– activities and practical advice for your visit
Ávila is a small city (or arguably a big town, as often disputed amongst the local ‘abulenses’), located to the north west of Madrid. Its picturesque walls and authentically “Spanish” feel make it well worth the hour drive from Madrid as a location for a weekend break.
Top 5 Activities
1. The City Walls
Ávila’s city walls draw in thousands of tourists each year. Whether you plan to visit them on a sunny morning, at sunset or as a romantic evening stroll, you won’t be disappointed with the views! Of course, you can’t predict the weather, and it’s often quite chilly in Ávila; its location surrounded by mountains, means it’s often at least 2 degrees colder than Madrid. So wrap up warm, and enjoy the beautiful landscapes surrounding the city!
2. The Main Squares
Like most cities in Spain, Ávila has two ‘plazas’ which act as the central hubs for the city. Firstly, the larger of the two, ‘La Plaza de Santa Teresa de Jesus’, boasts great views of the city walls and a perfect balance of authentic local cafés and widely-loved branded restaurants. A statue of Ávila’s own Saint Teresa marks the centre of the square, with a near-replica placed close to the ‘Puerta del Alcázar’ entrance to the walls. The smaller second Plaza, ‘La Plaza Mercado Chico’, gives a real feel of rural Ávila in the time of Saint Teresa. The town hall is located here: a magnificent facade to the square. A perfect Friday in the city consists of a coffee with a view of the walls in a local café in Plaza de Santa Teresa and some fresh produce from the market in Plaza Mercado Chico.
3. The Palaces
Another great coffee spot for the addicts among us is the Sofraga Palacio terrace. With fresh cocktails served in the evenings, you can go any time of day and feast like a king (or queen)! But, Sofraga isn’t the only palace in the city. If the weather is typically ‘avileño’, i.e cold, then the Palacio de Los Velada is the perfect alternative. Its 16th century indoor courtyard and attractive 3-course lunch menu will soon have you feeling toasty again!
4. Historic Centre
With its walls and palaces, Ávila has the feel of a city untouched by time. Its fairy-tale and historic ambience make it the ideal location for a romantic getaway. Walking through the historic centre from one Plaza to another, hand in hand with your significant other, is a must-do! Follow that with dinner at one of the palaces and your weekend plans are sorted. Even for the single ones among us, the historic centre serves as the perfect backdrop for an artsy Instagram- how about a new profile picture fit for a king?
5. The Cuatro Postes Viewpoint
If you’re looking for photo memories of your trip, the further afield ‘Cuatro Postes’ monument boasts scenic views of the city walls. Couple that with the famous Hollywood-style ‘Ávila’ sign, and you’ll see why it’s a popular photo spot! Time it right and you’ll see the sun setting over the walled city: a perfect end to your time in Ávila.
Top tips for your visit
- Lunch menus: if you’re looking to get the most for your money, look out for signs advertising a ‘Menú del día’. This often includes three courses, wine and bread for around 15€ or less! Try the ‘chuletón’ (traditional beef steak) and ‘judías’ (beans) if you want to eat like a local.
- Language barrier: although many tourists travel to the city, Spanish is the main language spoken there, and lots of the visitors are in fact Spaniards. Even in some hotels in Ávila, the reception won’t necessarily speak English (except the odd word), so brush up on your Spanish before you visit and I’m sure they’ll appreciate your commitment! Nevertheless, you’ll find English-speakers if you look hard enough; the city’s Burger King has just had some automatic ordering screens installed so they’re catering more and more for English-speaking tourists.