Cuenca – a Spanish city with a rich history

A walk through ancient Cuenca: the path between the “Hanging Houses” and the famous San Pablo Bridge

Medieval Cuenca, located in Castile-La Mancha, bears the title of one of the cities of Spain recognized as World Heritage of Humanity. Many monuments scattered throughout the Iberian Peninsula can be proud to be on the list of unique objects of UNESCO, but only 15 settlements of the country have received this deserved title of international importance. Cuenca’s famous hanging houses, inextricably linked to the history of the city, have contributed to this recognition.

To discover and experience all of Cuenca’s charms, including both its most popular and least known places, you can take a tour of the city, which rises on steep cliffs. On the tour route, you certainly won’t pass by the hanging houses that Cuenca offers to its visitors. A striking example of traditional local architecture are the wooden balconies that seem to fall into the abyss from the walls of the houses at the very edge of the cliff.

Nowadays, the period of construction of which dates back to the end of the 15th century, is home to the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art. If you buy a ticket to the museum, you get to visit these houses, the interior walls of which are decorated with works of the artist Fernando Zóbel, whose name is also given to the train station of the city. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the City Council of Cuenca bought the remaining three hanging houses, which are still supported by supports to avoid further destruction. Past centuries have damaged the walls of the hanging houses, and these unique buildings could have been lost forever.

The San Pablo Bridge, the luxurious Parador Hotel, and more

Virgin Mary and San Julián Cathedral

Among the curiosities on the itinerary, you can’t miss the part of the route along Cuenca’s ancient street that leads you to the Plaza Mayor, where the magnificent Gothic Cathedral of the Virgin Mary and San Julián, built in the 13th century, appears before your eyes. The tour does not include a visit to the temple, but the guide’s narration at the gate of the church will give you an overview of its importance in the context of the region. If you are interested in the cathedral, if you have time you can go inside during the day and admire the Asian-inspired decoration, which is “hidden” behind the two wooden doors of the sacristy.

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Another great historic site of the city awaits you five minutes’ walk from the square. Stretching next to the hanging houses, the San Pablo Bridge is one of Cuenca’s most famous landmarks. In fact, many residents remember the current King and Queen of Spain taking a photo here when they visited Cuenca during their honeymoon trip through the country. The bridge connecting the banks of the Huécar River was built at the beginning of the 20th century and its structure resembles the metal “tracery” of the Eiffel Tower with flecks of wood.

San Pablo Bridge, luxury hotel-parador and more

Nowadays the San Pablo Bridge consists of wooden and metal beams, but originally it was made of stone and connected the town to the monastery, which gave the bridge its name. Today the monastery houses a luxury parador hotel and although the cells of the ancient monks have been converted into hotel rooms, it is still possible to enjoy the beautiful atmosphere of the convent and attend mass in the monastery church.

During Easter (Semana Santa), there are concerts of religious music in the temple, which attracts musicians from all over the world to Cuenca. If you have a chance to visit the city during these celebrations, don’t miss it: Cuenca’s Easter has been declared an international tourist attraction.

Cuenca's famous hanging houses

Gastronomy and a trip to the mountains

A stroll through Cuenca must have left you with a good aesthetic aftertaste, so now there’s no better solution than to stretch your appetite at the table of the El Secreto restaurant in the historic center of the city. Here you’ll find cava, an appetizer of duck liver (bombones de foie), a battered eggplant salad with goat cheese, fried calamari, duck breast with port and cod with spinach and pine nuts on the menu. The sweet note of the day will ring out at the end of your meal when you’re served brownies with vanilla ice cream.

After seeing the sights of Cuenca and having had your fair share of experiences, you can head to the Sierra de Cuenca Mountains on a guided tour in a comfortable bus. The price of this itinerary includes admission to the Enchanted City (Ciudad Encantada), an amazing complex of karst rocks in which the rocks have long undergone erosive processes and taken the most fantastic shapes. A bus ride will give you the opportunity to photograph the stunning views of the “Devil’s Window” (Ventano del Diablo) and the marshlands of Lake Uña.

