Cuenca, Spanish medieval city
Situated 150 km east of Madrid, Cuenca was founded during the 9th century by the Moors in the heart of the Caliphate of Córdoba.
A walled city on a high hill that now dominates modern, beautifully preserved districts, it is one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Spain.
Classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the old town is worth a visit.
At one end of it is the Plaza Mayor, on which stands the Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace of Cuenca, the first Gothic Cathedral in Spain.
Cuenca is divided into two distinct parts. The old town, perched on the hill between the gorges of the river Júcar and the river Huécar and its tributary, concentrates the tourist attraction with its Casas Colgadas; these impressive restored houses dating from the 14th century are literally suspended on the rocky walls of the river Júcar.
From the lower town, you can reach it via the Puerta de Valencia following the signs’ Casco Antiguo’. At the foot of the historical centre, the modern quarter gathers the nightlife of the city around the streets Calle Doctor Galíndez and Calle Fermín Caballero.
Las Casas Colgadas
Access: Via Calle Obispo Valero.
Apart from the splendid situation of the city, the suspended houses constitute the originality of the medieval city.
Of these popular Gothic houses built in the 14th century, which adorned an entire face of the Huécar gorges, only a few have been restored. One of these houses the Spanish Abstract Art Museum and another one houses an inn.
Spanish Abstract Art Museum
Access: Casas Colgadas.
Opened since 1966, the museum houses a permanent exhibition of paintings and sculptures by some of the Spanish masters of abstract art. Among others, works by Antonia Saura, Eduardo Chilida, Anton Tàpies and Pablo Serrano can be found there.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday from 11am to 2pm and 4pm to 6pm, until 8pm on Saturdays and from 11am to 2:30pm on Sundays. Free admission.
Access: Calle Santa María. In the old town, between the ríos Júcar and Huécar.
The Clock Tower, built in the 16th century on the site of an ancient Arab fortress, is one of the emblematic and historic monuments of the city.
Muralla y Arco de Bezudo. Castle of Cuenca
Access: Calle Trabuco.
There are only a few vestiges of the ancient Muslim fortifications (Xth century) and very few of the Christian fortress, then impregnable, rebuilt during the reign of Philip II (XVIth century).
Nevertheless, one can still see the arch of the entrance gate, the Arco de Bezudo, and climb the ramparts. There, the occasioned walk is worth the trip for the views offered on the city and the gorges of the Rio.
Los Morale Park
Access: Avenida Ignacio de Loyola.
This pleasant public garden on the banks of the river Júcar offers relaxation in the city centre. Large wooded alleys, artificial lake and waterfall guarantee a pleasant walk.
City Hall of Cuenca
Access: Plaza Mayor.
Baroque building of the 18th century built on two floors built on a triple semicircular arcade crowned with a coat of arms, its facade overlooking the Plaza Mayor is richly decorated. The interior has a square staircase with rococo ornaments.
Science Museum of Castilla-La Mancha
Access: Plaza de la Merced, 1.
Astronomy is honoured in the rooms of this museum, which reveals instruments used to observe stars at different periods of history.
In a room, the’ Cronolanzadera’ and the Earth’s Treasures tell the story of the planet and the Universe, while the Life Laboratory introduces visitors to the natural spaces and resources of the Castilla-La Mancha region. In yet another, the history of the future…
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 2pm and then from 4pm to 7pm. Sundays from 10am to 2pm. Admission: 3 €, reduced price: 1,50 €.
International Museum of Electrography
Access: Camino del Pozuelo. On the university campus outside the north end of town.
Computer graphics, graphic design and electronic art, this museum houses artistic works from all over the world. These creations are made using modern reproduction and image printing techniques. Among other things, the centre has a documentation centre on artists, the techniques used and a research workshop.
Cathedral Nuestra Señora de Gracia
Access: Plaza Mayor.
A Gothic cathedral with French influences, the Cathedral has a Latin cross plan and its facade has three access points. It also has superb 15th century grids. The high altar is a work of Ventura Rodríguez and the chapter doors of Berruguete’s works. Its museum exhibits a Byzantine reliquary.
Admission: 4,80 €, reduced price: 4 €.
Access: Avenida Obispo Valero, 1.
A large part of the collections of this museum in the episcopal palace belong to the cathedral. The exhibition deals with altarpieces, paintings, goldsmiths, liturgical objects or tapestries, all dating from several centuries and coming from the region.
Opening hours: every day from 10am to 7pm. Admission: 3,50 €, reduced price: 3 €.
San Andrés Church
Access: Calle San Lázaro.
This beautiful building belongs to the municipality of Cuenca and is also called Church of San Antón. Begun in the 16th century, its construction, supervised by Martín de La Aldehuela, was completed in the 18th century.
The interior decoration is rococo and the exterior has two gates, one of which is plateresque, corresponding to that of the old convent which was there before. The patron saint is represented by a black Virgin of medieval tradition.
Opening hours: every day from 8am to 1pm and then from 6pm to 8pm.
85 km west of Cuenca.
The historical importance of Uclès lies in the choice made by the Order of Santiago de la Mancha to choose this small town as the capital of its territory.
