Before our first road trip to Spain, we didn’t know that the country has 48 UNESCO World Heritage Sites or that the entire Old Town of Segovia is one of them. We’d heard of its famously preserved Roman aqueduct but never imagined we’d actually visit it someday. It was our Spanish friend Alicia who told us we absolutely had to set aside at least one day of our 10-day road trip to explore Segovia. She was so right!
Despite a fiasco of a flat tire that almost prevented us from getting there, we saw enough to know it belongs on every travel brochure and Instagram account. Though we only scratched the surface, we were able to visit the three most stunning highlights in Segovia’s UNESCO Old Town: the Roman Aqueduct of Segovia, the Alcázar of Segovia, and the Segovia Cathedral. Read on to find out what else not to miss!
Segovia Self Guided Walking Tour Map
Start your trip with a Spanish churro!
Any trip to Spain really isn’t complete without having at least one – or ten – churros!
Also called calientes or tejeringos, these fried doughy pastries are common in Spain, France, Cuba, the US Southwest, and many South American countries.
On the morning of our trip to Segovia, Travis and I slept in like royalty. We eventually woke up without an alarm, showered, then headed downstairs to put some coffee on.
With perfect timing, our friend and personal tour guide for the day, Alicia, arrived back at the house with a bag in hand. She had walked down to the local pastry shop in the cold and rain to buy us fresh churros, which I especially love.
Though some are filled with fruit, cheese, or dulce de leche and come in different shapes and sizes, the Spanish churros Alicia brought for us were fairly thin, coated with sugar, and curled into twists.
Most folks in the US are probably familiar with churros because they’re a popular item from the deli at Costco, though the American version is usually rolled in cinnamon and sugar.
Either way, you can’t go wrong.
Over breakfast, Alicia proposed a plan to drive the 45 minutes to the town of Segovia for more sightseeing.
We were currently at her family’s summer home in Collado Mediano, about half way between Madrid and Segovia. They were kind enough to let us stay there so we could use it as a jumping off point for day trips to El Escorial, which we had visited the day before, and Segovia.
Budget Travel Tip: If you’re driving to Segovia from Madrid, don’t take the AP-6/AP-61 freeway route if you want to avoid road tolls and save a few bucks. Instead, take the A-6 from Madrid to Collado Villalba and then the M-601 highway to Segovia. The latter route adds about 15 minutes to your drive time, but you’ll experience more of rural Spain on your road trip.
With really no idea what to expect, Trav and I gathered our things and we all headed out the door into the cold, blustery day.
Fate tries to prevent us from getting to Segovia.
Rounding the car to the passenger side, I was bummed to see we had a flat tire. Not a leaking tire or a low tire, but a tire so flat it looked like it had been gashed.
Boooo, Fate. You’re lame.
We were parked in the gated driveway of Alicia’s family’s home, so we assumed we must’ve just run over something that punctured it when we pulled in the night before.
No worries! These Two Small Potatoes have changed lots of flat tires.
Without missing a beat, we unloaded the back of the VW.
Alicia held an umbrella to keep the rain at bay while we hauled out the jack and the spare. We jacked up the tire, loosened the bolts, and pulled.
Unconcerned, we yanked on it and kicked at it to loosen the tire from the car.
We then proceeded to try every trick in the book to get a tire off.
We used the jack as a pry bar. We put the bolts partially on and lowered the tire to get the weight of the car to pop it free. We put the bolts back on loosely and drove the VW forward and backward while hitting the brakes to try to dislodge the tire. We used a giant branch under the tire to try to create leverage to wedge the tire free.
An hour later, the cursed tire still hadn’t budged an inch.
Instead of getting mad or impatient, Alicia took it all in stride, merely laughing along with us when the rain turned to snow and the hills above town turned white.
She then had the presence of mind to ask if we had any kind of roadside assistance.
Lo and behold, we actually DID!
Admitting that for the first time ever a flat tire had defeated us, I called the phone number on our Helvetia Swiss insurance card. Not only was the call free despite my fears that we’d be hit with massive roaming fees out of Switzerland, but the gentleman spoke English flawlessly and assured me he’d call around and have a tow truck sent to our address asap.
When the tow truck driver showed up, we were chagrined but also a bit relieved that he too was unable to loosen the tire. Even a professional couldn’t get it off. He blamed it on Swiss roads that’re salted in winter, essentially creating a kind of glue when the salt mixes with dirt from the road.
He also finally gave up, loaded our poor VW onto a small flatbed, and drove off to a nearby shop with Alicia and Travis.
By the time the car reached the auto shop, it was nearing 2 pm – precisely when their two-hour daily lunch break starts.
We were in for a wait.
Who loves Spanish siesta?
Two Small Potatoes!
