16 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Segovia
Segovia is a place of romance, a living legacy of the past in an inspiring setting. Perched on a rocky hilltop, this historic walled town boasts stunning views and magnificent monuments. The ancient Roman aqueduct, fairy-tale castle, awe-inspiring cathedral, exquisite Romanesque churches, and mystical monasteries reveal Segovia's rich cultural heritage. Segovia is steeped in complex history, from the Romans of 80 BC to the medieval Moorish period and the coronation of Queen Isabella "the Catholic" in 1474. The majority of Segovia's attractions are found in the Old Town, an atmospheric medieval world of cobblestone streets, ancient alleyways, and charming squares. While discovering the top attractions, wander the narrow pedestrian lanes to find artisan boutiques, cafés, confectionary shops, and restaurants.
See also: Where to Stay in Segovia
1 Ancient Roman Aqueduct
The Roman aqueduct is the symbol of Segovia and forms a magnificent backdrop for the historic city. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this monumental structure has stood the test of time, enduring two millennia in a remarkably well-preserved condition. The Segovia aqueduct is one of the two largest existing Roman structures in Spain. Built during the "Flavio" period around 50 AD, the aqueduct channeled water 17 kilometers from the Acebeda River in the Sierra de Fuenfría mountains through a deep valley to the ancient city. A feat of engineering, the structure was constructed from 20,400 granite blocks without any cement, and the rows of 167 arches have held together in perfect form to this day. The aqueduct begins near the Granja Palace outside of Segovia and transports water through a canal until it reaches the city. The best place to view this monument is at the Plaza del Azoguejo, the hub of the Old Town, where the aqueduct reaches its maximum height of 28 meters. The aqueduct ends at the Alcázar in an underground channel.
Address: Plaza del Azoguejo, Segovia
With its Disneyland-like turreted towers, this castle makes a fairy-tale impression. The fortress stands majestically above the city on a steep-sided rocky crag. From this vantage point, the views of the surroundings are amazing. The impenetrable location is testament to the original military purpose of the fortress. Dating back to the 12th century, the Alcázar served as the residence of King Alfonso VIII, and in the 13th century, the building was enhanced in elegant Gothic style for John II and Henry IV. The last architectural renovation was completed in the 16th century by the architect Francisco de Mora. The marriage of Philip II and Anne of Austria was celebrated in the Alcázar's chapel.
The entrance to the castle is at the Torre de Juan II, a 14th-century tower ringed by ten semicircular turrets. Visitors can tour all the rooms of the Alcázar, which are exquisitely furnished in period style with tapestries, arms, and armor. The Sala del Solio (Throne Room) is noteworthy for its stunning gilded ceiling. The Sala de la Galera has arched windows offering exceptional views of the river valley. Audio guides explain each room in detail. Tourists can also ascend the Tower of John II to take in stunning panoramas of the town, the Sierra de Guadarrama, and the Meseta
Address: Plaza de la Reina Victoria Eugenia, Segovia
3 Catedral de Segovia
This imposing Late Gothic cathedral stands at the highest point of the Old Town dominating its surroundings. The location offers commanding views of the entire city and the surrounding Sierra de Guadarrama foothills. Built between 1525 and 1593, it was the last Gothic cathedral built in Spain. Constructed of yellow stone, the cathedral's intricately articulated facade creates an impressive effect with a tower soaring to 100 meters. The decorative Puerta del Perdón entrance was the masterpiece of Juan Guas. Step inside to take in the Gothic grandeur. Illuminated by vibrant stained-glass windows, the 105-meter-long sanctuary has a sense of serenity and harmony. Fine sculptures, art works, and altars decorate the cathedral's 18 chapels, which are closed by grilles. The main altarpiece is beautifully crafted of marble, jasper, and bronze and displays a 14th-century ivory figure of the Virgen de la Paz. The cathedral also has an Archive Room that preserves more than 500 antique books, including the Sinodal de Aguilafuente, the first book printed in Spain. The cathedral is in the Plaza Mayor in the center of the Old Town. A hub of activity, the square has many sidewalk cafés and is surrounded by a maze of winding medieval streets that are worth exploring.
