Segovia’s fortifications tend to be a bit overshadowed by the city’s main tourist atraction, the Roman aqueduct. But the city walls and Alcazar (fortified castle) are an important part of Segovia’s history. And they offer the visitor some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, and a peaceful walk around a less visited part of town.
History of Segovia’s Fortifications
The Romans began enclosing their towns during the 2nd century, and it is likely that Segovia’s first fortifications were built at this time. However, the walls and castle that you see today are medieval in origin, built to defend the city from the Moors. They fell into disuse in later years, and gradually declined, but were restored in the 20th century.
The walls are 3.5 km long. They originally included a number of gates, fortresses and towers, but many of these have now disappeared. Work has been done on recreating some parts of the wall, such as the Puerta de San Andres, and on making it accessible for tourists. Together with the old town and aqueduct of Segovia, the walls and Alcazar became part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
Exploring the Walls of Segovia
The walls of Segovia are no longer complete and in the past many houses were built right up to the wall. This means that you can’t walk all the way around. However with a bit of persistence you can explore much of what still exists. You will also find vantage points around the town where you can see the line of the walls.
The part of the walls most visited by tourists is the small section by the Puerta de San Andres, with its views across to the Alcazar. This part of the wall is kept locked, but you can get a passcode from the adjacent Tourist Information Office. We discovered another locked section by the Puerta de Santiago; this one was only accessible on certain days. However, we did have a good view of this bit of wall from our hotel room! (We stayed in the Eurostars Convento Capuchinos, a great hotel housed in a 400 year old convent in the old town.)
But by far the best bit of wall for exploring was on the northern side of the city, near the Puerta de San Cebrian. From here we had wide open views of the countryside, and of old monasteries nestling in the valleys. The road here was peaceful and quiet. Although we were only a few minutes from the town centre, it felt like a world away from the enclosed narrow streets of the old city.
The Alcazar of Segovia, a Disney Castle
At the centre of Segovia’s defences was the Alcazar. This is a fortified castle at the far end of the town, situated on a tall promotory with a commanding view of the valley below. The current building was built as a fortress in the Middle Ages, but it has variously been used as a royal residence, a prison and a military base.
The Alcazar building is imposing, and it is said to have been the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle in the classic Disney film. We decided to skip the palace itself, as it was crowded with tour groups, and to head for the tower instead. If you don’t mind a climb (152 steps) this is worth the effort. From the top of the tower you can look out over the town, the walls and the valley. It was obviously a perfect lookout point for those who were tasked with the defence of the city.
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