Going to Cuenca and not going to see the Casas Colgadas is like going to Paris and missing the Eiffel Tower. It is, without a doubt, its most representative monument. I am one of those people who believe that it is one of those monuments that you see better from a distance, since it allows you to appreciate how the houses have remained through time, as well as that they are standing on the edge of a ravine, like the one in Huecar River.
In order to see them, I recommend moving through the ravine, along its roads and viewpoints, as to appreciate the verticality of these buildings. You shouldn't let the heights impress you when you cross the bridge across the gorges, which moves with the flow of the tourists, and should take the opportunity to take a few pictures of the Casas Colgadas from there.
The balconies make one dream of the period in which the houses were built, around the 15th century. Throughout history they have been the place for numerous activities, but nowadays you can find there a restaurant as well as the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art, a curious fact that always strikes me because of the contradiction in concepts. I'm sure you understand to what I'm referring to.
There are many interesting spots in Cuenca. The city itself is lovely, and so is the Ventano del Diablo, the source of the Cuervo River and, of course, the Enchanted City: its best kept secret. It consists of a group of really impressive natural rock formations.
In order to see it all there is a 3 kilometers long and signposted road, where one can see formations in different shapes: the boats, the dog, the face of the man, the seal, the slide, the turtle...
It was declared as a Natural Site of National Interest in 1920 and, since then, has been one of the most popular attractions in Cuenca and in all Spain.
My visit was a lovely one, even though I recommend going when it is not too hot or too cold, because it can be quite harsh. Oh! And take your camera, there are many things worth snapping!
This cathedral is beautiful. Only a stone's throw away from the Casas Colgadas and located on Cuenca's Plaza Mayor, it is a definite must-see during your visit of the city. On the same square you will be able to have a nice meal for about 20€ each but with very generous portions of typical dishes that will get you going for the rest of the day!
The most famous bridge of Cuenca is made of iron, has a reddish color and rectilinear lines and is located on the Huecar River, very close to the Casas Colgadas and from where you can take some of the best pictures of the city. This place is better than any other to see and feel the architectural elements, the urban development and the symbolic content of this city-landscape: the river, the slopes of the ravine...
The current bridge was built in 1902, following the architectural tendencies of that time, and measures about 100 meters long. It is made of five arches and very high columns. If you suffer from vertigo you should cross without looking down too much. This bridge replaced an old one made of stone that was built between 1533 and 1589 and which collapsed. It was located at the same place, connecting the San Pablo Convent and the urban area on the ravine of the Huecar River.
Cuenca's Plaza Mayor is one of the most beautiful and monumental squares of the city: the nerve center of its upper part, the central space of urban life, a perfect place to take a break on the route through Cuenca and to have a drink on one of the terraces. It is a great place to grasp the atmosphere of the city and to observe its most important architectural works.
It is also one of the best places to buy traditional craftwork of the area as well as gastronomic products. On the Plaza Mayor you can find the City Hall, a Baroque style building built in the time of Charles III and that has three round arches of the year 1762, the Convento de las Petras (Petras Convent) and Our Lady of Grace Cathedral(Nuestra Señora de Gracia) of the 12th century. Moreover, adjacent to the Cathedral lies the Episcopal Palace where you can find the Diocesan Museum.
Cuenca has been a World Heritage Site since the 90s. The town is on a hill surrounded by rivers and Huecar Júcar until the San Anton Bridge that divides the city between the old city to the new part of the city.It is a great place to escape the city and the tapas are delicious.
The Museum of Spanish Abstract Art is located inside the Hanging Houses of Cuenca, which, like everyone knows, is the most famous symbol of the city and one of the places locals and foreigners take more pictures. The museum belongs to the Juan March Foundation, with headquarters in Madrid, and has a very interesting permanent collection. It contains works of famous artists of the abstract generation of the fifties and the sixties like Saura, Rueda, Tàpies, Zóbel, Millares, Sempere, Torner (to name a few), as well as of other artists of the eighties and nineties.
