I have always heard many good things about a Spanish city called Avila and always wanted to visit that city that even belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage. Recently, I finally had the chance to go on a short trip to Avila, explore, and discover this town, which is known for its medieval history, architecture, and cuisine. If you live in Madrid or you are visiting the capital, it is a must-see since it is only one hour away by car or train.
You should probably know that Ávila is the highest provincial capital in Spain, situated at 1132 meters (3714 feet) above sea level on a rocky outcrop on the right bank of the Adaja River. It is built on the flat summit of a rocky hill, which rises abruptly amid a veritable wilderness. Winters in the city are cold, and it usually snows, which makes Avila a very Christmassy city.
It is also known as the Town of Stones and Saints since it claims to be one of the towns with the highest number of Romanesque and Gothic churches per capita in Spain. Avila’s gem is its formidable medieval walls, an intact fortified ring around the old city built in the Romanesque style. Avila is the perfect city for a weekend away to escape the hectic life of big cities, so a day or two would certainly be enough to enjoy and get the best of the town.
A good way to learn about Ávila's history and to explore the city is by visiting its palaces - constructions dating from the end of the 15th and 16th centuries. There are many examples of Gothic and Renaissance style buildings in the city that we can visit - although in some cases today, they are part of administration buildings hence do not admit visits. There is a route you can follow to visit all the fantastic palaces. Most of them happen to be located by the city walls. There are signs all around the city which show you the path. If you prefer, you can also go to a tourist office and get a map.
One of my favourite palaces is El Palacio de los Verdugo. Oriented to the north, it is located on Lope Núñez Street, a route that enters the city within the walls of the San Vicente Gate. This palace was built in the first third of the 16th century and is characterized by its austerity and the resounding volume.
The long facade was built in granite ashlar masonry, flanked by two barely outstanding towers, which indicate its defensive character. The unfinished central courtyard, with arcades with floral decoration and shields of different prominent families from Avila, is probably the most beautiful and interesting feature.
Sofraga Palace is a 16th-century palace attached to the wall that surrounds the Spanish city of Ávila. It was responsible for defending the Moorish attack from accessing the city through the San Vicente gate and the entire eastern wall. The palace now looks different and has been turned into a restaurant (which was recommended to me by a local from Avila). This was the place where I had some delicious tapas and wine for lunch. I 100% recommend you stop there and enjoy its lovely patio, some sunshine, and some good local food.
Finishing with this palace route in Avila in the best, sweetest way, I recommend you to go to what probably is the best cake shop in town: the Chuchi Pasteles. There you can get the best “yemas.” Yemas de Avila (Yolks of Avila) are pastries identified with the Spanish province of Ávila. Their fame has spread across the country, and they can be bought throughout Spain, but typically, they are a souvenir connected to Ávila. They are very popular for their distinctive look: small orange balls served in a white confectionery paper. They are made to honor Teresa of Ávila. Chuchi is, in Avila’s local people's opinion, the best pastry shop in Avila, and a symbol of tradition and quality. Its Yemas are genuinely delicious.
Explore Avila through its palaces' route, enjoy its cuisine, and do not leave the town without trying its yemas, Avila’s most typical souvenir, from the best cake shop in the city, Chuchi Pasteles!
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