Cuenca is the best destination for a one-day trip from Madrid. It’s beautiful, safe, and has a fantastic variety of things to do.
The city center is full of churches, squares, and beautiful scenery. However, my favorite part was exploring the small streets with cute cafes and shops with no chain stores.
And, of course, you can’t miss the “Casas Colgadas” hanging houses of Cuenca. It’s pretty remarkable how they built it up.
I highly recommend coming here if you’re looking for a quick getaway from Madrid.
Cuenca, a World Heritage Site
As you know, Cuenca has been declared a World Heritage City by UNESCO; it is a stunning city since you can find cultural heritage and nature just a few steps away. The old town It seems that it stayed in time.
When we arrived, the first thing we did was go to what we already knew, Calle San Francisco; we stopped to eat something at the Barrica de San Miguel, it is well-priced, and they are very friendly.
When we left, we left our glasses on the table, and they kept them for us. And that there were many people!
Then we headed to the Hanging Houses, but we made the first stop at the Parador de Cuenca, Old Los Paules Convent; there is a small parking lot outside where you can leave your car.
The truth is that there are spectacular views from there; if you have a reasonable budget, it is an excellent place to stay for the night.
The free walking tour of Cuenca is the best way to start discovering this World Heritage city. You will have a local guide who will tell you its history perfectly.
San Pablo Bridge and the Hanging Houses
After leaving the car, we headed towards the San Pablo Bridge, with spectacular views of the Hanging Houses and the Hoz del Huecar.
And it seems that there is also the custom of leaving padlocks by couples in love, a tradition I have read somewhere; they attribute it to the writer Federico Moccia.
After taking a few photos and taking a walk, we went back to look for the car to park it well.
Driving through the old town of Cuenca is quite complicated, between you don’t know it, you miss a street, and you have to go all the way around again, the streets are narrow, it’s better to go by motorcycle, lol, or find the climb to the Old Town to the first.
We managed to get to the Camino de Los Jerónimos; we had to follow the indications of “Barrio del Castillo,” there, we left the car well parked.
Tell them there are also a few restaurants that look good in this area, although they seem very touristy, so, since we had already eaten, we had a coffee.
Cuenca Main Square
The Plaza Mayor has an irregular shape, full of tradition and culture. Its colorful facades, bars, and restaurants also display formidable architecture and its most emblematic buildings.
Among them, we find the Cathedral, the Convent of Petras, the Town Hall, etc. Impossible to go to Cuenca and not visit the Plaza Mayor.
Cathedral of Saint Mary and Saint Julian
The impressive façade of the Cathedral, in the Norman-Neogothic style, competes with the Baroque style of the town hall.
The building is one of the early Spanish examples of Gothic architecture, built at a time when the Romanesque style predominated in the Iberian Peninsula.
In particular, the characteristic architecture of the Cathedral is Norman and Anglo-Norman from the 12th century. Examples of this type of architecture are the Cathedral of Soissons, Laon Cathedral, and Notre-Dame de Paris.
Construction began in 1196 and was largely completed by 1257, though renovations continued.
In the 15th century, the gothic chancel of the Cathedral was rebuilt. The exterior was almost renovated in the 16th century. Finally, in the 17th century, the Sagrario chapel was built, and the façade and towers were renovated.
The façade was partially rebuilt in a neo-Gothic style at the beginning of the 20th century to repair the damage caused by the bell tower collapse (El Giraldo) in 1902. However, there are plans and projects to complete the work.
The Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cuenca. It is dedicated to Mary and Saint Julián de Cuenca, the second bishop of the Diocese and patron saint of the city.
NOTE: You can make a complete tour through Cuenca that includes super well-priced tickets.
The Petras convent is a huge 16th-century building spread over three streets.
The town hall is baroque in style. You will identify it because it seems that its shape is closes the square.
The old town hall of Cuenca dates from the end of the 15th century, was remodeled in the mid-16th century, and finally demolished at the end of the 18th century to begin its new construction in 1760, according to the project designed by Jaime Bort.
This museum, located in the Casa Curato de San Martín, offers an exciting journey through the history of Cuenca.
You will be able to see numerous artifacts from the different archaeological sites in the province. The collection includes:
- ceramic pieces
- prehistoric utensils
- column capitals,
- coins from the Roman towns of Segóbriga, Valeria, and Ercávica,
- as well as Visigoth and Moorish artifacts.
All exhibits are accompanied by illustrative panels, which enhance their educational value.
The clock that marks the time in Cuenca is in the Torre Mangana. Its antiquity and successive restructurings emphasize its history since its construction in the 16th century.
