Blog Tour: Throwback to Spain, Segovia, Toledo and Madrid
The Heart of Spain
by Taylor Deer
Just like all of my other blog tours, it is unbelievable that this is my last post on one of my favorite countries in the world. I hope each and every one of you has enjoyed reading about my favorite places in Western Spain and that it has given you the inspiration to travel there. (Of course, if you haven’t already!)
Although many can argue that Barcelona is Spain’s most favorable city, there is still so much to see and do in the Madrid area. This week, experience authentic and historical Spain by discovering the best places to visit in the gorgeous cities of Segovia, Toledo and Madrid.
One of my favorite places in Spain was the fairytale city of Segovia. Literally, this city feels like the birthplace of Walt Disney World – where all of my childhood dreams came to life. Filled with rich history, medieval walls, Romanesque churches and a Gothic cathedral, a beautiful castle, a Roman aqueduct and amazing food, you will sure fall in love with this city like I did!
Located an hour northwest of Madrid, here are the top places to visit during your time in medieval Segovia:
One of Segovia’s most recognizable landmarks is the El Acueducto – the Roman Aqueduct. This grand structure was made up of 20,000 uneven granite blocks and features 163 arches.
The aqueduct was originally part of a complex system of underground canals that bought water from the Guadarrama Mountains. How awesome?
What is also cool about the aqueduct is that it is located right in the middle of the city, so you definitely cannot miss it!
Alcázar of Segovia:
If you were like me and were a big Disney fan growing up, you know the princess castles were definitely something to dream about. Well, all of your childhood fantasies can come to life with a trip to Segovia’s famous castle. A fun fact about this castle is that the design inspired Walt Disney’s vision of the Sleeping Beauty castle.
This amazing castle was fortified since the Roman days, but it was rebuilt in the 13th and 14th centuries. Sadly, the fortress burned down in 1862, but was rebuilt as an over-the-top reconstruction of the original.
One of my favorite parts of the castle is the overlook. Walking up the tower was a little scary (and tiring) since the spiral staircase was steep and it seemed never-ending. After every certain amount of steps, there would be a little window where you could look outside and see how far up from the ground you are. The climb to the top was definitely worth it as you received the best 360-degree views of the city, mountains and countryside of the Segovia area!
The iconic Gothic cathedral in Segovia was first under construction in 1525 and took almost 200 years to complete. During your visit to the cathedral, enjoy viewing the magnificent architecture and a climb up the tower for amazing views on the city and nearby mountains.
Walls of Segovia:
As you drive into the Segovia, the first thing you will notice are fortified walls that were once use to protect the city. It was probably one of the most breathtaking drives I’ve ever experienced. Not only did the walls make you feel like you were in a fairytale, but the roads offered gorgeous views of the mountains, castle and all of the other beautiful landmarks and buildings this city offers.
Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso:
Also known as King Felipe V, this outstanding palace is a replica of King Luis’ in Versailles, France. Everything about this palace was absolutely stunning! One of my favorite parts of the palace were the beautiful gardens outside. It was unreal how massive the gardens were and they reminded me of the movie, The Secret Garden.
The grounds of the palace were superior! There were several hiking trails into beautiful forest and there was even a massive maze that reminded me of the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire movie. I honestly, failed at this maze and got a little freaked out when I couldn’t find my friends that I secretly cut through the bushes to get out of it. The concept of it was pretty cool though!
Enjoy the Food!
Segovia has many authentic and delicious restaurants where you could enjoy your favorite Spanish staples such as paella, tapas and of course, amazing wine and sangria! It was in Segovia where I enjoyed my favorite and most unique meal in Spain: delicious potatoes with jamón, scrambled eggs in a egg yolk and chicken broth sauce. It was seriously amazing and my mouth is watering just thinking about it!
If you are looking to go back in time to medieval Spain, then Toledo is the place to go! Located 45 minutes southwest of the capital of Madrid, Toledo’s historic center is nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This dreamy European city blends Roman Catholic, Jewish and Islamic cultures. You will notice this when you go visit Toledo’s stunning buildings and landmarks. Between the beautiful art that the city features throughout and the lovely labyrinthine streets that are narrow and cozy, you will definitely see why Toledo is one of my favorite Spanish cities.
Here are the best things to see in Toledo:
One of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world is the Catedral Primada. Many experts will explain that this cathedral is the best example of High Gothic architecture in Europe. When you are in the cathedral, you will get some of the best views of the intricate details of elaborate gothic and Mudéjar (Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, and Arabic) elements.
Puerta del Sol:
One of the first things to see when you first enter Toledo is the northern gate that was built at the end of the 14th century and showcases the Mudéjar design that you see throughout the entire city.
This beautiful gate features hefty stone with interesting detail. On the south side of the gate, there was once a moon painted and on the north side, a sun. Through time, the art has faded away.
Puente de San Martín:
Driving into Toledo and entering on the San Martín Bridge made me feel like a princess with the beautiful medieval walls and arches. This bridge was first built in the 1200s, but took a lot of damage through the years. It was rebuilt in the 1300s and 1400s.
