Ávila, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1985, has its own identity due to the Romanesque medieval walls which have been preserved until today in an excellent condition.
Ávila is a hill town at 1131 meters altitude, on the banks of the Adaja River. From far away you can see the massive walls with dozens of defense towers – best preserved from all over Spain. The walls of Ávila have been declared a National Monument in 1884. The old town with all the churches inside and outside the fortification are UNESCO patrimony since 1985.
A fortress with landscape
Two segments of the walls are opened to the public and, no matter haw bad the weather is, there will be tourists who will admire the magnificence of these buildings and the wonderful scenery that extends to both sides of the walls. Outside the fortifications, Ávila has expanded a lot.
The buildings with religious architecture are important tourist attractions because most of them are part of the UNESCO heritage. The most representative of all is the Cathedral, located in the Eastern of the fortress. Also called Catedral del Salvador de Ávila, its construction began in the 12th century, in the Romanesque style, but was finished in the Gothic style in the 15th century. Made of granite, it is considered the first gothic cathedral in Spain. There is a monumental altar in the cathedral, with a painting from 1499. Moreover, inside the cathedral stands out the tomb of El Tostado. It is so beautiful that it looks more like an altar. The Cathedral also houses a museum of religious art.
The Basilica of San Vicente (UNESCO heritage) is located west of the walls, it was built in the 11th-14th centuries and preserves impeccably the Romanesque style.
The Church of San Pedro (UNESCO heritage) was the first parish of Ávila. Its beautiful Romanesque features are completed by the unique Gothic rosette window.
The Santo Tomás Monastery, built at the end of the 15th century, was the summer residence of the Catholic Kings. The Gothic-style paintings were made by the famous Pedro Berruguete. Today it houses the Oriental Museum.
UNESCO’s patrimony also includes the churches and monasteries of San Andrés, San Segundo, San José, San Martín, Santa María de la Cabeza y San Nicolás.
Verdugo Palace – A palace built in the early 16th century which has a rectangular courtyard inside the building. Between the two towers of the main façade, there is a verraco* of stone.
The Guzman Tower – Built in the 16th century, it was the residence of King Alfonso XII in 1878. Now houses the headquarters of Ávila Province.
The San Antonio Gardens – is an old park from 1859. It has never been reconfigured, wich means it is still keeping a part of that history.
The Ávila Museum, inaugurated in 1911, consists of two buildings: Casa de los Deanes, (the 16th-century Renaissance palace or the central palace) and a visitable stock in the Santo Tomé Church.
Planning the trip
The best times to visit the city are the celebrations. For example, the week before Easter is a holiday of national tourist interest. You must also consider the holiday of Saint Teresa, celebrated in October.
The “Medieval Market” event takes place in the historical center of the city on the first weekend of September. With vintage atmosphere, shows and typical medieval gastronomy, it celebrates the three cultures that have left their mark on this place: Christian, Jewish, and Arabic. These days, the inhabitants dress in medieval clothes and hold shows on characteristic themes for each culture.
Ávila in photos
* Wild boar/bull of stone, megalithic monuments, zoomorphic figures not very well-defined, found in parts of the Iberian Peninsula. They date back to the 5th century BC, more than 400 are identified in the Iberian Peninsula and their purpose is still unknown.
This article was published in Romanian on corinamatei.ro