From its two thousand year old aqueduct to the Alcazar which supposedly inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle, Segovia is the stuff of fairy tales.
I arrived at Madrid Airport sweaty and tired from weaving through the crowds in Venice. My legs shook as I dragged my gargantuan suitcase behind me, trying not to flatten anyone’s feet with its broken wheels. I’d been travelling nearly nonstop since April and it was starting to catch up with me.
It all started innocently enough, with a quick jaunt to England and Wales. But things got a little of control as I continued onto America – exploring four Southern states in ten days – and Menorca. In between I also somehow managed to visit my friend in Bristol, eat my way through New Orleans and only partly lose my sanity.
I’m not telling you all this to complain about how hard my life is. I’m worried there might be a neurosurgeon somewhere reading this article who would laugh themselves to death if I did, and what a loss that would be. I just need you to understand the mental state I was in as I arrived to Segovia, because the minute I drove past the city sign literally all my stress dissipated.
I could feel the history radiating from the cobblestones, tales of the people that came before me still echoing through the warm summer air. There was something magical about the city and I could feel it with every fibre of my being. It wasn’t the electric atmosphere of big cities like London or Beijing, quite the opposite. It felt like a soft pillow for my tired mind to rest on moving between hazy dreams and reality.
In other words I absolutely loved Segovia and would highly recommend it to anyone needing a break. Segovia is the perfect day trip from Madrid but I honestly don’t think a day is enough. Instead I’d recommend spending a whole weekend here – you can just fly to Madrid and then hop on the train for thirty minutes. It’s that simple.
Here are my favourite things to do in Segovia in 48 hours, from ancient castles to sustainable veggie restaurants. Check out my quick video guide first because it’s full of fun facts, local wisdom and just me running around the city like a headless – but very happy – chicken…
We’ll start our trip at the Segovia Cathedral, the last Gothic cathedral built in Spain. If you think the exterior is beautiful just wait till you get inside! From intricate Flemish tapestries to stunning marble statues the building definitely aims to impress. There’s a good reason for it, too. Charles V had the cathedral built in order to placate the citizens of Segovia after their failed rebellion against him. The whole story is in my video above, as are lots of other interesting facts about the city, so just watch it already you little rascal.
Lunch at La Almuzara
La Almuzara is an artsy vegan-friendly cafe, tucked right next door to the Cathedral. Before I tell you more about it I have two confessions to make. Firstly, although I’m suggesting an early lunch this is not something the locals do. Most Spaniards eat lunch at 3pm – check out this helpful breakdown of Spanish mealtimes for more info.
Secondly, La Almuzara is not exactly your typical Segovian restaurant. This Castilian city is a carnivore’s paradise with its most renowned specialty being the cochinillo de Segovia, a slow-roasted baby pig. As I’m vegetarian and focus on living sustainably I’m going to be recommending restaurants that cater to us plant eaters. But if you’d like to try this local dish Mesón de Candid is the go-to spot for most visitors.
Alright, let’s get back to La Almuzara. This little restaurant has an extensive menu, from freshly made pizzas and pastas to gigantic salads. I highly recommend their guacamole with chips and the grapefruit and avocado salad. Yes, I know I have an avocado problem.
Alcázar of Segovia
The Alcázar of Segovia is a World Heritage Site. That’s kind of interesting. But what’s more interesting is that is was supposedly the inspiration behind Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle. Whether that’s the truth or not, I can definitely see the resemblance!
Don’t just stand outside though. If you go in, you’ll be able to admire some stunning artworks and even brush up on your Spanish history inside the Hall of Kings. Up on the wall there’s a frieze representing all of the Spanish rulers from Pelagius of Asturias down to Joanna of Castile. I didn’t know many of them but was pleasantly surprised to find many Queens among them. #ladypower
Psst! If you’d like to get a good shot of the fortress walk down to Mirador de la Pradera de San Marcos. At first sight it’s little more than a sunny patch of grass, but when you look up you’ll get one of the most beautiful views in all of Segovia – the one in this photo on my Instagram.
Church of Vera Cruz
While wandering around Segovia I came across more Romanesque churches than I could count. Not because I have problems with basic math but because, truth be told, they all looked so similar. That’s not to say that they’re forgettable – every single one of them was a sight to behold. But the Church of Vera Cruz is probably the most unique because of its secluded location.
Consecrated back in 1208, the church was built by the Knights Templar to house a fragment of the True Cross. The relic has since moved to the nearby village church at Zamarramala but you can still admire its intricate exterior, be it up close or from a viewpoint near the Alcázar.
Casa de la Moneda Museum
If you’re looking for shelter from the sun check out the Museo Casa de la Moneda. This museum will teach you about the history of money, from its origins to its diverse production methods. You’ll also be able to view the machinery and tools used by the employees of the Spanish Royal Mint.
