Parish church of St. Stephen
This pretty, made of stones, Roman Catholic church (Iglesia parroquial de Sant Esteve) is centrally located by closed for traffic square (Plaça del Poble). It was originally built in Romanesque style in the 12th century. Later on the church was enriched in many addings and alterations easy to distinguish now. The oldest, romanesque in style is the semi-circular apse decorated with lombard arches and covered with a hemispherical vault. The stone bell tower dominating the city skyline looks mostly original. Well, the clock put on the top doesn't fit well. The interior is rather modest with few baroque decorations including small but very decorative main altar. I paid attention to interesting romanesque mural paintings which depicted the Apocalypse.
The church is open for visitors only in July and August from 10 am to 1 pm and from 3 pm to 6 pm. Other months it opens only for the holy service at 8 am and 7.30 pm on Mon. - Sat. and 8 am, 10.30 am, 12 am and 7.30 pm on Sunday and church holidays.
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Monument, religion and history
The only monument I found in Andorra la Vella was this stone statue of a bishop in my picture.
History of Andorra is strictly associated with Roman Catholic religion and even today, according to official statistics it's the most catholic state in Europe (over 90% of the total population). It's still divided into parishes (seven) and bishop's insignia are on national flag and coat of arms.
Tradition holds that Charlemagne (Charles the Great; the King of the Franks 768–814) granted a charter to the Andorran people in return for their fighting the Moors (the medieval Muslim inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula - today's Spain and Portugal, northern and western Africa). Overlordship of the territory passed to the local count of Urgell (the historical Catalan county) and eventually to the bishop of the diocese of Urgell. But the territory was disputed between the bishop and its northern French neighbour.
In 1278 (on September 8 - National Day in Andorra now) a paréage (a feudal treaty recognising joint sovereignty over a territory by two rulers, who were on an equal footing) was signed which provided that Andorra's sovereignty be shared between the French count of Foix (whose title would ultimately transfer to the French head of state) and the bishop of La Seu d'Urgell, in Catalonia, Spain. This gave the small principality its territory and political form.
During World War II, Andorra remained neutral and was an important smuggling route between Vichy France and Spain. Given its relative isolation, Andorra has existed outside the mainstream of European history, with few ties to countries other than France and Spain. In recent times, however, its thriving tourist industry along with developments in transportation and communication have removed the country from its isolation and its political system was thoroughly modernised in 1993, the year in which it finally became a member of the United Nations.
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On the roof of the government
Andorra la Vella is a small town easy to walk. It stretches on a distance of almost 2 km along the river valley and on the east it's joined with seperate city called Escaldes-Engordany. You have to watch road signs to figure out in what city you are. I parked my car too far to east close to the border between the two towns. Do NOT go east unless you want to see nothing more than numerous car shops and services.
The oldest part of the town called Barri Antic (Old Quarter) is located along western part of Avinguda Meritxell, west of Placa Rebes and father west. There is a longitudinal square closed for traffic in front of St. Stephen's Church (look up to see the bell tower). It's called Plaça del Poble (Plaza del Pueblo in Spanish) that means Town Square. The architecture and fasade decorations of some of the houses on the square are worth seeing. The square is also a popular local gathering place, especially in the evening. Most of the square is located on the roof of modern administrative buildings of the Andorra government. It's a place to relax and to amaze views over the huge mountains around. You can easily see telecommunication antenna installed on the white summit of the Pic de Carroi (2317m; 7602 ft). I even thought about climbing Pic de Carroi (4 hours up and down - follow the link below for details) for spectacular views over Andorra but I didn't due lack of time and shoes for climbing in snow. And I was too excited about the new country I was going to see that was Spain.
So, I walked a bit father west towards next valley town called Santa Coloma (see my off the beaten path) and soon came back to drive to Spain.
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Caldea is a spa in Andorra's capital.
It has indoor lagoon (huge) and outside area where sometimes you are in the water while is snowing.
For the price of EUR 30 you get the admission for three hours to the jacuzzies, waterbeds, aztec bads, saunas and so on...
