Day Trip to Cuenca

 

The new high speed train to Cuenca from Madrid allows one to reach Cuenca in about an hour, so this makes a day trip to Cuenca from Madrid possible. 

To look at the train schedule and buy tickets, read Buying Renfe Tickets Online. 

The high speed train station in Cuenca is called Fernando Zobel Station, named after the founder of the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art. The train station is located 4 km from downtown Cuenca and one can take the No. 12 bus to the downtown bus station. The bus leaves every 20 minutes and the trip takes about 15 minutes. After that one can take the No. 1 bus to reach the upper town to reach the Plaza Mayor, where the Cathedral is located. If one wants to save time, take a taxi to the Plaza Mayor. To go back to the train station, one takes the No. 1 bus from the Plaza Mayor to the bus station downtown, then take the No. 12 bus to the train station. 

It is advisable not to go on a Monday, because the museums in Cuenca will be closed on that day. 

Our Lady of Grace Cathedral 

The Cuenca Cathedral was constructed in the Gothic Anglo-Norman style between 1182 and 1270. The style was due to the influence of Eleanor, the wife of King Alfonso VIII. She was the daughter of the King of England and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. Together with the cathedral of Avila, it was the first Gothic church built in Spain. The church was built over a mezquita. The church lost its Gothic character because there were several renovations. The façade fell in 1902 when the bell tower collapsed and was rebuilt in a Neo-Gothic style by Vicente Lamperez. The floor plan follows the Latin cross and has a polygonal apse with seven sides, and these are not very symmetrical. The main façade has three big doors. 

The famous architect Ventura Rodriguez redesigned the main altar during the 18th century. The middle grille was designed by Juan Frances in the 16th century. The side grilles were designed by Rafael Amezua in the 18th century and were made in Elorrio (Vizcaya). There are only five ancient windows that have been preserved. There is a rose window over Jamete’s Arch that represents the tree of life and Giraldo from Holland created it in the 16th century. The other four old windows are found in the Caballeros Chapel and were made in the latter years of the Middle Ages in the Swiss style. In the early 1990s, modern colored windows were installed to replace the other old windows in disrepair. 

The Main Sacristy dates from the transition from the Gothic to the Plateresque. There are sculptures of Pedro de Mena, the greatest sculptor of the 16th century. There are paintings, altar pieces, platters and gospel books. The drawers and cupboards have beautiful designs and date from the 18th century. The Chapter Room is beside the Main Sacristy and there are walnut doors that belong to the Berruguete School. The ceiling was done by 16th century artists. The walls were painted by Garcia Salmeron in the 17th century. The Deep Chapel has a very extraordinary coffered ceiling.  

Museum of Spanish Abstract Art 

Fernando Zobel was a Filipino who was born in Manila in 1924. He was a member of a very prominent family. In 1946 he studied history and literature in Harvard and graduated magna c_m laude in 1949. He started painting and was influenced by the works of Mark Rothko and took up modernism and abstract expressionism. Later he moved to Cuenca and painted landscapes by the Jucar River. He created the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art in one of the Hanging Houses in 1966. He was helped in this endeavor by the painter Gustavo Torner and Gerardo Rueda. The museum houses works of art by artists such as Antoni Tapies, Antonio Saura, Rafael Canogar, Jose Guerrero, Jose Maria Yturralde, Lucio Muñoz, Pablo Palazuelo, Manuel Rivera, and Fernando Zobel.  

In 1980 Fernando Zobel donated his collection to the Juan March Foundation, who now runs the museum. The building is owned by the City Hall. Zobel died in Rome in 1984. In 1983 King Juan Carlos of Spain awarded Zobel the Gold Medal of Merit of the Fine Arts. In 2006 Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gave Zobel a posthumous award, the Presidential Medal of Merit for his contributions in the arts.   

The museum has attracted other modern art museums to the city of Cuenca and has made Cuenca one of the principal abstract art centers of Spain. The AVE station has also been named the Fernando Zobel Station, in his honor.  

Hanging Houses 

The hanging houses are called “casas colgadas”. They were built in the 14th century and are built over a rock above the Huecar River Gorge. Actually there are only three left. The House of the Mermaid (Casa de la Sirena) houses the Meson de las Casas Colgadas. Next to it is the Casa de Rey (House of Kings), which contains the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art. There is another Casa de Rey beside it. The three houses are considered to have a Gothic construction with wooden terraces facing the gorge. The best photos of these houses are taken from the Bridge of San Pablo, which is below the houses. These houses are the most famous buildings in Cuenca and all were renovated in the 20th century. 

Diocesan Museum 

Beside the Cathedral is the Episcopal Palace, which contains the Diocesan Museum. The architect Fernando Barja Noquerol remodeled the building for the museum and Gustavo Torner was the person who selected the art pieces on display, from the large collection of art in the diocese and Cathedral. There are fine paintings, two of them by El Greco. El Greco painted “Oracion en el Huerto” and “Cristo con la Cruz”. There are many altarpieces, tapestries, metalwork, sculpture, and liturgical objects. There are several impressive Crucifixion scenes of sculptures showing Christ on the cross. There are eight paintings done by Juan de Borgoña that show scenes from the life of Christ.  

Saint Paul Bridge 

The old bridge of Saint Paul was built between 1533 and 1589, and it crossed the gorge over the Huecar River. Unfortunately the old bridge fell down. A new bridge was built in 1902, and this was made of wood and steel. It is about 60 meters high over the gorge. 

Saint Paul Convent 

On the other side of the Huecar River is the Saint Paul Convent, which was built in the 16th century. The architecture of the convent was Gothic and the priest who founded the convent was Juan del Pozo, a Dominican. Two brothers worked on the construction of the convent, and they were Juan and Pedro de Alviz. Juan worked on the church and Pedro worked on the convent and cloister. The church was finished in the 18th century in the rococo style. During the 19th century the Dominicans who stayed in the convent turned it over to the Pauline Fathers, who stayed there until 1975. They had to leave because the convent had deteriorated too much. The government took it over and constructed the present parador that is there now. The cloister has a beautiful patio with a fountain.  

Church of San Pedro 

In the upper part of the town, one can find the small church of San Pedro. This church was Romanesque when it was built. In the 18th century, the famous architect Jose Martin de Aldehuela rebuilt it with a Baroque façade. The church is circular inside and its most important feature is a beautiful coffered ceiling in one part of the church. The church is located on Calle San Pedro. 

Good Restaurants: 

1. Restaurante Figon del Huecar  

Calle Ronda Julian Romero, 6  

Tel: 969-240-062                      

This restaurant has a balcony adjacent to the gorge, so there is a very good view from it. The food is very good and the service is professional and friendly. The house used to be the house of the singer Jose Luis Perales for 20 years, before he moved away and later it became the restaurant.  

2. Restaurante Meson Casas Colgadas

Calle Canonigos, s/n  

Tel: 969-223-509                      

This is located at one of the hanging houses and is considered one of the best restaurants in town.