Ávila, Spanish historical city
Encircled by a 2.5 km long wall with nine entrance gates and 88 towers, in addition to being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Ávila has been considered a historical and artistic monument since 1884.
The capital of Spain’s highest province, Ávila is situated at 1180 m above sea level in a rocky enclave of the Sierra de Gredos.
Behind these ramparts, the construction of which began at the end of the 11th century on the route of a Roman military encampment, lies a pleasant medieval city with numerous squares and squares.
Conceived both as a temple and fortress, integrated into the wall, the Cathedral of El Salvador d’ Ávila is considered to be the first Gothic cathedral in Spain.
The city culminated in the 16th century with a thriving woolly industry that allowed the construction of numerous civil and religious buildings in the historic city centre.
The city’s most famous name is Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, better known as Teresa d’ Avila. Canonized in 1622, she founded her first convent of reformed Carmelites in the city in 1522.
Roasted lamb or suckling pig, Ávila beef ribs or Santa Teresa yema, a delicacy based on egg yolk and sugar, are the jewels of a famous local gastronomy.
Visit and monuments of Ávila
The ramparts of Ávila
Accessible parts: Puerta del Alcázar, Casa de Carnicerías, Puente Adaja.
The walls of medieval origin (12th century) which beyond its defensive military role also served to protect the city from epidemics, particularly the plague, and to control the entry of foodstuffs and goods into the city.
With an irregular rectangular layout, they are equipped with 2,500 slots, a hundred towers and nine doors. Among the most famous, the Alcázar Gate was awarded the title of National Monument in 1884.
Visit of the parties open to the public: from April to June, September and October: every day from 10am to 6pm. From 10am to 9pm in July and August.
Admission: 5 €, reduced price: 3,50 €. Audio guide and guided tours.
Provincial Museum of Ávila
Plaza de Nalvillos, 3.
The Plaza de Nalvillos is home to two structures dedicated to showcasing the cultural richness of the province of Ávila: the Casa de los Deanes and the Santo Tomé church.
A Renaissance palace dating from the 16th century, the Casa de los Deanes hosts a permanent exhibition dedicated to rural culture, as well as traditional arts and activities.
Another section of this permanent exhibition tells the history of the province from prehistory to the 20th century. A third one reveals archaeological objects from various urban excavations carried out in the city.
The church of Santo Tomé, in its open space for visitors, features verracos, pork-shaped cut stones, mosaics, Roman funerary stelae and archaeological elements dating from the Middle Ages and modern times.
Visits: Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm, until 7pm from October to June. Sundays and public holidays from 10am to 2pm. Admission: 1 €.
Cathedral of Ávila
Plaza de la Cathedral.
Before the master Frichel took over the project of its modification to make it one of the first Gothic cathedrals in Spain, it was a 12th century Romanesque cathedral. The cathedral was integrated into the city’s defensive system with its bedside standing against the wall.
On its two facades, the main one is flanked by two towers giving it the appearance of a fortress. The ambulatory houses the alabaster tomb of El Tostado, masterpiece of Vasco de la Zarza.
The Cathedral Museum offers an exhibition of sacred art in its treasure halls and choir books. You can discover works by Pedro de Mena and Fernando Gallego as well as the 15th century San Juan de Carrión’ s’ Books of Choir’, the’ Portrait of Garcibáñez de Múxica, signed by the Greco or the monstrance of Juan de Arfe…
Monastery of the Encarnación
Paseo de la Encarnación.
Founded in 1515, the monastery is known for having housed St. Theresa of Ávila for most of her life. The monastic cell occupied by the saint became an oratory and then a chapel.
The structure, which consists of four two-storey naves, has undergone several transformations.
Visits: Monday to Friday from 9h30 to 13h30 and from 15h30 to 18h/19h. Admission: 2 €, reduced price: 1,50 €.
Plaza Corral de las Campanas.
Known as the Mújica Palace, this 15th-century building houses the Provincial Council’s headquarters and an exhibition hall.
The facade is made of granite, a square tower with crenels and stilts overlooks this building in which Alphonse XII and the writer Enrique Larreta chose to locate his novel’ La gloria de Don Ramiro’.
Visits: Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm, Sundays and holidays from 11am to 2pm. Free admission.