It has restaurant, bar, massages area, beauty, shoping area.
It is open from around 9 AM to 11PM.
I do not really like the place because I do not like to touch some people when I nude, I mean, with my swimsuit. When I go to these places to relax I like to relax and do not wait in line to use any area.
If you go during the weekend think the place will be totally FULL.
The building is fantastic, it is made with thousand of crystals and metal.
Nobility of Time
Nobility of Time by Salvador Dali. Located in Piazza Rotonda, where on some days you can find a lovely market selling local produce - like fruit jams, dried mushrooms and homemade remedies for colds. Nobility of Time was donated to the city of Andorra, much to everyone's delight. It is made of bronze and is 5 meters high.
museo del perfum
This little museum, located inside a shopping centre, is interesting to visit only if you are a fan of perfumes. I found it, generally speaking, very little interesting. There's a cover charge, and it is worth paying it only because once inside you are allowed tocreate your own essence, which can be kind of nice, especially on a rainy day.
Of more interest, inside the same building but for free, is the large water clock spreading on two floors.... it really gives you the impression that time in running out.
sant esteve church
Sant Esteve Church is a lovely romanicchurch that you will come across as you'll be looking for the old Parliament of Andorra la Vella. It is located in a square, from which little pedestrian lanes start off. It dates back to the 12th century (and obviously later restored) and the bell tower is really something to write home about.. It is a heritage property registered in the Cultural Heritage of Andorra.
casa de la vall
The Casa de la Vall is where the old Parliament of Andorra had its seat. it is located in the old pedestrian area of Andorra, at the end of a lanedeparting from Plaza Princep Benlloch.
Its a simple square building, but what gives it its charm is that it is entirely built in local stone nad in Catalan style. Now no longer in use (the parliament does no longer exist, as a political entity) the house dates back to 1580 - when it was originally a private house. Don't miss on the main facade t the newshield of Andorra, the old one and some defence elements.
Andorra’s popularity is in its tax-free zones. Andorra has so unique system of taxies as a result different groups of goods cost less than in EU. For example, alcohol as whiskey, photo and video goods.
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Two main cities
Escald city is the continuation of Andorra la Vella city and in the map are signed as independent cities. However, in real life there is no border between them. Both cities are the centre of Andorra’s economic, business and culture.
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Plaça del Poble
The 'People's Square', this popular gathering place is situated behind the church of Sant Esteve (St Stephen. It forms the roof of the local government office, and is also above a multi-storey car park which you can reach by lift. The views are admittedly spectacular from here, so you can see why it is so popular, but the prevalence of concrete and the sports courts for the local youngsters doesn't really make it a particularly pleasant place to hang out.
Let's face it, shopping is one of the main things to do in Andorra's capital city. It's a tax-haven, and as such, a lot of items are cheaper here than elsewhere in Europe, so there are many many shops offering electronics, watches, perfume etc, and many many MANY shoppers taking advantage.
For the smokers among you, cigarettes are cheaper here than anywhere else I've seen - 1.80E in September 2008, compared to 2.50E in Spain, 5E in Paris, and about £6 in Britain!
What not to buy
I went for souvenir from Andorra and what represents this country more than electronics and the likes. The telephone I bought did not have the charecteristics promised. I never had even a receit for it. After two months of usage I had to give up on it.
Duty free and grumpy cafes
Andorra del... well Andorra City/town is a fairly common day/afternoon trip from most of the Andorran ski resorts. The shops are a bit cheaper, but the cafes were unpleasant, and all in all it was a waste of ski ing time.
March 05- I read over this again, and decided it isn't quite what I meant- The cafes look nice and have reasonable atmosphere,- the coffee is excellent- but the staff were so unpleasant- And yes I was a tourist- but I can order in a cafe in passable French, We make an effort - they could too... Arinsal has really friendly pubs which sell coffee too.
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You've got to see Caldea spas. An unusual building that blends in well with the surrounding Pyrenean landscape.
It contains spas (you can choose from various scents for your spa) and offers loads of hydromassage & beauty treatments - girly heaven :)
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