Monday, February 21, 2011

Day trip ideas: Cuenca

With the arrival of the high speed AVE service between Madrid and Valencia, it has never been so easy to visit Cuenca, a beautiful medieval town with UNESCO world heritage status dramatically perched above a gorge.  The city lies some 140km south west of Madrid and makes a pleasant day trip or overnight stay.

View of Cuenca

The main attraction is the hanging houses, which have become a symbol for the city. These date from the middle ages and hang precariously over the side of a steep ravine, in fact it almost looks as if they are part of the cliff face. One of the houses contains an excellent abstract art museum, which is considered one of the most important collections of its kind in Spain. If you decide to visit it, make sure you step onto the balconies to get a spectacutar view of the gorge.

For a great view of the city and to get a good shot of the hanging houses, make sure you cross the San Pedro bridge, which lies at the entrance to the city. From here you can really appreciate the size of the gorge and you are surrounded by spectacular views. Other sights in the city include the ruined cathedral (built in the 12th century, but fell down in 1902- so far only the façade has been rebuilt), the churches of San Pedro and San Miguel, and the charming Plaza Mayor. If you like museums, there's an archeological museum and the Museo Diocesano.

 Getting there: Cuenca is served by both regional and high speed trains, but the prices and journey times vary greatly. If you take the high speed AVE,  you can be there in less than one hour, however expect to pay around 38€ one way (very overpriced we know!!!). The cheaper regional train takes three hours, but costs 12,30€ one way. See for more information. The other option is to take the Avanza bus from the Estación Sur bus station (Metro Mendez Álvaro L6), where the return trip can cost as little 11,25€! There are many departures each day and the journey takes 2- 2 1/2 hours. The Avanza buses are very comfortable and modern. If you choose to go by car, you can take the N400 or the N320 from Madrid.

The balconies of the Hanging Houses
The Hanging Houses

Church of San Pedro
The façade of the cathedral
The main strret in Cuenca, Calle Alfonso XII

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