Best Sights of Valladolid

Valladolid is a city that is 201 km northwest of Madrid. With the advent of the AVE, the trip can be made in one hour and it is now possible to do a day trip to Valladolid from Madrid. Valladolid is known as the birthplace of the Spanish language and it is said that the purest Spanish is spoken here. The city had the fame of being an intellectual center that attracted saints and philosophers. Columbus died here in 1506. Valladolid has plenty of industry now, with a car factory and a tire factory, so it is quite prosperous as a city.

1. Cathedral of Valladolid - King Philip II was born in Valladolid and in 1580 he asked Juan de Herrera, the architect of El Escorial, to build the cathedral in Valladolid. Philip II died in 1598 and the work stopped for 18 years. Later Alberto Churriguera was told to restart the construction and his design for the exterior was more flamboyant than the previous design. The design of the interior is more sober and that was the design of de Herrera. The main altarpiece was finished in 1551 and is quite beautiful, with its gold color and extraordinary sculpture.

The diocesan museum is beside the Cathedral and is quite big and has many valuable religious art pieces that were made by famous artists. There are many sculptures that are very beautiful. One of the best is the Grief Over the Dead Christ, which has eight figures, one of them the Virgin Mary, that are grieving over the figure of the dead Christ. All of the figures are polychromed with beautiful colors and the sculptor was Francisco de la Maza. The art collection really overshadows the architecture of the church.

2. National Museum of Sculpture - This national museum is installed in the old Colegio de San Gregorio, built in 1487. It has Spain's best collection of religious sculptural art that spans the 15th through the 18th centuries. Much of the sculpture is gilded polychrome sculpture, and the art of producing this reached its peak in Valladolid. The best known sculptors represented in the museum are Alonso Berruguete (his St. Sebastian is incredible), Juan de Juni, and Gregorio Fernandez. In one salon there are three gilded altarpieces that are also masterpieces.

There is a salon with a big Nativity scene, called the Belen Napolitano, because the small sculptures came from Naples. Naples invented the nativity scene. There are about 150 big pieces (each 35 cm high) showing people in the town of Bethlehem. The detailing of all of the figures is really remarkable and this belen is probably one of the best in Spain. The people working in this museum are cultured and they were able to answer all of our questions.

3. Oriental Museum - The Royal College of the Agustinian Fathers is the home of the Oriental Museum. This museum has the biggest collection of Far Eastern art in Spain. Andres de Urdaneta was born on Nov. 30, 1498 in the Basque province of Ordizia. He was one of the best sea navigators. Later he went to Mexico and became an Augustinian friar. King Philip II ordered an expedition to go from Mexico to the Philippines. Miguel Lopez de Legazpi was its head, and Urdaneta was the second in command and navigator. The aim was to establish the route taken by Ferdinand Magellan. Fray Urdaneta was accompanied by four other Augustinian friars.

When the expedition arrived in the Philippines, Fray Urdaneta and his companion priests were the first missionaries of the islands. Legazpi decided to stay and founded the city of Manila. He ordered Urdaneta to go back to Mexico. Urdaneta was the first man to travel east from the Philippines to Mexico, and his route became the basis of the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade. The year 2008 is the 5th centenary of his birth, so the Philippine government has organized a big celebration in Manila.

The Agustinians established their base in the Philippines and later went to China and Japan, where they started Christianizing those people. The intense missionary work gave rise to the Oriental Museum, founded in 1874. The museum was inaugurated in 1980 and has 18 rooms full of Filipino, Chinese, and Japanese art. What is particularly interesting is that there are explanations of how the Chinese produced cloisonne. There are extraordinary costumes and furniture, as well as paintings, sculptures, and ceramics. This little museum is relatively unknown, but is a real treasure trove of Oriental art, the best in Spain.

4. The Valladolid Museum - The Fabio Nelli Palace is the home of the Valladolid Museum. The palace was built in the 16th century by Juan de Lastra. Fabio Nelli was a rich banker and his family came from Sienna. The facade of the building is symmetrical and has two towers, one on each end. There is an elegant Italian courtyard in the building. The museum has two very good collections - archaeology and fine arts.

5. The Palacio de Pimentel - This is the home of the provincial government and was the birthplace of Philip II in 1527, because the Royal Family had no palace at that time in Valladolid, while the Pimentel family had this beautiful palace. It boasts of a beautiful patio and in the entrance there are beautiful azulejos of modern ceramic tiles done by the artist Juan Ruiz de Luna, showing scenes of the history of Valladolid during the lifetime of Philip II.

