Ávila – a “City of Three Cultures”, a mix of Islamic, Jewish and Christian worlds, one of the best preserved and most beautiful medieval cities of Spanish inland. It stretches one hundred kilometres north-west of Madrid and it can be recognized by the massive walls from afar. The city has become a great tourist attraction.
The first documented inhabitants of the region were Vettones, settlers of Celtic origin that settled here in the 7th century BC. Only at the beginning of our era the Romans took a domination over the territory of today’s province of Ávila, and then about six hundred years later, they were replaced by the Visigoths.
And that was a time when Ávila was firstly mentioned as a small and relatively insignificant town. At the end of the first millennium Ávila was in the hands of Christians and Muslims, when in 1085 was conquered by the Castilian King Alfonso VI. At his command the town was later fortified.
The monumental walls that surround the historic core of the city covering an area of 33 hectares, have become a major and unmistakable symbol of Ávila. Their height is 12 metres on average and 3 meters in width. If you decide to walk around the walls, you will have to be prepared for a longer route measuring about two and a half kilometres. There are 88 semi-circular towers and nine gateways. The best known and most impressive of these are Puerta del Alcázar, standing in a former fortress and Puerta de San Vincente. The walls originally protected the city against invasions of enemies, especially the Arabs, who had recently been forced out of the Spanish territory. Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, since then Ávila was not besieged. And so the walls weren’t important until the time of the plague, when the city closed all entry gates to avoid its penetration into the city. Fortifications survived for the centuries and became such an important and integral part of the city. In 1885 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the walls is also a cathedral dedicated to St. Salvator. Its apse is built into the walls, so from the outside looks more like an impregnable fortress. Its interior, however, is one of the most original interiors of all religious buildings throughout Spain. It is worth noting especially valuable art objects that are kept here.
The most famous figure of Ávila is certainly Saint Teresa of Jesus known also as Teresa of Ávila, and she is the reason why lots of believers from around the world arrive in Avila every year. She was renowned mainly as a reformer of the Carmelite Order.
The best way how you can get to Ávila from Madrid is by train from Atocha Station. The journey takes approximately one hour. Keep in mind that Ávila lies at an altitude of 1117 meters above sea level, so there is a bit colder than in other Spanish cities.