The historic Spanish city of Segovia boasts a grand Gothic cathedral, a medieval castle that looks to be lifted straight from the pages of a fairy tale, and a Roman aqueduct that is considered one of the best preserved in Europe. Perched on a hilltop, just an hour outside Madrid, it is an ideal destination for day trippers, but to get a complete picture of this charming walled city, book into a hotel in the old town and enjoy the ever changing light on the sandstone architecture as well as an unforgettable meal in one of the city’s iconic restaurants. You won’t be disappointed!
DAWN AT THE AQUEDUCT
Legend has it that the Roman Aqueduct of Segovia is the result of a girl promising her soul to the devil in exchange for water reaching her house before day break. So it is fitting that we visit the spectacular two-tiered structure at dawn. The Aqueduct stands 28.5 metres high, with 128 pillars spanning more than 800metres, a grand feat of engineering that is held together without mortar. It was built in 50 BC to transport water from the La Acebeda to the Alcazar fortress and is considered one of the most impressive legacies of Roman times left in Spain. With golden sunlight rays peeking through the pillars, the Aqueduct is an unforgettable sight.
MORNING AT THE ALCAZAR
After a traditional breakfast of jamon, queso and huevos, (ham, cheese and eggs) at the Hotel Real Segovia, we make our way through the pedestrianized streets of the old town to the Alcazar. This medieval fortress is an eclectic blend of Romanesque, Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Built high on a rocky outcrop to protect the city, it became a royal residence, then a prison, a military academy, and is now one of Spain’s most famous castles. Rooms are lavishly decorated, with carved archways, elaborate ceilings and beautiful tiles revealing the Moorish origins of the Alcazar, while the Christian influence can be seen in the stained glass, sculptures, icons and paintings. Don’t miss a visit to the tower. It involves a steep climb, but the view is totally worth the effort.
LUNCH AT PLAZA DEL SOCORRO
After exploring the beautiful Alcazar, we follow the southern side of the city wall (Muralla), admiring the castle from the many viewing points along the way, and stopping at the Puerta de San Andres – one of the three remaining city gates. This gate was once the entrance to the Jewish Quarter, home to a vibrant Hebrew community for several centuries, until a royal edict expelled Jews from Spain in 1492. Plaza del Socorro is an ideal place to grab a bite to eat and ponder the turbulent history behind the serene streets and beautiful facades.
AFTERNOON AT CATHEDRAL SEGOVIA
From here it is a short walk to the grand centrepiece of the city’s Christian heritage – Segovia Cathedral. Built on the highest point of the city in the 16 th century, the Gothic cathedral towers over Segovia, with three naves and massive domes decorated with stained glass. Take a tour inside, and then choose a table at one of the many restaurants lining the nearby Plaza Mayor and watch the afternoon light turn the whole city gold. Tapas is served with wine, making this the perfect spot to enjoy a sundowner and a pre-dinner snack.
DINNER AT JOSE MARIA
Segovia is famous for its Cochinillo (roast suckling pig), and we have been informed by our taxi driver that Restaurant Jose Maria is the place to enjoy this regional speciality. The restaurant, located just off the Plaza Mayor, is popular with tourists and locals, so booking is definitely recommended. It is not, however, the place for vegetarians. The Cochinillo is presented whole, with meat so tender it is cut into pieces with a plate. I’m too squeamish to watch, but the spectacle is all part of the dining experience. Order a side of grilled vegetables and a bottle of Ribera del Duero (the local red wine) for the perfect Segovia style meal. Follow dinner with a stroll around the old town. Segovia Cathedral is even more spectacular at night!
Segovia is an hour from Madrid by car or train. You won’t need a car once you are here as the old town is pedestrianised and most of the sites are within easy walking distance of each other. Just be aware that the train station is 20km out of town. We stayed at the Hotel Real Segovia which had helpful staff, a great location and pleasant rooms.
Julie Fison is a Brisbane author and travel lover. Her debut novel for adults, One Punch, is a compelling contemporary drama that tells the story of two mothers facing impossible decisions after one life-changing night. When not at her desk, you can find Julie hiking a bush trail with her energetic border collie, exploring the outback, or chasing the perfect sunset. She is a committed traveller and enjoys sharing tips for midlife adventure. www.juliefison.com