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The excursion to the mountains will naturally awaken your desire for refreshment, and you can enjoy a delicious meal at Cuenca’s famous Hotel Paradora. The price of the tour includes a special menu, where among the many dishes you will find the typical “Cuenca” snacks, such as morteruelo (pork liver pate) and warm garlic toast. For the main course, you can choose from pork cheeks stewed in red wine, duck confit in orange sauce and pineapple pie, trout in mushroom sauce and grilled swordfish with roasted garlic and tomato. For dessert, a puff pastry with cream filling and rustic cheese ice cream.

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Tags: cuenca, castilla la mancha, unesco, Hanging Houses, world heritage of humanity

Cuenca

Cuenca (Spain) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main attractions of Cuenca with descriptions, travel guides and maps.

City of Cuenca.

Cuenca is a city in Spain in the autonomy of Castile-La Mancha. It is located between the gorges of the rivers Júcar and Huecar a little east of the geographical center of the country. Cuenca is one of the most beautiful medieval cities of Spain. Its historical center is located on a beautiful rocky plateau and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thanks to its old cobblestone streets and ancient architecture, Cuenca has perfectly preserved its historical atmosphere, and the famous houses hanging over the cliffs, as if growing out of them, create a magical spectacle. This place is perfect for wandering through the ancient streets with picturesque alleyways, fascinating historical monuments and fabulous views at almost every turn.

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Geography and climate

Cuenca is located a little north of the geographical center of the autonomy, halfway between Madrid and Valencia. It is divided into two parts: the Old City and the New City. The historic center is located on a rocky cliff bordered by the gorge of the Júcar River to the north and its tributary, the Huecar River, to the south. The center of the city is located at an altitude of 997 meters above sea level. The climate is a Mediterranean continental. Summers are hot and dry, winters are cool with rare subzero temperatures.

Old Town

Old Town

Tourist information

  1. Population – 54.9 thousand people.
  2. The area – 911.06 square kilometers.
  3. Language: Spanish.
  4. Currency – Euro.
  5. Visa – Schengen.
  6. Time – Central European UTC +1, in summer +2.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit: April-June and September-October.

History

A Celtic settlement arose on a high rocky cliff at the beginning of our era. Later the Romans came and founded a small fortress and garrison here. In 711 Cuenca was conquered by the Arabs. During the Moorish period the town was called Kuvenka. By the middle of the 12th century there was a large settlement with well fortified walls.

Evening in Cuenca

Evening in Cuenca

In 1177 Cuenca was taken by King Alfonso VIII of Castile who made it the capital of the Kingdom and transferred the diocese here. At first, Christians, Muslims and Jews coexisted peacefully here. Later, the new laws gave rise to strife, which led to the formation of enclaves divided along religious lines.

Like many Castilian towns, Cuenca flourished until the end of the 16th century. It produced cloth and wool, raised cattle and worked ivory. The city’s high prosperity attracted numerous artists and architects who erected beautiful buildings and created valuable works of art. At the end of the 16th century, a black streak began: plagues, droughts, an invasion of locusts, epidemics, and new laws that led to economic decline. In the 18th century they tried to revive textile production here, but in vain. In the 19th century Cuenca became the capital of the province of the same name.

Panorama of Cuenca

Panorama of Cuenca

How to get there

Cuenca is located between Madrid and Valencia / Alicante. These cities have major international airports. Cuenca also has regular bus and rail connections to the Spanish capital and Valencia. In addition, there are high-speed trains. The trip from Madrid by them takes less than an hour. Trains arrive at the station, located 5 km from the city center. You can get to the historic center by bus or cab.

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Shopping

Cuenca has a beautiful collection of small art galleries, making it a great place to shop for a variety of art. Souvenirs can be bought at the tourist information center.

