Madrid Day 3: Segovia by Day, Madrid by Night

Segovia! A quaint walled city thirty minutes from Madrid by the high-speed AVE train, Segovia is famous for the Roman aqueduct that marks the entrance to the city. It’s made without mortar—entirely a feat of engineering. So impressive.

The city itself is charming as well, and what started out as a cloudy day got even better once the sun came out. Segovia is near the mountains, which made it a fair handful of degrees colder than Madrid, and the sun provided precious warmth.

With a few stops along the way for lunch, postres and browsing shops with mudéjar style crafts, tiles and plates, we walked to the opposite side of the city to see the Alcázar. The word derives from al-qasr, the Arabic word for castle. On the way to Segovia, I learned from a podcast that back in the days of Moorish rule and the subsequent reconquista, you could tell whether a castle was Moorish or Christian just by looking at it: the Moorish ones had square turrets, and the Christian ones had round turrets. This one had round turrets atop a square tower, so I’m not sure what that means. Christian seems a safe bet, given how many churches there are per square foot in Segovia.

The best view of the Alcazar is from the front (the West, outside the city), but we were within the city walls so we didn’t get the picturesque view that is said to have inspired Walt Disney. However, from the castle there are great views of the valley and mountains, including the Iglesia de la Vera Cruz (bottom left), which supposedly once housed a fragment of the real cross on which Christ was crucified.

From the Alcazar, there is a footpath leading down and around the city wall back to the center of the city, Plaza Mayor. J and I took that path, and it was one of my favorite things we did in Segovia—it felt so open and free after being in a walled city, the narrow streets packed with tourists.

Come to think of it, it’s strange that no one else was on that path. I actually saw a few times when people in a group would hang back atop the city wall while the more adventurous friend would tried to encourage the others to come along. I suppose it appears like it could be wasted effort, because the path wraps around the southern edge of the wall, and it looks as though the path might end there, forcing you to come all the way back to reenter the city.

I was glad J was up for trying it; it was actually a really quick walk (Segovia is a very small city!), and we got great views of the surrounding areas.

A few examples of the textures of the mudejar style buildings. Mudéjar is the Spanish word for Moorish, and refers to the architectural style that incorporates Islamic elements and geometric motifs. I especially loved all the beautiful detailing that decorated many of the buildings in Segovia. The Cathedral spires (above) were a bit much, but the bottom left design was one of my favorites. Above right, the walls of the Alcazar.

J and I met up with A and two of her friends for calimochos, a mix of red wine and Coke. It was surprisingly good, even though it didn’t sound like the best combination. It probably depends on the type of wine used.

I headed out early because I wanted to buy a pretty mudejar style ceramic I had seen on the way in, and I also wanted to snap a few more shots of the aqueduct now that the sun was out. Gorgeous.


We came back to the city for a night of flamenco at Villa Rosa. This was AMAZING. Probably my favorite experience in Madrid. The speed, passion, energy and flair are all impressive, but what makes it so enjoyable is that you can see the dancers enjoying the thrill of the moment they themselves are creating. Their rhythmic repartee with each other, the guitarist, the singer… add to that the dinner in front of you, and it’s a feast for all the senses. I’d never seen flamenco in person before, but I’m a believer.

I jokingly called flamenco “very very very vigorous Irish dancing.” I don’t know how their joints take all the impact, but I’m glad they endure it for our sake. I’ve been trying to find a clip on YouTube that captures the essence of the experience, but all the stuff I’ve seen so far are cheesy Riverdance versions, literally. They do not compare. If you go to Madrid, you must see this for yourself! (I’d recommend making a reservation a night or two in advance.)

A and J kept the night going with “la marcha,” and I made one more stop with them after flamenco. We went to an Irish bar on St. Patrick’s Day, which was a predictably bad decision. Lots of drunk American college kids. I headed back after that; I didn’t want to stay out too late because the buses run infrequently on the weekends and the commute can take up to an hour and a half. The worst part is waiting in the cold for twenty minutes while the bus drivers have a smoke… you’d think they would at least let you on the bus!


