Sheltered by the Sierra Gredos Mountains we find Ávila, a World Heritage City. Behind the city walls of this Castile-Leon capital there is a valuable set of churches and Renaissance palaces that bear witness to the past wealth of the town as a textile centre. Being the birthplace of Saint Teresa of Jesus has left its mark across the city, both inside and outside the city walls, with a large number of religious buildings linked to the saint’s life. The European Commission has given Ávila the Access City Award 2010.The excellent roasts and famous Avila veal cutlet are just part of a rich local cuisine without forgetting the famous dessert of Saint Teresa – “yemas” (sugared egg yolks).
The symbol of the city is the wall, one of the best preserved walled sites in Europe. Its perimeter is two kilometres and a half, with about 2,500 battlements, 100 towers, 6 doors and 3 secondary entrances. The Los Leales Gate, one of the main entrances to the old town, leads straight to the cathedral, which looks like a fortress and was built between the 12th and 14th centuries. But the most surprising construction in the area is Los Dávila Palace. It is a solid fortress made up of four houses and the oldest was built in the 13th century. The group of buildings stands out because of its battlements and its famous Renaissance window.
In any of the restaurants in the city you can discover the excellent gastronomy of the area. Some excellent dishes are roast suckling pig and lamb, as well as the famous Ávila T-bone steak. The veal and El Barco de Ávila beans have their own Designation of Origin. The cakes in Ávila are famous mainly because of the yemas de Santa Teresa (made with egg yolks and sugar).
Burgos, a city in Castilla-Leon situated in the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela, still preserves important vestiges of its medieval splendour. The city, which was the capital of the unified kingdom of Castilla-Leon for five centuries, boasts a masterpiece of Spanish Gothic architecture: the cathedral of Burgos, declared World Heritage. Aside from a visit to the historic quarter, you can take a quite interesting walk along the banks of the Duero and Arlanza rivers. Great places to approach a delicious, varied cuisine.
The city of Burgos, crossed by the Arlanzón River, is a few kilometres away from the prehistoric site of Atapuerca, which was declared World Heritage. A military hamlet in its origins, the city slowly became a powerful commercial city in the Middle Ages. A critical factor in this development was that Burgos was the capital of the unified kingdom of Castilla-Leon between the 10th and 15th centuries, its privileged location on the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela and the monopoly it held over the trade of merino wool, also contributed. All that splendour left a profound mark on present-day Burgos. On the foothill of the fortified Castle Hill, which has the best views of the city, the medieval quarter unfolds. Some of the remarkable buildings of this place include the Mudejar Arch of San Esteban and the Gothic church by the same name, which houses the Reredos Museum.
But beyond all doubt, the architectural masterpiece of Burgos is the cathedral, declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Erected on top a Romanesque temple, the cathedral was built following a Norman French Gothic model. The filigree work in the spires of the towers and in the exterior of the High Constable Chapel, are some of the masterpieces found in this cathedral. Such beauty and incredible genius lead to a long list of exceptional works of art in its interior.
The Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela, declared World Heritage, goes across the province of Burgos. It consists of an artistic and cultural route lined with churches, hermitages and pilgrim hospitals, along the towns of Belorado, Villafranca Montes de Oca and Castrogeriz.
Ribera del Duero, the birthplace of one of the most acclaimed Designations of Origin for wine, surprises visitors with beautiful historic towns. Aranda, Peñaranda and Roa (all within the region of Duero) exhibit Gothic relieves, Renaissance coffered ceilings and interesting cellars.
Burgos cuisine is enriched by a great variety of local products, like pulses, cured sausages, game meat, etc. Suckling lamb baked in a wood-fired oven, soused trout and cod stew are some of its best main courses. For dessert, try the delicious “yemas” (a sweet made with egg yolks and sugar), fresh cheese with honey and walnuts, or caramel almonds. All this should be had with some of the famous wines that hold the label Designation of Origin – Ribera del Duero.
The Pulchra Leonina, the Sistine Chapel; of Spanish Romanesque architecture and the old Hospital de San Marcos are the key points of this former Roman encampment. Over the course of time, León became the capital of the kingdom in the Middle Ages, a historic enclave on the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela and a city perfectly suited to its inhabitants. The incredible natural landscape of this province will take us to the Picos de Europa National Park, the area of Las Médulas (a World Heritage Site) and the winter resort of San Isidro. A cultural and leisure offer which is only surpassed by the quality and variety of León’s gastronomy.
