Ávila in Castilla y León is a magnificent walled city and is one of the oldest towns in the region.
Though the Celtic Iberians were the first to leave their mark on Ávila with the stone boars and ancient hill fort of Castro de las Cogotas, and the Romans also reached the area, the biggest historical influences on the city are Islamic, Hebrew and Christian culture. After the Christians conquered the Arab Muslims, 1900 people, mostly captive Muslims, built the city walls - a feat that historians believe took 9 years during the 11th century.
As a result of the Arab labour, this 3km long, rosary-shaped, Romanesque wall also has some Moresque features. Only some sections of the walls are open to visitors but the spectacular views of the city from the top make it an experience not to be missed. The eastern wall is the most striking but the wall has 9 beautiful gateways and is topped with over 2,000 crenellations to keep watch on the Ávila horizon.
The Puerta del Alcázar and the gateway next to the Basílica de San Vicente are a must for every visitor. Several Romanesque churches, the Gothic cathedral and the medieval and Renaissance palaces such as the Palacio de los Velada add to the city's rich history, a history which has been marked by the many Hebrew and Muslim writers who crafted their mystical and spiritual writings here.
The legacy of Ávila's most famous historical figure, Santa Teresa, is also traced across the architecture of the city at several convents including the Convento de Santa Teresa and the Convento de San José, as well as the Palacio de Núñez Vela, the Iglesia de San Juan where her baptismal fountain is kept and the Monasterio de Santa María de Gracia. Why not take an hour out to walk around the city walls or enjoy the streets and plazas with a leisurely stroll as you explore all the fine architecture that Ávila has to offer?
Don't forget to visit some of the museums for an insight into the context of the construction and history of the city with the Museum of Ávila that traces the rural culture and traditions of the region as well as its history from prehistory to the 19th century including many artefacts from the Roman era, the Museum of Santa Teresa at the Covento de la Encarnación, and an exhibition of religious art in the Cardinal's Chapel, and the Tesoro and Cantorales rooms of the cathedral.
There is also a Museum of Oriental Art containing artworks brought to Spain from the Orient by Dominican missionaries including choir books and Phillipine ivory as well as having a room dedicated to Natural History with a display of animals specimens.
You'll find a modern shopping centre on the outskirts of the city but inside you'll discover small shops selling souvenirs and the convents sell their own delicious biscuits, cakes and sweets. Ávila has many local delicacies to try in it's restaurants and bars. Veal and roast meats are popular as well as beans from Barco de Ávila, and goat's cheese from the Tieter Valley. The dish, patatas revolcanos, made of potatoes and spicy chorizo is well worth a try while you sit with a glass of wine watching the city walls as they are illuminated at dusk.
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