No sooner had I started a roaring fire and shed my soggy clothes than Trav and Alicia arrived back at the house. We made lunch and consoled ourselves about the “wasted day” by lounging in front of the toasty fire, enjoying a chance to just relax.
The living room with its collection of colorful plates and cozy couches was a welcome relief from the tardy winter storm raging outside the door.
Trav and I both grew up with wood heat in North Idaho, and a wood fire always feels homey and nostalgic.
When the shop finally called around 5 pm, it was difficult to haul myself off the couch.
Thanks to Alicia’s enthusiasm for Segovia, we couldn’t say no!
Highlights of the UNESCO Old Town of Segovia
With a population of just 50,000, Segovia is located in the province of Castile and Leon in central Spain. The historic town is truly beautiful, with warm terracotta buildings set against the bright green Sierra de Guadarrama mountains in the distance.
As a UNESCO World Heritage City, it features three especially stunning monuments: the Roman Aqueduct of Segovia, the Alcázar of Segovia, and the Segovia Cathedral.
Ancient Roman Aqueduct of Segovia
Less than an hour after leaving Collado Mediano, we arrived in Segovia’s Old Town. We parked the car and set off to explore on foot.
It’s definitely the best way to see town.
In no time we were staring up in amazement at the imposing monstrosity of the Aqueduct of Segovia, the symbol of the city.
Likely constructed around 50 AD, the massive two-tier Roman aqueduct with its glorious arches cuts right through town. This insane feat of engineering was built to transport water from the Río Frío in the Sierra de Guadarrama for 18 km via canal to the city of Segovia.
At its highest point, the aqueduct towers almost 100 feet above the ground (28.5 meters).
It stretches across the city for 813 meters – almost a kilometer. It takes a decent chunk of time just to walk the full 2667-foot length of it.
With 221 pillars and a total of about 24,000 blocks of granite, the thing is just a beast.
The aqueduct was still in use right up until the 19th century.
Despite how well preserved it is, it has recently suffered from pollution, degradation of the stone, and water leakage. It was listed on the 2006 World Monuments Watch List of endangered historical/cultural sites.
Hopefully experts will be able to protect it so it will still be standing for future generations.
If you’re able, make sure to climb the stairs next to the aqueduct.
The Mirador del Acueducto overlook at the top provides unbeatable views of town, bordered by green fields and ringed by the distant Guadarrama Mountains.
If you’re wondering if you can walk across the top of the aqueduct, the answer is most definitely not. In fact, evil medieval-style spikes on the overlook prevent people from climbing from there to the upper level of arches.
For that, you’ll have to go to Tarragona, Spain where visitors can follow the top of the aqueduct like a trail.
Hopefully during your own trip to Segovia, you’ll have plenty of daylight left after visiting the aqueduct. There are still so many things to see and do!
Thanks to our little tire fiasco, we didn’t.
We were quickly losing what was left of the day, so we set off through the streets of Segovia’s Old Town at a faster pace than our norm. I could spend an entire day there just photographing the buildings with their red-tiled roofs, arched windows, and brick facades crossing over narrow old streets.
Photography Tip: The Calle Obispo Gandaseguí is a particularly photogenic narrow little street in town.
Segovia Cathedral – Catedral de Segovia
The 16th-century Gothic Cathedral of Segovia is another of the three most famous monuments within the town’s UNESCO center. It was one of the last Gothic cathedrals to have been built in Spain.
The large square in front of the cathedral is the Plaza Mayor, the very heart of Old Town Segovia. A handful of other churches and important attractions surround the square, including the town hall, the Iglesia de San Miguel, the Juan Bravo Theater, and the Calle Real, one of the most famous streets in town.
Unfortunately for us, the cathedral had long since closed when we finally arrived.
Stupid flat tire!!
All we could do was admire it from the exterior.
It’s definitely a sight to behold though. Many consider it the most stunning cathedral in Spain, so if you have a chance to go inside, hopefully you will. Then you can report back to us!
Insider Travel Tip: The Segovia Cathedral offers FREE entry on Sunday from 9 – 10 am from April through Octuber and 9:30 – 10:30 am from November through March. However, the cloister, tapestry room, Bajo Clastro painting room, and chapels remain closed during these hours.
San Miguel Church – Iglesia de San Miguel
The Iglesia de San Miguel is a small stone chapel on the Plaza Mayor just across from the Segovia Cathedral.
Next to the grandeur of the cathedral, the chapel seems rather small and plain. But historians and history buffs might be interested to know that it was at this site on December 13, 1474 that Isabel la Católica was named Queen of Castile.
She would go on to rule as queen for 30 years, during which time she and her husband, King Ferdinand II of Aragon, are credited with reorganizing their debt, reducing crime, funding Christopher Columbus’s voyage in 1492, and uniting Spain to become a major power in Europe.
