Last Updated on October 1, 2023
Besides being awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its sheer wealth and monuments, Cuenca is a well maintained medieval city that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves when compared to other big cities in Spain.
Its scenic landscapes, architectural brilliance, and rich history make the city of Cuenca stand out and a deserving city to spend your time in when traveling across Spain. A wonderful way to do this is via small group tours Spain.
To fully immerse yourself in this historic part of Spain, you would need to spend at least three days here.
1. Be Enchanted By La Ciudad Encantada
La Ciudad Encantada also is known as the enchanted city that will take your breath away with its fascinating geological structure. You will find karst limestone formation that gives huge stones, unique shapes and in no time you’ll find yourself taking many cool pictures with it.
Apart from taking pictures and admiring the beauty of La Ciudad Encantada, it would leave you wondering about the science behind the formation of these rocks. These rocks are shaped different due to chemical erosion across different geological eras. Every rock resembles humans, animals, objects and is even labeled with a complete description to further your understanding about it.
Some of the rocks are named after animals to teach us about the flora and fauna discovered in the area.
2. Discover & Learn At The Castilla-La Mancha Science Museum
The science museum opened its doors in 1999 and its location is central to a collection of nearby ancient structures. The Planetarium is the main attraction of the museum. It is a big blue dome that is over 100 meters in diameter. Inside, over 6000 stars and planets are showcased using both audio and video visuals to come up with the most compelling version of the universe.
Astronomy buffs will appreciate the level of detail that went into recreating space. The Planetarium also features an astronomic observatory that you should definitely go have a look at.
Ticket prices are affordable which makes this a perfect place to visit with the whole family without worrying about overspending.
3. Uncover The Secret Passageways At Túnel Alfonso VIII
The secret tunnels here happens to be one of the most interesting parts of Cuenca. The underground tunnels that were discovered decades ago, have been expanded to serve many purposes of the local people. Tours are open to the public with the tunnels being well maintained and properly lit.
Tourists on the guided tours learn about the use of aqueducts and how the tunnels were used during the Spanish civil war as temporary points of refuge amidst arguably the darkest times of Cuenca’s history. Tourists are able to get a sense of how things were and how the tunnels have stood the test of time all throughout this while.
4. Take A Walk On San Pablo Bridge
It’s a must to see Cuenca’s most valuable landmark, San Pablo Bridge. This bridge was originally built to connect the old town over the Huecar river to the San Pablo convent. After the 16th-century bridge collapsed, the current one was built out of iron and wood in 1902. This bridge sways off 40 meters high and if you have a height phobia then it’s safe to make sure you have someone with you.
Some say the view from the bridge is much better from the observation deck nearby but either way, this bridge is the ideal place to get a view of the wonderful Hanging Houses. Even though it is a bit of a climb, the end results are worth it.
5. Celebrate The ‘Holy Week’ At Semana Santa Museum
Every year the locals celebrate Semana Santa. It is a week-long celebration that starts a week before easter. During this period, the entire city is beaming with religious festivities. Key highlights include a big parade that features performances and music that is open for all to join in.
Should you not be visiting around easter, worry not as the Semana Santa museum gives tourists the opportunity to experience the festival by showcasing the various costumes and pieces most commonly used throughout the parade and how things have changed over the decades.
The breathtaking audio and visual representation of the celebration is not to be missed and most definitely worth heading over for.
6. Explore The Land Of Dinosaurs In The Museo Paleontologico De Cuenca
The Museo Paleontologico De Cuenca is filled with a remarkable compilation of fossils from the Castilla-La Mancha province as well as various exhibitions that bring history to life. The dinosaur exhibition is very popular among visitors, especially with the kids.
The best thing about this museum is that the way that the exhibits on the outside are integrated into the exhibits you can find inside the museum, many of which are made from real-life fossil and not plastic-based imitations. Big and small-scaled dinosaurs are found in almost every part of the museum, including the Paleontological Park.
Apart from dinosaurs, you can also learn about earth’s earliest known life, the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras and many more.
Get the Know Cuenca’s Old Town
7. Alfonso VIII Street
Alfonso VIII Street is one of the main streets of Cuenca’s old town. It receives its name after the King who conquered the city in 1177, who took the city from the Muslims.
This beautiful street is characterized by the wide range of colors of the buildings: blue, red, orange, yellow, gray, white … Its architecture is magnificent.
8. The Mangana Tower
From Alfonso VIII street, you can see how the Mangana tower stands out. When Muslims were held in the city, they had to use this point as a defense post.