Psst! To stretch your legs before dinner head to the nearby Jardines Del Rey. The gardens aren’t big but make for a great spot for a short walk.
Dinner at Parador de Segovia
Hope you got a good look at those coins, because you’re about to use them! The Parador de Segovia is the place to go if you’re looking to spoil yourself a little – and with good reason. The hotel’s terrace offers the best views of the city which are particularly magical at sunset, as its cobbled streets glisten beneath a fiery veil of orange and vermillion. You can stop by for a full-on meal or just enjoy a glass of local red wine as the sun dips behind the horizon.
You can use this simple map to follow today’s itinerary. It’s just 2 km (1.2 miles) of walking for the whole day, so manageable even in the summer heat as tried and tested by me.
La Granja de San Ildefonso
Today we’ll be covering bigger distances, so you’d be best off hiring a car or ordering a taxi. La Granja de San Ildefonso lies in the hills near Segovia and looks remarkably like a French château. I wasn’t surprised when my guide told me that Philip V modelled the palace on Versailles, which was built by his grandfather Louis XIV.
The inside of La Granja is absolutely remarkable with scores of original paintings, crystal chandeliers and Flemish tapestries. But if you’d like to stay outdoors – or not pay an entrance fee – you can just walk around the gardens. The flowers are lovely but I was more interested in the twenty-six fountains created by renowned French sculptors. All of them represent themes from classical mythology, but the Baths of Diana are the real pièce de résistance.
I was mesmerised by the fountain, but Philip V who had it commissioned wasn’t that thrilled. “It has cost me three millions,” he once said, “and amused me three minutes.” Oh, ok then Phil…
Psst! If you like the look of La Granja, you’d probably enjoy the Royal Palace of Riofrío which isn’t too far from Segovia either. It’s one of the residences of Spain’s royal family and is surrounded by a 625 hectares of forest with free-roaming deer.
Lunch at La Huerta De San Lorenzo
For lunch drive back to Segovia – more specifically a hidden gem of a restaurant called La Huerta De San Lorenzo. When I say hidden gem I mean it. Even my tour guide who works in the area every day had never heard of it! But I couldn’t possibly keep this discovery to myself because the restaurant was nothing short of perfection.
Sustainably produced vegetables, farmed on site. Rural decor. Friendly waiters. Organic wine. Innovative dishes with medicinal benefits. I was delighted to find out that the restaurant lives and cooks by Hippocrates’ famous words: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
You can see the five delicious dishes I tried in my video above, and if that’s not enough take a peek at the menu here. Have I mentioned you can even stay overnight in one of the upstairs bedrooms? Places like this are why I travel.
The Aqueduct of Segovia
Gobsmacked. It’s not an emotion I feel often but when I first laid eyes on the Aqueduct of Segovia I could barely speak. You can either work off your lunch with a half hour stroll or hail a taxi from the restaurant but whichever way you get there I can almost guarantee the structure will take your breath away.
Especially when I tell you that the stones aren’t held together by mortar or cement. Oh, and it was in use until the mid-19th century. We truly do stand on the shoulders of giants and the Romans will never cease to amaze me with their understanding of the world around us. I hope when future generations look back they feel the same way about us…
While you’re admiring the aqueduct don’t miss one of the most iconic sculptures of the Loba Capitolina, which sits right in front of it. Segovia received it from the city of Rome in 1974 when they were celebrating its bimillennial anniversary. That’s right – the aqueduct is more than two thousand years old!
Jewish Quarter (La Judería)
Segovia’s Jewish Quarter was once one of the richest communities in all of Castile. In October 1481 the area was closed off with eight gates and separated from local society in a culmination of efforts to convert Jews and Muslims to Christianity. But even in the face of such adversity the Segovian aljama – the Medieval institution that dealt with the governance of the Jewish community in Spain – continued to thrive economically.
Because of its forced segregation the neighbourhood is quite unlike the rest of the city and is well worth a visit, especially as it’s one of the lesser known things to do in Segovia. Ironically, the best preserved of its five synagogues is the former Main Synagogue which was converted into the Catholic Corpus Christi Convent in 1410. But there is plenty to do, see and also eat in the area as I’m about to show you…
Dinner at El Fogón Sefardí
For dinner, consider staying in the Jewish Quarter and eating at El Fogón Sefardí. The restaurant’s blend of traditional sephardic dishes and local Castilian influence is not something you’ll be able to find anywhere else in the world. But if that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea I have another suggestion!
While I normally care more about what’s on my plate than what’s around it, in Segovia I was willing to make an exception for another chance to admire the aqueduct. I found a touristy crêperie with outdoor seating on Plaza del Azoguejo, ordered a large glass of red wine and sat there for nearly an hour. But that’s exactly what travel is about – the littlest things sometimes make for the biggest moments.
Have you ever heard of or been to this lovely Spanish city? What are your favourite things to do in Segovia?