The temporary exhibitions they have since 1994 are also interesting. To be honest I was very surprised by this museum even though I had already heard good comments about it before. I recommend it as a must-see in Cuenca. In 1980, the museum got the Gold Medal for Fine Arts, in 1981, the Prize of the European Council to the European Museum of the Year; in 1991, the Gold Medal of Castille-La Mancha; in 1997 the "Tourism" Prize of this region.
I recommend the visit of the tunnels of Alfonso VIII, named after the street at the entrance, just in front of the Casa del Corregidor and the Palacio de los Clemente Aróstegui.
They form a labyrinth full of passages, galleries, caves of various kilometers long and which have been dug by the people of Cuenca throughout the centuries in the underground part of the city, turning it into a real gruyere cheese. They were built with different purposes: from caves to preserve wine and food, to communication routes between buildings, tunnels for escaping and they were also used as improvised anti aircraft shelters during the civil war of 1936-1939.
Nowadays, almost all of them remain unused and only a small part has been arranged for touristic visits. It allows us to see what used to be one of these shelters, with protection walls at the entrance in case of bombing, defensive embrasures in front of the entrance, a small cistern for the supply of water and the site of a precarious infirmary.
When I went out, I was blinded by the sun but it was nice to feel the fresh air again and to admire the beauty of Alfonso VIII Street. It is a curious place to visit and it doesn't take too long.
In Trabuco Street, very close to the square of the same name, you can see the ruins of an old castle of the 13th century. Besides part of its walls, the towers are also preserved. It is a pity there is so little left of the old Arab wall and of the later Christian wall, as well as of the castle itself. The Bezudo Arch is also part of these ruins and one of the old gates to enter the walled city.
Paseo del Huécar is one of the prettiest streets in all of Cuenca: an esplanade alongside the River Huecar, one of the two rivers of the city (the other one is the Jucar River). It has one of the most famous views of the city, since from there you can admire the Hanging Houses (Casas Colgadas), one of Cuenca’s jewels. The walk has a clear unevenness, since it’s one of the paths that can take you up to the upper city. It is a delight to walk through this street surrounded by the beautiful nature along the river.
The River Huecar has various bridges that allow one to cross from one bank of the river to the next one. The river is not too wide. The front bank is called Hoz del Huécar and from there you can access the Parador de Cuenca, which deserves a visit. It’s open to the public in general and has an artistic space called Espacio Tornet. A walk through this street is one of the attractions that cannot be missed!
It was getting late and I did not want to leave Cuenca without having a complete view of what the city is in its totality: both the old part with monuments and the modern part. In order to achieve this, there is nothing better than taking the car and going to the Cerro Socorro in the upper part of the Huécar gorges. We went out of the city along the Huecar River and passed by the Parador Nacional de Turismo and the convent of San Pablo. We stopped there for a little while to watch this wonderful and well-preserved building and then followed the way along the river.
Before arriving to kilometer 5, at about 50 meters, we turned right and started going up a small road that, although paved, is very narrow, so one has to be careful when crossing with another car. At the end of it, we could appreciate the view of the city and the countryside all around us: the monuments, the new buildings, the typical neighborhoods of Castillo, Tiradores and San Antón that surround the city, the Auditoro Theater, Ars Natura, symbols of modernity, the San Pablo Bridge... The clean environment and silence invited us to meditate. It is worth going there.
When you go out of the Cathedral, on the right side, you will see San Pedro Street, which goes up to the Castle. To take the walk in the morning time is very pleasant, and one can admire the lovely and ancient buildings (civil and religious) on both sides.
Almost at the end of the street and before arriving to Plaza del Trabuco, where they try to keep the place perfectly clean, lies the San Pedro Church, which is well preserved and beautifully constructed. On a window at the entrance I could read: "San Pedro Church. 18th century". I entered, paid and contemplated.
