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Cuenca

  • Hanging houses in Cuenca © Turespaña

    Hanging houses in Cuenca © Turespaña

  • Cuenca Cathedral and Plaza Mayor ©Turespaña

    Cuenca Cathedral and Plaza Mayor ©Turespaña

  • Museum of Spanish Abstract Art. Cuenca © Turespaña

    Museum of Spanish Abstract Art. Cuenca © Turespaña

  
Cuenca
Cuenca, Castile-La Mancha
Cuenca

Between the gorges of the Júcar and Huécar rivers stands this town in Castile-La Mancha, home to an exceptional architectural heritage. The historic fortified city of Cuenca, formed by the area within the walls and the neighbourhoods of El Castillo, San Antón and Los Tiradores, has been declared a World Heritage site by the UNESCO. Its historic centre declared of Cultural Interest, extends along the edge of rocky cliffs in the heart of the Serranía de Cuenca mountains. The cathedral, the Hanging Houses and the cobbled streets will enchant even the most jaded traveller. Cuenca's Parador hotel is housed in an old Dominican convent, where guests can relax in comfort and enjoy the region's most traditional dishes. One of the best times to visit the city is during the Festival of Religious Music, which has been declared a festivity of International Tourist Interest. Art, history, adventure sports, thermal baths, and shooting are just a few of the options on offer in the province of Castile-La Mancha.

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Cuenca, with its historic walled centre which, together with another three neighbourhoods in the city, has been declared a World Heritage site by the UNESCO, extends along the top of a promontory which overlooks the ruins of an Arab castle, the ancient fortress of Kunka. Meanwhile far below, the modern city spreads along the valley of the Júcar river.

The 'upper city', with the mediaeval street layout which characterises the town, begins opposite the parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Luz, at the foot of the bridge of San Antón. This is the start of a route which goes up hills and steps and provides numerous points affording attractive views over the scenery.

The first stop could be at the church of San Felipe Neri, a sober construction which comes into its own during the Easter week celebrations, when the traditional Miserere is sung from its steps. The interior is decorated with Baroque and Rococo motifs. From the other side of the Plaza del Carmen square we can go up to the square of the Torre Mangana tower, one of Cuenca's ancient lookouts and a symbol of the city, visible from almost anywhere in the town. The Science Museum is a stone's throw away.

Mediaeval street layout

Before reaching the Plaza Mayor square we pass through the Plaza de la Merced square, containing such fine examples of the typical Baroque architecture of Cuenca as the church and convent of La Merced, and the seminary of San Julián. The Plaza Mayor square is presided by the arches of the town hall and the Gothic cathedral of Nuestra Señora de Gracia, built on an old mosque. Its structure features a combination of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements, as a result of its long construction period. Its unfinished monumental façade is set off by the wooden balconies and wrought iron grilles of the noble houses around the square, the street levels of which are today occupied by bars and taverns.

A street behind the church leads up to the Hanging Houses, the emblematic monument of the city, dating from the 15th century. One of the houses is the site of the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art, one of the best in Spain. The wooden balconies of the Hanging Houses are suspended over the Huécar river gorge, but the very best view is to be had by crossing the river. Well worth visiting on this bank of the river is the city's Parador hotel, the former convent of San Pablo. The experience of staying in this hotel is on a par with the chance to enjoy the delicious cuisine of Cuenca on offer in its restaurant. Zarajos (roast lamb innards), morteruelo (a type of hot pâté) and ajoarriero (a cod stew) are just a few of the local country-style dishes, as well as vegetables, roast meats and freshwater fish. Almonds, honey and figs are added to all kinds of creative dishes, and they are also the main ingredients of the dessert known as alajú (a wafer of honey, figs and almonds). The drinks include particularly the wines with the La Mancha Designation of Origin, and resolí, a liqueur made with coffee, sugar, and orange rind.

Back once again on our stroll around the streets of Cuenca, we're sure to come across numerous enchanting spots with a multitude of water troughs, small arches and alleyways. Sites to visit on the way from the cathedral to the Hanging Houses are the Provincial Museum, the Casa del Curato, the Diocesan Museum and the Episcopal Palace.

On the climb to the highest point of the city there are several interesting religious buildings such as the churches of San Miguel, San Nicolás and San Pedro, and the shrine of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias. It is well worth taking this route after nightfall when the whole city is illuminated. Another possibility is to take a walk around the paths known as the Rondas, which offer the best views over the gorge and the city, set amid a natural landscape.

Places of interest

A good time to come to Cuenca is during the Religious Music Festival, declared a Festival of International Tourist Interest, which takes place during Easter week. Musicologists, performers and music lovers all come together in selected venues such as the Cuenca Auditorium, the church of San Miguel and the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art.

The city of Cuenca is only one of the many points of interest in this province. About 30 kilometres from the capital are the foothills of the mountains known as the Serranía de Cuenca, with the unique landscape known as the Enchanted City, with its curious rock forms. These enormous limestone blocks have been eroded by water and wind into shapes reminiscent of objects, animals and humans forms. This surprising place is open all year round from 10 in the morning until sunset, and the itinerary takes about two hours. Although it is very easy to find the resemblances, there are signs indicating the name of each of the rocks (the Boats, the Slide, the Elephant, the Sea of Stone, the Diplodocus…).

Further north is the El Hosquillo game reserve and the spa resort of Solán de Cabras, known for its springs of medicinal waters. Mountain villages are dotted along our route as we explore the source of the Cuervo river, set in a spectacular landscape of waterfalls. Another option is to head for the region of La Alcarria, with several interesting towns and villages described in the work by the Spanish Nobel literature laureate, Camilo José Cela, in his work entitled 'Journey to the Alcarria'.

Heading southeast from Cuenca, the natural scenery and popular architecture forms a unique landscape where streams, waterfalls and lakes give way to places such as Selva Pascuala, Cañete and Moya. Renaissance convents, rock paintings and monumental sites containing Arab fortresses, ancient city walls and Gothic churches are just a few of the attractions. Further south the Hoces del Cabriel nature reserve has gorges and rock formations of outstanding scenic and natural value.

The western part of the province offers a historic route where Tarancón, Uclés and Saelices (the site of the Roman ruins of Segóbriga) are a few of the points of interest. The southern part is what is known as the 'La Mancha Húmeda' ('Wet La Mancha'), where the road leads past the windmills of Mota del Cuervo and to the spectacular castles of Belmonte and Alarcón. The Parador hotel in Alarcón is housed in an 8th-century fortress, and is a unique place to stay.

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Calendar

La Grande Chapelle durante la Semana de Música Religiosa de Cuenca © Semana de Música Religiosa. Santiago Torralba

Mar 25, 2018 to Apr 1, 2018

Festivity of International Tourist Interest

Cuenca
Religious Music Week

Procession of the Camino del Calvario. Easter week in Cuenca © Turespaña

Mar 25, 2018 to Apr 1, 2018

Festivity of International Tourist Interest

Cuenca
Easter Week in Cuenca

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