El Greco Museum:
Toledo is home to one of Spain’s most important artists. 16th-century artist El Greco painted outstanding views of the city that captured the world’s imagination. You can visit his museum in Toledo and view his popular paintings. They were truly spectacular.
Mirador del Valle:
If you are looking for a good workout, a hike up to Carretera de Circunvalación is totally worth it to catch views of the medieval city and all of its glory. This is a perfect place to catch a Spanish sunset or sunrise, depending on where you are looking. The best views of the city are shown at night when the main monuments are awash with orange light.
Alcázar of Toledo:
Toledo’s palace is at the highest point of the city. What is cool about this palace is that there has been a fortress here for at least 2,000 years, but standing there now is a renaissance building from the mid-16th century.
When you go inside of the palace, there is a cool museum that features medieval and handcrafted knives, swords, medals, flags and uniforms.
Plaza de Zocodover:
Wandering through the city of Toledo was probably one of the coolest experiences of my life. Between the beautiful architecture, narrow and windy roads where you have to hide in little alcoves if a car came by (check out the photo of my Uncle Scott above), handcrafted boutiques and jewelry shops, delicious cafés and restaurants and the liveliness are what make this city so amazing. One of the places where you could experience life as a local in Toledo is in the Plaza de Zocodover. At night, the streets around the plaza light up with Christmas lights. It is a magical experience for all!
Museo del Prado:
The world-famous Prado museum is widely considered to have some of the world’s finest collections of European art. It is also one of the most visited museums in the world. Located in the Prado are numerous works from artists like Goya, El Greco, Velázquez and Caravaggio to name a few.
During the time I visited the Prado, I was fascinated by all of the talent and history shown in these amazing pieces of art. It was also exciting to view artwork that was three times the size of me!
One of my favorite Spanish paintings that is shown in the Prado is Velásquez’s Las Meninas. This painting also holds a special place in my heart because there was an abstract version of this artwork hung up in our apartment living room in Salamanca. The reason why I enjoy looking at this painting is because you can actually see the artist painting the picture because it was a mirror image. How cool is that?
Parque del Buen Retiro:
“Park of the Pleasant Retreat” in English is the biggest park in Madrid. In the park, you could rent a small boat or canoe on a nice day and enjoy the sunshine. During the time I was in Madrid, I enjoyed strolling through the park and admiring the beautiful sculptures, monuments, galleries and so much more!
Plaza de Espańa:
One of the most important squares in Spain’s capital, the Plaza de España lies at the intersection of some of Madrid’s busiest streets. I loved sitting at the cafés and enjoying a café con leche and indulging in delicious food at some of the country’s best restaurants and local street vendors.
If you are looking to experience royalty in Spain, then the Royal Palace of Madrid is the place to go! I remember feeling more and more amazed in each room we went in.
The Royal Palace is Madrid’s largest building and also the grandest royal palace in Western Europe. (Yes, it is even bigger than Buckingham Palace.) It was built on the grounds of the old Alcázar, the Moorish castle destroyed by a fire in the 1700’s. The city walls around the area can still be seen from the palace’s grounds.
Filippo Juvarra initially designed this beautiful palace. Inside, it features beautiful furniture, tapestries, paintings and ceramics as well as gorgeous works of art. Unlike the Royal Family in England, the Spanish Royal Family does not live in the palace. It remains open to the public all year long except for when there is important ceremonies going on.
(Look how cute my parents are when they visited me!)
Experience Madrid’s Nightlife:
Whether you enjoy sipping a cocktail in a high-end hotel, casually pub crawling with friends or dancing the night away at a nightclub, Madrid is the city where you will find it all.
During the time I studied abroad, I definitely had more energy to go out at night and dance until the sun rises. One of my favorite nightclubs in Madrid is Kapital as it offers a few floors to enjoy the best of European dance music.
Out of all of the museums I visited in Spain, the Sorolla Museum was definitely my favorite! Joaquín Sorolla is referred to as the “painter of light”. One of the many reasons why I love his work so much is that he perfectly paints stunning beach landscapes that remind me of the summers I spent at the Jersey Shore.
The museum is small and welcoming. All of the beautiful gardens and waterfalls outside of the building were serene and I even got to see some flowers I have never seen before! Even though it isn’t as popular as the Prado, I definitely recommend everyone visiting Madrid to see this wonderful museum!
Hasta Luego Amigos!
After spending a long period of time in Spain, it definitely holds a big place in my heart. Studying abroad was one of the best experiences of my life and I truly hope to one day make it back to all of the places I visited during that time period. If you are a student looking to adventure or someone who hasn’t been out of the United States yet and has a sense of wander, I 100% recommend doing Spain as your first trip. You will certainly not be disappointed.
Looking to experience Spain PLUS MORE? We have the perfect package for you!
Live my trip and check out our 12-Nights Iberian Explorer package. Ramble up Las Ramblas and through the zesty Iberian peninsula, from Barcelona to Lisbon, Salamanca to Madrid. Enjoy delicious paella in Valencia, see the troglodyte cave dwellings at Guadix and the medieval quarter of Lisbon with its Belém Tower.
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