The Plaza Mayor forms the centre of this city, crossed by the river Bernesga. Among this baroque collection of buildings stands the City Hall, popularly known as the “Balcony of the City”, since from its galleries the nobles observed the town’s activities taking place. Dotted around these streets are bars and restaurants where we can sample the best of the region.
The Casa de los Botines is the work of the architect Antonio Gaudí, who launched the modernist style in the city. León has more examples of this artistic trend in the square of Santo Domingo.
Also linked to the Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela, is the Hostal de San Marcos. One of the earliest expressions of the Spanish plateresque style was a pilgrims’ hospital and shelter and the seat of the Order of Santiago. It currently houses the city’s Parador, on the banks of the river Bernesga. The Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela crosses León through the region of El Bierzo, to be precise, through Villafranca del Bierzo, Cacabelos or Carracedo, whose monastery of Santa María is also a National Monument. Near here stand the clayey mountains which form Las Medulas, former Roman gold mines which have been declared a World Heritage Site
The river Carrión runs through the extensive plain of Tierra de Campos until it reaches Palencia, the capital, which has an interesting collection of monumental sites. It is the starting point of a tour of the most significant routes of the Romanesque style in Spain.
Palencia lived its period of greatest splendour in the Middle Ages. During the reign of Alfonso VIII, the capital became a royal residence and in 1208 the first Spanish university was founded here. Calle Mayor is Palencia’s main thoroughfare, it is the backbone of the city running north to south and boasts distinguished façades and a great many shops. The surrounding streets lead towards the “unknown beauty”, which is how Palencia’s Cathedral (14th century) is known. The austerity of its Gothic façade conceals a wealth of art inside. Among its most prized treasures are a valuable plateresque reredos (16th century) and the crypt of San Antolín, with remains of the Romanesque and Visigothic temples which stood on the same spot centuries earlier. Lastly, inside the cloister, a visit can be made to the Cathedral Museum, which contains works by painters such as El Greco and Zurbarán.
The excellent ingredients produced in the province form the basis of Palencia’s culinary tradition. Among the most emblematic dishes are lechazo asado (roast lamb) and pichón estofado (stewed pigeon). The vegetables and garden produce of the fertile fields are used to make tasty vegetable stews. Other specialities of the region are pork products Saldaña beans and sheep’s cheese. To round a meal off, you could try the famous biscuits from Aguilar de Campoo, the sweets from Osorno or leche frita (made from milk, eggs, flour and sugar). Not forgetting to accompany any of these dishes with the excellent Designation of Origin Cigales wines.
Salamanca is in the central area of Spain, 212 kilometers from the capital, Madrid. Universal, magnificent, wise, young and golden: this city is an inland destination well worth discovering for many reasons. Its historic centre has been designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
It is the University City par excellence: Salamanca University was the first to be founded in Spain and is also one of the oldest in Europe. In its heyday it was one of the most highly regarded European universities. For this reason it has been attended by some of the greatest Spanish thinkers, artists and writers.
Salamanca has a wealth of history, but it is also modern, fun and dynamic. The student population takes care of giving life and atmosphere to this city 24 hours a day.
Segovia, the old quarter of which, along with its Roman aqueduct, are World Heritage Sites, lies on high ground between the Eresma and Clamores Rivers. In addition to its famous aqueduct, numerous Romanesque churches, the Cathedral and Fortress go to form this magnificent landscape that presides over this part of Castile. Its modern Parador Hotel is one of the best places for the visitor to savour the city’s most traditional dish: roast suckling pig. Moreover, Segovia is an excellent starting point to tour the province and visit to the La Granja Palace, as well as the Gorges of the Duratón River Nature Reserve, among other attractions.
Having been a trading centre under the Roman Empire, Segovia reached its period of greatest splendour during the Middle Ages, on becoming the court residence of the Trastamaras, as well as an important centre of livestock and textile activity. It was during this period that a great many of the local Romanesque buildings were built, a rich heritage that has come down to us today. The Roman aqueduct in Azoguejo square, serves as the main entrance to the historic quarter of Segovia. This engineering gem, built under the Roman Empire (1st century AD), carried water to the elevated city from some 15 Km away. Its 163 arches and its height, some 29 m at its higest point, are supported by blocks of stone from the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains that are completely plaster, lead and mortar free.
