For anyone visiting Madrid and looking for a worthwhile excursion, then Segovia should be be number 1 on your list. Having got married there, and had my son christened there, I have a great fondness for the place. Segovia is a wonderful mix of Roman Spain, Medieval and Renaissance Spain and Modern Spain all rolled up into one.
The city is around an hour's journey from Madrid, and is in Spain's Castilla Leon region. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has 3 very important sites, dotted around the city: the Roman Aqueduct, the Gothic Cathedral and the Alcázar, not to mention its multitude of churches and palaces.
Let's start with the Aqueduct, which was probably built by the Romans between the late 1st and 2nd century AD. This amazing construction was built to bring water from the Acebeda river, situated near the Royal Palace of La Granja (around 10 kilometres away). The Romans used no other material apart from stone to hold the structure together and those stones are as solid today as they were the day they were first lifted into place. Incredibly, the aqueduct is still capable of functioning today. In the past carts, and even cars and lorries, passed through its arches but these have obviously been prohibited now.
The Alcázar of Segovia is probably one of its most famous monuments. It is said that its design influenced the castle in Disney's Sleeping Beauty. There has been some sort of fortress situated on the site of the Alcázar since the 12th century. It has a number of impresive towers and a large hall. The Alcázar has been a favourite with Spanish royalty down the centuries: Enrique IV was involved in various developments on the fortress, the Spanish queen, Isabel the catholic left here to be crowned in 1474 and the kings and queens of the Austrian dynasty frequented it, Phillip II marrying his fourth wife Anne of Austria here. Entrance price: € 2.25. Students: € 1.65. and pensioners/associations: € 1.50.
Segovia's cathedral is located in the city's Plaza Mayor and is called the dame of Spanish cathedrals. Its location is on the highest point of the city and is built on the site of the old Romanesque cathedral. It was begun in 1525 and was completed in 1528, during the regin of Carlos V and was a very impressive building.
Aside from its historic buildings, Segovia is well-known for the exceptional quality of its food. Regional favourites inlcude suckling pig, judiones (butter beans) and roast lamb. The city regularly holds gastronomic festivals and the most popular restaurants are: Mesón de Cándido (an institution in segovia), José María and Duque.
If you're looking to stay in the city, then you could look at the Parador, a stylish, modern hotel located just outside the city or the following hotels in or near the city centre: Hotel Los Linajes, Hostería Ayala Berganza and Hotel Los Arcos. The city of Segovia is surrounded by mountains and it is worth heading off to the Palace of La Granja, which used to be a summer residence of the Spanish kings and has fabulous fountains in its gardens. In winter time the mountains are often capped by snow, which makes the place look even more beautiful.
Getting to Segovia
Train: from Atocha or Chamartin you can catch the Cercanias (local) train.
Bus: Estación Sur - Metro: Méndez Alvaro.
See also: Travelling Spain's Segovia page