Things to Do in Castile and León
A popular day trip from Madrid, the ancient Walls of Avila are the remnants of the medieval bastion surrounding the provincial capital of Avila. The UNESCO World Heritage listed walls are renowned as one of Europe’s finest examples of a medieval wall, impressively preserved and stretching for 2.5km.
Dating back to 1090, the Walls of Avila took almost 600 years to complete and feature 88 towers and 6 gates along their length. Towering 12 meters high, the walls are an imposing sight and walking along the top is a popular pastime for visitors, providing expansive views over the city. Only around half of the walls circumference is walkable from the top, but exploring the city periphery from the ground is still a fascinating stroll, taking in the elaborately carved stone gateways. Inside the walls, the hilltop city of Avila is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage site and as the birthplace of mystic Saint Teresa of Jesus has become an important pilgrimage site.
On your journey from Segovia’s Roman aqueduct to its Plaza Mayor, you’ll no doubt pass by one of the city’s most intriguing buildings, the Casa de los Picos. One look at the façade and you’ll easily see how it earned its name, the (loosely translated) House of Sharp Points, as its front is covered top to bottom with over 600 granite, diamond-shaped reliefs.
It is believed that the 15th century noble home’s curious façade was created as a possible form of defense given the building’s rather exposed location. Legend has it, though, that the house was well known (famously or infamously) for its previous owners, so when new ones moved in, they chose to cover the façade. These days, the thick-walled structure is home to the Segovia Art School and serves as an exhibition hall, which is open to the public free of charge.
One of Avila’s most picturesque spots is its Plaza Mayor. Long one of the city’s central meeting points, the square’s formation dates back to around the 11th century when the city was growing. The square is more commonly known as the Plaza del Mercado Chico, or The Small Market Square — and is indeed home to a weekly fruit and vegetable market.
Also home to City Hall with its grand 19th-century façade, the expansive main square is noted for its portico-lined perimeter, along which you’ll find the storefronts of various shops and food establishments. Come here to snack on some tapas at one of the plaza’s restaurants, or to make a bakery stop to sample the city’s signature sweet, the yema de Ávila, an egg yolk-based sugar ball that tastes yummier than it sounds.
Things to do near Castile and León
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