While Toledo and Segovia might be the obvious day trip choices from Madrid, Cuenca should be on everyone’s radar. Cuenca is known for its “Hanging Houses”, but there is much more to discover.
Cuenca, Spain is a 100% feasible day trip from Madrid. You can either get here by bus or AVE. The bus takes about 2 hours and is 25 euros round trip, while the AVE takes half the time but is twice as expensive.
If traveling by the AVE train, the distance to the city center by walking is about an hour and 15 minutes. I would definitely take into account the extra money you will have to pay for a taxi to go back and forth from the station. My friends and I took the bus that drops you off about 25 minutes walking to the center.
After you come out of the bus station, you will see signs for “Centro Ciudad.” Follow these until you come up to a river. Literally just follow this river as your guide and you will run straight into the “Casas Colgadas” (Translation: Hanging Houses).
The “Casas Colgadas” of Cuenca are built into a cliff overlooking the ravine of the Huécar River. The origin of these houses is actually unknown, but there is proof that they existed in the 15th century. I would have loved to have known more about where these houses came from because it definitely looks like they have a story to tell! This is unfortunately all the information I have on them.
After marveling at these houses for a bit, you will see a bridge in the distance and think to yourself, “do we have to cross that thing?” Yes, yes you do.
If you are afraid of heights, the Bridge of Saint Paul will definitely seem daunting. The original bridge collapsed, and this new one was built in 1902. At 40 meters high, it offers the best views of the Casas Colgadas. So in this case, you will have to face your fears.
I’m definitely making this sound worse than it is. No worries my friends. After you take your hundred pictures/selfies and cross the bridge, go left and follow the path. You will walk through an arch that leads you straight to the Plaza Mayor.
As in the case of any true Spanish city, you will inevitably run into a cathedral. Cuenca’s Cathedral sits in the middle of Plaza Mayor, and actually does have a very redeeming quality that makes it stick out amongst other cathedrals in Spain. The quality being that this cathedral was the first Gothic cathedral built in Spain. So, if you are a fan of this type of architecture this is a must see for your trip.
It costs 3 euros to get in but we opted out since my friends and I have seen enough cathedrals to last us a lifetime. We did get a sneak peek of the inside though, as seen below. It looks promising for all you cathedral lovers out there!
After our brief peek at the cathedral, we decided it was time for a very longggg ~typical Spanish~ lunch. We cracked open a bottle of wine and sat there long enough for me to get sunburned in 60 degree weather (if that puts anything in perspective for you).
Since we were in Castilla La Mancha, we had to try the Manchego cheese, which is what the region is famous for. I would be wary in saying it was my favorite cheese (I have a slight obsession with this food group) but it was a definite top contender.
What I would recommend after this is to meander through the streets of Cuenca. There were plenty of side streets that we wandered down and preceded to find more stunning views.
After you have had your fair share of meandering, you should eventually make your way back to the river. At this point, you will probably be thirsty. Have no fear, there is a bar located next to the river to quench this said thirst.
The bar we went to is called “Grotte del Huécar”. You have to go here. It is a bar that is literally built into a cave. It also has a rooftop terrace to drink on, which is where we continued to drink another bottle of wine. When living in Spain…
Cuenca is a small city that packs a punch, and it represents everything I love about Spanish villages. It was also a plus to get out of the hustle and bustle of Madrid, even if it was only for 8 hours. This day trip was making me already miss Spain and I haven’t even left yet! I have less than three months left and it is definitely starting to hit me. So, time to enjoy it as long as it lasts.