Avila is a city in the rolling hill country northwest of Madrid.
This UNESCO listed site is best known for its intact medieval city walls, with 80 semi-circular towers and 9 gates.
The walls (Muralla de Avila) were built from 1090 up to the 1300’s making them almost a thousand years old today. The enclosed area is 31 hectares with a perimeter of 2.5km.
Long sections atop the walls are walkable. At night, the walls are lit making for a distinctive sight.
The eastern side, most vulnerable to attack, is the oldest and most reinforced section, as you’ll be able to tell from the mass of stones that had been quarried from a former Roman necropolis.
Puerta del Alcazar is the main gate with traffic access, but there were several others to walk through.
It was interesting noting the thickness of the walls as you pass through the arches.
We travelled to Avila by train from Madrid (88km). What seemed like a beautiful sunny day caught us off guard as we were heading quite high up into the hills (with an elevation of 1,132 m, it is the highest provincial capital in Spain). We arrived to a bitterly cold windy day with no warm clothes. Perhaps we should have read the guide book!
We actually took a taxi up the Los Cuatro Postes and asked the taxi driver to wait for us until we got a quick photo. Then back into the town for some warm tapas and to find a shop to purchase warm gear.
Los Cuatro Postes (“The Four Posts”) is a little shrine outside the walled city of Avila. A cross covered by a four-posted canopy marks the spot where, at age seven, St. Teresa’s uncle stopped her from running off with her brother to seek martyrdom in battle with the Moors. This took place in the 12th century. While the four posts are from 1566, the original cross was destroyed by vandalism and has been replaced recently.
Perched atop a small hill, the site also provides fine views of the town’s famed medieval walls.
Avila is small enough to walk around and most of its major attractions can be found within the walls of the old city or just outside the city walls.
Here are some of the places we passed by on our walk around Avila.
San Vicente de Avila – Construction began in the 12th century and lasted until the 14th century. The Basilica de San Vicente, is a church in Ávila, Spain. It is one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in the country. It stands just outside the city walls.
The elegant colonnade on the side of the basilica has some intricate carvings on either side of the large wooden doors leading to the church. Inside is the tomb of San Vicente.
There was so much to photograph here.
The Ávila Cathedral, rumoured to have been constructed as early as 1091, is the first Gothic cathedral of Spain. It was planned as a cathedral-fortress, its apse being one of the turrets of the city walls. Not sure why I only have one photo of this cathedral. I think it was closed at the time of our visit.
Iglesia de San Pedro (Parish of St Peter the Apostle) – A Romanesque temple built in the 12-13th centuries.
It has three entrance doors with the front façade embracing a rose window.
This church faces the Plaza de Santa Teresa where you will find the huge statue of Saint Teresa (1515-1582). A Spanish Carmelite nun, she was canonised as a saint in 1622.
We were not looking for anything too specific here, so just wandered around taking photos of the walls (didn’t attempt to walk along the top considering the weather!), a few churches and lots of statues.
Also a cross or two. You can even buy nun decorated biscuits.
Walking around the base of the walls, there were opportunities for pleasant views out across the countryside. Spotting a couple of stork nests in the bell towers made for some great photos.
In old medieval towns, there is always so many little things that catch your eye. Look up at the many crosses, the ornate windows, look down alleys and spend some time in the squares.
Quite a few nice shop signs as well.
After a few hours’ sightseeing, we had a late lunch in a local bar before returning to Madrid. If you can spare a day on your trip, this place is well worth visiting.