Address: Plaza Mayor, Segovia
4 Monasterio del Parral
In a picturesque setting of rolling hills outside the historic center of Segovia, this 15th-century monastery is a peaceful retreat in nature. Founded by Henry IV of Spain, the monastery combines Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. The main chapel of the church is Gothic, while the tower of the church is crowned with Renaissance ornamentation. Around the altarpiece are elaborate alabaster monuments to the Marquises of Villena, who were patrons of the monastery. One of the highlights of the church is the Gothic doorway leading to the ante-sacristy. The monastery has four cloisters: the main cloister, La Portería, La Hospedería, and La Enfermería.
Address: Calle Alameda del Eresma, Segovia
5 Casa de los Picos
This 15th-century aristocratic mansion is renowned for its striking facade resembling a coat of armor, with a relief of pyramid-shaped granite blocks. Notice the coats of arms above the balconies, reflecting the stature of the De la Hoz family who owned the house. Charming decorative tiles featuring pictures of Segovia buildings are found at the entrance and in the courtyard. The Casa de los Picos now houses the Segovia Art School and an exhibition hall that presents temporary exhibitions throughout the year. To arrive here, take the Calle Cervantes or the flight of steps beside the aqueduct and turn left at the top.
Address: Calle Juan Bravo, 33
6 Real Casa de Moneda
Beside the Eresma River near the Alcázar, the Real Casa de Moneda is Segovia's Royal Mint built in the 16th-century, which makes it one of the oldest examples of a commercial building in Spain. The Royal Mint was founded by Philip II and designed by Juan de Herrera. The building operated as a mint between 1586 and 1869 and now houses two museums: the Mint Museum and the Aqueduct Visitor Center with a multimedia presentation about the town's ancient aqueduct. The original hydraulic system of the building is still intact, with a dam in the Eresma river.
Address: Calle de la Moneda, Segovia
7 La Muralla (Ramparts)
A typical medieval walled town, Segovia is surrounded by formidable ramparts dating back to the 11th century. A substantial portion of the ancient limestone walls has been preserved, starting at the Alcázar fortress. The ramparts feature characteristic crenellations, blind arches, towers, and entrance gates with horseshoe arches. Three of the old entrance gates remain: San Andrés gate, San Cebrián Gate, and Santiago Gate. Inside the former guards' headquarters, tourists can take in an extensive view of the walls that defended the upper areas of the city. Tourists can also take a walk along the ramparts, overlooking the Jewish quarter and the city's monuments. Guided tours are available.
Address: 2 - 3 Plaza del Socorro, Segovia
8 Iglesia San Esteban
San Esteban is the most renowned of Segovia's Romanesque churches. In the Old Town north of the Plaza Mayor, the church is found in the slightly sloping Plaza de San Esteban. The building is dominated by its tall tower, which consists of six arched segments relieved and topped by a steeple with a weathercock. Like most of Segovia's Romanesque churches, San Esteban has a loggia where meetings of the guilds were held.
Address: Plaza San Esteban, Segovia
9 Plazuela de San Martín
From the Casa de los Picos, the Calle Juan Bravo, lined with shops, cafés, and restaurants, leads to the picturesque little Plazuela de San Martín. At the center of the square is a fountain with figures of two mermaids. From the steps up to the square is a house with a four-arched gallery that was the birthplace of Juan Bravo, one of the leaders of the rising of the Comuneros, while next to it is the impressive 16th-century Torreón de los Lozoya.
The most important monument on the square is the 12th-century Iglesia de San Martín. This splendid building exemplifies Castilian Romanesque architecture. The Gothic Capilla de Herrera contains tombs of the Herrera family, and the Capilla Mayor has a noteworthy recumbent figure of Christ by Gregorio Fernández. Other noteworthy details include the marble plaque depicting Saint Martin and the richly carved capitals featuring floral motifs and Biblical scenes. The triptych by the Flemish painter Adriaen Isenbrandt is another beautiful work of art.