Calle Lopez Núñez.
Classified as a National Monument in 1976, this 16th century palace was built on the will of Don Segro del Águila. The interior is articulated around a patio with arches and its plateresque portal is flanked by two richly decorated pilasters.
Visits: Monday to Saturday from 10am to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm, Sundays and public holidays from 10am to 2pm. Free admission.
Madrigal de las Altas Torres
60 km north of Ávila.
Historic town, Madrigal de las Altas Torres was both the cradle of Isabelle the Catholic and the former residence of the court. Its fortified enclosure is classified as a property of cultural interest.
This medieval enclosure, whose original perimeter was 2300 meters, is one of the rare Mudejar artefacts to have been preserved. The visible parts dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries combine Romanesque, Gothic and Mudéjar styles. Twenty-three of the 60 to 80 towers comprising it have been preserved, as well as four doors: those of Arévalo, Medina, Peñaranda and Cantalapiedra.
A visit to the Palazzo Giovanni II, converted into the monastery Nuestra Señora de Gracia, is a must. It is composed of different pieces, including the one where Isabelle was born in 1451.
Another centre of interest is the church of San Nicolas de Bari, which has the highest bell tower in the province of Ávila at 75 metres.
As for the Santa Maria del Castillo church, it now houses a museum of Mexican handicrafts.
40 km north of Ávila.
The capital of Moraña and an example of the Mudéjar art of Ávila, Arévalo has been classified as a historical site.
In its historical centre, the Villa and Arrabal squares, religious buildings such as the Church of Santa María la Mayor, San Martín and Santo Domingo de Silos are some of the main centres of interest in this small town of only 8000 inhabitants. Dominating the place, its castle with its imposing keep was once the residence of Isabelle the Catholic.
35 km south of Ávila.
Nestled between the serras of Gredos and Ávila on the banks of the Alberche river, a beautiful Roman bridge crosses the river Alberche. The shores of the river bank bordered by lawns offer the inhabitants of this small mountain village improvised beaches.
Towards the east the road leads to the artificial lake of Burguillo and bypassing it to the landscapes of the Valle de Iruelas at the foot of the Sierra de Gredos.
50 km south of Ávila.
Situated south of the artificial lake of Burguillo, we reach the Valle de Iruelas through the village of El Tiemblo.
The Iruelas valley is an area of 600 ha of bird protection. The hamlet has about 30 rural houses for visitors and an inn. You can enjoy horseback riding, sailing and canoeing on the calm waters of the lake.
Arenas de San Pedro
80 km southwest of Ávila.
Discovered in 1963 six kilometres from the village, the Cuevas del Àguila caves have become the main centre of interest of Arenas de San Pedro, located at the foot of the Sierra and the regional park of Gredos.
The old Arenas also has some hidden treasures such as the castle of Don Àlvaro de Luna with its imposing keep, the 16th century Gothic church Nuestra Señora de la Asunción with its splendid bell tower, the palace of the Infant Don Luis de Borbón and the sanctuary of San Pedro de Alcántara dating from the 16th century.
El Barco de Avila
80 km southwest of Ávila.
Situated at the foot of the Sierra de Gredos on the right bank of the Tormes river, the charming village of El Barco de Avila offers a splendid view. It is also endowed with an architectural heritage including the Gothic church Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.
Remains of ramparts, a medieval bridge over the Tormes and the castle of Valdecorneja, a fortress organising cultural activities, complete the visit.
Sierra de Gredos Regional Park
170 km from Ávila, in the extreme south-western part of the province.
The Sierra de Gredos is composed of granite massifs dotted with villages with stone houses. This park, known for the circus and the lake of Gredos, dominated by the 2592 metres of the Almanzor peak, offers an ideal setting for outdoor sports: hiking, of course, but also canoeing, climbing and mountaineering, horse riding, fishing and hunting, mountain biking or skiing in winter… Moreover, the park area is equipped with a vast network of hotel facilities.
Covered with pine, chestnut, oak and poplar forests, one crosses many remote villages where time seems to have no catch. The landscapes present lagoons, cirques, gorges in which many rivers and streams flow. In addition to the circus of Gredos, other sites such as the Laguna Grande, the Charco de las Paredes… make the reputation of the park.