On the Ruta del Duero, Zamora
Nestled on the north bank of the river Duero, which crosses it, Zamora is located in the west of the province of Castile y Leon.
The city is located on two important tourist routes: the ‘Ruta del Duero‘, where you can discover the Romanesque art associated with the history of the province and the Vía de la Plata road, a north-south tourist route linking Gijón in Asturias to Seville in Andalusia.
A small medieval town and a listed historical site, it has numerous ramparts protecting Romanesque buildings. The cathedral, palaces and churches bear witness to the city’s regional influence in the Middle Ages.
Little by little, it lost all economic and strategic interest and saw many of its population migrate to the Americas in the fifteenth century and then to other more promising Spanish regions in the twentieth century.
Zamora is famous for the large number of Romanesque churches, 24 in all, scattered throughout its old town with cobbled alleys. the 12th century cathedral is known for its naves and arches of Arabic architecture as well as for its Byzantine inspired dome.
Three walls, a castle of Muslim origin surrounded by a large park and a 12th century bridge, the Puente de Piedra, 250 metres long, complete this historic heritage.
The Festival of Holy Week, classified as a festival of tourist interest, is a good opportunity to discover the Romanesque treasures of this small medieval town, as well as its gastronomy made of local meats, tripe and rice, potatoes, accompanied by wines of regional AOC.
Visit and monuments of Zamora
Doña Urraca Gate
Calle de San Bartolomé
This imposing and well-preserved Romanesque door was once the most important gate in Zamora, then known as the “well closed”. The Doña de Urraca gate, also known as the San Bartolomé gate, was part of the third wall (13th century) that surrounded the old town.
Flanked by two impressive stone towers, it is endowed with a semicircular arch.
The nickname, Doña Urraca, comes from a legend which tells us that Doña Urraca, to whom his brother Alfonso VI de León had entrusted the role of governor of the city, begged Le Cid to raise the siege of the city that he was doing for Sancho II of Castile.
The Ramparts of Zamora
Zamora, who deserved to be called the close behind, was a strategic point on the Rio Duero and Portugal’s route.
The first of these walls, also the most important was erected in the 11th century under the reign of Ferdinand I on the remains of an ancient Muslim fortress.
At that time, it surrounded the old town and had several gateways, including Olivares, which led to the cathedral and the Episcopal Palace.
The gate of San Bartolomé or Doña Urriaca occupies the north side while the Portillo de la Traición,”the door of betrayal”, is the one Bellido Dolfos passed through while being pursued by Le Cid after the assassination of King Sancho II of Castile.
Built in the second half of the twelfth century in Romanesque style, later works attributed Gothic elements to it. The building has three naves, three apses and a lantern tower with 16 double arches, dominated by a single square bell tower.
Two reliefs : ‘Our Lady with Child’ and ‘The apostles John and Paul’ adorn the two tympanum of the Bishop’s door.
Opening hours : Monday to Saturday from 10am to 7:45pm, Sundays and public holidays from 10am to 2pm and from 5pm to 7:45pm.
Admission : 5 €, reduced price : 3 €, free for children.
It is through the cloister that one reaches this museum known for its splendid Flemish tapestries of the 15th and 16th centuries.
Nevertheless, the museum has a small collection of sculptures, paintings, tapestries and goldsmith’s pieces, including the Corpus monstrance made in 1515, the silver altar of Holy Thursday (1773) and the marble of the Virgin and child carved by Bartolomé Ordóñez.
However, the major collection remains the Flemish tapestries of the workshops in Arras, Tournai and Brussels.
Opening hours : Monday to Saturday from 10am to 2pm and from 5pm to 8pm, Sundays and public holidays from 10am to 2pm.
Admission : 5 €, reduced price: 3 €.
Provincial Museum of Zamora
Plaza de Santa Lucía, 2.
The Provincial Museum is located in the Palais du Cordon, a 16th century building. It offers an archaeological exhibition covering a period from prehistory to modern times.
The section devoted to fine arts shows paintings and sculptures from the 14th to 20th centuries. Also, a room is dedicated to the history of the city of Zamora.
Opening hours : Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 2pm and from 4pm to 7pm (17am to 8pm afternoons from June to September). Sundays and holidays from 10am to 2pm.
Admission : 1 €. Free for students, Saturday and Sunday.