6. The Convent of San Pablo - This church has the most elaborate facade and the church was built in 1497 and its facade is considered the best example of Spanish Gothic design. Unfortunately the front portal is being restored, but the beautiful side portal can be seen. The architect and sculptor of the facade was Simon de Colonia, and he was funded by the Dominican priest Alonso de Burgos, the bishop of Palencia. The inside of the church is filled with important sculptures of the saints done by the sculptor Gregorio Fernandez. One of them is a reclining dead Christ with a hole in his chest.

7. The Church of San Miguel and San Julian - This church was finished in 1591 and later acquired by the Jesuits and is one of the most artistic churches in the city. The church has only one nave, with many chapels around it. The patrons of the church were the Condes de Fuensaldaña, who are buried in the main chapel. There is a wonderful sculpture of Mary Magdalene, which dates from 1739, and this saint is dressed in a very beautiful and unusual dress. There are sculptures by the renowned sculptor Gregorio Fernandez of San Pablo, San Francisco Javier, San Gabriel, San Rafael, and San Ignacio de Loyola (the founder of the Jesuit Order). The main altarpiece was done in 1595 by the artist Adrian Alvarez. There is also a chapel called La Capilla de la Buena Muerte (the chapel of the good death), that is an outstanding example of the Baroque Age.

8. Monastery of San Benito - The church was started in 1499 with the late Gothic style and was finished in the late 16th century. Among its architects were Juan de Arandia, Garcia de Olave, and the famous architect Rodrigo Gil de Hontañon. The facade is quite severe and there is very little ornamentation on the outside of the church. The church is quite big and has 3 naves. There is a beautiful main altar that is gilded. Many of the beautiful sculptures that originally adorned the church are now in the National Museum of Sculpture.

9. Columbus Monument - This is located just outside the train station at the corner of Paseo de Filipinos. The sculptor of the statue of Columbus was Antonio Susillo, of Seville. The statue of Columbus looks towards the New World and is guided by the statue of Faith. Both statues are on top of a globe, with a lion underneath the globe. These are flanked by four nude statues of allegorical characters. The monument was going to be sent to Havana, Cuba, for the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America at the end of the 19th century, but the Spanish American War of 1898 ended with Cuba getting its independence. Spain decided to keep the monument for Valladolid, where Columbus died.

10. Statue of Zorrilla - Jose Zorrilla y moral was a Romantic poet and dramatist, born in Valladolid in 1817, and died in 1893. In 1889 he received the title of Poet Laureate. The statue was done by Aurelio Carretero and the Plaza de Zorrilla has little fountains and is located in one of the most prominent places in the city, beside the Campo Grande.

11. Campo Grande - These are large gardens between the train station and the Plaza de Zorrilla, which were made in the 16th century. It started as a neoclassic garden, but was then transformed in 1877 into a Romantic type of garden. The garden is full of trees, fountains, flowers, and sculptures.

12. Plaza Mayor and Town Hall - The Plaza Mayor of Valladolid is considered one of the most beautiful plazas in Spain. The old town center was destroyed in a fire in 1561 and King Felipe II decided to have a new town center built. The designers were Francisco de Salamanca and Juan Bautista de Toledo. The plaza has a rectangular plan with a lot of space and the buildings surrounding it have a uniformity of appearance and have arcades. The town hall was started in 1892 and was designed by the architects Antonio Iturralde and Enrique Repulles y Vargas. It has two lateral towers and a portico in front, with a big patio inside. The building has important paintings by prominent artists.

13. Military Cavalry Academy - The Academia Militar de Caballeria was started in 1852 in the city, but burned down in 1915. The new building was started soon after that event and its model was the Palace of Monterrey of Salamanca, with a Renaissance design. The building is extremely beautiful and impressive, and is across the street from the Plaza de Zorrila.

14. Teatro Calderon de la Barca - This is the most important theater in Valladolid and was constructed in 1863 by the architect Jeronimo Ortiz de Urbina. Its decoration was done under the direction of Augusto Ferri, who did the Teatro Real of Madrid. Many prominent artists also worked on the building decoration. The facade has a classical look and is one of the most beautiful theaters in Spain.

15. University Building - The University of Valladolid was started in 1346. The building was augmented in the 16th century and reformed in the 18th century. The facade is monumental and has the style of the most opulent and decorative Baroque. Fray Pedro de la Visitacion worked on the facade, with the sculptor antonio Tome and his sons Narciso and Diego. The statue of Theology is in the center of the facade, on top of the portal, flanked by coats of arms of the King and one of the university. The building's last remodeling took place in 1968.

16. Palacio Real - The building was finished in 1527 by the architect Luis de Vega, royal architect of King Carlos V. The palace was first owned by Don Francisco de lo Cobos, the Marques de Camarasa and secretary to King Carlos V. The palace later passed to the Duque de Lerma, who sold it to King Felipe III. This king stayed in the palace in 1601 when his court was at Valladolid.

The city has 38 other churches and convents, so it is full of other cultural treasures. It is a place worth spending more time in.