-June: Tuesday to Saturday between 10:00-14:00 and 16:00-19:00, Sundays between 10:00-14:00. July-September: Tuesday to Saturday between 10:00-14:00 and 17:00-20:00, Sundays between 10:00-14:00).
Right behind the church there is a lovely lawn adjacent to the city walls where you can have some rest and take some great shots of the surrounding landscape.
If you follow the line of the city walls, you will soon get to the Aqueduct! It was a nice walk round Segovia, wasn’t it :)
If you don’t have enough time to see all those Romanesque churches, I recommend you take an alternative walk after the Alcázar. Instead of taking the middle street calle de Velarde, take the street which is to your right and goes along the city walls – Ronda de Don Juan II. Apart from the amazing view of the cathedral you get from the castle towers, this route offers the most stunning photo opportunities of the cathedral and the old town in general. So if churches don’t interest you that much and you’d rather just stroll around town shooting breathtaking pictures, this is the route for you.
The walk gets really nice when the street you’re on turns into calle del Socorro.
It’s a charming narrow cobbled street at the end of which you will find Plazuela del Soccorro with a perfect view of the white cathedral bell tower, some authentic medieval stone houses…
…and this unique sculpture of Agapito Marazuela by José María Moro. Agapito Marazuela was a Segovian folklorist and musicologist who devoted all his life to preserving Spanish musical traditions.
On Plazuela del Soccorro you will also find the beautiful Puerta de San Andrés – one of the city gates. If you go past the gate and then take any of the streets to your left, you’ll find yourself back on Plaza Mayor.
Segovia for free
There is a number of things you can see for free in Segovia, starting from the top two sights:
- The Aqueduct – free all year round.
- The Cathedral – free on Sundays between 9.30 – 13.15.
- Alcázar (the castle) – it’s free for EU citizens on the 3rd Tuesday of every month
- La judería – Segovia’s charming Jewish quarter. Stroll the cobbled streets around Plaza de la Merced and the parishes of St. Michael and St. Andrew, all within the city walls.
- Casa de Moneda (Segovia Mint) – free
C/ de la Moneda, www.casamonedasegovia.es
Opening hours: October-March: Wednesday-Sunday (10:00-18:00)
April-September: Wednesday-Sunday (10:00-19:00)
Built in the 16th century by Juan de Herrera for Philip II. The building has survived in almost perfect condition and you can still see how it looked 400 years ago.
6. Iglesia de San Juan de los Caballeros / Zuloaga Museum – free on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays
Pl. de Colmenares.
October-June: Tuesday-Saturday (10:00-14:00 and16:00-19:00), Sundays (10:00-14:00)
July-September: Tuesday-Saturday (10:00-14:00 and17:00-20:00), Sundays (10:00-14:00)
7. Iglesia de San Justo – the entrance fee is voluntary
Travesía del Alamillo
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday (10:45- 13:45 h and 16:00 – 19:00)
8. Iglesia de la Vera Cruz – free on Tuesdays evening
Carretera de Zamarramala
April-September: Tuesday evening – Sunday (10:30 – 13:30 and16:00 – 19:00)
October-March: Tuesday evening – Sunday (10:30 – 13:30 and 16:00 – 18:00)
9. Iglesia del Corpus Christi (old Main Synagogue) – the entrance fee is voluntary
Plaza del Corpus 7
Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday (10:00 – 14:00)
10. El Parral monastery – the entrance fee is voluntary
Subida del Parral2
Opening hours: Tuesday evening to Sunday (10:00 – 12:30 and 16:15 – 18:30)
11. Carmelitas Descalzos monastery – the entrance fee is voluntary
Alameda de la Fuencisla
Opening hours: 10:00 – 13:30 and 16:00 – 20:00 (closed on Monday morning)
We were lucky with finding a CouchSurfing host while in Segovia, although if you’re not that fortunate, here are the cheapest accommodations options available in Segovia:
- Duermevela Hostel
Calle de los Gascos, 7, dorm from €18.50
- Casa Baños
Calle Baños 6, dorm from €25.00
- Youth Hostel – Albergue Juvenil Emperador Teodosio (open between 1st July and 15th September)
Paseo Conde de Sepúlveda, Tel: 921 441 111, email@example.com
The center of Segovia’s nightlife is Calle de la Infanta Isabel, known by the locals as “Calle de los Bares” (bar street). It’s particularly busy between Thursday and Saturday night and it’s a perfect place if you want to try some of the local tapas, have a few glasses of wine or beer and soak up the nighttime atmosphere of students filling the streets.
Another nightlife area, where you can find some bars and discos, is around Calle de los Escuderos and Calle de Carmen (near the Aqueduct). The night doesn’t start here earlier than 10pm but head there only at the weekend, otherwise it’s dead.
Moving around town
- Local buses
Segovia is so small and all the tourist attractions are located within the walking distance, therefore I doubt you’ll need to use public transport for moving around the town. However, there are 10 local bus lines to choose from and you can check the timetable and the map on urbanosdesegovia.com (normal ticket costs 0,95 €).
If you want to take a taxi, call Radio taxi at (0034) 921 44 50 00.
Coaches are the cheapest way of getting to and out of Segovia. The coach station is located on Paseo Ezequiel González, 12 (tel: 921 436 782)There are two bus companies running in the area:
- La Sepulvedana– to and from Madrid, Ávila y Salamanca, and most important local towns like La Granja de San Ildefonso and El Espinar.
- Linecar – connectionwith Valladolid, Cuéllar, Arévalo, Aranda de Duero, La Lastrilla, Santa María La Real de Nieva, Coca, Riaza, Ayllón.
Use Renfe Cercanias to get to Madrid (Estación de Chamartín) and Valladolid (Estación de Campo Grande). The train station is located on Carretera de Villacastín (tel: 902 240 202).
Unfortunately Segovia doesn’t have its own airport. To get to Segovia by air, use one of the following:
- Madrid – Aeropuerto de Madrid Barajas (87 km), tel: 91 393 60 00
- Valladolid – Aeropuerto de Valladolid (125 km), tel: 983 560 180
- Salamanca – Aeropuerto de Salamanca (164 km), tel: 923 306 082
South towards La Granja / Madrid (CL-601)
From Plaza de la Artillería next to the Aqueduct, follow Av. del Padre Claret and get to the 3rd roundabout (the one after the bullring). We hitched directly on this roundabout and got a lift within 20min.
South towards Madrid (motorway, AP-61)
From Plaza de la Artillería next to the Aqueduct, follow Av. del Padre Claret and turn right at the first roundabout into Av. de Juan Carlos. Follow it until Av. de la Constitución and turn left. Go straight until Ctra de San Rafael which will turn into Ctra de Madrid. it should be possible to hitchhike on its first roundabout.
North towards Valladolid (CL-601)
From Plaza de la Artillería next to the Aqueduct, follow Av de la Via Roma. After the first roundabout it turns into Ctra National where it should be possible to catch a lift joining the C:-601 road.
East towards Ávila/Salamanca (AP-51, A-50)
From in ftont of the Aqueduct follow Av de Fernández Ladreda until it turns into Calle 3 de Abril. You can start hitchhiking here or alternatively follow it until the river and then turn left.
written by: Ania
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