Known as’ Escurial de Castilla-La Mancha’ or’ Little Escurial’, the monastery of Uclès was built by Francisco de Mora, a disciple of Herrera, in the 16th century.
Built around a two-storey square patio, its centre is occupied by a magnificent cistern and its’ churrigueresque’ portal shows a sculpture of the Apostle Santiago. The church houses a painting by Francisco Rossi and the remains of Rodrigo Manrique, Master of the Order of Santiago.
35 km south of Cuenca.
Visiting Valeria is a bit like travelling to Roman times, with the remains of an ancient Hispano-Roman settlement near the city centre.
Later a medieval fortress will be built on this site at the strategic location at the top of a hill overlooking the Rio Gritos and the surrounding area.
The original Roman basilica was chosen by the Visigoths as a place of worship before being definitively converted into Iglesia de la Sey with the Mudejar blanket.
Its museum exhibits Roman remains, Visigothic pieces, Baroque and Renaissance paintings and 16th century relics.
The remains of the Valeria Romana are visible in Calle Castrum Altum and the local water supply system, which includes an aqueduct, three cisterns and a fountain.
85 km southwest of Cuenca.
Classified as a Historic Site for the beauty of its surroundings combined with that of its monuments, Alarcón, a small village of just over 200 inhabitants, is enclaved in the steep gorges of the Rio Júcar.
A large part of the town is still surrounded by its ramparts, whose ancient keep is now converted into a tourism parador. On its Great Square dedicated to the Infant Don Juan Manuel, stands the church of San Juan Bautista erected on an ancient Romanesque temple in the 16th century.
95 km southwest of Cuenca.
Cradle of the poet Frey Lui de León, Belmonte offers a historical centre of great beauty on the’ Route of Don Quixote’.
Above all, it is its imposing 15th century fortress that attracts the many visitors to this village of just over 2000 inhabitants. Perched on a hill overlooking the village, the castle of Gothic and Mudéjar styles, which was the refuge of Jeanne de Castille called’ La Betraneja’, was also used for the filming of several films.
Of the five original gateways that controlled access to the fortress, three remain: those of San Juan, Chinchilla and Puera Nueva.
Other monumental sights in Belmonte include the Palazzo Alcazar de Don Juan Manuel, the Gothic church of San Bartolomé or the former Jesuit monastery of the 17th century.
Villanueva de la Jara
85 km south of Cuenca.
Villanueva’s heritage comes from the legacy of the privileges granted by the Catholic Kings to this small town for having supported Isabelle the Catholic during the war of succession in Castile.
Hermitages, palaces, mansions, seigniorial residences, coats of arms, it abounds with monuments such as the basilica Nuestra Señora de la Asunción or the Town Hall, both erected on its lively Plaza Mayor.
Guided tours are organized for the different monuments, wine cellars or mushroom growing. Villanueva de la Jara has several establishments of the Casas Rurales type, rural houses.
Municipal Tourist Office: Posada Massó. Plaza Mayor.
Serranía de Cuenca
The Serranía de Cuenca, a mountain range in the north of the province, is made up of steep reliefs covered with forests, mainly pine trees, crossed by several rivers, the main ones being the Cuervo, Escabas, Júcar and Huécar rivers. A hunting reserve to protect the hay and flora was established in 1973.
Among the geological curiosities of the park: Las Torcas, natural collapses that have led to the formation of colored lagoons such as Palancares or Cañada del Hoyo, south of the Col du Rocho.
THE VILLAGES OF THE SIERRANÍA DE CUENCA
90 km north of Cuenca.
Beteta is considered the most important town in the Serranía. Founded in Roman times, the ancient Vetera is located at the foot of Rocafría’s original Arabian castle, which offers a panoramic view of the massif.
Its urban core still preserves vestiges of ramparts and poternes. Its parish church has a plateresque gothic portal.
65 km northeast of Cuenca.
In the heart of the Sierra, in a valley dug by the Júcar River, Tragacete is surrounded by high wooded hills.
The altitude of some like Mogorrita or San Felipe, they are interspersed with valleys and canyons crossed by many paths, exceeds 1800 meters.
In the streets of the village, local architecture shows houses with wrought iron balconies and wooden beams. The church of San Miguel Arcángel is built of dry masonry with cut stones at the corners.
Protected from the winds by a rocky cliff known as Uña Castle, the village of Uña, set in the Sierra, is situated on a hill at the foot of the cliffs dug by the Júcar River.
Before arriving in this small town, you have to cross the gorges of Júcar, framed by the Massifs of Majadas and Valdecabras. The church, built in the 13th century and remodeled in the 16th century in dry masonry with a bell tower and a two-sloped wooden roof, stands out. At the edge of the village, the banks of the lagoon of Uña offer beautiful walking possibilities.
In mid-August, the San Roque festivities allow you to discover the folklore and traditions of the Cuenca mountains.
La Ciudad Encantada
30 km northeast of Cuenca.
Situated in the municipality of Valedecabras a few kilometres from Uña, the Ciudad Encantada tourist park is classified as a Natural Site of National Interest. Covered with pine trees, the surroundings show amazing karst geological formations.