Ávila is a city just northwest of Madrid known for its medieval walls which are still in incredible condition for their age. They are a UNESCO Heritage site, designated in 1985. I had first been introduced to the Wall of Ávila (Muralla de Ávila) in a pre-medieval Art and Architectural History course, so I was excited to see it in-person.
In late February 2020, a friend came to visit Madrid for a week. While we spent most of our time in the Madrid itself, we decided to explore another part of Spain a good distance away for a day trip. Ávila fit the description, being only about 2 hours away by train. We arrived around noon and walked from the train station to the Plaza del Mercado Grande or Plaza de Santa Teresa de Jesus which is bordered by the Iglesia de San Pedro Apóstol on one side and the fames city walls on the other. We followed calle Don Gerónimo through Puerta del Alcázar which brings you to the other side of the wall. From there we stopped at the small tourist office and picked up some audioguides. At the corner between Puerta del Alcázar and the perpendicular wall was another plaza with a large fountain.
We walked around the fountain to the base of the stairs that led to the top of the wall. Near the stairs is the Verraco De Las Cogotas, a sculpture of a boar from the Iron Age, originally found in Castro de Las Cogotas in Cardeñosa, in the province of Ávila. These stairs were very steep and narrow, less fun to come down than to go up and certainly not suitable for accessibility or mobility needs. If you have difficultly with heights, this might not be the activity for you.
Once we made it to the top of the wall, the views of the city were incredible! You get an almost parallel view of the tops of the cathedral and a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area. The wall towers over the Iglesia de San Pedro across the plaza, and sits uphill to much of the city. As we walked along the wall, the audioguides gave us information about historical figures in Ávila, as well as the significance of some of the prominent buidlings we could see from the wall.
Religious figures are very important to Ávila’s history, and the city boasts the most Romanesque and Gothic churches per capita in Spain. Many of the historic sites and figures were related to the Catholic Church.
It was a warm day for February, but could get quite windy up on the wall, so I would definitely recommend a windbreaker or jacket (unless you’re visiting in the middle of summer).
The city walls are about a metre wide in most places with wall on either side. The most potentially dangerous area is the stairs coming up and down, otherwise you should feel safe and secure. We made our way to the end of the wall (what is accessible for tourists), then returned to the stairs to hand back our audioguides. From there, we cut across the city and ascended the wall again on the west side. We took many photos from the top of the here as well, and also exited the walls to take some pictures of the landmark itself.
After we had made it to the western point of the wall, it was around 4:30 pm and we decided to stop for some food before catching our 6:00 train home. We ate at a small restaurant east of the walls before returning home. It wasn’t a notable meal, but it was a non-peak time to find food in Spain so our options were limited.
Ávila is not an incredibly large city, but it does have some interesting history and some very old landmarks are exhibits, the wall being only one of those. If you are a history buff, or are simply trying to see as much of Spain as possible (as I was), I would certainly recommend spending a day in the city.