The Roman Aqueduct Of Segovia: Bringing Water To The City

Segovia Aqueduct

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It is the classic view of Segovia. The spectacular aqueduct that dominates the town and reaches out towards the mountains. Visitors clamber to the top for the views, or walk between its arches. They might even float gently above it in one of the colourful hot-air balloons that are so popular around here. But, as I discovered, the 167 tall arches of the Roman Aqueduct of Segovia are only a part of a much larger structure. The whole thing is a magnificent feat of ancient engineering.

History Of The Roman Aqueduct Of Segovia

The exact origins of the aqueduct are unknown, although it is thought to date back to the 1st century CE. What we do know is that the Romans built it as a way of bringing water from the mountains and the Frío river to the hilltop settlement of Segovia. This meant building a massive bridge to carry the water channel across the valley between the city and the mountains.

Aqueduct of Segovia, Spain
The aqueduct bridge dominates the town

The aqueduct starts 15 km from the city. Obviously the water had to run on a gentle but continuous slope, so parts of the structure had to be raised above the ground to take account of the undulating landscape. Where it crosses the valley it stands on tall arches (double arches at the highest point), at one point standing 28 m above the ground. Built from large granite blocks, and without the use of mortar to hold the stones together, it is a remarkable example of Roman engineering.

The aqueduct has been restored and rebuilt throughout the centuries and it continued to supply water to the city until the 19th century. Along with the old town and fortifications, the ancient structure of the Aqueduct of Segovia became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.

Although Segovia has one of the best-preserved Roman aqueducts, similar structures can be seen in many places throughout the former Roman empire. The city of Rome had a total of eleven water channels, and you can see some of the remains in the city’s Aqueduct Park.

The Legend Of The Segovia Aqueduct

Even today, building such a colossal structure would not be a simple task. It must have seemed like a superhuman achievement to those who lived here after the Romans had departed. So it is not surprising that a local legend should have grown up around its construction.

Statue of the Virgin, on the Roman Aqueduct of Segovia
A statue of the Virgin of Fuencisia stands in an alcove

The story is that there was a servant girl who had to climb down the valley and up the mountainside each morning to fetch water. Tiring of her task, she appealed to the Devil to find another way of supplying the household with water. The Devil agreed, on condition that he could claim her soul if the work was complete by the time the cock crowed the following morning. However, the girl took fright when she spotted an army of demons working on the aqueduct during the night. She prayed to God to thwart the Devil’s plan, and the cock crowed just before the last stone was laid. This left a gap in the bridge, where a statue of the Virgin of Fuencisia stands today.

Exploring The Roman Aqueduct

What most visitors see is the aqueduct bridge, the central part of the construction. Starting at the Plaza del Azoguejo you can walk up to the Postigo del Consuelo, where the aqueduct meets the city walls. Carry on climbing and the steps reach almost to the top of the aqueduct, where you will get a wonderful view of the arches and of the surrounding countryside.

Aqueduct of Segovia
Pinnable image of the Roman aqueduct of Segovia

But there is lots more to see. Climb the steps on the other side of the valley and follow the arches until they disappear. The aqueduct then becomes a low wall, and a small stone monument marks the point where it moves underground for the remainder of its journey. As you walk along this section look out for a small building: this was where the water would have been filtered to remove sand and other impurities before use.

Filter house, Segovia
Follow the aqueduct out of town and you will come to the filter house
The water channel of Segovia's Aqueduct
Walk to the end and you can see the channel through which the water flowed

Bringing Water To Segovia

The water also ran underground as it entered the city. Although there is nothing to see now, you can trace the route it would have taken by following a series of pavement markers from Postigo del Consuelo. These take you right through the city, ending just outside the Alcazar, the castle that stands on a rocky promontory at the other side of the hill.

Map of Segovia
A map shows the route of the aqueduct through the city

When you reach the Alcazar you can look down into the valley and get a real sense of Segovia’s position as a town perched on a hilltop. You will marvel again at the skill of the Roman engineers who brought fresh water to the city.

Visiting Segovia

  • You can reach Segovia by train from Madrid. However you need to be aware that the railway station is outside the town and you will have to take a bus to reach the city. And that the bus station is at the bottom of the hill: if you are staying in the old town of Segovia you will have to walk some of the way.
  • For accommodation have a look at the recommendations on I stayed at the Eurostars Convento Capuchinos, housed in an old monastery with views across the valley – thoroughly recommended!

Other World Heritage Sites In Spain

The old town and aqueduct of Segovia are just one of Spain’s 48 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Have a look at some of the others:

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10 thoughts on “The Roman Aqueduct Of Segovia: Bringing Water To The City”

  1. Your photo of the aqueduct’s double arches is beautiful, Karen and it’s hard to believe that this feat of Roman engineering provided the city with water for almost two-thousand years. It well-deserves its designation as a UNESCO site. I imagine the view from the stairs in amazing! We love living so close to Spain and, thanks to your post, Segovia’s been added to our list of must-see places! Anita

  2. We loved Segovia – part of our 2016 road trip, and the stop at Segovia was inspired by Mary Beard. The engineering in the Aqueduct is amazing, and makes a real statement. As your other post atests there’s more to Segovia, including the Alcazar & Cathedral.

    Happy Travels


    1. Hi Gary, thanks for your comment. I was interested that your trip was inspired by Mary Beard – I’m going to have to have a look at some of her books about the Romans.

      1. Hi Karen – To be honest it was a BBC documentary I watched, but she has so much passion for the period.

        Have you considered visiting Southern France? I was thinking about Avignon, then you have the Pont du Gard, the amiptheatres at Nîmes & Arles, and also the Roman settlement at Glanum, just outside St Rémy de Provence. I’m sure there’s more we need to get back and discover. Perhaps an idea for 2018…



        1. Southern France is one of the (very many) places I need to see properly. I remember seeing some Roman remains near Nice but I know there’s a lot more to explore. One day…

  3. can anyone help on the foundations for segovia aqueduct. I imagine its rock , given the structure could not have tolerated settlement if mortarless. what a structure

    1. Hi David, I found some information at this site – They say that “Segovia is mostly underlain by soft sandstone, but the hill to the east where the bridge starts consists of gneiss. The aqueduct pillars are either set directly on the gneiss, or in foundation pits that have been excavated in the soft sandstone, mainly in the double arched part of the bridge. The Roman engineers apparently realised the different properties of the two rock types, and decided to take no risk with the sandstone. A gneiss outcrop supporting a pillar can be seen in one of the last pillars of the single arch section, before the final bend that leads to the city (pillar 71)”. Hope this helps!

      1. Karen,
        that is really helpful, thank you.
        my brother visits in next few days, we are both civil engineers, i specialised in piling and ground engineering, hence my interest in the founds,

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…


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