With the winter trip to Madrid off to a shaky start, day trips seemed like the best way to make up for our poor choice not to stay longer in Barcelona. The best options looked to be Toledo, Cuenca and Segovia. The Roman aqueduct looked pretty impressive, as did the fairytale like castle of Alcázar and so Segovia got a guernsey.
A little about Segovia
Segovia was originally settled by the Celts, but later taken over by the Romans, whom you can thank for the aqueduct. The castle of Alcázar has existed there in many forms over time since circa 1122 and it along with the Cathedral of Segovia makes up the rest of the major attractions. The cathedral is considered a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and was built towards the end of the Gothic period so it’s ‘new’ in that regard. Segovia actually has a population of 50,000 now so in the centre of town you can find many shops and modern brands.
Getting there and getting about
Segovia is very accessible from Madrid Chamartín station. Just 30 mins by Renfe high speed train and it cost 23€ return for tickets booked the night before, but bear in mind this was in winter.
There’s a bus to Segovia’s Plaza Mayor, but for 8€ the taxi was the best option with four people. On the Saturday afternoon rate the way back was still worthwhile too at 11€.
From Segovia you can also take a side trip to La Granja castle to check out the castle grounds. The lady at the Segovia tourist office wouldn’t give us any details on the bus to get there for some reason, so we ended up leaving ourselves more time for Segovia and leaving La Granja for a warmer season when the garden might be more alive.
Things to see and do
We arrived in Segovia on a quiet winter morning. I’d read that it was a popular day trip from Madrid and so I began to think that we’d gotten off at the wrong stop when almost no other passengers got off the train. It’s hard to miss one of the major attractions. It won’t be long before you see the massive Roman aqueduct that cuts across the city. Amazingly there is no mortar and no concrete, just some well cut stones and good Roman design.
It may just be a very orderly pile of stones, but when you think about the fact that this was built in the 1st or 2nd century AD you really start to wonder. How on earth did they build these things so accurately, so high and without modern machines? How has it stood up to the test of time?
It’s nice to spend some time walking along the aqueduct and along the nearby streets, but ultimately what you want to do is climb stairs behind the tourist office to access the part of the city on the rocky outcrop and get a good view of the aqueduct.
Continue up the hill until you find the and the church. To see the cathedral it’s 3€, but personally I just headed straight on to the castle as the Plaza Mayor is full of tourist traps and my life will probably just go on even if I don’t see another church. It is definitely worthwhile appreciating the cathedral’s exterior from a distance though.
The castle of Alcázar has had a number of different roles in it’s time and so there is lots to see on the self guided tour and in the museum. It’s been used as a fort, a palace and a military academy, but now serves as an archive and museum. Definitely worth a look.
In one of the first rooms there are three knights on fully armoured horses. I don’t think I’ve seen full sets of armour displayed on horses before so it was interesting to see. The figures were quite short, but hopefully that says something about people of that period in general and not the Spanish. The castle costs 8.50€ to enter and you could spend hours here if you wanted to.
Afterwards you can walk down to the bottom of the cliffs and walk around the grounds below the castle. At the bottom, along the main road there’s an odd little dodecagonal (12 sided) church called Vera Cruz, but it was closed when we were there. It’s definitely worth walking around the streets away off the main roads in the city centre. Just wander down anything that piques your interest and you might find a nice laneway, some cute balconies or a hidden shop.
Where to eat and drink
I was only in Segovia for the day so I can only recommend one place to eat and that is Motto & Co.. I think the cold had worn us down a bit and so we were looking for a big feed. Burgers sounded right up our alley and they were really good! I particularly liked the red wine caramelised onions on my chicken burger.
We had a bit of a chat with the owner and it turns out it was a family business. You could see from his enthusiasm and the presentation of the restaurant that a lot of heart goes into the place. It’s really nice to come to places like this where both the people and the place are so genuine and it’s good to know your money is going to support somewhere small rather than big business.