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Segovia: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Perhaps it’s Segovia’s panoramic setting at the at the foot of the Sierra de Guadarrama that gives the city it’s elegance and charm. Perhaps it’s the rolling golden hills that surround it. Perhaps it’s the city’s location at the convergence of the Eresma and Clamores Rivers, springing forth a lush, green landscape supporting an ecosystem of wild, budding flowers and pines. Or perhaps it’s the city’s warm terracotta roofs, gentle sandstone hued buildings, and decorative towers set in contrast to such graceful natural settings that make the city seem magical when looked upon. Regardless, the sight of Segovia, from afar or from within its both historical and contemporary streets and plazas, is one to be taken in with relish and with leisure.

Quintessential to any trip to the small town of Segovia are visits to the town’s three larger-than-life historical remnants. Each landmark in its own right attests to the city’s long and important role in the world’s history, garnering it the honor as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The oldest of these remnants is an enormous Roman Aqueduct dating back to the first century A.D. highlighting both the presence of the Roman Empire on the Iberian Peninsula, as well as the splendor and ingenuity of Roman engineering. Making its course through the center of town the massive structure of arches dwarfs the surrounding buildings. The structure has persevered throughout the centuries and is one of the best preserved in all of Europe. Walking along the Avenida Fernandez Ladreda one can enjoy a meal, shop, or simply gaze in the splendor of this dramatic ancient ruin. A set of stairs on the Northwest end of the aqueduct will lead you to some of the most magnificent panoramic views of the aqueduct, the city and its natural surroundings.

Meander through the upper streets that splay out at the top of the stairs and you’ll eventually make your way to Plaza Mayor, an elegant square where you can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee while people watching throughout the lively square. However, don’t let the light heartedness of the square fool you; this is the same plaza where Isabella was crowned the first Queen of Spain making it a historical landmark in its own right. Situated in the far corner of the Plaza Mayor lies another one of the city’s major UNESCO World Heritage landmarks, La Santa Iglesia Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción y de San Frutos de Segovia, also known as la Dama de las Catedrales (The Lady of Cathedrals). Gazing upon its stunning facade you understand why it is considered a masterpiece of Basque-Castilian Gothicism. Housed in its walls is the first-ever printed book in Spain dating back to 1472. There is an entrance fee for the cathedral, with additional costs to enter its adjoining museum.

To the far north-west of the city stands the Alcázar de Segovia, the iconic castle rumored to have inspired the original Sleeping Beauty castle designed by Walt Disney standing today at California’s Disneyland in the United States. It was in this castle that Queen Isabella first met her future husband and king, Ferdinand II of Aragon. This UNESCO World Heritage site has an entrance fee as well. Once inside you’ll have the opportunity to see first-hand the luxuries of the Spanish medieval court life as well as take in lovely views of the surrounding hillsides and rooftops. Pay an extra fee and you can climb to the top of one of the castle’s unique towers.  A walk along the Erasmus riverfront also offers a gratifying opportunity to view the Alcázar and the city’s other historical buildings from afar.

Aside from the city’s three main historical landmarks, there are a number of museums and churches to explore throughout Segovia. To lend the wandering visitor a hand, signs have been placed throughout the pedestrian-only streets to offer directions to any of the city’s historical, cultural, or artistic destinations. While wandering the streets from location to location you’ll find a variety of retail stores through which you can leisurely stroll and entertain yourself.

Segovia also offers up a lot in eateries, with plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from. Local cuisine is keen to La Granja broad beans, roast lamb, and Castilian soup. However, the true spotlight seems to fall on the suckling pig with a number of the restaurants windows proudly displaying their version of the cooked piglet.

Wearing comfortable walking shoes is highly advised.

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