Cuenca in Spain: Top 10 Cultural Experiences

by Jules on May 13, 2014

The gorgeous town of Cuenca is nested in Spain’s central Castilla La Mancha region and is brimming with UNESCO-worthy cultural sights. Nestled within two spectacular river gorges, Cuenca’s greatest draw is undoubtedly the gravity-defying ‘hanging houses’, aka casas colgadas, which have to be seen to be believed.

Cuenca’s Hanging Houses – Seemingly clinging onto the cliff faces for dear life, Cuenca’s casas colgadas, better known as hanging houses, are an absolute must-see. Dating back to the 14th century, these striking houses jut out over the Río Huécar, in a city dominated by medieval gorges. Their wooden balconies jut defiantly from the rock and the best views to be had are from the Puente de San Pablo (St Paul) bridge.

Museum of Spanish Abstract Art – Housed within one of the colgadas is the supremely interesting Museo de Arte Abstracto Español which contains an impressive selective of contemporary art and sculpture. Artists including Eusebio Sempere, Eduardo Chillida, Antonio Saura and Antoni Tàpies are all featured.

Catedral de Cuenca – Rising up from the Street Plaza Mayor is the handsome Gothic Cathedral whose highlights include the mysterious Gothic tombs belonging to the Montemayor family and a series of exquisite stained-glass windows.

UNESCO Listed Walled Town – Spend some time walking around the charming walled town which is a World Heritage Site. Cuenca was strategically constructed by the Moors in the prime position at the center of the Caliphate of Cordoba. And walking the quaint streets is a great way to acquaint yourself with the well-preserved medieval fortified town.

Archeological Museum – Explore the engaging exhibits which are largely dedicated to the interesting Roman finds in the local area.

Ars Natura – Cuenca’s Calle Diego Ramírez de Villaescusa is home to the intriguing and uber-modern environmental museum of Ars Natura. Local flora and fauna are presented alongside thought provoking installations centered around environmental issues, such as climate change and sustainability.

Espacio Torner – Located within one of Cuenca’s Gothic churches is the contemporary art gallery, Espacio Torner. A superb collection of both abstract paintings and sculptures are in display within this historic building. The gallery itself is named after the local influential artist Gustavo Torner, who was born in Cuenca in 1925, who together with Fernando Zobel and Gerardo Rueda, pioneered the artistic movement in the 1960s.

Torre de Mangana – When Muslim rulers controlled Cuenca, they constructed what was, at the time, an impressive fortress. All that remains today is a solitary square tower, which harks back to the town’s heyday as a Muslim stronghold.

Huécar Canyon – Spread across 5 km or so of precipitous countryside, the picturesque Huecar canyon provides the perfect backdrop for a challenging hike.

Cuenca Cuisine – Don’t leave without sampling the local La Mancha roasted lamb and the heady gazpacho which is prepared with partridge, chicken and ham. Try the deliciously rich ‘migas’ which is marinated in garlic and fried in breadcrumbs. The river crabs are not to be missed and round off a meal with an ‘el alajú’ almond pastry and a tot of the rich liquor Resoli, which fuses coffee, orange peel and cinnamon in the perfect sipping beverage.

Image credit: Tamorlan CC BY 3.0

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