Last Updated on September 29, 2021 by Jim Ferri
Beautiful Segovia, is a favorite place for Madrialeños to go off to for lunch on the weekends…it’s also a great day trip from Madrid for the rest of us.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
By Jim Ferri
Oftentimes when travelers in Spain take a day trip from Madrid, they opt to go to Toledo. It’s the former home of the artist El Greco, and only about a half-hour train ride south of the city.
For many, however, a better choice might be a day trip from Madrid to Segovia. Also only a half hour by train, it’s north of Madrid.
But Segovia, you see, is also a beautiful city and it’s a lot more relaxed place than Toledo. That’s because it doesn’t get the hordes of tourists that Toledo does. It’s such a favorite place for Madrialeños, that many go there for lunch on the weekends. You may want to do the same.
From Madrid to Segovia, An Easy Day Trip
The fairy-tale Castilian city of Segovia is one of the most spectacularly positioned cities in all of Spain
Inside its old crenelated 11th-century city walls (partly built with gravestones snatched from a Roman necropolis) you’ll find one of the greatest surviving examples of ancient Roman engineering in the world.
You’ll also discover a bevy of Romanesque churches from medieval times. And there’s a beautiful castle, and narrow pedestrian streets wending their way through a lovely old city. To top it off, the entire old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
And about that castle…the fairytale-looking Alcazar which dominates the skyline. It’s a beautiful castle, thought by many to be the model for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
But with its Rapunzel-like turrets and towers, you have to admit it does look a bit more German than Spanish. Some, however, believe it’s really Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle that caught Walt’s eye.
Nevertheless, what you see now in Segovia is not the original. Today’s Alcazar was rebuilt in the 13th and 14th centuries, and then burned down in 1862. It was later partially reconstructed.
Admission to the Alcazar is €6 per person. Inside you’ll find two interesting salons, the Sala de las Piñas and the Sala de Reyes, and hidden passageways. You can also see the throne room, bedroom and Chapel of Ferdinand and Isabella, who later became Queen of Spain.
Go out on the ramparts for a good view of Segovia and the surrounding area. For an additional €3 you can climb the 152 steps of the spiral staircase in tower for an even better view.
Segovia’s Old City
Leave the Alcazar and walk downhill along Calle de Daoiz, a pedestrian lane lined with little shops, galleries, and restaurants. It’s a great little Segovian street much less crowded than any you’ll find in Toledo. Or in many other more popular Spanish cities, as well.
As we walked along we wandered in and out of several shops and galleries. We took our time as we ambled along, just wandering into into various shops to enjoy the ambiance.
Along the way we came to the home, now a museum, of Antonio Machado, one of Spain’s pre-eminent poets. He lived here from 1919 to 1932.
You’ll find a statue of Machado, a book tucked under his arm, down the street in the Plaza Mayor. It’s right across from the city’s renowned and many-spired Gothic cathedral, the last built in Spain. Backing up to the old Jewish Quarter, it stands on the spot where Isabel I was proclaimed Queen of Castile.
Construction of it begun in 1525, and it took more than 200 years to complete. Its austere interior, encompassing some 20 chapels, is a bit brightened by 16th-century Flemish windows. The attached Museo Categralicio, as one might expect, houses a collection of religious art.
Plaza Mayor, the Center of Segovia
To me though, the real charm of the area was on the Plaza Mayor in front of the cathedral. The historic plaza is ringed with restaurants and bars often filled with those Madrialeños on the weekends. It’s also one of the most comfortable little squares I’ve seen in any small city or town.
The colonnade on its north side is lined with restaurants and outdoor cafés. Under a under a canopy of umbrellas and awnings, we wandered past people either finishing a late breakfast or gathering before lunch.
I watched one large family group, all well dressed, that had likely just come from a christening in the cathedral. As the women gathered around the tables beneath the umbrellas, the men stood off to the side sipping their beers and coffees.
You can do some serious lunching in Segovia where the meal often starts about 3 PM. If you haven’t made reservations at one of the better restaurants just show up a bit earlier, perhaps at 1-1:30 PM, and you likely won’t have a problem.
Mesón De Cándido and El Acueducto
Segovia’s Plaza Mayor was the kind of place where we could have easily whiled away the afternoon watching the passing parade. But after a while we had to move on to meet some friends at the Mesón De Cándido, a famous restaurant on the Plaza Azoguejo.
Plaza Azoguejo is where you can best see El Acueducto, the nearly 3,000-foot long Roman Aqueduct built in the 1st century AD to carry water from the mountains to the town. For being almost 2,000 years old, it’s remarkably well preserved.
Along with the Pont du Gard in Southern France, it’s one of the last remaining marvels of Roman engineering in the world. Amazingly, no mortar was used to hold together its 24,000 rough-hewn granite blocks.
Mesón De Cándido is a rustic restaurant in a 19th-century half-timbered house on the plaza, right at the base of El Acueducto. It’s well known for its suckling pig – a famous regional dish – that’s been enjoyed by numerous celebs including Hemingway and Nixon. With its old plaster walls, beamed ceilings, and narrow, worn stone stairway, it also serves up a good helping of ambiance.
Our waiter had told us that the suckling pig is cut with a plate. Still, though, I was surprised later when the pig was brought out and “plated” by Cándido’s owner, who then smashed the plate on the stone floor to the applause of everyone in the room.
In some respects, it was almost as amazing as that Roman marvel outside the door.
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