192 thoughts on “Madrid Day 3: Segovia by Day, Madrid by Night

  1. great post – seeing flamenco in Madrid/Spain is a must! always amazing to see those dancers! Segovia is a wonderful town and an easy day visit.
    You should try to get to La Granja (another easy day trip from Madrid)!

  2. That’s great. I’ve always wanted to go to Spain. They have really beautiful architecture there. Have you seen that movie about the dad that takes the pilgrimage Camino de Santiago? I think it’s called The Way. Good movie.
    Azure James

  3. These are great shots. I was born near Madrid in Torrejon de Arroz (the airforce base) and lived in the city of Madrid itself for at least the first three years of my life. If I ever make it back there I might check out the Villa Rose for a bit of flamenco myself. Thanks for the post!

  4. We enjoyed Segovia Spring before last,and I did a blog called Alacazam, It’s an Alcazar on it, including the disney view. the path outside the wall we missed, and it sounds like fun. We then headed north through wine country to Bilbao — worth the trip.

  5. Love, love, love your post! I studied abroad in Spain and studied in both Madrid and Segovia. The majority of my time was spent living with a family in Segovia. It is such a great city and it brightened my day to stumble upon your post. I, too, had red wine and coke while I was there. I was introduced to it on our bus ride to Running of the Bulls. As you mentioned, It isn’t nearly as weird as you would imagine.

    Great post!

  6. I love this post. I’m going to Madrid for a wedding this year and I’m slowly getting more excited each day. I hope I see some flamenco dancing.

  7. Wow! Your pictures are gorgeous! I envy your ability to travel the world like you do! I took a trip to Europe in 2005, & I swear I remember visiting the Villa Rosa. We got to see our own flamenco show on our last night there, & I think this was the place!! I definitely want to go back someday, maybe sooner than later.

  8. I never made it further south than Barcelona and now I’m kicking myself for not going to Madrid. Thanks for giving me a new ‘must see’ destination.

      1. lol – I loved Barcelona and would love to go back but I have a list of must see places as long as my arm and Japan is my next destination, although now is probably not a great time to go anywhere near Tokyo.

  9. Beautiful photos! You really capture the essence of the places. We have been to Barcelona and loved it, but didn’t get to Madrid, let alone Segovia….have a new must on my list now!

  10. Wow… we’ve been talking about making Spain one of our next vacations… my husband & I have never been. These shots certainly make a great case for getting there – thanks for sharing them! (and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!)

  11. Nice post about two beautiful cities.
    You did’t say anything about the lunch in Segovia, what about the Roasted suckling pig?. I am not a fan, but it as Segovian as the Aqueduct or the Alcazar.
    Regarding the round turrets around a square tower… Segovia is an old city, it was important during Roman period, Arab, during the Reconquista… So the Christian Alcazar was started of as an Arab fort, and then finished or rebuilt as a Christian fortress. And having in mind that the city was important during Roman period, most likely there are rest of that period under the castle.

    1. We didn’t end up getting cochinillo… I didn’t think I could eat a suckling pig. Charlotte’s Web makes pigs too endearing! And thanks for the history—very interesting to know!

  12. Your photos from Segovia are really great.

    As most people from Madrid, I don’t like flamenco, which is half gipsy half South Spain (Andalucía). Flamenco is for tourists, not the true Madrid.

    1. That may be so, but it’s still a signature Spanish experience and I was so glad I got to see it, even though I didn’t have time to explore Andalucia on this trip!

  13. I was in Spain this summer, and all of your pictures are bringing back such awesome memories! I wish I could return soon!

  14. Ah, Segovia. One of my favourite places in all of Spain. I had the fortune of staying there for two nights last summer – it really comes into its own when night falls and the streets are no longer crammed with tourists. The best moment came just after sunset, when I stumbled on a full orchestra and two opera singers performing below the Roman Aqueduct. It was pure magic.

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed, and thank you for sharing such a beautiful post!

