Having been to Madrid many times before and seen all the sights, we decided to use one of our days this time to go on a day trip. We had a few options, Toledo perhaps, or El Escorial, but the princess in me wanted to see the Alcazar castle in Segovia so we decided to spend our day there.
There are a few ways to get from Madrid to Segovia.
- You can get the fast train from Madrid Chamartin train station to Segovia which takes 30 mins and goes every half an hour and costs €12.90 each way.
- There is also a slow, regional train from Madrid Atocha to Segovia which takes around 2hours and costs €8 each way.
- Then there is the Sepulvedana bus service from Madrid Moncloa to Segovia every 30 mins and lasts about 1hr (make sure to get a direct bus rather than one that makes stops along the way) and also costs €8 each way.
The benefit of the bus is that it drops you right in the centre of Segovia whereas the train station is about 4km out-of-town and you then need to get an additional bus in. We decided on the bus option, bought our tickets (from the kiosk on the lowest level of the bus station at Moncloa) and hopped on board.
An hour later we arrived in Segovia having travelled through some amazing scenery – just outside Madrid, the mountains are spectacular and you can see the snow-capped peaks in the distance as you travel on the motorway. The closer you get to Segovia, the higher you go and the more rustic the scenery becomes, small towns and villages set in the hills – you’d almost never believe you were that close to the capital city if you hadn’t been there an hour ago!
On arrival in Segovia we booked our return bus first (they fill up quickly and you can’t book a specific return when you book your outward journey so best to cross the road to the Sepulvedana kiosk and choose your return journey straight away on arrival) and decided to head towards the castle.
You can’t see much of the old town from where the bus drops you, it’s on the main thoroughfare, you have to walk up to the old town (about 10 minutes) and it’s a really lovely walk along old cobbled streets.
As you head upwards from the main street you can see the Old Town up on the hill in the distance. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you hit this amazing arch – the gate to the Old Town.We continued up the hill following signs for Alcazar and as you round the corner you can see it up ahead on the rocky outcrop. A bit further on and you come face to face with the castle, it really is spectacular. I’m reliably informed that it was the inspiration for the castle in Disney’s Cinderella and also for the story of Rapunzel and you can see why. It’s very fairytale-like with its tall round turrets and pointed roofs and pink hue.
I spent quite a bit of time trying to get a good photograph, but really, the most spectacular photos are those taken from the ground looking up at it as you get a sense of its size and dominance over the whole area. These pictures do it justice and you can see just how it could be the inspiration for a fairytale palace!
We bought tickets (€5.50) and went inside to have a look around. You can also buy an additional ticket at €2.50 to climb the John II Tower (the big rectangular one at the entrance) which has 152 steps and an amazing view. We didn’t have much time to look around so went with the standard pass.
As you walk over the bridge to the entrance you can look down and see just how deep the moat is. It’s built on a rocky outcrop in the middle of a plain and you can see for miles around – definitely the best defensive spot in the area which is why it was first conceived as fortress. It was later turned into a Royal Palace and State prison after that, but also served as Royal College of Artillery.
We started in the cellars and vaults and got to see some of the original foundations (much of the castle has been renovated after a fire in the 1800s). We then got to wander round some of the rooms which were huge and so opulent – the ceilings were magnificent and so were the paintings and tapestries along with the statues that adorned the walls.
The rooms were furnished as they might have been hundreds of years ago but soon we came to Dan’s favourite room…
the armoury – he spent ages looking at the suits of armour and swords and cannons, which were, to be fair, pretty amazing. You could see by the sheer amount of weapons that it had obviously been an amazing Artillery School.
After the castle we decided to take a walk around the Old Town. In 1985 the old city of Segovia and its Aqueduct were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO and it’s obvious why. It really is an absolutely beautiful town. The buildings, like the castle, had a similar pinky orange colour and they reminded me of Siena. We walked through the Town Square called Plaza Mayor and were stunned at the beauty of the Segovia Cathedral, the last Gothic cathedral to be built in Spain. The streets were so quiet and the whole place was so picturesque it was hard to imagine that people actually live there.
Lastly we wandered to the Aqueduct which was built by the Romans in about 100AD to transport water from the mountains to the town and it is still used to deliver drinking water today. It is an amazing sight, and has been called the most impressive Roman structure in Spain. It consists of about 25,000 granite blocks held together without any mortar, and spans 818 meters with more than 170 arches, the highest being 29 metres high. It really is an amazing architectural beauty and we spent a while staring at it and marvelling at its construction.
Had we had time, we would then have finished this amazing day at Meson Candido which is a the most famous restaurant in town – known to do the best suckling piglet around but unfortunately it was shut when we went and wasn’t going to open for a few hours – just another reason to go back in the future I guess.
We walked back to the bus station through the Old Town, picking a different route and ended up in the ‘High Street.’ This is where everyone was! Shops and bars and restaurants, a stones throw away from where we’d been but a completely different atmosphere, it was bustling and crowded. Plenty of places to buy a souvenir or get a drink. We ended up getting a glass of Rioja in a traditional old bar before jumping back on the bus and heading back into town to meet our friends for dinner.
A really lovely day out with plenty of history and beautiful architecture, culture and only a short distance from Madrid. I’d definitely recommend Segovia for a day trip – a chance to get out of the city, up into the hills and see a different side of this amazing region.
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