Soñando Sunday: Cuenca
Cuenca, Castilla-La Mancha
Transport options to arrive: Bus, Train, or Car.
- Your best option is to go to Madrid or Valencia and take the bus or the train to Cuenca if you don’t have access to a car. From Madrid, the train takes around 50 minutes and costs €37 (although my friend from Cuenca says there are normally discounts if you book ahead), the bus is a little longer and a little cheaper. From Valencia the train takes an hour and costs €37 (with the same discounts available), the bus is almost two hours and a little cheaper.
Note: from the train station someone will have to pick you up or you will have to take a taxi as it is 5km from the city center.
Recommended time of year to visit and length of visit: While you can see the city center in two days, you might want to dedicate two more to see the surrounding area. September/October is a good time to visit because you will be treated to the leaves changing colors, deer season, and the chance to go mushroom hunting. In addition, the 18th-21st of September Cuenca celebrates the Fiestas de San Matteo!
Fun Fact: If you tell one of your Spanish friends that you are going to Cuenca, don’t be surprised if they laugh and make a joke about ‘looking towards Cuenca’. “Mirando para Cuenca” is a saying that people use, going back to the King Alfonso VIII who would apparently take his lovers to a tower and face them towards Cuenca.
Top Three Must-sees:
2. Las Casas Colgadas: Specifically the Abstract Museum, rated the second best in Europe, these houses hang off over the cliffs and are impressive to see. They have been around for centuries, so apparently they are very safe as well, although maybe not recommendable for people with a fear of heights.
Note: The casas colgadas are specifically called this―if you refer to them by any other name (even something as close as casas colgantes) it is possible that Cuenca natives will send you in the wrong direction.
3. All sorts of nature: Go up the Serranía and visit where the Rio Curvo comes from, visit the Ciudad Encantada, or check out some of the small towns on the mountain such as Uña, Majadas, or Beteta.
One thing to eat: Ask any Cuencan and he/she will tell you that there are two things you absolutely must try: ajo arriero and morteruelo. Ajo arriero is a rich puree of cod fish, potatoes, garlic, and egg, but is still lighter than the meaty stew that is morteruelo. A local friend* recommended the Asador de Antonio for the best versions of either dish and a totally classic (non-tourist) experience. Luckily after all your walking around you will be ready for a stick-to-your-ribs meal.
*This friend is now back living in Cuenca and is trying his hand in the hospitality business. If you are heading to Cuenca and are looking for a place to stay (he does airbnb) or to see the sights or to eat traditional food, feel free to contact Diego at +34 662268409 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you tell him that 'Claudia' sent you I am sure he will look after you extra well!