I was recently in Cuenca – the one in Spain, not the one in Ecuador.
It was, I think, my fourth time there, and I gotta say…
If you haven’t been to Cuenca, you’re really missing out.
Nobody talks about it much, with most of the guiris preferring beaten-track destinations like Barcelona, Granada or Sevilla.
(When I decide I no longer want to have friends, I’ll finally write that article about how Barcelona is totally overrated. And how the beach sucks.)
But anyway, as I was saying…
The first time I went to Cuenca – and every time thereafter – I’ve just been shocked at the beauty of the city, the architecture, the landscapes in the surrounding areas and more.
And did I mention they have good food too?
Tourism in Cuenca, Spain
The old city of Cuenca was built on a hilltop, with houses right up to the edge of the cliffs.
The dropoff to the river (a tiny one called Río Huécar) is impressive, and there’s a steel bridge over the gorge to the Parador de Turismo – a hotel built inside an old monastery.
The most famous bits of architecture are the Casas Colgadas – very old houses with balconies which are actually hanging off the cliffs over the gorge.
Let’s see a few recommendations for things to do, while we’re here…
My favorite places to visit in Cuenca
I’ve got several favorite places to visit in Cuenca. Take a look…
- The Abstract Art Museum which occupies one of the Casas Colgadas. The art isn’t really my thing, but the building is cool enough to make up for it. Plus it’s free. Definitely worth taking a look.
- The Parador de Turismo – already mentioned. There’s a bar inside with a terraza in summer, it’s pretty sweet. (I’ve been to a lot of bars in a lot of Paradores around Spain, and this is one of my favorites. Almost as good as Baiona, in Galicia.) Also, the bridge to get there from the Casas Colgadas – the one in the picture above – is awesome.
- Restaurante El Secreto – the new find on this trip, thanks to Google Maps. We had two great lunches here, and the price is pretty good too. They’ve got two locations, I visited the one at Calle Alfonso VIII, 81. (The other is near the cathedral.) Totally worth it. Make a reservation just in case.
- The nature around the city! You can get a little map at tourist information that will show a few of the routes. But basically, head for the castle and look for the stairs going down into the canyon. From there you can see some cool rock formations along the river. I wrote a bit about GR trails here too.
Negatives about Cuenca: the science museum kinda sucks, but at least it was free on the day we went. And we had some pretty bad food in the newer part of the city.
(Pro tip from a guy who really loves food – if you’re going to call it “hamburguesa de buey”, make sure it’s not some frozen-ass pork patty. See also: Dear Spain, stop ruining international cuisine.)
Getting to Cuenca: You can catch a bus, drive, or take the train. This time I took the AVE, which is awesome and only takes about an hour.
You can easily swing by for a day trip from Madrid or Valencia but I think Cuenca is worth a full weekend – even 3 or 4 days if you’ve got time and you like smaller towns.
So if you plan to sleep while you’re there…
Places to Stay in Cuenca, Spain
There are plenty of hotels and hostals around Cuenca – I’ve stayed in a few.
Posada Huecar is old-school and cheap, just at the bottom of the hill next to the river. I stayed there a couple of times. The beds aren’t great, but it’s cool for the ambiance and the price.
And this time I was in the NH Ciudad de Cuenca – a nice hotel, but not very well-located – it’s a bit outside town.
Anyway, I’m no hotel critic, so why not just click on this affiliate link and give some money to Booking.com?
I’ll get a little bit too, and I promise to spend every penny I may earn on the usual – wine, pork and loose women.
So you’ll be supporting this blog, which is definitely a great idea.
But there are lots of great places to see in Cuenca.
And it’s small… really you can just take a walk around and do all your sightseeing on foot. Take a day or two.
It’ll be cool, I promise.
P.S. More places I’ve been, if you’re curious: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Ávila – the home of Santa Teresa, windy and dilapidated Puerto de Santa María, and sunny Cercedilla. And for more photos of Cuenca and beyond, check out my Instagram.
P.P.S. For more about mirando pa’ Cuenca, check out 10 obscene Spanish expressions. You won’t regret it.