There are plenty of sights in Ávila but the key highlight, and the reason to go there, are the city’s Medieval Walls*. Fully intact and surrounding the town (with a 2.5 km perimeter), they are the best-preserved Medieval Walls in Spain and are the primary reason why Ávila is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
* There are some nice churches and monasteries in Ávila but in my opinion there are 2 absolute must-see highlights: the walls and the Cathedral (which is one of my favorite Cathedrals in Spain. I’ll have a post coming up on that).
Ávila was always a battlefront between Catholics and Moors and it exchanged hands several times in its history. Following the reconquest of the area by the Catholics in the 1100’s, the walls were built to repel future attacks. The walls still stand today.
Statistics on the Medieval Walls of Ávila
They cover approximately 2.5 km around the perimeter of the city and are on average 3 meters wide and 12 meters high. There are 9 gates into the city including 2 main gates on the Eastern side – Puerta de San Vincente and Puerta del Alcazar (both of these have 20 meter twin towers on either side of the gates).
Highlights of the Walls of Ávila
More than anything when in Ávila, you have to walk along the path outside the walls. Not only do you get a perspective on the walls but you also have views looking down at the valleys along three sides of the walls (the Eastern side is level with the city which explains why the main gates would be situated there. But the other sides slope downhill quite dramatically giving you great views from the town walls).
The Puerta del Alcazar on the Eastern side is the most dramatic gate with its twin towers and arch.
On the Western side is a lookout (Humilladero de los cuatro postes) which gives you the best overall view of the entirety of the walls.
The North side of the walls has good views punctuated by green slopes and the pretty Puerta del Carmen gate.
The East Side, besides the Puerta del Alcazar is also impressive. You’ll notice that the rounded back of the cathedral makes up part of the wall.
The views are great on every side and are even more dramatic at night when lit up.
Walking the Walls of Ávila
On the Eastern side of the Wall, next to the Puerta del Peso de la Harina, is the tourist office where you can buy your tickets to walk the walls (5 Euros/person).
There are 2 entry points for 2 different parts of the wall. The first is inside the above tourist office. You follow some stairs up to the wall. From there you have a long walk that takes you from mid-way along the Eastern side, down the full Northern side, and halfway along the Western side. The beginning part is honestly a bit boring but it gets more interesting the further you go along.
The second entry point is inside the Puerta del Alcazar and is much shorter but, in my opinion, more interesting. You follow the walls right up to the Cathedral, along the top of the Puerta del Alcazar, and finally along the walls on the Southern side. Lots of great views.
A few practical tips on Ávila
How to get here: Most people come to Ávila from Madrid. The best way is by train (it takes 1 ½ hrs from Madrid’s Principe Pio station or Chamartin station).
Around: Make sure to go to Segovia from Ávila (55 min by Avanza bus) and/or Salamanca (about an hour by train)
Where to Stay in Ávila: Hotel Palacio de Valderrabanos, located right next to the cathedral.
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