To the giant broad beans from La Granja, Castilian soup (garic and bread) and roast suckling pig and lamb, we can also add casseroles and game dishes. Both the Cantimpalo chorizo sausage and Segovian punch will no doubt live up to their well-earned fame. Ribera del Duero Designation of Origin wines excellently accompany these Segovian delicacies.
In a natural spot presided over the River Duero is Soria, a city which houses an important Romanesque group of buildings in its medieval streets, as well as splendid examples of civil architecture.
The history of Soria is linked to the neighbouring Celtiberian settlement of Numancia, whose inhabitants led a heroic defense of the city against the seige of the Roman Empire ( II c. B.C.). Later, due to its strategic situation, the area was the subject of a battle between Christians and Muslims ( IX c.). After its incorporation into the Crown of Castile, Soria experienced its peak during the reign of Alfonso VIII ( XII-XIII c.) and throughout the whole of the Middle Ages it was an important manufacturing centre based on wool production. Soria still retains an important Romanesque legacy in its network of medieval streets. In the historic centre of the town is one of the most important churches in the city, the church of Santo Domingo, a beautiful XII century construction whose main front is considered one of the best of the entire Romanesque period
Sorian gastronomy has its main allies in pork products and roast lamb. It also conserves other traditionally pastoral dishes, such as fried breadcrumbs (using bread, garlic and pork) and caldereta (a lamb stew). Butter is also one of the most typical traditional products from Soria.
The historic centre of Valladolid, the city on the Pisuerga River, is home to an interesting collection of Renaissance buildings comprising houses, palaces, churches, and one of its most emblematic buildings, its cathedral. The city has an intense cultural schedule thanks to its status as a university town, and hosts events such as the Seminci, the International Film Festival, one of the highlights of the Spanish film calendar.
Another event that marks life in Valladolid and awakes the passions of its inhabitants is Easter. Its processions, declared of International Tourist Interest, are real parades of works of religious art. Valladolid began to become important from the 11th century, when Count Ansúrez came to govern the city in the name of Alfonso VI. It reached its peak during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs (15th C.), when the university became one of the most important in the country. And, as well as playing a leading role in key episodes in Spanish history, Valladolid has twice been the capital, firstly with Carlos I (16th C.) and later when Felipe III came to the throne (17th C.).The capital of Castilla y León preserves an important heritage of monuments in its old quarter, especially aristocratic houses and religious buildings. Outstanding among them is the unfinished Cathedral. The architect Juan de Herrera was commissioned by King Felipe II to design the original scheme in the 16th century. The death of both left the church unfinished and its central body was not opened until 1668. Years later, in 1730, Master Churriguera finished the work on the main front. The city preserves houses where great historical characters once lived, like the Casa de Cervantes, where the author of Quijote lived with his family between 1603 and 1606
Valladolid’s province is revealed through different tours like those along the Red Wine Route which leads to the wine-growing country of Quintanilla de Onésimo, Vega Sicilia, Pesquera de Duero and Peñafiel. Here you can visit the castle and Wine Museum as well as interesting cellars
Roast lamb and suckling pig are famous dishes. Castilian soup (made with bread, garlic and ham), cod with garlic and game dishes are also famous. To accompany these recipes there is nothing better than the wines with Denomination of Origin from the province: Ribera del Duero, Cigales, Rueda and Toro.
The city of Zamora in Castilla y León, preserves in its old town an important legacy of Romanesque art, which has earned it the declaration of Historic-Artistic site. Set on the banks of the River Duero and right on the Via de la Plata (Silver Road) route, its medieval importance has left a mark in the shape of walls, palaces and churches. To get to know the history and art of the province better, there is nothing better than looking round one of the towns on the Duero Route or the Via de la Plata. You can get to know it in more depth through its cuisine and traditions, like the celebration of Easter, declared to be of International Tourist Interest.
The Puente de Piedra (Stone Bridge) that crosses the Duero takes you into the city with a strong medieval imprint, known as the City of Romanesque. Its buildings effortlessly take you back to the Middle Ages, a period when the city withstood sieges and attacks. Known as “the Well Protected”, because of its triple defensive ring, it preserves the first of these walls almost entirely. Among the stretches of wall, three gates – the Portillo de la Traición, the Puerta de Doña Urraca and the Puerta del Obispo – are outstanding. Dominating the whole layout are the Castle and the Cathedral.