Ávila, Castilla y León
Transport options to arrive: Train, Bus, or Car (or Plane, though not ideal if you’re on a budget)
While all of the above are available, the city is located just over 100km from Madrid, so bus and train options between the two are frequent and economical. Depending on the day, trains are more available (leaving once or twice every hour) but both options will cost you under 15€ and take between 1.5 and 2 hours to arrive so plan according your schedule and personal preferences.
Recommended time of year to visit and length of visit: late Spring―early Fall to enjoy this city in the sunshine. While it’s popular as a day trip, I recommend two nights to have time to really take in its medieval charm.
Fun Fact: After exploring the historic beauty inside and outside the city walls, you’re sure to wander into a souvenir shop or two and find what are advertised as tetillas de monjas so I’m just gonna throw this out in the open―yes, they ARE shaped like what you think they are because YES, this name does translate to “nun boobies.” Stifle your childish chuckle and take a taste test if you’re up for an amusing twist on the traditional mantecado.
Top three must-sees:
1. La Muralla de Ávila: Dating back to the eleventh century, this fairy tale-looking wall that divides the city into the historic center and a developing modern outer ring is gorgeous, day and night. Try to capture it from different angles all throughout the day and don’t miss the opportunity to wander along 1700 meters of its perimeter and see the city from above! FREE on Tuesdays from 2-4pm.
2. Los Cuatro Postes: “The Four Posts” are one of the more mysterious spots in Ávila. Depending on who you ask, this fortress was constructed around the same time as the Muralla or as late as the beginning of the thirteenth century. Its purpose is also debated but what is not a matter of opinion is the one-of-a-kind view you can get of the city from this look-out point. While you can take the tourist bus to arrive, I recommend straying (literally) from the beaten path and overtaking it on foot. The view at dusk is incredible and, with any luck, you can avoid the big groups.
3. Plaza de San Pedro (Plaza de Mercado Grande): The city abounds with churches, basilicas, and other important religious buildings, the Iglesia de San Pedro being one of them. If visiting such landmarks really isn’t your thing, though, you’ll still love this town square which is located just outside the medieval wall and is always a-bustle. The perfect place for an afternoon drink and dose of people-watching.
One thing to eat: Chuletón
Sorry vegetarians―this tasty steak dish from Ávila is an absolute must! I usually don’t splurge on meat but I’m so glad I was traveling with a local who insisted. A good cut of this veal might set you back 18-30€ but it will satisfy your tummy in ways you never before imagined (and is often available on the daily menu or perfect to split with a friend).