Segovia Fortress – Alcázar de Segovia
The Alcázar de Segovia, or Segovia Fortress, is the last of the three most incredible monuments in Segovia.
An alcazar is a fortress or castle with Moorish origins. Not terribly common, they mostly exist in Spain and date from the 8th through the 15th centuries. The most famous and well preserved are the ones in Segovia, Seville, and Toledo.
The Alcázar of Segovia is located in the very northwest corner of the edge of town, high up on an elongated rocky outcropping. Uniquely shaped like the bow of the ship, the fortress overlooks the confluence of the Eresma and Clamores Rivers. With far-reaching views of the surrounding countryside, its royal turrets, spires, drawbridge, and moat make it one of the most memorable castles we’ve seen.
Photography Tip: While the views of the Alcazar at the visitors’ entrance are stunning, the best views are from the adjacent hill to the northwest. From there, you can see the fortress grounds zigzagging down in multiple levels like giant stone terraces.
It probably goes without saying but the fortress was also closed when we got there. We’ll always be sad that we visited such an incredibly magical, beautiful place and weren’t able to go inside.
Instead, we wandered around the grounds and appreciated having such a famous attraction all to ourselves.
We would definitely go back to Segovia just to be able to go inside the Alcázar.
One of the other monuments in town that is also really old and just incredibly charming is the Puerta de San Andrés.
The gate makes up part of the outer medieval fortifications of the city. Sometimes also called the Puerta de la Judería because of its proximity to the old Jewish Quarter, the massive double towers joined with an arch are unique in how different the gate looks on the front and back sides.
From the outer wall, the gate looks like a typical entrance to a castle. From the inner walls though, it simply looks like typical living quarters for inhabitants. You wouldn’t even know it’s a gate through the ancient city walls.
Try one of the regional specialties for dinner at La Bodega del Barbero.
Make sure to leave time to experience other unique aspects of the local culture as well – namely, the food! Your trip isn’t complete until you’ve sampled cochinillo, a regional specialty.
With stomachs ferociously growling, we set off back toward the aqueduct in search of this dish Alicia assured us we’d like. Stopping in front of a tiny place called La Bodega del Barbero, Travis looked a bit confused to see a menu posted outside on the sidewalk. He assumed from the name that the shop must be a hair salon, which is understandable since barbero means barber.
Once he realized it was a restaurant, he perused the menu in earnest. When Alicia noted several Spanish specialties we hadn’t tried, including cochinillo, we were sold.
Decorated with hair-themed drawings and art, the interior really does resemble a barber shop.
Alicia helped us choose several appetizers to share. I tried a surprisingly good glass of Rioja, a local red wine, and we each ordered a main dish.
Torn between guilt and curiosity, I had to try the cochinillo, which is suckling pig. Suckling pig – as in baby pig. When it arrived, I was grateful that it was merely chunks of tender pork, bone-in, rather than an entire baby pig on a platter as it’s sometimes served.
We’re clearly not vegetarians, but it somehow seems sacrosanct to eat baby animals, as if they deserve to survive at least to adulthood before they’re slaughtered. Or perhaps these are merely the empty justifications of a carnivore.
Regardless, the small amount of meat was tender and tasty, though most of the portion was bone, much like eating chicken feet, so I instead filled up on the bite-sized ham-filled appetizers, tasty samples of Alicia’s Jurassic-sized-bean soup, and Trav’s bowl of egg, chorizo, and bread soaked in a spiced broth. Dinner was really tasty, and we definitely recommend the restaurant if you’re looking for a good restaurant in Segovia.
Have you been to Segovia? Did you like it? Are there any incredible attractions we missed that belong on a “Best of Segovia” list?
By the time we left the restaurant, it was almost midnight. Walking back to our car, I was so stuffed I feared I was actually in danger of rolling down the hill to the car. I welcomed the brisk walk through deserted streets in the cool night air.
Arriving back in Collado Mediano, we all tiredly said goodnight and fell exhausted into bed. Another day of Spanish adventures awaited us the following day with a crazy little incident facing down a train in Zaragoza!
Know Before You Go
The Segovia Aqueduct is FREE to visit.
A regular price ticket for the Segovia Cathedral costs €3.
Official website for the Real Alcazar de Sevilla (ES). A single adult ticket costs €9 for entrance to the palace, museum, and Tower of John II. A reduced price ticket is available for €6 to enter the palace and museum but not the tower.
Guided tours at the Alcazar are available in Spanish typically twice every hour, starting on the hour and at half past. Only two people are required for the tours to happen. For a private guided tour in English, French, or Spanish, you’ll need to make a reservation at least 72 hours in advance.
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Map of 10 Day Road Trip – Switzerland to Spain
The dark green pins mark our travel for day six, from Collado Mediano to Segovia. The blue line roughly follows our entire 10-day travel path.