"Castilla" is "the land of castles" .... evidently, visiting the medieval castles of the place is one of the "must see" activities. The highest concentrations of castles are perhaps placed alomg the Duero river, in the provinces of Valladolid and Soria. The first one is predominant of 15th century castles (there is a local style, known as "school of Valladolid") the later includes more ancient castles (10-11th century, some of them of Arabic facture).
As individual castle, the Alcazar (from Arabic Al-Qasar, "the castle") of Segovia is also a must see.
You can visit my pages on Valladolid and Soria, for more information.
In spite of being off the most beaten tourist routes and too far from Madrid as to keep day-trippers away, Salamanca has a surprising international and jovial atmosphere that coexists with a conservative Castilian society. This unique combination is due to its renowned University, one of the oldest in Europe, which has turned Salamanca into a city of culture and nightlife, as well as one of the favourite destinations for students of Spanish as a foreign language. As a matter of fact, around 40.000 of the 160.000 inhabitants of Salamanca are students at the University, many of them foreigners learning Spanish. In this way, most of the visitors to Salamanca do not just pass over like in most touristy towns, but get engaged into the city life and become part of the urban picture.
Valladolid, the capital of Castile and Leon, is along with Madrid and Saragossa, the only relatively big city in the central plains of Spain (over 300.000 inhabitants).
Valladolid held the honour to be the main seat of the Spanish Court for many years until it was definitely moved to Madrid in the XVI century. There are many jewels left from that period of splendour in Valladolid, but it is true that the flight of thousands of people from the neighbouring rural areas in the second half of the 20th century led to an urban chaos from which the city is slowly but firmly recovering.
Among the works of art that remain from the time of splendour in Valladolid, the so-called "plateresque" buildings stand out with full rights. The ornamentally carved façades of the Saint Paul church and the Saint Gregory college are worth the visit to Valladolid. The latter hosts the National Museum of Sculpture, a must for anyone interested in Spanish religious iconography. Here pictured is a detail of the Renaissance courtyard of Saint Gregory.
The first to take into account when planning a trip to Castile and Leon is its huge size. This is, by far, the largest national subdivision within the EU. As a matter of fact, Castile and Leon is about the same size as countries like Portugal or Hungary or more than three times bigger than Belgium, although it has only one fourth of its population. Indeed its 2.5 million inhabitants would comfortably fit into the population of the city of Madrid and there would still be room for another million. With these figures, it is easy to understand that this is a very sparsely populated area, with one of the lowest population densities in Europe.
Administratively, the Autonomous Community was created in the early 80s by merging the former regions of Castile (from which Cantabria and Rioja were segregated) and Lion. The result was reminiscent to the medieval kingdom of Castile and Leon, but not well accepted by all of its citizens.
The region is divided into 9 provinces which bear all the names of their respective capital cities: Avila, Burgs, Lion, Palence, Salamanca, Segovia, Soria, Valley of Olid and Zamora.
No matter which road you choose to approach Segovia (pop. 55.000), the perspective you will have in front of you will be fairy-tale-like. Its wealth in monuments deserves way more time than a simple day-trip, but for those on a tight schedule, even a short encounter with the Beautiful Lady will be more than rewarding. Despite its small size, Segovia has all it takes to be a perfect tourist destination: close enough to a major city, an extremely rich artistic heritage and a spectacular natural backdrop with plenty of possibilities for adventure sports.
As for the downsides (yes, there are some as well): the nightlife is not too exciting, the accommodation offer does not match the category of the city and the gastronomy is below the standards expected in other areas in Spain, particularly once you have exhausted the specialities of the conservative local food scene (roast baby pork, lamb, bread soup...).
This picture shows a detail of the Roman aqueduct, one of the landmarks of Segovia.
Absolutely amazing! This aqueduct is considered as Segovia's leading monument and it is one of the greatest surviving examples of Roman engineering. This is also considered as the largest and most preserved aqueduct of all time!
Truly magical, this majestic castle is said to be the inspiration behind Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle.
People can visit the castle which now serves as a museum from 10:00 a.m. to 19:00 p.m.. in summer ((April-September) and 10:00 a.m. to 18:00 p.m in winter (October-March).
REDUCE TICKET 2.50EUR
TOWER OF JUAN II 1.50EUR
GUIDED TOUR (Supplement) 1.00EUR
The hilltop castle at Peñafiel is still impressive after so many years of forsake and neglect. From the distance, it looks like a vessel anchored in the Duero bank.
The castle has been recently renovated and now hides a modern construction in its core that hosts the Wine Museum of the town.
The area is indeed rich in wine cellars, many of them family run in the old town and some can even be visited.
Medina de Rioseco is the capital of the Western part of the Land of Fields. In spite of the fact that the sea is hundreds of kilometres away, it is dubbed the town of the Admirals, as it got its biggest splendour under the Enríquez family, which held the title of the Admirals of Castille.
The city lost its castle and the palace of the Admirals during the Napoleonic wars, but its amazing churches and quaint arcaded streets still stand there.
Medina del Campo is the second largest town in the province of Valladolid. During the Middle Ages it hosted the most important trade fair in the Kingdom of Castille.
Not far away from the city limits stands the Castle of La Mota, one of the largest and best preserved fortresses in Spain. This one is untypically build with bricks in the Mudejar style.
Under the auspices of the Holy See, the mighty crowns of Castille and Portugal reached an agreement in Tordesillas as how to divide the new lands that were been explored among themselves.
That was in 1494. A few years later, the castle of Tordesillas was the place where the Queen Jane the Insane was secluded until the day of her death, as she was said to have lost the reason for her lover to her husband Philip the Handsome.
In the XXI century, part of the architectural legacy of the then wealthy town can still be visited, including the famous Convent of the Claires.
The province of Valladolid occupies a central position in Castille and Lion. It is the flattest area in Castille, crossed by the river Duero and several of its tributaries.
Apart from a stunning number of Castles and historical towns, this province is home to some of the most celebrated wineries in the Ribera del Duero region.
When the Christians who had found refuge in the mountains felt that the plains were safe enough, King Ordoño I moved his capital to Lion, a former Roman military garnison. It was then that the Kingdom of Lion was born.
The current province of Lion covers the Northern part thereof. A number of natural regions, like the Bierzo, the Maragatería, Babia, the Ancares, the Moon Valley or the Valley of the Silence have preserved their millenary cultrual traditions as well as an environment in almost perfect condition.
the Northern part of the province of Palence claims to host the highest concentration in the world of Romanesque art. Almost every little village and hamlet in the area hosts proudly a small rural church built in this style.
Aguilar de Campoo is the most monumental towns in this area. The town is home to several convents, Medieval wall gates, the ruins of a castle, a huge Barroque collegiate church, a picturesque plaza mayor, a delicious Romanesque little church, and the Museum Romanesque art.
Make a visit at the forge mechanics at Compludo. This old forge-hammer is driven by water force and water is also pushing in air to the forge bed. Hmmm, quite interesting!
Look at my Compludo page.
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