Segovia, Spain. Located just an hour outside of Madrid, Segovia is a treasure trove of Romanesque monuments. Discover this beautiful Spanish city.
Located just an hour outside of Madrid, Segovia is a treasure trove of Romanesque monuments. This city of 55,000 lies in the southern area of the Castile and Leon autonomous community, and right on the Camino de Santiago route (St. John’s way pilgrimage) that departs from Madrid.
The origin of this city dates back to the Celtiberian age. That Segovia was once a part of the Roman Empire is evident by the towering presence of its historic roman aqueduct, which is a symbol of the city, even appearing on the city’s coat of arms. The Moorish age left little evidence of having influenced the appearance of the city, which has lead some historians to believe that it was uninhabited during this period and later revived in the 11th century. The end of the Middle Ages was Segovia’s most opulent period, a time when the city became home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the region of Castile and a successful textile industry that would help bring the city centuries of fame. Segovia also housed the royal court of the house of Trastamara, where Isabella of Castile (in Spanish, Isabel I de Castilla), known later as Isabel la Católica, was crowned as the queen.
In 1985, UNESCO formally recognized the wonderful harmony of Segovia’s old town and the impressive beauty of its aqueduct by declaring them both World Heritage Sites.
The aqueduct of Segovia is likely one of the best preserved remnant of Roman engineering. It was built between the 1st and 2nd centuries and was used until recent years to transport water. Standing at 29 meters tall (in the plaza del Azoguejo, the most photographed part of the monument) and 818 meters in length, the massive aqueduct impresses observers with its more than 170 arches made of cut stone fit together without the use of mortar.
Segovia however is much more than the aqueduct: the old town has the distinction of containing the greatest amount of Romanesque buildings in Europe. These include the aljama (the Jewish quarter), next to the old city wall that runs over three kilometers around the old city to protect it in a stone embrace and watch over the narrow streets by the old synagogue (converted to a convent today), the butcher shop (which is the museum of the city today) and the Jewish cemetery.
This medieval wall has also been incredibly preserved. It begins and ends at another one of the city’s most celebrated attractions: the Alcázar, a royal palace-residence from the 12th century that rises above the Segovian landscape and displays the evolution of different architectural styles in its towers and walls and offers a magical sight.
A walk down calle Real is like wandering through a living museum of architecture, where you can view buildings that date back from the 15th to the 20th century. You’ll pass The Casa de la Canaleja, The Casa de los Picos, the Palacio del Conde, and the building of the Alhóndiga as you make your way to the plaza mayor (the town square), where a mustering of storks cordially welcome you as they twitter from the top of the Catedral de Santa María, popularly known as “La Dama de las Catedrales” in honor of its elegance and in reference to the fact that it is considered the last gothic cathedral built in Spain.
Segovia is still a living city: each year its streets and plazas host Semana Santa (Easter Week) festivities that have been officially declared “of regional touristic interest”. For the last 25 years, each May the Titrimundi festival is celebrated, the world’s most prestigious puppet festival. In June, Folk Segovia brings traditional music performers together from Spain and other countries. In July, the city is filled with classical music during the Festival de Segovia. In September, the Hay Festival is a celebration of literature that attracts thinkers, artists and writers. Each November, the European film festival Muestra de Cine Europeo Ciudad de Segovia (MUCES) offers viewers the best in European film.