An Unexpected Wonder in Cuenca

Posted on 13. Jul, 2010 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, Spain

While most people think Cuenca is in Ecuador (well, they’re right, but that’s not the one I want to talk about here), there’s actually another, lesser known homonym.

The Cuenca that had me at loss of words is located two hours east of Madrid. A bit in the middle of nowhere, really. But it just happens to be one of the best surprises I’ve had when exploring Spain.

I wasn’t even supposed to go there to start with – it was a total coincidence.

One of my friends, who happened to be travelling with me (and actually did pretty much all the driving - thanks Dan, by the way), was intrigued by the city for an excellent reason: Cuenca is actually his surname. All he really wanted to do was to strike a silly pose with the city sign! But after researching a little bit, we found out that the Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – that’s usually a good sign that the place is worth visiting. Indeed, it was!

The biggest selling point of the city is undoubtedly its location. Situated on the edge of a gorge, it offers incredible views of the region - just as long as you can forgo your fear of heights for a few minutes.

But despite how gorgeous it is during the day, to me, the city really is at its best at night. Walk around the Plaza Mayor to take in its atmosphere and its lovely lights, even in the dark alleys.

There are quite a few things to see in town, like the Plaza Mayor and the oddly shaped cathedral, which happens to be the very first gothic cathedral in Spain and dates back to 1270. The picture taking spots? Well, there are two. At the very end of Calle de San Pedro, and Puente de San Pablo. Both are very photogenic, and offer great panoramas of the city.

And of course, the very famous hanging houses -  Las Casas Colgadas. There are only a couple of houses left today but back in the days, the whole gorge was walled with such properties. It is quite daunting to see the porches literally hanging over the gorge, with no apparent support - one of them even hosts a restaurant, from what I’ve heard. Not that I will ever go see for myself, I’m fine on firm ground, thanks very much!

Cuenca is definitely not the most popular destination in Spain - but that’s just because people don’t know about it. And in addition to the natural beauty and striking architecture, it’s the homey atmosphere of the city that makes it so welcoming - and that’s why I kind of hope it stays a secret.

Have you been to Cuenca? What was the highlight of your visit?


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12 Responses to “An Unexpected Wonder in Cuenca”

  1. Anonymous

    14. Jul, 2010

    Great report. It makes you want be there already! What would you do differently if you were to go back?

    Reply to this comment
  2. Daniel Cuenca

    14. Jul, 2010

    I’m the one who has Cuenca for surname! And now I’m proud of it! :) I’m sure at 99% that the address of Pension Angel is “5 Calle de San Lázaro. Cuenca”. I think that Cuenca is an inconturnable place for people who love to travel and want to immerge themselves in the Spanish culture.

    Very nice Report Marie, and I hope that we will get back on the road soon!

    Reply to this comment
  3. Jim

    14. Jul, 2010

    Wow!Brings back great memories.Wonderful place and the gorge walkways are stunning.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Marie

    15. Jul, 2010

    Thank you guys for your comments.

    Anonymous - I would stay longer, that’s what I would do differently! I would take some time to visit the modern part of the city and take lots more pictures of the scenery.

    Dan - Again, thanks for all the driving, and the address! I updated my post.

    Jim - I’m glad it brings back great memories. Indeed, the views were amazing. It seemed that we could see the whole world (well Spain) from that point. How I wish I could go back!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Anonymous

    15. Jul, 2010

    Cuenca is indeed very laid back. In fact, this city is exactly the type of city I like to visit: you’re not rushing in every direction to get a glimpse at the main attractions nor you are inside museums from 8AM to 8PM.

    Walking around the city is relaxing, and that’s my perfect definition of vacation. There is no rush at all when you stroll around the city; not being rushed is not something we get to experience very often (even when we’re on vacation).

    Cuenca is located pretty much in the center of Spain, near Madrid. So I would recommend spending one or two days in that city if you’re doing a road trip in Spain, it will energize you and you’ll be in a better fit to appreciate the rest of your trip. The big cities in Spain can be exhausting (in a good way), so think of stopping by smaller and relaxing cities so you can catch your breath between your visit of Madrid and Barcelona ;)

    Reply to this comment
  6. Joannie

    15. Jul, 2010

    One word (or three): I love Cuenca!

    Marie, I like your writing style so much. I had never read you in english…. love it!

    You brought me back there for a few minutes. I could see us walking by the bridge where we could see the casas colgadas. When are we going back?



    Reply to this comment
  7. Steve

    19. Jul, 2010

    This story just goes to show that some of the best travel experiences can happen by accident. Those hanging houses would be amazing to see. It looks like it would be such a laid back and fun place to look around. Great story.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Sonja

    25. Aug, 2011

    Okay. Added this town to my list of towns to visit.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Sonsoles

    19. Dec, 2012

    Hello Marie,

    Thanks for this good trip report!

    My boyfriend and I are thinking about going to Cuenca for a couple of days in January and we would appreciate if you could give us recommendations on where to stay or to eat in town. For accomodation, we are looking for a central hostel/posada with some kind of charm. As for food, we would like to find the local places with good hearty and not so expensive food!

    Thanks in advance,

    Reply to this comment


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