Ávila, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in Spain. It is best known for its almost intact medieval city walls, semicircular towers and nine gates. But the city has more to offer, including convents, churches, houses and palaces. Although it is a small city it has plenty of things to see. We recommend to discover it slowly. And a weekend is the perfect time for it.
One of the top things to visit is of course the city walls. Built in the 12th century, the walls stretch for 2.5km and there are two sections that can be climbed: a 300m stretch and a 1300m stretch - both included in the ticket price. Take at least 1.5h to go up and walk above taking pictures. Don't forget that these walls are among the world's best preserved medieval defensive perimeters!
Catedral del Salvador is another must-see in the city. It is considered one of the first two Gothic cathedrals in Spain (along with the Cathedral of Cuenca), built around the 12th century.
The Convent of Santa Teresa is dedicated to saint Teresa and it was built in 1636. Most people visit this convent due to the relic of Teresa's ring finger (it is said that General Franco, the Spanish dictator, kept it beside his bedside throughout his rule). Nonetheless what we liked most was the baroque altar and the gold-adorned chapel. There's a small museum inside, all free entrance.
Avila is not only about convents, churches and walls. It is also about old streets and beautiful plazas, like Plaza de la Catedral (in front of Catedral del Salvador), Plaza de la Santa (in front of the Convent of Santa Teresa) and Plaza del Mercado Chico (the biggest plaza in Ávila). It is well worth the time walking and getting lost in the middle of these plazas, narrow streets and stoned houses.
Outside the walls we also visited the Santo Tomás Monastery, built in 1492 by Fernando and Isabel (the Catholic monarchs). Not sure why it had few people inside (maybe because it was outside the walls?) but it deserves a visit. The three cloisters are just beautiful and the church inside contains the alabaster tomb of the monarchs only son (Don Juan). Inside there are two other museums: Oriental Museum and the Natural History Museum - both small but included in the ticket price, so no reason to not give a quick look.
The opportunity to see the walls during the night is one of the best things of spending the night in Ávila. The Cuatro Postes viewpoint is probably the best place to admire and take pictures of the walls and the city. It used to be the hermit of Saint Leonard but today the viewpoint is composed by 4 columns of 5m each built in the 16th century. From here one can see almost all the city and the walls. It is a bit far way from the city center so we used our car, but you can also take a bus or a taxi.
As usual, below you can find some practical information about this trip, including the main costs and some tips about when and how to go.
- Main costs: Hotel with parking: H2 Avila (55€/night/2 people), City walls (€5/person), Catedral del Salvador (4€/person), Santo Tomás Monastery (4€/person)
- How to go: By car (from Madrid it's about 100km/1h15) or by train (from Madrid Chamartín is takes approximately 1h50 - see timetables and buy here) or by bus (approximately 1h40)
- When to go: We visited the city in October during the Saint Teresa festivities but you can visit the city all year round (although I would avoid the summer months of July and August since it is too hot)
- A very good place to eat (we had lunch there and we loved it - better to make a reservation): Soul Kitchen