10 Judería (Jewish Quarter)
The old Jewish quarter is found in the area of Plaza de la Merced and the parish churches of San Miguel and San Andrés and extends to the Plaza del Socorro. With its distinctive medieval ambience, the old Jewish quarter of Segovia offers hints of the Sephardic past. Street names like Judería Vieja and Judería Nueva offer the first clues. The Convent of Corpus Christi also reveals its former life as the old synagogue, built in 13th century. Tourists can visit the church to see remnants of the synagogue's original decor such as columns decorated with pineapples and scrolls. This is the best-preserved of the five synagogues that once existed in Segovia. The quarter was once enclosed by seven gates including Puerta de San Andrés (Plaza del Socorro), which now presents educational exhibits about this historic quarter. The Antigua Carnicería Judía (Ancient Jewish Butcher) building now houses the Museo de Segovia (11 Calle Socorro), a museum of fine arts.
11 Iglesia San Juan de los Caballeros (Zuloaga Museum)
In the Old Town, from the Plaza del Azoguejo, steps beside the aqueduct ascend to the upper town. From the top, a street to the right leads to the Plaza Colmenares, and in this square is the 11th-century Iglesia de San Juan de los Caballeros. This Romanesque church was once the burial place of the leading families of Segovia. The building now houses the Museo Zuloaga, which displays works by the painter Ignacio Zuloaga and the ceramic artist Daniel Zuloaga.
Address: Plaza de Colmenares, Segovia
12 Iglesia de la Vera Cruz
La Vera Cruz is another splendid Romanesque church of Segovia, but it lies outside of the historic town on a lonely road. This place of worship was founded by the Knights Templar in the 13th century and was inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, where the knights originated. Vera Cruz translates to "True Cross." The church has a simple, austere interior with three semicircular chapels and Mudéjar-style vaulting. Visitors feel a sense of mysticism in the somber sanctuary.
Address: Carretera de Zamarramala, Segovia
13 Iglesia de San Millán
San Millán lies outside the walled historic center of Segovia, in the old Moorish quarter where Mozarab artisans once worked. The church is a typical 12th-century Romanesque church with three naves and three apses, yet the architecture also reveals some Islamic influence, including Caliphate-style vaulting and decorations. Modeled after the Cathedral of Jaca, the church has a tower from a previous Moorish building. The interior features exquisite Mudéjar art works, horseshoe arches, and an interesting 14th-century Gothic crucifix.
Address: Avenida Fernández Ladreda, Segovia
14 Convento de los Carmelitas Descalzos
The Convento de los Carmelitas Descalzos is outside the walled Old Town of Segovia near the Church of Vera Cruz. Founded by John of the Cross in 1586, this Carmelite convent is a wonderful example of 17th-century architecture. Visitors approach the convent by a steep stone staircase, reinforcing the impression of ascending to a higher spiritual place. The convent possesses the tomb of San Juan de La Cruz, a mystic poet and inspiration to the order. The convent has a simple church with a modern altarpiece that displays paintings devoted to San Juan de la Cruz by Lopez Gerardo Bonilla, a Carmelite of Mexico. Bonilla painted the works to honor the visit of John Paul II in 1982. A peaceful refuge in nature, the convent is surrounded by lovely gardens and ancient cypress trees.
Address: Alameda de la Fuencisla, Segovia
15 Iglesia de San Justo
Near the aqueduct, the Church of San Justo is a gem of Romanesque architecture with a prominent tower. The church was built in the 13th century and was an important stop on the Camino de Santiago medieval pilgrimage trail to Santiago de la Compostela in northern Spain. Although the church is small, it is a treasure trove of art works. Particularly noteworthy are the vibrant Romanesque frescoes in the apse, with an impressive Pantocrátor and scenes from the Passion of Christ and the lives of the Saints.