Inside there is a feeling of peace and calm that comforts the soul. San Marcos Chapel, or of the Counts of Toreno, of the beginning of the 18th century, reveals a very curious and lovely coffered ceiling. Coming back to the entrance one finds, on the left side, a small door that gives access to the bell tower (83 steps).
Once up there, I could see some lovely views of the city and around. Be careful! At 12 pm the bells start ringing. I went down quickly, my friend was waiting for me. We went out in the street to keep on visiting the city.
The Mangana Tower is located on the plaza of the same name, very close to Plaza de la Merced. It is currently used as a municipal clock. It is one of the most recognizable symbols of the city, together with the Casas Colgadas. It is located in the exact place that used to house the Alcázar (fortified palace)during the Arab period of Cuenca. In fact, it is said that the tower used to be a minaret, but the theory has not been proven. The tower we know today dates back to the 16th century and the last restoration took place in 1968. It is a symbol that bears witness to the changes in lifestyles and landscape of this city of Castile-La Mancha.
Cuenca's City Hall is located on the Plaza Mayor, in the center of the upper part of the city. It is an ideal place to take a break and relax in front of the solemn building, built just next to Our Lady of Grace Cathedral. It is a Baroque style building of the 18th century with three floors and three arches that allow the passing between Plaza Mayor and Alfonso VIII Street.
According to the legend, a beautiful young lady used to live behind a barred window next to the passage. Her name was Inés and whe was in love with Julián, a handsome young man who used to go and see her everyday at the window. Inés' parents did not approve of their relationship because Julián belonged to a lower social class.
Julián, fed up with the family's disdain, decided to join the army and go fight the war in Italy in order to improve his future. The night before leaving, the couple swore to be faithful in front of the Christ of the passage. Far from him, Inés felt lonely and bored, even though she sometimes got news from Julián. There were many suitors and, after many months, she gave in to Lesmes' requests.
After two years, Julián came back covered with glory and with a good future to come. He did not say anything to Inés, so the surprise could be even greater. But once he was at the meeting point of the couple he found Lesmes there. Full of anger he launched his sword against the usurper, who, using deceitful tricks, pushed Julián towards the last step of the passage. Julián fell and got struck by Lesmes' sword.
Inés, desperate by everything that was happening asked for help. The patrol came and when Lesmes found himself cornered he tried to escape by jumping, but, to his misfortune he fell and broke his neck. After the disaster, Inés felt so guilty she shut herself away in the Convent of Las Petras.
A very tragic legend, even though nowadays there is no blood left, only the passage and the Christ.
Don't know what to do in Cuenca? We have plenty of answers for you! This city in La Mancha is sure to surprise you with its blend of art, culture, and nature. One of the first places to visit in Cuenca is the historic walled town, which declared a World Heritage Site and is home to a number of fantastic sites, including castles and historic neighborhoods. This city full of well-preserved historical areas has an outstanding old town, which is probably one of the most interesting things to see in Cuenca.
Taking a walk down to the Jucar River is one of the most popular Cuenca activities. Look at the old town over the gorges for truly spectacular views. But without doubt the most popular Cuenca attractions are the Hanging Houses. They are buildings opposite the mouth of Huécar River that are named for their hanging balconies.
There are also religious attarctions in Cuenca. The cathedral, with elements from Romanesque to Gothic periods, has a Latin cross and holds notable pieces like Capilla de los Caballeros, the Arch of Jamete, and a Baroque building by Ventura Rodriguez. We must also mention the Convent of Mercy, built between the 16th and 18th centuries, the Monastery of the Discalced Franciscans, and the Church of El Salvador.
You'll never be short of stuff to do in Cuenca, from the Tower of Mangana, located on the site of the old Andalusian palace, to the Bridge of San Antón, a tour of the Enchanted City, and a day of climbing or even paragliding for the more adventurous traveler! Search Minube to learn more about this fascinating historic city.