Cuenca

Cuenca

The old town has many charming cafes with terraces. Popular traditional dishes include Zarajos (roast lamb), Morteruelo (a kind of hot pâté), Ajoarriero (cod stew), vegetable stew, roast meat, and river fish.

Streets of Cuenca

Streets of Cuenca

Attractions

Hanging Houses

Hanging Houses

The Hanging Houses are a major symbol of Cuenca. They are picturesque medieval buildings built on a rocky cliff above the Huecar River gorge. The houses literally cling to the cliffs, creating a magical cityscape. Originally, the entire gorge was dotted with such structures, but now there aren’t many of these medieval houses left.

Cathedral

Cathedral

The Cathedral of Santa Maria la Mayor is an impressive religious structure in the city’s main square, built between the 12th and 13th centuries in Norman and Gothic style. Although the facade was damaged in 1902, the interior of the cathedral is beautifully preserved. The main features of the interior are the 18th century altarpiece by Ventura, the beautiful Renaissance arch, the 13th century Mater Dolorosa by Pedro de Mena in the sacristy and the crucifix by Jañez de la Almedina in the chapel of los Caballeros.

Adjacent to the cathedral is the bishop’s palace, which displays the cathedral’s exceptional art collection.

Former Convent of San Pablo

The former monastery of San Pablo

In a picturesque location above the Huecar Gorge (opposite the Hanging Houses) is the former monastery of San Pablo, converted into a hotel. The monastery was built between the 16th and 18th centuries and is located on the outskirts of Cuenca. The Gothic monastery church has been turned into a charming café.

Carmelite Monastery

Monastery of the Carmelites

The Carmelite Monastery is a beautiful baroque structure built in the 17th century. It is located at the highest point of Cuenca with a beautiful view of the valley of the Huecar River. It is now home to a university.

San Felipe de Neri

San Felipe de Neri

San Felipe de Neri is an ornate 18th century Rococo church. It has a vaulted nave resembling a Latin cross. Its simple exterior contrasts with an exquisite interior with fanciful Rococo details, especially chapels and decorative columns with beautiful capitals.

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Virgen de la Luz

Virgen de la Luz

The Virgen de la Luz is a beautiful 16th-century church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It has a beautiful Rococo façade.

Nuestra Señora de las Angustias

Nuestra Señora de las Angustias

Nuestra Señora de las Angustias is a small 17th century baroque church located on the site of an ancient chapel.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor is the central square of the city. The most interesting building is the Baroque town hall, built in the second half of the 18th century. The main street leading to the square is Alfonso VIII. It was architecturally formed in the 18th century and contains several beautiful historic buildings.

San Martin Quarter

San Martín quarter

San Martin is one of Cuenca’s most charming neighborhoods. It is a neighborhood of winding streets and houses hanging on a cliff.

Old Castle

The Old Castle

There is almost nothing left of the ancient Moorish fortress and impregnable Christian citadel in Cuenca. Fragments of the walls and entrance arches are a reminder of its former grandeur. Though the ascent here will reward you with beautiful scenery.

Monastery of the Conceptualists

The Conceptionist Monastery

The Conceptionist Monastery was founded in the early 16th century. The monastery church was built in the Baroque style.

San Andrés

San Andrés

San Andrés is a Gothic church located in a small, quiet square. It is closed to the public.

San Miguel

San Miguel

San Miguel is a magnificent late 13th century building with an original ancient apse. The rest of the building was restored in the 18th century.

Mangana Tower

Mangana Tower

The Mangana Tower is a tall stone tower with a clock on the facade.

San Pablo Bridge

San Pablo Bridge

San Pablo is a pedestrian bridge over the gorge with a beautiful view of the old town and surrounding area. It dates from the beginning of the 20th century. The first bridge on this site was built in stone in the 16th century, but it collapsed in the 19th century.

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