Address: Calle Pedro de Fuentidueña, Segovia
16 Iglesia de San Clemente
Outside of Segovia's ancient walls, from the Plaza del Azoguejo, the Avenida de Fernández Ladreda runs southwest to the Iglesia de San Clemente. This exquisite 13th-century Romanesque church has an arcaded portico on the exterior. The interior features an interesting apse featuring blind arches. Be sure to see the lovely 13th-century frescoes on the righthand side of the Capilla Mayor.
Where to Stay in Segovia for Sightseeing
Enclosed in well-preserved ramparts, the old city of Segovia is an oblong, less than a kilometer from the end where the aqueduct enters it to the Alcazar on the other end. In the center is Plaza Mayor, with the cathedral. Because the walled area is relatively small, anywhere inside it is convenient for visiting the main attractions. Here are some highly-rated hotels in Segovia:
- Luxury Hotels: In a converted and modernized convent near the Church of St. Esteban, not far from the Alcazar, Eurostars Convento Capuchinos has spacious rooms, some with views. Offering free parking and breakfast, Hotel San Antonio el Real rooms surround a gracious two-story arcaded patio just outside the historic area, 15 minutes from Plaza Mayor. In a renovated 16th-century building, Hotel Palacio San Facundo is on a quiet square in the center of the old town, five minutes from Plaza Mayor and convenient to restaurants.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Only a five-minute walk from the Alcazar, Hotel Don Felipe has a parking garage, and upper-floor rooms have balconies with views. Large rooms at the boutique Infanta Isabel Hotel have wrought-iron balconies overlooking the cathedral and lively Plaza Mayor. Hotel Condes de Castilla is in a beautiful old building at the edge of the old center, on the end toward the aqueduct and tourist office.
- Budget Hotels: A few steps from Plaza Mayor and the cathedral, in the heart of the walled city, Hotel Spa La Casa Mudejar has a pool and balconies overlooking the town and countryside. Near Plaza San Esteban and an easy walk to the Alcazar and Plaza Mayor, Exe Casa de Los Linajes includes breakfast and free secure parking under the hotel. On a narrow street filled with shops and restaurants, the modest Hostal Fornos has large rooms near the cathedral in the old town center.
Day Trips from Segovia
Palacio Real la Granja
This magnificent palace lies 11 kilometers from Segovia in the little town of San Ildefonso, nestled in the Sierra de Guadarrama. The town is a popular weekend retreat for the people of Madrid because of its gorgeous natural setting. In the early 18th century, Philip V chose San Ildefonso as the site for his palace modeled on Louis XIV's Versailles. Built between 1721 and 1739, the palace beautifully imitates the Baroque style of the famous French palace. Visitors can see the Throne Room and other apartments decorated with superb Flemish, French, and Spanish tapestries. The palace has an exquisite church that contains a red marble tomb of Philip V and his wife Isabella Farnese. Surrounding the palace are lovely formal French gardens.
Address: Plaza España 15, 40100 San Ildefonso o La Granja, San Ildefonso, Segovia
Rascafría is a peaceful town about 50 kilometers from Segovia in the northwestern area of the Madrid region. The town is blessed with the gorgeous surroundings of the Lozoya Valley. With a charming village ambience, Rascafría centers around its 15th-century parish church of San Andrés Apóstol. The central nave has 16th-century Gothic vaulting and intricate coffered ceilings.
Monasterio El Paular
About two kilometers from Rascafría, the Monasterio El Paular is a highlight of visiting this area. Crossing the Puerto de la Morcuera and following the beautiful valley of the Río Lozoya, travelers arrive at the Monasterio El Paular with its gorgeous backdrop of rolling hills. The monastery was founded in 1390 by the Carthusian order, however now belongs to Benedictine monks. A blend of Mudéjar, Gothic, and Baroque architectural styles, the monastery was originally designed during the Moorish era by Abd ar-Rahman of Segovia. The most striking features of the monastery are the cloister and the Baroque church with its exquisite marble high altar and magnificent Capilla del Tabernáculo (18th-century chapel). Some of the buildings around the cloister have been converted into guest accommodations for visitors seeking an overnight stay.
Address: Carretera M604, 28741 Paular, El Rascafría