Ethnographic Museum of Castile and Leon
Calle del Sacremento
This museum is the ideal place to discover the culture and traditions of the Castilla y León region. It houses thousands of artefacts and jewellery of great artistic and ethnological value, spread over the five floors of this modern building in the heart of the city.
Opening hours : Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 2pm and from 5pm to 8pm.
Admission : 3 €, reduced price: 1 €.
70 km north of Zamora.
A town of barely 20,000 inhabitants located in the north of Zamora province, the city, which was repopulated in the 12th century by Ferdinand II, has always been an important communications centre.
The most characteristic building of the city is its Tour del Caracol, built in the XVIth century and endowed with ample viewpoints, it has been converted into a Tourist Parador bearing the name of Fernando II.
Other buildings in the city include the Santa María de Azogue church, the San Juan del Mercado church and the Hospital de la Piedad, an ancient hostel for pilgrims.
Natural Reserve of Lagunas de Villafáfila
50 km north of Zamora.
The Villafáfila Nature Reserve is a protected area of 32,680 hectares located in the Esla and Valderaduey river basin. The north of the reserve is composed of low hills and small, low-lying mountains. The area between the two rivers is made up of lagoons, ponds and salt marshes.
This huge wetland is one of the largest wintering areas in the Iberian Peninsula for many varieties of migratory birds. The lagoon complex of the reserve is part of the Natura 2000 network and is registered in the RAMSAR world convention.
Entrances to the park are restricted and are open on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from 10:30am to 2pm and from 4pm to 7pm. Admission : €2, €1,50 for children from 5 to 12 years old.
Puebla de Sanabria
110 km northwest of Zamora.
Known as a historical site, Puebla de Sanabria is situated on a hill at the confluence of the Tera and Castro rivers, a site that has earned it the reputation of being a spectator of many battles over the centuries.
This small town of 3000 inhabitants, most of the ramparts that protected it are preserved, is perched on a hill overlooking the plain.
The 15th century castle, typical of medieval defensive fortresses with its multi-storey keep, overlooks the village on the slopes.
Not far from the castle, the parish church Nuestra Señora del Azogue, dating from the twelfth century, houses baptismal font of the thirteenth century decorated with carved figures.
Numerous manors and ancient houses with a coat of arms line the sloping streets of this charming village near the Natural Park of Lake Sanabria, the largest glacial lake in Spain.
Sanabria Lake Natural Park
120 km northwest of Zamora.
Surrounded by vast forests, this lake of glacial origin, the largest in Spain, offers magnificent landscapes 100,000 years old.
A privileged place, it is composed of reliefs and valleys, lagoons and deep ravines, natural beaches, on which there is a legend. This one tells that at the bottom of the lake lies a village sunken after a divine curse and that the night of St. John’s Day echoes the bells of his church.
Numerous heritage villages dot the lakeside area around which numerous active tourism activities have developed: sailing, canoeing, kayaking, boat trips and pedalos. In late July, the lake hosts international canoe and kayak competitions.
The park’s interpretation centre is housed in the 12th century Monastery of San Martín de Castañeda on the lake. You will be able to discover all the information about the park, its fauna, 142 species of birds, its flora with 1500 plant varieties, hiking and various activities to do there.
65 km west of Zamora.
Nestled on a hill in the heart of the Duero Natural Park, Fermoselle has a popular architecture with steep and winding streets, lined with sturdy old houses adorned with coats of arms, including the picturesque streets of Torrejón and Nogal.
Among the buildings in the city, from Doña Urraca Castle, Infante de España, there are only a few sections of ruined walls left. Do not miss the church of la Asunción which, despite its Gothic characteristics, preserves several Romanesque facades.
Fermoselle is an interesting stopover for hikers who want to take one of the signposted paths that cross the Duero Natural Park.
50 km east of Zamora.
Often a place of conflict between Muslims and Christians, Toro, a court moment of the kings, is classified as a Historical Site.
Santa María la Mayor’s Collegiate Church of Santa María, the 12th century mayor, stands out for its polychrome west porch. Not far from the Collegiate Church, the viewpoint of the Espolón offers a unique panorama over this plain, called the Oasis of Castile.
Remains of the clashes between Catholics and Muslims, are still visible ruins of walls dating from 910 as well as more recent, the gates of Corredera and Santa Catalina from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Several palaces including that of the counts of Requena dot the city. Among the religious buildings of the city, the church of San Salvador de los Caballeros hosts a museum of sacred art.