I stopped in Salamanca for lunch when driving from Madrid to Lisbon and ended up staying there for a week, caught up in the lovely atmosphere of the city. Its graceful red sandstone architecture, with two cathedrals and splendid university buildings dating from the 15th century, gives the city the quality of an alfresco cultural living room – where academics, students and locals live on a sort of dreamy, theatrical open-air film set. Street names are hand-painted in scarlet on signs and the youthful population creates a hedonistic vibe at night when darkness descends. 白天, check out the Plaza Mayor and the lovely Doll Museum.
Approached by a wonderful medieval bridge over the Duero River, Zamora, perched on its sandstone cliff, offers so much. More romanesque churches (24) than any other city, with their pink-tinged sandstone glowing warmly in the sunlight. Add to this the Baltasar Lobo sculpture museum near the medieval castle, the Duero wines from the surrounding gentle hills, the famous Holy Week processions, an eclectic collection of art deco buildings and you might not find time for the greatest gem of all, the Visigothic church of San Pedro de la Nave, 12 kilometres to the northwest.
Segovia. A heavenly city roughly one hour north-west of Madrid. I lived there for my Erasmus year but still sigh whenever I think about it. The centrepiece of this stunning place is the Roman aqueduct, built in the first century AD. If that doesn’t impress you then the Disney-inspiring Alcazar certainly will. The cathedral is the most modern gothic one in Europe, and Segovia offers beautiful views whichever way you are facing. For award-winning tapas pop to El Fogón Sefardí, or for casual bites go to El Sitio. This is a treasure trove of gastronomic and architectural delights, not to be missed!
The Spanish town that will definitely take your breath away is Ronda (in the province of Málaga, Andalucía). Between a 150m-deep rocky gorge, which you can admire from the bridge called Puente Nuevo, Ronda is a perfect place to see architecture influenced by the Romans, Arabs and the Catholic Monarchs. Going down the steps of the Water Mine at Casa del Rey Moro, admiring omnipresent beautiful mosaics, strolling around Ronda’s cobbled streets and passing by the oldest bullfighting rings in Spain, Plaza de Toros de Ronda, are some of the things you can do in beautiful Ronda!
We had little knowledge of what Vigo would be like before we visited it in 2017. What we found was a bustling port city with welcoming people and delicious food. Being on the Galician coast means the local speciality of octopus is abundant. Every restaurant does their own version of this delightful, meaty delicacy. In contrast to the prices in some of Spain’s more popular cities, Vigo is affordable – for less than €2 you could have a beer, or small glass of wine, and a small, free tapas. The highlight of our visit was a trip to the Cies Islands (a 45-minute ferry from Vigo), with golden beaches that have, rightfully, been named among the most beautiful in the world.
Tarazona, halfway between Soria and Zaragoza, has kept its medieval Arabic street plan and is therefore easy to get lost in. From the Romanesque church of St Mary Magdalene, high above the town, you can admire the ancient roofs and see the pattern of the town, with the 18th-century bullring at its centre, 和, opposite, the Mudéjar Cathedral, with its gothic wall paintings and amazing windows. In between are the hanging houses of the Jewish quarter, the ornate Renaissance town hall, and clusters of friendly bars and restaurants. At Easter it’s columns of women who carry the statue and beat the drums in the procession from St Mary Magdalene, and at that time of year the storks are everywhere.
Toledo is my best Spanish city. You feel like you are living in old centuries, or you are watching a real life of ancient soldiers. You even think that you are a warrior and you have to win the battle. It is really an interesting city with extraordinary walls and gates. After one hour’s walking, you will find the best view ever at mirador, where you can see a panoramic view all over the city. It is really so unique and you will fall in love with the majesty of this city.
Among the rolling landscapes by the Duero River, a gem of a small town is waiting to be discovered. Midway between Zaragoza and Valladolid, El Burgo de Osma is a treasure trove of history, from Roman ruins, a medieval castle, to perfectly preserved city walls, beautifully manicured gardens and an elegant plaza mayor. The centrepiece, 尽管, is the magnificent cathedral, built of honey-coloured stone over five centuries. We stayed in a spacious, stylish apartment at El Balcón de la Catedral overlooking the cathedral square for €60. The historical centre is barred to traffic, so wander the streets, grab a table, soak it in. It’ll probably be just you and the locals.
The warmth of the Spanish sun is second only to the warmth of the heart and soul of the ancient city of Cádiz. An island, not geographically speaking, but surrounded almost entirely by water. The scenes and beautiful beaches of Cádiz rival any Andalucían paradise. The endless maze of streets are lined with lively taverns and stunning buildings, providing enough adventures for a lifetime. The Atlantic Ocean plays a vital role in the life of the city, crashing against the city walls and filling the plates with an endless bounty of fresh seafood and fuelling the energy of its citizens come carnival day. In Cádiz, every day feels like carnival day.
The medieval town of Trujillo, in the unjustly overlooked province of Extremadura, made a surprisingly stunning stopoff on our road trip to catch the Bilbao ferry. Our excellent boutique accommodation was in an unassuming street; 然而, a 20-yard stroll brought us to the main square. More Game of Thrones than Game of Thrones, the panorama was stunning: medieval buildings encircled the square, which was in turn encircled with battlements. A multitude of bell towers rose around us, and a distinguished church took centre stage alongside an oversize statue of conquistador Pizarro. Evening dinner in the square was a delight, local peasant derived food washed down with an Extremadura red.