It was built on an Arab citadel, a watchtower of an old synagogue, and then the Christian church of Santa María.
Currently, it is the town’s symbol and guardian of the monument to the Constitution.
Alfonso VIII Street Tunnels
The Alfonso VIII tunnels have a section of 90 meters that can be visited and are located in the old town of Cuenca. They have recently been opened and can only be accessed with a guided tour.
The main entrance is at number 87 Calle Alfonso VIII, although it has three entries in total.
San Martin neighborhood
The San Martín neighborhood’s buildings are known as Cuenca’s skyscrapers because they reach nine floors.
These buildings have their entrance on Calle Alfonse VIII. They seem pretty standard if you see them from here, with three or four floors.
But if you see them from the Hoz del Huécar, they can have 9 or 10 plants since they have extended the buildings and stuck to the rocks.
I recommend that you visit them from both sides so that you can appreciate the difference.
Remains of the Castle
The castle is located at the city’s highest point, between two gorges, and only two structures remain standing, the remains of wall panels and the Bezudo arch, which preserves a shield with a chain.
It was an Arab fortress reconquered by Alfonso VIII in the 12th century; the last remodeling was carried out during the time of Philip II.
In the area of the castle ruins, there are a lot of viewpoints, with spectacular views of the city of Cuenca and the Hoz del Huecar.
- Mirador de la Hoz: with views of Húecar
- Mirador del Rey: there is a short walk to get there, but it is worth it.
- The viewpoint of the Barrio del Castillo: is ideal for watching the sunset and sitting on a bench under the shade of the trees.
- Mirador del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús with fantastic views of the entire city, in the Hill of Socorro.
The Enchanted City (on your own or with a tour from Cuenca
Declared a Natural Site of National Interest in 1929, the Enchanted City is a place where the action of nature has formed a magical landscape that leaves no one indifferent. Get to know it on this half-day tour.
If you like bike routes, you can look at the Cuenca City Council website for those who plan to go more days.
It has a couple of bike routes that look good. The truth is that we were left wanting more, but we had to go home.
Where to Sleep in Cuenca
Cuenca is a very picturesque city that you have to visit. In one day you can see the most important places in Cuenca.
But I recommend you stay for a weekend or at least one night. You will be surprised by the hotel and gastronomic offers in Cuenca.
To spend a weekend, I recommend two different places that are very good. First, the Hotel Pedro Torres, located next to 320a national road, is very well-priced.
The other is the Luxury Danna Plaza Mayor, located in the Plaza Mayor of Cuenca. It is a fabulous place and not as expensive as the name of the apartment can make you think.
It’s an apartment, so you must book for at least two days. It is located 200 meters from the Cathedral; it is entirely new, with a modern and cozy decoration. Better judge for yourself and tell me.
You can also stay at the Cuenca Parador, with views of the Hanging Houses and the San Pedro bridge. Without a doubt, quite an experience.
How to Get to Cuenca?
Cuenca can be easily reached by car, bus, train, or guided tour from Madrid.
Distance Madrid Cuenca: 169 km (obviously, it varies a bit depending on where you leave)
- Bus: the bus leaves from Madrid’s Estación Sur. The journey takes approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes. It has several departures a day.
- Car. How to get to Cuenca by car, very easily. You have to leave Madrid and take the A3 for 168 km. Then you take the A40 to Cuenca. My recommendation is that you put the GPS before arriving in the city or when you leave your house 😉
If you need to rent a car, take a look here.
- Guided tour from Madrid. You can do it if you prefer to go on a guided tour with a group from Madrid. There are one-day tours, which leave at 9:15 a.m. by bus, with which you can get to know the city of Cuenca and the enchanted city. You arrive in Madrid around 8:30 p.m.
I hope you have the opportunity to visit the City of Cuenca soon!!!
Plan Your Trip to Cuenca
- Mota del Cuervo y Belmonte
- Best Things to do in Alarcón
- Must Visit Places in Madrid
- Visit the Old Madrid
- Tour Lavapies, La Latina and El Rastro
- Best Flamenco’s Show in Madrid
- Hotels in Madrid
- Best Travel Insurance for your trips
Last Updated on 9 October, 2023 by Veronica
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Vero, a seasoned traveler, has explored 25 countries and lived in five, gaining a rich perspective and fostering an infectious passion for travel. With a heart full of wanderlust, Vero uncovers the world’s hidden gems and shares insights, tips, and planning advice to inspire and assist fellow adventurers. Join Vero and let the shared passion for travel create unforgettable memories.