I never planned on visiting Segovia, Spain. Laura and I had prepared to fly to Brazil, but when we arrived at the airport we learned the flight was full and we wouldn’t make it as standby passengers. And so we walked over to the airport bookstore, picked up a Spain guide, and boarded a flight to Madrid.
We spent the next two weeks riding the rails around Spain. And in that whole whirlwind trip, Segovia still lingers as one of the most evocative corners of the country.
Segovia offers an impressive welcome; visitors taking the bus into town from the train station are greeted by an ancient Roman aqueduct.
The aqueduct dates to the first century AD and is one of Spain’s most significant Roman engineering works. And because it’s basically intact, it functions as jaw dropping gateway to the town.
From the aqueduct, the town winds up a hill, with narrow lanes leading to crumbling old churches, friendly plazas, and flower-adorned windows.
Segovia is about an hour’s drive from Madrid (or two hours via train). The population stands at less than 60,000, and in the historic core it feels even smaller. Though much of the town economy appears to be based on tourism — and there were some packs of day trippers — it didn’t feel crowded or overrun. Quite the contrary; as we walked deeper in, the town felt sleepy and tucked away, as if we had happened upon a hidden gem.
Because Segovia sits on a hill, wandering also led us to peripheral streets that offer panoramic views into the surrounding countryside — which during our visit was golden and baked by the summer heat.
Nearby, the center of the town is dominated by the Segovia Cathedral, a gothic building that was erected in the 1500s.
During our visit, the plaza below the cathedral was filled with a small market. People were selling food, clothing, and all sorts of other things.
The other big building people visit in Segovia is the Alcazar, which is perched on the cliffs at the edge of town and is about as picturesque as any castle I’ve ever visited (click to enlarge the photos).
Supposedly, Segovia’s castle — along with, more famously, Neuschwanstein —provided part of the inspiration for Disney’s castles. Either way it’s an impressive building with sweeping views of the region. (Today it’s used as a museum that was uncrowded but also fairly unremarkable.)
Segovia is fairly easy to reach for anyone visiting Madrid, but it feels a world away from that city’s hustle. Ultimately, it’s not big and it’s only kind of flashy, but I nevertheless look forward to spending another night or two in the peaceful shadows of its ancient buildings.
— Jim Dalrymple II