  15. This makes me want to go back there. I loved Spain. Went for the first time last month actually. I even saw the flamenco dancers in your pics, though there were more in the group when I saw them. What an experience! They were phenomenal. I don’t understand your likening of Flamenco dance to Irish. The Irish don’t move their hips or shoulders yet the flamenco is about as expressive as you can get. Anyway, cool pics and I wish I had gone to Segovia.

    1. Def, it was amazing! I made the comparison between flamenco and Irish dancing jokingly, not as a serious comparison of form or style. Just in reference to the incredible speed and rhythm of their foot movements.

  16. This sounds like what I did last summer. My girlfriend has relatives who live in Madrid. We visited Segovia and often spend weekends at a village in which her brothers fiancee grew up. Spanish wedding there this year :D

  17. Thanks so much for sharing this! I’m currently travelling through Europe for 9 months and plan to be in Spain for a couple of them. What a rich cultural delight. I loved the photos and the detail in your writing. Will definitely be bookmarking this one. Cheers, Nic

  18. Fantastic shots from Madrid! I’ve never been, but dream about it. It’s really so close, just a hop, skip and jump from where I live. Maybe I should make a weekend getaway! Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

  19. Thanks for blogging about one of my favorite Spanish cities. :) I’m currently living in Madrid, currently this is my 2nd year. I will be leaving Spain in September and this post makes me think of all the fantastic things I will be leaving behind. Quite coincidentally I also saw some flamenco in Madrid last weekend during St. Patrick’s Day weekend but I saw it at Casa Patas. If you ever come back to Madrid, I HIGHLY recommend Casa Patas. I’ve been there twice now and both times were amazing.

    And glad you enjoyed Segovia, it is a beautiful little Spanish town. Make sure to check out Toledo next time you come. :)

  20. great pics! and it’s an interesting point of view that Alcazar has inspired Walt Disney. I’ve heard only about Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. I’ve seen it and it really looks like the Disney’s castle. But I’m surprised indeed: Alcazar looks like the Disney’s castle too! Incredible! :)

    1. As another person mentioned in a comment below, the Alcazar is said to have inspired the Sleeping Beauty castle, while the Neuschwanstein Castle is said to have inspired the Cinderella castle. I was in the area near the Neuschwanstein this weekend, but didn’t have a chance to see it! Would have been lovely I bet.

  21. The Segovia aqueduct is really magnificent, esp. in person. It at once dominates, and yet blends into, the environment. Stunning, esp. when you think of when it was built.

  22. Great post! Thanks! The most incredible thing is the fantastic stone structure standing so long without mortar! I think around the time you were experimenting with wine and coke I was drinking cherry wine that someone unexpectently gave me the morning of the parade in South Boston so I was out of it by noon and just slept through the whole thing…thank God! But, not before getting a $200 ticket for drinking on the street. The next day I picked up all the trash on Southampton Street going into Boston…today I’m recognizing that I just cannot drink normally. Ijust lost my 2nd bike in less than two weeks because of drinking and poor decisions while drunk…but I’m alive and have food in my belly and coffee here in Harvard Square…and interesting friends on WordPress, upon whom I am coming more and more to rely…have a great day…stay inspired! Arthur.

  23. Segovia is a lovely city and great for a day trip. i stayed there for a week last year and it did get a bit dull after about day 4. Dfinitely worth a visit though! i would recommend segovia at night mind, the sunsets on all that wonderful architecture are stunning. I also loved the fact that there seemed to be very few English speaking tourists in Segovia. Great place to go for any spanish language learners out there! and Madrid… well I love it!

  24. Great photos! Flew through Madrid this morning – airport only! Makes me wish I could have a couple days there too! Vacationing in Mallorca with a few days in Barcelona! So excited. Sangria already in glass and loving it in Spain!

    1. I met up with some study-abroad students while I was in Segovia! They were having such a great time, as I’m sure you did too! Must be some great memories.

