Discover Segovia, Spain By Victoria Ugarte
Segovia's history, charm, rustic cuisine, and close proximity to Madrid, makes this enchanting city the Jewel of the Central Plains of Spain. Find out what to see, where to eat, and how to get to this magical town, and why it's worth taking the time to travel to.
The town of Segovia is a delicious maze of twisting alleyways and the highest concentration of Romanesque churches in all of Europe. It also proudly features the best preserved aqueduct in the world, built by the Romans in the 1st century AD. These treasures are seemingly embraced by the city's well-preserved mediaeval walls. Segovia's attraction to the Spaniards is its close proximity to Madrid and its airport. The 54 mile drive from Madrid is done in less than an hour via a twin-bore tunnel going under the Guadarrama Mountains. These mountains totally separate Segovia from the other 3 million people in Spain's capital city. Situated in the rural plains of Castilla y Leon's central plateau in Spain, Segovia lies on high ground between the Eresma and Clamores rivers. The Guadarrama Mountains provide a dramatic backdrop to Segovia's skyline. Elevated by 3280 feet, the atmosphere is refreshing and the vista spectacular, especially when the mountains are with snow.
How to Get to Segovia:
1. Segovia bound trains leave Madrid at 2-hour intervals up to nine times daily. The trip lasts for 1 3/4 hours.
2. Regular buses leave up to 30 times daily from Madrid to Segovia. The main bus station in Segovia is just off Paseo de Ezequiel Gonzalez, near Avenida de Fernandez Ladreda.
3. The drive from Madrid to Segovia is straightforward and relatively short (less than an hour), particularly if taking the route via the twin-bore tunnel under the Guadarrama Mountains. However, parking is difficult around the old town of Segovia as the streets are narrow and difficult to negotiate. It's best to leave the car in one of the stations close to Plaza del Azoguejo. 12 hours should cost Euros 9 to 11.
What to See in Segovia:
1. Segovia Aqueduct: This magnificent work of engineering was built by the Romans in 1 AD, and is still in excellent condition. Its 20,400 stone blocks are neither cemented nor stuck together by any substance, and it remains in solid condition to this day.
2. Segovia Fortress (Alcazar): This impregnable Gothic fortress has its date of origin recorded as 12th century, although it more than likely dates back to the Roman times. It served as the residence of Alfonso VIII. It has secret passageways that lead to the river and it connects several of the city's palaces together. This is also where Queen Isabella promised Colombus the financial backing to discover America. Centuries later, its design inspired Walt Disney's vision of Sleeping Beauty's castle.
3. Segovia Cathedral: The last Gothic cathedral built in Spain, the Segovia Cathedral took almost 200 years to complete. It was built on the highest point in town, and the main altarpiece is made of marble, jasper and bronze.
4. San Martin Church: Mozarab in origin, San Martin Church is one of the finest Romanesque works in Segovia. It has a magnificent atrium.
5. Old Quarter of Segovia: The old quarter of Segovia has been declared a world heritage site.
6. Casa de los Picos: This Renaissance ancestral house is the most typical and famous mansion in Segovia. It dates back to the 15th century. Its most characteristic feature is its facade, which is covered entirely by granite blocks, carved into pyramid-shaped reliefs. It is the current home of the Segovia Art School and Exhibition Hall.
7. La Granja de San Ildefonso: Although 12km from the main town, do not miss this spectacular site. The Bourbon King Felipe V chose this site to recreate in miniature his version of Versailles, the palace of his French grandfather, Louis XIV. La Granja's centerpiece is the Baroque gardens in the Western foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama, with 28 extravagant fountains depicting figures from ancient myths, such as Apollo and Diana.
Where To Eat in Segovia:
Roasts are common in the whole of Castilla y Leon, but Segovianos love their suckling pigs (cochinillo asado) to the point of obsession, and just about every restaurant boasts its Horno de Asar (roasting oven). The skin crackles and the meat is so tender it melts in its own fat. The suckling lamb is famous in this province also, and let us not forget that pork is not only used for roasted dishes, but is used in the making of excellent hams and sausages e.g. Jamon Iberico (Iberian cured ham) and the famous Cantimpalos chorizo, a spicy sausage that is very traditional of Spain.
1. Meson Jose Maria: This is a Segovia favourite, and it boasts the best tapas bar in town - you can dine on Cochinillo in the formal dining room. Calle del Cronista Lecea 11.
2. Cueva de San Esteban: Focuses on seasonal dishes. Calle de Valdelaguila 15.
3. Casa Duque: Segovia's oldest dining establishment and a local institution, this restaurant has been open since 1895. A great place to sample Cochinillo. Calle de Cervantes 12.
4. La Almuzara: There is hope for vegetarians in this carnivorous town at the Almuzara. There is a good selection of vegetarian dishes, pastas and salads available at this restaurant. Calle Marques del Arco 3.
5. Meson de Candido: This is another one of Segovia's most popular places for Cochinillo, and is situated at the foot of the aqueduct. This restaurant has been serving traditional Castilian cuisine since 1920. The grandson of the founder, also called Candido, is currently at the helm of this traditional restaurant. It is a Spanish institution at which many celebrities have eaten. Plaza del Azoguejo 5.
6. El Horno de la Aldeguela: Situated in Torrecaballeros, in between La Granja and the main town of Segovia, lays this absolute culinary gem. Originally a modest 17th century country home in a lamb farming region, the restaurant building has changed little with time. It still features the original, and very large, Horno de Asar (roasting oven). The restaurant's signature dish is the suckling lamb, which cooks slowly for hours. Do book to avoid disappointment. Unlike Toledo, which can be dark, damp and crowded, Segovia is inviting and reeks with charm. If for the aqueduct and cuisine alone, this city of Spain is a definite Must.