Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day trip ideas: Ávila

Some 120km from Madrid is the historic walled city of Ávila, which has many fine examples of Romanesque architecture. There are a number of important churches here including the Basilic of St Vincent and San Pedro's Church, located on the pretty Plaza Santa Teresa (named after the town's saint). The gothic style cathedral dating from the twelfth century is another must with its very ornate decoration. Entry costs 4€. The walls too can be visited for a small fee, and you have spectacular views of the surrounding area from them. They're perhaps the most famous in Spain and are perfectly preserved. The city is a food lover paradise; trying the local chuletón or grilled streak in one of its many famed restaurants is highly recommended. Also you should make sure you try yema; these are traditional sweets from Ávila made from milk and egg yokes. We really loved the café-delicatessen La Flor de Castilla (Pl. Sant Teresa 6, or Calle Caballeros 3). They have delicious cakes, pastries, chocolate and other typical products such as hams, cheeses and yema. They've been going since 1860!

Ávila walls
Yema- typical sweets
As Spain's highest provincial capital and at an altitude of 1200 metres, we can tell you that it gets very cold here. We've been twice, in January and in March, and both times it was chilly- you'll notice the difference from Madrid. In fact a Spanish saying goes "Avila, 9 months of winter, 3 months of hell". In summer it would make a nice change from the heat of Madrid.

Getting there: buses leave the Estación Sur bus station (metro Mendez Álvaro, line 6) around every 90 minutes and the journey takes an hour and three quarters. The return journey is roughly 15€. See the Avanza Bus website for more details. There are also many trains from Chamartin (about 4 or 5 kms north of the city centre- you can get there on metro line 1 or 10) and the journey takes roughly 90 minutes. The cost is around 20€ return. We recommend paying a little extra for the train as they are very efficient and much more roomy. See for more details.

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