Later, a bell was installed inside the tower. It was used
to warn the arrival of the enemies, ask for the solidarity of neighbors in case of fire and other catastrophes. It was also used to announce important events of the city or the death of illustrious people.
Until today, it remains largely uncertain as to when the Mangana tower was built. The tower has seen wars and nature take its toll on its structural appearance throughout the decades. It has undergone renovation in the late 1900s. It remains as a reminder of old Cuenca that is surrounded by more modern developments that are slowly overshadowing the tower’s significance. Make your way up the tower and you will be able to admire the breathtaking views of the city. The view from the top gets even better when lit up at night. The tower represents a historical monument that has stood the test of time and is worth going to even if it’s only for a short while.
9. The “Plaza Mayor” and the “Cathedral of Cuenca”
A few meters away you’ll arrive at this great jewel of Cuenca’s Capital.
A weekly market used to take place at this “Plaza”, where people could buy many local products like fish and vegetables.
Also, many public punishments took place there. The Plaza Mayor was the scene of auctions, processions or bullfights.
The most representative monument of the Plaza Mayor is the Cathedral of Cuenca.
It combines Romanesque and Gotic, and it gradually combined other modern styles of architecture.
You will be surprised by its magnificent windows, its walls, bars, doors, chapels, gargoyles… and above all its history.
One of the most beautiful cathedrals in Cuenca stands tall and proud in the town’s main square. Also known as Nuestra Senora de Gracia, Our Lady of Grace dates back to the 12th and 13th century, this cathedral was influenced by a mix of Norman and Gothic architectural inspiration. Even though the building was damaged once in the 1900s, it has been well preserved now. Once you enter the cathedral, you will not fail but notice the religious works on the inside of the building. Make sure to sit at the altar and take a break to absorb the silent cold air and you’d find yourself at peace with all that is around you.
10. The “Hanging Houses” and the “San Pablo Bridge” (Las Casas Colgantes y El Puente de San Pablo)
These two are the biggest symbols of the City. The Hanging Houses are suspended on the walls of the sickle of the “Húecar river”. Its large balconies, that defy gravity, turn this site into dreamed-of place.
It’s the biggest tourist attraction of Cuenca and with good reason. It was here where the kings stayed when they came to Cuenca.
On the other hand, by walking on the San Pablo Bridge you’ll be able to go from the Hanging houses until the “Convent of San Pablo”, another wonder of the area.
The Hanging Houses of Cuenca are a feat of magnificent engineering. Also known as “Casas Colgadas”, they lie on the side of a cliff, thus justifying the term ‘hanging’ in its name. The origins of this architectural masterpiece remain somewhat unclear until today, but it is understood to have been built around the 15th century. Inside, visitors are able to see famous sculptures and paintings from the likes of Sempere, Rueda, and Millares. The houses are not only host to the Museum of Abstract Arts but also feature a popular restaurant that is known for its Spanish cuisine. The Hanging Houses are one of the most picturesque spots throughout the city and unquestionably worth your time.
11. Ruins of “Cuenca’s Castle” (Ruinas del Castillo de Cuenca)
Walking through San Pedro’s Street you’ll arrive at Cuenca’s Castle. In your way, check out the impressive shields hung on the walls. You’ll get the impression that that’s a street where only rich and prestigious families lived, and that’s correct.
This Castle is located in the highest point of the city, from here you’ll be able to enjoy the most spectacular views you could imagine.
12. Enjoy Wonderful Landscapes From Cerro Del Socorro
Lastly, with an altitude of 1147 meters that consist of thick vegetation, lies the hill of Cerro Del Socorro. There are two ways to ascend Cerro Del Socorro hill. You can drive up or take the more rewarding route which is to hike up. Either way, once you get to the top, you can see the entire city from the Hanging Houses to the San Pablo Bridge all the way to the nooks and crannies of the entire Cuenca.
Some tourist takes their time to sit and meditate at the top of the hill as it is very serene As the sun begins to fall, and the city lights start to illuminate the sky, the view takes on a whole new life of its own. Apart from the view, the monument of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is at the top of this hill.
This monument was built by using donkeys to carry the stones up and then was put together in the mid 20th century. Watching the sunset at Cerro Del Socorro is truly the way to wrap your Cuenca trip up.
Trying to summarize a visit to the city of Cuenca in a few words isn’t only trivial but also impossible, given that we would surely miss parts that are off high significance. Exploring Cuenca is meant to be done at a slow pace and to be seen from multiple viewpoints.
From beautiful interiors of churches to admiring manmade constructions that have endured the test of time, the city of Cuenca invites tourists from all corners of the globe. Don’t forget to savor every single moment and take back the memories of sweet Cuenca.