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Home » Culture » Spain » Places » Cities » Cuenca



In the center of Spain, between Madrid and Valencia, sits the province of Cuenca and its capital city of the same name. Discover Cuenca attractions!

In the center of Spain, between Madrid and Valencia, sits the province of Cuenca and its capital city of the same name.

The city of Cuenca has a population of about 57,000 according to 2011 census statistics. It is located nearly in the geographical center of the province, about 950 meters above sea level, with the Jucar and the Huecar Rivers running along either side.

Although the region's origins can be traced back to the Late Stone Age, the earliest recorded history of a city called Qūnka (the origin of the city's current name) dates back to the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. In the year 1177, the city was conquered by the Christian king Alfonso VIII when it received the Fuero de Cuenca, one of the Kingdom of Castile's oldest set of legal codes. During the 15th and the 16th centuries, textile manufacturing helped create a strong economy in the city. In the 18th century however, the industry collapsed, causing Cuenca to lose a large portion of its population. Population began growing again the following century and in 1833 it became the capital of the province. Today, Cuenca's economy is mainly based on tourism, an industry that got an extra boost in Cuenca when UNESCO declared the city a World Heritage Site.

UNESCO based its declaration on the incredible amount of historic monuments found in the city's old town area. Cuenca can be divided into two zones: the old part and the new part of the city. The old town of Cuenca sits on a hilltop surrounded by the ravines of the Jucar River and its tributary the Huecar. The new area of the city is located on the other side of that river.

The historic and artistic importance of the city is undeniable. Towering over the main square is the Cathedral, a magnificent and majestic building that began to be constructed in 12th century. The Cathedral displays one of the earliest example of Gothic style in Spain and it contains Romanesque elements along with Renaissance additions, all of which make this a unique piece of Spanish religious architecture.

Cuenca is also famous for its casas colgadas (hanging houses), also jokingly referred to by the people of Cuenca as rascacielos (skyscrapers). These buildings, which perch right on the edge of the deep ravine that runs through the old town, stick out off the cliff's edge where they remain suspended over air. These hanging houses found along Alfonso VIII street reach a height of three or four floors. In the back part of these houses however, built against the ravine wall, they may contain up to 10 stories.

One of the most significant events in Cuenca's road to become a well-known tourist destination occurred in 1966, when Fernando Zobel and Gustavo Torner opened the Spanish Museum of Abstract Spanish Art, the first museum of its kind in Spain. The museum attracted a number of important Spanish and international artists and intellectuals and it continues to be a popular attraction. Cuenca offers an impressive list of ten museums, from the Castile-La Mancha Science Museum to the Museum of Religious Art.

Visitors to Cuenca can see unique architecture in a variety of different structures: the Cathedral, 8 different churches, 6 convents, 3 monestaries and a dozen civil buildings all complete the scenic panorama that visitors can enjoy in the ciudad de las casas colgadas.

If you have a few days off, Cuenca is an exciting place to visit during popular festivals such as la Semana de Música Religiosa (Religious Music Week), Easter Week, the Festival  of San Julián and the Festival of San Mateo. Just 25 kilometers to the north east, in Valdecabras, you can also visit the dreamlike landscape of la Ciudad Encantada (the enchanted city), where natural erosion has left surprising rock formations.

Visitors are also recommended to dine in one of the area's mesones, restaraunts that offer delicious dishes such as morteruelo and ajoarriero, meals flavored with local wines that are as interesting as they are unknown. Top off the culinary experience with alajú and prepare to be surprised by exquisite simplicity. Accompany with Cuenca's traditional liqueur, resolí.

We hope to see you in Cuenca!