  25. I have been living here for years and must say that you see things pretty clearly, including that bus driver that lets people wait outside in the cold while he has a smoke. Probably he is not allowed to smoke once people are in the bus. However, it is a deeper thing. It is as if all Spaniards felt however so slightly humiliated to have to obey or even to have to work for relatively little pay and so try to show that they are not obliged to take orders from just anybody.
    It is worst in the banks and often also in government offices, though it also happens at any little habertdasher’s where even the owner tries to show he cannot be hurried..

    1. Mr Cantueso, I don’t know how many large European or American cities you have lived in. I know many of them pretty well, and I still have to meet one where, on the whole, things work better than they do in Madrid. Many things in Spain should of course improve – salaries, to name but one. And they seem to be deteriorating instead. But it is great to see that Spaniards won’t be bullied into being servile.

    2. Visiting a city and living in it are different, so I can understand your sentiments. People always tell me how much they looooove New York, and I tell them they’d think differently if they actually lived there. It’s a love-hate relationship, I always say.

    1. Hmm, I’m not sure why that might be. Wish I could be of more help… but there’s an email subscription option, if you’d rather.

    1. Haha thanks! I just like to learn about the places I visit. I don’t rigorously fact check or anything, but I do like to share the tidbits I hear and read while I travel.

  26. Wow, looks amazing. I have already been to Granada and am off to Seville tomorrow for a couple of days; your piece has given me a flavour of all I love about Spanish/Moorish culture.

  27. Incredible blog!!! Definitely following! I’m so homesick for madrid and cant wait to move back soon. My blog follows the current events in Spain if youre interested ( but you reallly are inspiring me to do a cultural one too! REALLY great post and I look forward to reading more! Thanks!!

  28. Thanks for sharing! My best friend and I are going to be going to Segovia and Madrid in two weeks. I am super excited; so it great to hear your take on the cites!

  29. I love Madrid and Segovia! there’s rumors that the Alcázar inspired the appearance of the castle in Sleeping Beauty, or that’s what I overheard from a tour guide while I was there.

  30. We spent New Year’s Eve in Madrid. The transportation system is great.

    While in Madrid don’t miss eating at Botin (right around the corner from Plaza Mayor). Botin is well known as the oldest restaurant in the world. The food is great. Asked to be seated in the cellar downstairs….for a cozy experience.

    1. We passed by Botin, though we didn’t eat there—I was amazed at Botin’s longevity! They never closed, even during the Spanish Civil War. Would be a great experience to eat there, I’m sure!

  31. your posting is outstanding, i mean i always love this kind of posting about traveling.
    i envy you. i always want to visit Spain. i fall in love with this country. the old roman and gothic architectures, the culture, and everything about Spain.

    nice photos! nice story!

  32. Wow, these pictures bring back memories of the days when I traveled to Barcelona. Spain is so beautiful and I find the the people very friendly. These are excellent photo’s

  33. Fantastic site you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics talked about in this article? I’d really love to be a part of community where I can get comments from other experienced individuals that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Appreciate it!

  34. I don’t know why, but any type of old architecture that is built without mortar is just mind-bogglingly amazing to me. There’s just something about century/millennia old works that we couldn’t recreate today with all of our advances in technology. Great post and thanks for the pictures of that amazing aqueduct

  35. I’ve been blogging about my recent (Sept – Oct 2011) trip to Spain too ( I missed my train from Madrid to Segovia (because you know how hard they party and how late they stay out in Madrid!), so I didn’t get to see the city. It’s great to read about your experience of Segovia though and to see your great photos!

    1. My friends and I missed the train too! But not for lack of effort—we left our house in the ‘burbs at 8am! I was pretty adamant about going, so we paid extra to get on the next train, and it was worth it. Your blog looks great!

  36. the title of the website made me think for a while. its really really nice to see such websites. and the photos are great. while seeing it i felt walking along the paths cathedrals and theatres. drama and all stuff. a great experience

  37. Hey, We have been checking out your blog and we must say that we are very impressed. It’s really great.

    We have particularly been following your posts about Segovia as we visited there too. We have even written a guide, which you can check out here: We would love your feedback and any tips, information, advice that you might have would be warmly appreciated.

    Keep up the good work!

    Ania & Jon

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