Segovia overflows with culture and history, to the point that a monumental Roman aqueduct actually runs through the middle of the city. This is the most famous and photographed landmark, but the Alcázar fortress-palace is intertwined with Spain’s medieval royalty and needs to be explored.
It was the home of kings and queens, and thanks to its storybook towers is often listed among the most beautiful castles in Spain. There are also many high medieval romanesque churches dotted around the city, along with opulent renaissance palaces, all atop a rock stranded by two steep river valleys.
Lets explore the best things to do in Segovia:
1. Aqueduct of Segovia
This astounding structure is one of Europe’s greatest Roman monuments and an emblem for Segovia.
It runs 15 kilometres before it even reaches the city, and until the 1800s it continued to transport water to Segovia from the Frío River.
The aqueduct dates to the 1st century, during the rule Emperor Domitian, and what’s intriguing is the way its interlocking stones are held together more by force of gravity than by mortar, which is used only sparingly.
You can follow the aqueduct along Calle Almira, and then down the hill in Plaza Azuguego, where it is especially photogenic and reaches 28.5 metres in height.
2. Alcázar of Segovia
High on a crag and dominating Segovia’s western skyline, this celebrated palace has Roman and Moorish origins, but its storybook renaissance appearance dates to the 16th-century reign of Felipe II. Numerous Castilian monarchs lived at the Alcázar, like the Catholic Queen Isabella in the late 15th century.
A tour is a must, and will show you around the Throne Room and the Hall of Kings, where there’s a gilded frieze beneath the ceiling depicting all of Spain’s rulers from the 7th-centruy Pelagius of Asturias to the 16th-century Juana la Loca.
If you pay an additional fee you can also scale the stone spiral stairway to the top of the iconic Torre de Juan II for commanding views of Segovia and the Guadarrama Mountains to the southeast.
3. Segovia Cathedral
After Segovia’s old cathedral was destroyed in the Revolt of the Comuneros in 1520 a new one was constructed high in the former Jewish Quarter, some distance from the Alcázar where it would be out of harm’s way.
Despite being built in the renaissance, this magnificent building was constructed in an old-fashioned gothic style, and so is one of Europe’s newest original gothic structures.
On a visit it’s always a good idea to potter around the cathedral’s chapels to see the paintings, sculptures and sarchophogi.
The cloister is also beautiful, and in the museum there are paintings by the likes of the 15th-century renaissance artist Pedro Berruguete.
4. Walls of Segovia
As you’ll have seen at the Alcázar, Segovia’s steep topography made it easy to fortify and defend.
After the Christians retook the city from the Moors in 1088 King Alfonso VI expanded the city’s defences, and with a bit of help from the tourist office you can still trace the outline of these three-kilometre-long walls today.
There are five gates and also series of houses that back onto the defences and so boast reinforced walls and towers.
The most intact portion is just to the west of the cathedral, around the Gate of San Andrés, and from there you can get up to the ramparts and look across the Clamores Valley to where there was once a Jewish necropolis.
5. Mirador de la Pradera de San Marcos
At this small grassy glade next to the Eresma River and opposite the Casa de la Moneda you’ll have the definitive view of the Alcázar, which soars above the tree-line unobstructed by other buildings.
People stop by all day long for a photo of the north side of the palace.
This park forms the grounds of the small church of San Marcos, which merits a quick peek.
The best time to be here is in spring, when you can bring a picnic and marvel at one of Spain’s cultural treasures in the sunshine.
6. Museo de Segovia
For a whirlwind journey through the Segovia Province’s rich history, visit the Casa del Sol, which is one of the fortified buildings in the city wall.
On show are more than 1,500 pieces spanning several thousand years, including Roman mosaics, religious sculpture, renaissance paintings and coins from all eras.
One of the earliest and most exciting exhibits is a pair of carved Iberian boars, 2,500 years old.
In the 19th century Spain’s monasteries were disbanded and their treasures and artworks confiscated.
Many ended up in museums such as this, which has a beautiful Ecce Homo painting attributed to the Italian renaissance master, Ambrosius Benson.
7. Casa de los Picos
It’s difficult to wander past this house on Calle Juan Bravo without recognising it.
Casa de los Picos (roughly, house of the points), is a late-15th-century mansion with a facade adorned with 617 pyramid-shaped granite points.
The building was acquired by the city councilman Juan de la Hoz, and you can still see the coat of arms of his family above the portal and windows.
The interior is an exhibition hall of the Segovia Art school, and you should go inside to take a look at the stately renaissance courtyard.
8. Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso
This palace and its gardens, around 10 kilometres southeast of the city at the foothills of the Guadarrama Mountains, were built in the 18th century by King Felipe V as a summer residence.
The whole complex is open to the public, and if you’ve got a curious eye you can lose hours discovering every nook of these 1,500 acres.
Many people love the collection of 15th and 16th-century tapestries, with pieces belonging to Isabella the Catholic.
The gardens are in the formal style, with regal boulevards next to carefully-trimmed hedges, geometric, flowerbeds, toparies and 26 ornate fountains.
If possible, you should time your visit for San Fernando (May 30) or San Luis (June 21), as these are the only days of the year when all the fountains flow simultaneously.
9. Calle Real de Segovia
This isn’t so much a single road as a succession of pedestrian streets that bends through the old part of Segovia, guiding you past 15th and 16th-century palaces, churches, secular buildings like La Alhóndiga (Corn Exchange) and into the Jewish Quarter.
It runs from the Aqueduct to the Alcázar, so if you’re short on time then it’s the best whistle-stop introduction to Segovia.
You’ll start with Calle de Cervantes, leading off Plaza Azoguego, underneath the aqueduct and from there you’ll pass street performers, local shops, bars and cafes.
On Calle Juan Bravo there’s a monument to the eponymous rebel who led the Revolt of the Comuneros in Segovia in 1520 and was beheaded in 1521 for his trouble.
10. Iglesia de la Vera Cruz
A brief walk up from la Pradera de San Marcos is the pick of Segovia’s beloved romanesque churches.
On a green hillside, the Iglesia de la Vera Cruz was consecrated in 1208 by the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.
The church dates to the crusades, so a lot of the architecture such as the baptistery, mimics the 4th-century Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, with twelve sides, one for each apostle.
There’s a raised gallery around the nave and the flags and insignia of the Order of Malta is draped around the interior.
11. Iglesia de San Millán
What makes this church stand out among Segovia’s large assortment of romanesque temples is its bell-tower.
This is from the 10th century and would have been built while the city was still under Moorish rule.
The rest of the church has an almost austere appearance inside and out, which is a hallmark of the romanesque style, while the arcaded galleries on each side of the building have a solemn air.
It stands in the Moorish part of Segovia, and despite its stark beauty doesn’t receive a lot of tourists, so if you manage to track it down you may even have it all to yourself.
12. Plaza Medina del Campo
At this square just off Calle Juan bravo you’ll be in no doubt that you’re in the core of Segovia’s renaissance aristocratic district.
A bit like the Casa de los Picos around the corner, the mansions on this square have highly decorative facades, either carved or made with moulded plaster in the Moorish style.
This kind of design is known as “plateresque”, a kind of architecture inspired by the delicate silverwork from this time.
At the centre of the square is the Church of San Martín, yet another lovely romanesque church with Mozarabic origins.
13. Real Casa de la Moneda
You don’t have to be a numismatist to love Segovia’s former royal mint, which was founded by Felipe II and created currency from 1586 to 1869. It is probably Spain’s oldest industrial facility, with lots of its renaissance technology restored: This was the first mint in Spain to make coins with rollers.
The mint also relied on hydraulic power from the Eresma River, and you can see this water wheel in action today.
The hydraulic mechanism was constructed in Austria, before being shipped by road to this location, in what must have been a huge undertaking in the 16th century.
14. Jewish Quarter
As the Jews were expelled from Spain by the Catholic Monarchs more than half a millennium ago there are few traces left of Segovia’s once noted Jewish population.
The streets around the cathedral do follow the same plan as when this was a ghetto, and if you enter the Church of Corpus Christi you’ll see a fragment of one of the city’s two synagogues.
This building became a convent in the late 15th century, but the twin horseshoe arcades inside are a faint reminder of its original purpose.
Winters in this part of Spain can be surprisingly harsh, when snow falls and settles on the peaks of the Guadarrama range, just a few minutes from the city.
So the diet is rustic and protein-rich, with stews, sausages and lots of roasted meat.
The city’s signature dish has to be roast suckling pig, cooked until it’s so tender it can be cut with a plate (which they do in restaurants!). Also grown locally are judiones, big runner beans that go into a number if hearty stews, normally with chorizo or hunks of pork.
For the lowdown on Segovia’s food and drink, pay a visit to the Museo Gastronómico de Segovia, which tells you about the region’s culinary history and has local gourmet products to buy.